Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 12 December 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If that be so, I want to ask this question : In the State of Victoria we have a. Minister of the Crown who has affirmed again and again .that there is a monopoly and a restraint of trade with respect to the export of fruit. He has also affirmed that there is an honorable understanding amongst a meat ring. That responsible Minister has, in common with other citizens, waited upon Commonwealth Ministers, asking them to take action to put a stop to these restrictions upon industry. If the State Governments really believe that they have the necessary power to restrict these commercial brigands, why does not this Minister of the Crown bring his influence to bear upon the Government of which he is a member? It is because he is compelled to recognise the ineffectiveness of the State power that he appeals to the Commonwealth.

Senator St Ledger - Has that Minister said that it is because of the inefficiency of the State Governments that he has had to ask the Commonwealth to take action?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes, he has said that in connexion with the export of fruit. It has beenproclaimed over and over -again that the cost of living has gone up until in the State of Victoria the sovereign is only equal to the purchasing power of 16s. seven years ago. Every State Minister, every State member of Parliament, knows this. But not a single step has been taken to restrict the combines and monopolies which have forced up prices. Surely this is a recognition of the fact that the States have not the effective power to exercise.

Senator St Ledger - It certainly is proof that they have not exercised their powers.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What other reason can there be which prevents the State Parliaments from carrying this class of legislation? One reason is, of course, that the States are prevented from taking action because there are representatives of rings, combines, and " honorable understandings 'i in their Legislatures. We have them in Victoria representing trusts, combines, and corporations in one particular branch of the Legislature, which makes it impossible for the people of the State to carry the legislation they desire. It must be remembered that it is not within the power of the Labour party to impose upon the people of this country legislative conditions or constitutional powers which they do not desire to see established. Seeing that the people have to decide, surely we can trust them to give a decision in accordance with their own interests-

Senator St Ledger - Is the decision of the people to be final ? They have already decided against the Labour party in this matter.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That is true. I make no apology for the fact that the people defeated our referenda proposals in 191 r. They may decide against us again. But I have no doubt that what has happened in regard to previous legislation will occur with respect to this. A little later on we shall see Opposition members proclaiming from every platform that they arc the people who carried the legislation to restrain trusts and combines. Take one instance. The claim has recently been made on behalf of the Fusion party that they introduced the note issue. It makesme wonder what all the fighting was about !

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Who claimed that the Opposition introduced the note issue? I never claimed it for our party.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That claim was made in another place a few days ago. In my judgment, the people made a mistake in 19 1 1. But they are capable of receiving light. We have watched with great interest the evolution of opinion amongst them. Admitting for a moment that the decision in 1911 was overwhelming, surely the Opposition ought to congratulate themselves, if they believe that that decision was final, on the Labour party having the courage to go to a general election espousing such unpopular measures. They ought to encourage us to proceed on this path.

Senator Fraser - We do not want you to do wrong.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I had no idea that we were so much beloved by members of the Opposition. In a personal sense probably we can reciprocate, though politically we fight one another. As the people will have to give expression to their decision, there cannot be the slightest objection to trusting them. Another factor that has to be recognised in relation to modern industry is that competition is practically dead. In" commerce and business as conducted to-day, outside a few retail lines which this legislation does not touch at all, competition has almost entirely disappeared from trade concerns. The kings of commerce and the captains of industry make arrangements among themselves. The world moves on. and it is impossible for the people of this country to hark back to conditions which have now disappeared for ever. Now-a-days we have great aggregations of capita] and organizations of labour which have created new conditions to which we must adapt our Constitution.

Senator Fraser - There is no country in the world where capital is so well distributed as it is in Australia.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I hope that that' will continue to be so.

Senator Guthrie - Senator Fraser has obtained a fair share.

Senator Fraser - I have earned it by hard work.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We do not envy the personal success of our friend. We congratulate him upon it. We are anxious to see a condition of things created that will give every one equality of opportunity at the start.

