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Wednesday, 7 May 1930

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W KINGSMILL - The honorable senator will have an opportunity later of dealing with the remarks of Senator Ogden. The accusation is not against individuals, but against a party.

Senator OGDEN - I shall endeavour to show that there was foundation for my statement. The Labour party recently selected candidates for the new civic administration of Sydney. Among those candidates is Mr. " Jock " Garden, who is not only a representative of the Labour party, but is also a representative of the Third Internationale of Moscow. Indeed, he is its representative in Australia, and the editor of the Pan-Pacific Worker. In the light of that fact, it is correct to say that the Labour party dares not depart in the slightest degree from the policy dictated by Moscow. The Australian Workers Union and the militant section of the Labour party are at war ; but when the test comes we find that the policy of the extremists becomes the policy of the party.

Let me come to another plank in the platform of the Labour party. It is the. most remarkable of the lot. The party is pledged to the initiative, referendum and recall. But now it is deliberately proposed to take away from the people the power to say what alterations of the Federal Constitution should be made.

Senator Daly - .No. We are asking the people themselves to decide that question,

Senator OGDEN - If the people are foolish enough to grant this power to the Federal Parliament they will no longer have any voice in altering the Constitution. But I believe that this is not a genuine straight-out proposal which the Ministers hope to have carried. It has probably been brought forward in obedience to that Moscow policy which" calls upon Ministers to seek the power to amend the Constitution at-will.

Senator Sir George PEARCE - It is a sprat to catch a mackerel.

Senator OGDEN - It is a sop ro satisfy the extremists in the Labour party. The other day the Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to carry out Labour's policy which included national insurance, drastic amendments of the arbitration law, the vicious and cruel principle of preference to unionists and a number of other things. But he also said, " Gentlemen of Moscow, we cannot give you these things unless you grant us the power for which we are now asking". This proposal, which is designed to emasculate the Constitution, is merely a bluff. Ministers know very well that the people will not accept it. In a word it is merely a sop to delude some of the Government supporters. Ministers thus hope to be able to evade the responsibility of having to bring in legislation to give effect to certain planks in the Labour platform some of which are indeed interesting.

What are Labour's proposals in regard to defence? Labour does not believe in having a- defence force. Some Labour supporters say that they would wipe out all forms of defence. An honorable member in another place made that statement the other day. Labour says that a defence force is unnecessary. Not long ago a prominent and respected member of the Labour party, and a man of some intelligence, told me that there was no need for Australia to spend very much on defence. He said. " Even though there may be danger of aggression in the future, Great Britain. which has had so much out of Australia, would defend this country". In those words we have the policy of Labour. The British " Tommy " with a standard wage of 25s. a week is to fight to maintain the standard of £6 10s. a week for the Australian worker. At any rate, that view is held in Labour ranks by quite a number. Other portions of the defence policy of the Labour party are as follow: -

Adequate home defence against possible foreign invasion.

I do not know whether the system now in operation is or is not an adequate home defence against possible foreign invasion -

That the Commonwealth Constitution be amended to include a condition that no Australian can be conscripted for military service.

Yet they conscript unionists.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator was opposed to conscription for a long while.

Senator OGDEN - Yes, and if I had known there would be so many shirkers whom I can see without looking very far, I should have changed my mind long ago. During the war I saw quite a number of men of military age who might have gone to the front but stayed at home.

Senator Dunn - Why did not the honorable senator enlist?

Senator OGDEN - I did not go to the war myself because I was over the. age and was not physically fit to serve as n soldier, but oh the platform I urged men to go, and that is more than was done by a number of men who opposed conscription.

Labour says in effect, "You shall not live if you do not join a union ". The man who refuses to join or offends the union powers-that-be is pursued to the brink of the grave. He is looked upon as an outcast. He and his children are doomed to suffer and starve. That is the philosophy of Labour. I have known good reliable honest citizens who have done much for this country, but, who, because they have offended against union bosses, have been driven from pillar to post and prevented from earning a decent living because of the operation of the vicious policy of conscription of trade unionists. This policy of the Labour party will be put into operation if the Commonwealth Parliament gets the power which the present

Government, is now seeking for it. The defence platform of the Labour party also provides for -

Amendment of the Defence Act to secure Mie deletion of all clauses relating to compulsory training and service.

Effect has already been given to that particular plank.

Senator Sir George Pearce - But not by law.

Senator OGDEN - No; it has been done behind the backs of the representatives of the people. I doubt whether the first plank " Adequate home defence " is genuine - whether the party is in earnest in regard to it. "We have this also in the platform -

All sentences imposed by court martini to be subject to review by a civil court.

Some of the military senators are better qualified than I am to speak on that subject - '

No employment of or interference by soldiers in industrial disputes.

That is another dangerous power to entrust to u Labour Government pushed by so many unseen forces. Homes may be invaded; there may be bloodshed. Yet my friends over there would not allow these disturbances to be quelled.