Senator St Ledger - The Labour party are denying equality of opportunity ina particular class.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The phrase which the honorable senator uses sounds very well, but it is difficult to understand what he means. Yesterday Senator Millen made a remark to the effect that the smaller the governing area the more effective are the self-governing powers of the people.

Senator Fraser - That is quite true as a rule.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What does that statement really mean? Follow it out. You can keep on dividing the community into smaller and smaller communities until you get down to the individual. Indeed, Senator Millen himself said that the best form of government is that which allows an individual to do as he pleases. But that is the doctrine of the philosophical anarchist. Had any member of the Labour party made that statement here there would have been a howl from the Opposition benches that we were preaching anarchy.

Senator Vardon - Do you charge Senator Fraser with being an anarchist?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - He is an anarchist until he wants protection for himself, and then he calls upon the community to provide that protection.

Senator St Ledger - How does that apply to yourself? You want to help the community.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do, but I am a Socialist, and that makes all the difference. Senator Millen said that he did not object to the enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth, but what he objected to was going to unnecessary length's. Let me take the position of the Fusion party. Sir Robert Best, who represented the Fusion Government in this Chamber, introduced an Inter-State Commission Bill. What was that Bill for? As regards the industrial aspect of it. it was to get over a difficulty which had arisen in the administration of the State industrial laws, not so much from the employes' as from the employers' point of view. Judge Heydon, of New South Wales, was one of the principal causes of that Bill being drafted in the form in which it was. In a judgment in the Bootmakers' case he said he believed that 9s. was a fair wage to give to the employes, but he regretted he could not give that wage, because in Victoria they were only getting 8s. and 8s. 4d. a day. Recognizing that in the boot line Victoria was quite as effectively developed as New South Wales, if not more so, he pointed out that the awarding of that wage meant giving Victoria an advantage in the New South Wales market. The Bill provided that where it could be proved that the paying of just wages in one State would be. detrimental, not to the employes, but to the employers engaged in a similar industry in another State, that would be sufficient ground for appeal to the Inter-State Commission to regulate the matter. It was impossible under that Bill, which gave expression to the thoughts of the Fusion party, for the employes to approach the Inter-State Commission directly on the question of wages, because they had to prove that there would be a detrimental effect upon the trading of the employers in another State. That was a distinct admission that our Constitution* was not effective, or that the States were not able to exercise full self-governing powers. The State electors having expressed the"' desires at the election, the State Government carried those desires out as far ;is was possible within their Constitution, but it was found that they could not give effect to the wish to secure the payment of just and honest wages in New South Wales on account of constitutional limitations. That is one of the difficulties we are anxious to overcome at the earliest possible moment. Another remarkable statement was made by Senator Millen. He said that it was not the desire to get more effective power that was impelling the workers to try to get to the Federal Court, but that practically Judge Higgins was the magnet drawing them to that Court. Is that so? The impelling force is undoubtedly the desire for a larger area and wider powers, to get over many limitations that now exist. Has any responsible body or any member of this Chamber ever had the courage to say that Mr. Justice Higgins, in any decision which he has given, has meted out more than justice to the workers? Certainly not. Mr. Justice Higgins has time and again expressed the opinion that he was unable to mete out full justice because of the constitutional limitations on the exercise of the functions of that Court. If it is true that no more than simple justice has been done to the workers who have approached that Court, seeing that the State awards have granted much lower wages and imposed harsher conditions, it must be true that the workers have not received justice from any of the State Wages Boards. Take this State. In the industrial legislation of Victoria the power of veto can be exercised by the Minister. What takes place? As soon as an award is given by a chairman who believes in justice, there is a deputation of employers to the Minister, and he not only suspends the award, but actually vetoes it.