Senator Daly - That is not accurate.

Senator OGDEN - The Hogan Government has recently withdrawn the police from the waterside workers'" pickingup places.

Senator Daly - Probably because there is no need for the presence of police.

Senator OGDEN - To me it looks like inciting trouble. The best way to preserve peace is to prevent the possibility of disturbance. People will not tackle an adequate defence force. There is never trouble where a sufficiently strong body of police is available. A sufficiently numerous body of police would probably have prevented the recent trouble on the coal-fields. Another plank in the defence policy of the Labour party is -

No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth or participation or promise of participation in any future overseas war except by the decision of the people.

If a foreign force is sailing towards Australia, intending to bombard Sydney, we must not fire a shot until a referendum of the people is taken!

Senator DALY (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Under those conditions no Australian would look for the excuse that the honorable senator gave for nor fighting in the last war.

Senator OGDEN - If . danger threatened this country and was close to our shores, we could not send men abroad to try to prevent it from coming without first holding a referendum. But while the people were being consulted the guns would be firing. If the present proposal of the Government is carried it, of course, means the abolition of the referendum, but one cannot expect consistency in politics. There are other planks in the defence platform of the Labour party.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Is there one about the trainee being able to keep his rifle?

Senator Daly - That has disappeared since Senator Ogden left 'the party.

Senator OGDEN - I confess that I have made the statement that one plank of the Labour party's platform advocated the .retention of rifles by trainees, but that plank was cut out at the Canberra conference. It was rather' too dangerous, I suppose.

Senator Daly - It was one of the planks put into the platform of the party when Senator Ogden was a member of it.

Senator OGDEN - It was not put in with my consent, thank heaven. Another plank in the platform of the Labour party, which perhaps should be the subject of another discussion, comes under the heading of "Finance and Taxation," in relation to the imposition of embargoes for the effective protection of Australian industries subject to the control of prices in the industries benefited. The Labour party is giving effect to that plank of its platform relating to the imposition of embargoes, but is not taking a referendum on the subject.

Senator Daly - That has been the salvation of Australia up to the present.

Senator OGDEN - I do not intend to debate that subject at this juncture; there will be an opportunity later. "We can, however, see the dangers which this country would have to face if the people were foolish enough to support the proposal which the Government is now submitting. "What does it really mean? As

I have already stated, it" means practically tearing the heart out of the Constitution. Quite recently I read the debates during the Federal Convention, in which are to be found many proposals for amending the Constitution. After considerable discussion it was finally decided that the Constitution should be altered only with the consent of the people. That is the principle embodied in all modern constitutions. The latest constitution drafted in the British Empire is that of the Irish Free State, in which is embodied the same principle. For the first eight years of the operation of that Constitution Parliament had the right to alter it.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - It used that right to extend the period of eight years.

Senator OGDEN - I did not think it could do so.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - It has done so'.

Senator OGDEN - Article 50 of the Irish Constitution reads -

Amendments of this Constitution within the term of the Scheduled Treaty may be made by the Oireachtas, but no such amendment passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, after the expiration of the period of eight years from the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution, shall become law, unless the same shall, after it has been passed or deemed to have been passed by the said two Houses of the Oireachtas, have been submitted to a referendum of the people, and unless a majority of the voters on the register shall have recorded their votes on such referendum, and either the ..votes of a majority of the voters on the register, or two-thirds of the votes recorded, shall have been cast in favour of such amendment. Any such amendment may bc made within the said period of eight years by way of ordinary legislation and as such shall be subjected to the provisions of article 47 hereof.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - That power of amendment was used to extend the period of eight years.

Senator OGDEN - The argument 3 am submitting is that the principle of consulting the people is embodied in the latest constitution framed within the British Empire. It was placed there by the consent of the Irish delegates. The proposal we are now considering is to divest the people of the right to amend the Constitution, and to give the executive power to usurp the authority, which means not only the destruction of the

Constitution but practically the breaking up of the federation. It is well known that a considerable section of the people in Western Australia and Tasmania, and, more or less, in South Australia, believe that those States would be better off if they withdrew from the federation. A number of well-meaning and intelligent people in those States have been urging secession for years. I have taken up the opposite attitude, and have told them that they are foolish, and that, under existing conditions, they could not live outside the federation. I can, however, assure the Senate that, if the Constitution could be amended as is proposed in this bill, the feeling in favour of secession would grow and become so powerful that it is quite possible that some of the States would break away from the federation.

Senator Dooley - Does the honorable senator contend that all questions of vital importance should be referred to the people?

Senator OGDEN - Yes.

Senator Dooley - Then why did the honorable senator not favour a vital amendment of our arbitration law being referred to the people?

Senator OGDEN - I am speaking of amendments to the Constitution. There are some questions which should not be referred to the people at all.

Senator Daly - Is arbitration one?