Senator St Ledger - Is that the established practice in administration in Victoria ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes. It' . has been done so repeatedly that you can now term it the established practice. Thi, had led to industrial discontent, and is undoubtedly compelling the workers to appeal to the Federal Court owing to the fact that they recognize that through the class bias of one section of the Legislature in Victoria, they are not able to get. effective laws to extend, not throughout Australia, but throughout the State itself. They are subjected to all sorts of restrictions, and, apart from the Industrial Appeal Court, the awards are subject to the veto of the Minister. To-day employers are going upon these Boards with the deliberate intention of delaying decisions. Furthermore, instead of the Boards deciding upon the evidence tendered, they have now adopted the course of receiving deputations. One Board which recently sat received deputations for over three months instead of going on with its actual business. The prejudice of the workers against the State industrial laws has been brought about through the injustice and partizanship that has been displayed.

Senator Fraser - Wages Boards, . are acknowledged all over the world to be the most practical way of getting over the difficulty.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If that is so, I wonder why the party, of which the honorable senator was a. member, does not see the wisdom and justice of extending the system to the whole of the State of Victoria? The moment it is proposed to extend it to the whole of the State, the members of that party rise up in their might, and even go to the extent of threatening to put in a new Government if an attempt is made to bring that about. Senator Millen also spoke of the fraud and hypocrisy on our part in seeking power to regulate trusts and combines when we do not believe that it is possible to effectively regulate them by means of legislation.

Senator Millen - Not when you do not merely believe that it would not achieve that object but when you affirm that it could not do it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that the honorable senator's statement is quite correct. I have always declared that I do not believe that, under the ordinary law or a law of the Commonwealth , we shall be able to effectively control combines and monopolies. I support enthusiastically this proposal to obtain the power to regulate, and I shall vote for any legislation in that direction, because I recognise that law, like everything else, has to go through various stages of evolution. I also recognise that the people honestly believe that it is possible to regulate combines and monopolies, and because it is their desire that this Parliament should be given the power to regulate, I am willing to afford an opportunity to the Parliament and the Courts to see if it can be done. I have no confidence in this idea, but the people have the right to rule the country - not our individual whims. I do not consider that we take a hypocritical view when we say that we are willing to give their view a fair and reasonable test, and if it honestly fails, then our claim for the nationalization of monopolies will be stronger and better, because we shall have proved the ineffectiveness of the other law.

Senator Millen - Do I understand you to say that you will not proceed to nationalize until you have first tested the powers under the other Bill?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - When the honorable senator puts the matter in that way, I might give the answer "Yes-no." When, as the result of an inquiry, whether it be by Parliament or a Royal Commission, or the Inter-State Commission, it is proved clearly that competition has been eliminated, and that the combines have the power to dominate the prices and conditions in industries, I am in favour of immediate nationalization. I am prepared to watch the development of various combines, and when they, like the apple on the tree, ripen and become complete monopolies, I am in favour of the Commonwealth stepping in and nationalizing them.

Senator Millen - I thought that the granting of these powers would prevent the monopolies from ripening.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I said that I believe that our party will, as far as possible, honestly try to regulate in order to prevent the development of monopolies. Further, I repeat that, in my belief, it is not possible to do so, because monopolies, combines, and trusts are the natural evolution of industry in the world to-day, and are not the result of a special creation by a particular individual. Given the greatest brain power and the greatest organizing genius in the world. I donot believe that any man could effectively organize a trust or combine with ramifications throughout the world unless the industry had reached that stage of evolution which made that possible. That is the attitude I take up on that question.

Senator Fraser - Well, you believe in taking away the ingenuity, brains, energy, and all that sort of thing, and making a man like a brute beast.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do not believe in taking away the ingenuity of any man. During the whole of my boyhood the honorable senator was in the State Parliament, and though I believe that I have a little natural brain he and his party robbed me of the opportunity of getting that development which the State should have provided.

Senator FRASER (VICTORIA) - Rubbish.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It comes badly from the honorable senator to accuse me of desiring to rob any person of his intellect seeing that he robbed me and thousands of my fellow citizens of that opportunity which he was sent into Parliament to create.

Senator Fraser - I landed in Australia with twenty sovereigns in my pocket.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - And I landed in Australia without any clothes. From Senator Sayers yesterday evening we had an interesting statement as to the effect of competition. He dealt particularly with the Coal and Shipping Combines. I only wish to refer to the principle which he laid down. He said that honorable senators on this side have defended the combines, and that they were successful. He told us that the competition of the Coal Vend had cut the throats of the employers, and had reduced the workers to starvation wages, while the competition of the shipowners had reduced the fares to an unpayable point, namely, 5s. for a passage between Sydney and Brisbane, that their workers were badly treated, and that competition had practically ruined two industries. Yet to-day the honorable senator, who believes that competition in the commercial world brought about that murderous state of things, is, like his party, bitterly opposed to any attempt at collective action to prevent its continuance. I know of no mid-way. Either we must allow free competition to have its effect, and the law of supply and demand to operate throughout the field, or we must step in, and the moment we commence to regulate or to own and control, from that moment we abandon the individual and competitive position and become part and parcel of an organized and collective system. We are organizing more and more, and will continue to organize. With every development of the mind of man there has been an increasing tendency for the people to collectively come together, educationally, industrially, and otherwise. And this will continue. I come to a very important part of the speech of Senator Sayers. I believe that he belongs to a party which is going to reject the Labour party at the next elections, because they complain that we have betrayed Protection, and not given more Protection. The honorable senator laid it down that Protection is the cause of the establishment of trusts, particularly in this country. Members of his party who are in opposition to myself are now touring this State with the approval of his party, and, I take it, of every senator on that side, and denouncing the Labour party, saying that we have betrayed Protection, that we will not make the duties still higher. Yet Senator Sayers said only yesterday that practically the sole cause of the existence of trusts and combines in this country, as in America, was high Protection.

Senator Millen - Not the whole cause - a contributing cause, as Mr. Hughes said in the other House.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I admit that the evolution of industry has caused even Protectionists- and I am a high Protectionist without compromise - to think-

Senator Millen - Except when your party is in office, and thenyou compromise.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) -I am in opposition to my party in that regard, and have said so on the floor of the Senate. I believe that my party made a mistake in that respect, but I did not get the enthusiastic co-operation of the honorable senator all the same.. I wish that I had.

Senator Millen - Or of your own party.

Senator Fraser - You did not try.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes I did try, and I also tried the honorable senator when we had the Tariff before us, but he was wanting once or twice. The point I was making was that in the greater number of the industries, although we had the highest Protection, in some cases almost equal to the value of the goods, still the internal competition was so effective that it did keep prices down, but when an industry becomes a monopoly, when it reaches that stage of development that it can control the fixing of prices in the whole market, the Protection is appropriated by those who carry on the industry. Take sugar for example. It is beyond doubt that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company fix the price of their sugar on the basis of the value in the New Zealand market, and add the Protection which we grant to them. As a Protectionist I make that admission, but the reason why the company are able to do that is because they have a complete monopoly of the market and the power to fix prices irrespective of what this Parliament may determine. In fact, the company are really a greater and more effective power in the commercial world than is this Parliament. In other words, this Parliament has been subordinated to this combine or industry, and under the existing Constitution we are helpless to deal with these people. They have flouted the Courts. If Democracy means anything it means that the people shall be supreme. Do honorable senators opposite deny for a moment that there are in Australia to-day institutions which under the Constitution are at present more effective and more powerful than is this Parliament? That is undoubtedly the case. There are a few quotations which I think ought to be put on record in regard to the position of the existing laws when they are brought before the Courts. Referring to the cause Mr. W.

H.   Irvine made this statement in 1910 : -

These would sometimes make even a lawyer's head reel with confusion in the endeavour to follow the intricacies to which the Courts are reduced in trying to divide what is really and substantially an individual whole - to divide the commerce of the community into parts, and to say that one part shall be under the Government of one Parliament and another part under another Parliament.