Senator OGDEN - The argument used by a number of well-meaning people - quite apart from supporters of the Labour party - is that the Federal Constitution is too rigid, too inelastic. That is not so. It is the rigidity of party discipline that makes it difficult to amend the Constitution. I remind the Senate that on three occasions when the principal political parties were in agreement the people consented to an amendment of the Constitution. When two or three proposed amendments were put to the people in 1906 there was one upon which all parties and the people agreed. There was another proposal in 1910 or 1911 to amend the Constitution to give the Commonwealth the right to take over the debts of the States; that was an amendment which had the support of the political parties and the people. Again, in 1928, the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States had the support of the principal political parties and also of the people. The only obstacle to-day is the unbending attitude of section-! of political parties. In 1926 the late Government proposed certain amendments of the Constitution to give greater, but not complete, industrial powers to the Federal Arbitration Court in connexion with which there was an agreement up to a certain stage when the militant section outside got busy. A conference was held on the 11th May, 1927, at which the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) was present, but owing to my regard for the Minister I will not quote the speech he delivered on that occasion. That conference decided to support the proposals of the Bruce-Page Government until the militant section in New South Wales, led by Mr. Lang, intervened. A quarrel then commenced and Mr. Theodore-

Senator Daly - The honorable senator has the facts all upside down.

Senator OGDEN - Mr. Theodorechanged his ground-

Senator McLachlan - What about Senator Barnes?

Senator OGDEN - He turned a complete somersault.

Senator Barnes - Never.

Senator OGDEN - At the conference Mr. Theodore and Mr. Matt Charlton agreed to support the proposals, but when the militant section in New South Wales got busy they changed their attitude and supported Mr. Lang.

Senator Daly - Mr. Charlton was not there; the honorable senator has not the facts.

Senator OGDEN - However, Mr. Charlton gave the proposals his benediction. Is that correct?

Senator Daly - Yes.

Senator OGDEN - When the militants in New South Wales got busy Mr. Charlton, like Senator Barnes, turned a complete somersault.

Senator Barnes - I did not.

Senator OGDEN - Then I shall say the Honorary Minister changed his opinion. Up to that point there had been unanimity, and but for the change in tactics the increased industrial powers which the Government was seeking would have been in operation to-day. The Labour party in Victoria supported the proposals, and the members of the same party in New South Wales and in Tasmania opposed them, and owing to the conflict of opinion between the parties they were defeated. When I hear any reference to the inelasticity of the Constitution, and to the difficulty of amending it, I reply that the difficulty is due not to the Constitution, but to party divisions.

I predict that these proposals if they ever reach the people will be defeated. I do not believe that Labour's heart is in the proposal contained in this bill. It may have the effect of placating some of the party's supporters, but the Government will need a lot of moral as well as political support if it is to recover some of the ground lost during .the last few days. There will be some rows in the camp, and the reports of what has occurred will make interesting reading.

Senator Daly - There will be no rows in the camp.

Senator OGDEN - The Government's proposals in this instance seem to be an attempt to placate its militant supporters. I have quoted some of the planks of the Labour party which would be put into operation if this proposal were adopted. It is no use any member of the Labour party telling me that he is not bound.

Senator Dunn - The Labour party "made" the honorable senator.

Senator OGDEN - It will never " make " the honorable senator who interjects. That would be impossible. At the last conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions held in Sydney, a motion was carried stipulating that every member of the party was bound to give effect only to the planks of the party's platform and to pledge himself to nothing else.

Senator Dooley - When was that conference held in Sydney?

Senator OGDEN - A few weeks ago. It was held either in Sydney or Melbourne, and that resolution was reported in the press.

Senator Dooley - The honorable senator may as well be right as wrong.

Senator OGDEN - I think it will be found that 1 am not far wrong in saying that every member of the Labour party

Is bound to support the planks of its platform and to advocate nothing else. The Government's proposal in the present bill will, no doubt, reach the people, despite any action that the Senate may take regarding it, but I do not think i hat there is any possibility of the people accepting it. They are pot likely to give away their birthright; they will not agree to scrap the safeguards in the Constitution. For myself, unlike supporters of the Government, I am prepared to trust the people with regard to this sacred document. I wish it to be preserved, not destroyed. I do not desire the final word as to the destinies of this country to be left to a chance majority in this Parliament. "What Labour may do to-day another party can undo tomorrow.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - Unfortunately they do not.

Senator OGDEN - They sometimes should. Uncertainty regarding the future government of Australia creates in the minds of the people a feeling of uneasiness that helps to destroy our credit. I believe that our credit abroad would be hotter than it now is if a number of the extreme proposals of Labour had not been advanced. The present bill leaves the people in doubt as to what may happen next, and they are chary about investing their money in Government loans. If the bill were carried it would go a long way in the direction of destroying our credit, not only at home but also abroad. 1 believe that I am correct in saying that the people, in their wisdom, will reject this extraordinarily revolutionary proposal to take away from them the right to amend their own Constitution.

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