That statement by Mr. Irvine is, I believe, one of the soundest justifications for our proposal to" take power to control corporations and regulate them. It means that, as regards trade and commerce, which comes under the head of corporations and is largely controlled and dealt with by them, it is practically impossible to get a sound definition of what is Intra-State commerce and what is Inter- State commerce. The Commonwealth Parliament should have the necessary power to deal with corporations in order that we may avoid such complications. It is significant that nearly every lawyer who has dealt with these matters has agreed that the power to create and dissolve corporations should be vested in the Federal Parliament. We know that where it is desired to conduct operations throughout the Commonwealth there is considerable difficulty connected with the creation of six distinct companies, and also very considerable difficulty associated with their dissolution. To relieve those interested of such difficulties and burdens, we find that certain persons are agreed that the creation and dissolution of companies should be within the power of this Parliament. It would not be regarded as in any sense an interference with State rights to pass a uniform company law for Australia for these purposes. But when it is desired that we should be in a position to insert in such a law provision for the protection of workers and consumers, and the investments of less wealthy members of the community, we are invited to believe that that is a different proposition altogether. I need not refer to the " Serbonian bog," as the allusion has already become so well known. I may, however, quote a statement made by Mr. Sidney Kidman, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of nth- September. He said : -

Three or four of the meat companies in Queensland fixed the price of cattle. . . . Beef will not be cheap again.

That is a very definite statement, and Mr. Kidman appeared to have no doubt about it. .

Senator Millen - Mr. Kidman did not say that beef will not be cheap again, because of the existence of the Meat Company referred to. He dealt with the cattle supplied before he made the statement that beef would not be cheap again.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Senator Millenmay have had the advantage of being present at the personal interview, but I think that I am entitled to quote from a report of Mr. Kidman's statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Senator Millen - So long as the honorable senator makes a fair quotation.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Senator Millenought not to talk about fair quotations. Only yesterday I was compelled to withdraw a statement I made when I asked the honorable senator not to misquote an honorable member of another place. The honorable senator fell back upon the doubtful authority of the Argus, and I again challenge his statement. I have the copy of the Argus referred to before me now, and while I do not for a moment question the fact that Senator Millen may have honestly believed that he was quoting correctly from memory, if he will read the Argus report again, he will find that the honorable member for Bourke did not make the statement which he attributed to him yesterday. The question is, do we desire to interfere with State rights. I have already said that I do not think there is any such thing as State rights. It is a question for each individual to determine whether the laws which he desires to have passed can be most ef_fectively dealt with by the State Parlia- ments or the Commonwealth Parliament. A cry has been raised, not merely in this Chamber, but outside, " Let us preserve our Home Rule." It is remarkable that people who clamour most for Home Rule have usually an empty record so far as any personal effort to bring about Home Rule is concerned. People are asked not to give up their State rights to the Federal Parliament, but what right have I, or any member of the Senate as a unit of the citizens of a State which we could not continue to exercise, should the powers asked for be transferred from the State Parliament to the Commonwealth Parliament? These are cries which appeal not to the intelligence of the people, but to prejudice against the Labour party. When these proposals are submitted to the people, I trust that we shall not have a repetition of the misrepresentations of the last campaign, and the attempts then made to hide the real issue. The question is really a simple one. The people are to be asked to transfer certain powers which theoretically are possessed by the State Parliament, but have never been effectively exercised, to the Commonwealth Parliament, over which, as electors, they have themselves a greater control than they have over the State Parliament. The object is that laws may be passed in the interests of industrial peace and to nationalize combines and monopolies that have robbed the consumers of this country. I hope that the electors, when given a fair opportunity to understand the effects of the proposed amendments of the Constitution, will be prepared to give a favorable verdict, and so enable this Parliament in future to deal with these matters in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [11.32].- Honorable senators generally may agree with much that was said by Senator Russell at the commencement of his speech. It is reasonable to ask how these powers can be most effectively exercised. The honorable senator said that, if they could be effectively exercised by the State Parliament, well and good, and, if not, that they should be intrusted to some superior power. There could be no objection to that, but the honorable senator viewed the matter rather from the stand-point of Unification than in the light of existing conditions. Our Constitution was definitely framed upon certain broad lines, and the respective rights of the Federal and State' authorities were so defined and separated that they should not interfere with each other. We know the difficulties that surrounded the establishment of Federation, and before the people would consent to federate it was made an essential condition that the sovereign rights of the States to deal with matters affecting their local interests should not be taken from them, lt was agreed that powers which might be best exercised by a national Parliament should be the powers given up by the State Parliaments. Many persons, in addressing themselves to these questions, have truly said that the impelling force bringing about Federation was the general desire for an effective system of national defence. It h'ad long been realized from the reports ofmilitary authorities that if the defence ot Australia was to be made effective, it must be the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole, and not merely of individual States. If, prior to Federation, an attack were made upon any of the States, except as a matter of self-preservation, New South Wales, for instance, would have had no particular interest in protecting Victoria, or Victoria in the protection of New South Wales. The systems of defence followed in each of the States might have been entirely different, and it is recognised that the necessity for a uniform system of defence for the whole of Australia was the primary object of Federation. The repre sentatives of the States at the Federal Conventions had, of course, to consider whether there were not other matters which might be dealt with more effectively by the Federal than by the State Parliaments. It was found necessary to transfer the collection of Customs and Excise to the Federal authorities, and it was realized that that was a matter which should better be dealt with in the interests of Australia as a whole than that there should continue to be Tariff wars between the different States, which might have led to conflicts. We know the difficulties which are constantly arising between neighbouring nations in Europe, and it was seen to be necessary to avoid the possibility of such differences in Australia. The people generally speedily recognised that, in many respects, Federation would be to their interests, and it then only became a question of the form of Federation which should be adopted. Many members, even of the first Federal Parliament, were opposed in some respects to the provisions of the Constitution framed by the Federal Convention, believing that it did not sufficiently provide for fair play between the different States. The question of the representation of the States in the Senate gave rise to the expression of many differences pf opinion. Many of those who took part in the Federal movement did not, on thai question, see eye to eye with the framers of the Constitution. They did not believe that there should be equality of representation in the Senate, but it was found that that was necessary in order to induce the smaller States to join in the Federation with some assurance that their particular interests would not be swamped by the larger States. If it had been proposed at the time that the Federal Parliament should have the power to interfere, as now proposed, in matters of purely local concern, the people of the different States would have turned the Constitution down unless it provided for proportionate representation in the Senate.

Senator de Largie - Nothing of the kind is proposed.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It has already been stated, and I believe I shall be able to show, that there 1 is a strong desire to bring about a system of Unification, and make the State Parliaments entirely subservient to the Federal Parliament.

Senator Rae - To the people.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No, not to the people. I recognise that it is not proposed to add anything to the powers possessed by the people, because" those powers were possessed by the people of the various States before Federation was established. I realize that certain of these powers can more effectively be administered by a National Parliament than by State Parliaments. I refer particularly to the powers with regard to Defence, Customs and Excise, and certain other matters mentioned in section 51 of the Constitution. We are reminded that the Constitution contains a power of amendment. Of course it does. However well the Constitution may have been drawn originally, inequalities and deficiencies were bound to be discovered in it that would require to be rectified sooner or later. Therefore a power of amendment was inserted, subject to certain restrictions and conditions. But I remind honorable senators that at the inception of Federation no State was bound to accept the Commonwealth Constitution unless it saw fit. No State could have been dragged into the Union. The preamble to the Constitution reminds us of what happened. The people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania - agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and- Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.

The Constitution " hereby established " made provision that certain powers should be transferred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Section 51 provides that -

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -

Then are enumerated the various powers, the first of which is - trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.

It is now proposed to make an entire alteration with regard to that power .

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator is now opposing the exercise by the Commonwealth of powers which we thought we had when we federated.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I dispute that statement. The Constitution granted us certain specified powers, but it did not grant the powers now sought to be acquired. In my opinion it would be far better, if the Commonwealth really requires to make these drastic alterations, to submit a new scheme altogether, by means of which we might adopt the Canadian or South African system of government in preference to the one under which we are living. When our Constitution was framed, those responsible for preparing ii had an opportunity of examining the American and Canadian ConstitutionsThey also had an opportunity of inquiring into the working of Federal Constitutions formed amongst other than Britishspeaking peoples. They deliberately decided that it would be to our advantage to accept the American model in preference to the Canadian. Why ? Because they realized that the people of the States of Australia were very jealous of giving up any of the powers which they enjoyed, and would not be prepared to surrender them unless they were convinced that it would be to the interests of the States themselves to do "so. In Australia, the circumstances and climate are quite different from those which prevail in Canada. In Canada there is practically one range of temperature. The country is situated in one zone. In Australia we embrace both temperate and tropical zones, with all their varying industries. The problems of government, therefore, are much more difficult here than in Canada. The climate and the natural productions of the soil, the interests of .the people, and the conditions of living, are far more various. In the United States of America there are likewise various climates. The framers of the Constitution thought it advisable to adopt the American system.

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator mean to say that different forms of Constitution are due to climatic variations-?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No; but I say that that was one consideration in this case.

Senator Rae - I do not think that it entered into the minds of the framers of the Constitution.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Let me point out another consideration. Since Australia was settled the tendency has been, not to enlarge the size of the governing areas, but to decrease them. In the first instance, Victoria was governed from Sydney, 600 miles away. The Victorian people felt that their local interests were not being so well attended to as they would be if a local form of government was established.

Senator Fraser - That was the cry when I landed in Victoria, sixty-two years ago.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - A few years later Queensland was dissatisfied for similar reasons, and her territory was cut off from New South Wales. Even now, in Queensland, there is a feeling that the State would be much better governed if divided into two or three States, Complaints arise from Rockhampton and Townsville that the interests of the people there are not conserved so carefully as they would be if the Government were not concentrated at Brisbane.

Senator McGregor - There is a provision in . the Constitution for the division of States.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Of course there is, but I am pointing out that the tendency has been to divide, not to concentrate government in one great centre. The Vice-President of the Executive Council admitted the other day that this policy of the Government involved Unification with respect to one matter, namely, trade and commerce. I presume that the Government have submitted their proposal on this subject because they think that trade and commerce can be more easily and more efficiently dealt with by a central Government. For my own part, I think that while trade and commerce, as far as the outside world is concerned, can be efficiently controlled by the Federal Government, it is not desirable that the Commonwealth should have the right to interfere with and to regulate trade and commerce within theStates.

Senator Rae - Can we always separate trade and commerce?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I admit that there is a great deal of difficulty in separating it. But that is no reason why we should pass a measure which would not be fair to the States. If we had no difficult problems to meet, legislation would be very much easier than it is. Whatever legislation we pass, difficulty must arise as time goes on. But the whole of these provisions distinctly tend to bring about Unification. The Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, in dealing with the referenda proposals two years ago, laid down what he regarded as the difference between Federal and State regulations. He pointed out that the difference between Federation and Unification was that, under Federation the States had certain powers that could not be interfered with by the' Federal body. I ac cept that definition. But when you begin to whittle down the powers of the States, you are destroying the system of Federation, and virtually bringing about Unification. Our Constitution lays it down that when there is a conflict of laws between State and Federal authorities the power of the Federation shall prevail. How will that operate in regard to the proposals now submitted to us? It is perfectly true that we do not in so many words say to the States, " You shall have no power to legislate on these matters." But we do say, " Although you may pass laws, still, if we decide to bring in a measure dealing with the same subject, it will repeal every one of the provisions contained in your enactment, and by that means we shall control the whole of your powers of self-government." When you get to that position you reduce the States to a situation not a bit better than that of the Provincial Governments in Canada and South Africa. In South Africa the State Governments are absolutely and literally under subjection to the Central Government. No Act passed by a State Government can have any effect unless the Central Government see fit to allow it. to operate. In Canada much the same condition of things prevails. Although certain rights are given to the Provincial Governments, they can only exercise their rights with the knowledge and fear that the Central Government may interfere with their legislation if it does not meet with the wishes of that body. I admit that the Canadian system enables the Central Government to exercise such powers as are sought to be obtained by the Commonwealth. But, as I have already pointed out, it was never intended that our system of government should be on Canadian lines. By these proposals we are making the States subservient to the Central Government to a greater extent than is the case in Canada. Our Labour friends, when charged with attempting to bring about Unification, say that they will endeavour to obtain these powers one by one, and so work by instalments towards the end they have in view. We are also confronted with the fact that not a single man in the Labour party is a free agent. He cannot do what he considers right if his opinion is not in accord with the platform which may from time to time be adopted by his party.

Senator O'Keefe - What about Mr. Glynn and Mr. Irvine?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have nothing at all to do with them. They are free agents, and they can do what they think fit.

Senator McGregor - So can a Labour man.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- At what peril?

Senator Pearce - At the same peril. We would fire them out, and I suppose you would fire them out.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - You would undoubtedly fire them out. The Government were unable to carry these proposals when they were not a plank of the Labour party's platform, but because there is a majority of the Labour party in favour of them now, they are going to make members of the party come to heel and support these proposalsor go out at once. When these referenda proposals were before the country some time ago a number of prominent members of the Labour party, particularly in New South Wales, were not favorable to them, and an attempt was made to compel those gentlemen to support them because they were brought forward by a Labour Government. Mr. Holman was one gentleman who was most troublesome on this question ; and, to show the feeling that existed amongst the Labour party respecting this gentleman. I shall quote the following extracts from a letter which appeared in the papers at that time, signed by Mr. Driscoll -

Sir, -Youneedn't worry about Mr. Holman and the referendum. He can blow off steam about what he is going to do, and butter no parsnips in the operation. He and Mr. McGowen and Mr. Griffith and Mr. Flowers, with one or two other Labourites, expressed very emphatic opinions about the financial agreement referendum, but when it came to toeing the mark they had to fall into line with their bosses, the Labour organizations, or be thrust aside. The Conference is supreme, and woe betide the Labourite M.P., be he Prime Minister or rankandfiler, who dares to act contrary to its directions. We are top dog in the political arena, and no man in the Labour movement has any right to exercise any individual opinion on matters of public policy ; it is destructive of that solidarity which is the backbone of the Labour movement in politics and in the unions. The days of individual judgment and action in the Labour world are past. Collective opinion and collective action alone count. The Conference will either bring Mr. Holmnn to heel or pass him out if he is stubborn. The choice lies with himself. - Yours, &c,

January 27. T. P. Driscoll.

That is a plain and definite declaration of the policy of the Labour party upon these great constitutional matters : and yet we hear honorable senators say that they should not be dealt with as a party question.' I interjected last night, when one honorable senator was speaking, that there was not a single member of the Labour party who would dare to vote against these proposals - nor is there - not because all members of the Labour party honestly believe in them-, but because some of them are coerced into supporting them. What has been the effect upon one of the best and ablest members of the Labour party who has had to resign from the New South Wales Government?

Senator Rae - He was never one of our best men ; he was a rotter all his life.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .-He was selected as one of the members of the Ministry by the Caucus, and has done his work well, and stood well by them until he now finds that he cannot swallow these proposals. Mr. Beeby considered it necessary to give reasons why he left the party. There may be some who charge him with being a rotter and all sorts of things now that they find that they cannot bring him to heel.

Senator Rae - It is because he is a rat ; he thinks he is leaving a sinking ship.

Suggest corrections