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Wednesday, 16 November 1910

Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -

That this Bill be now read a third time.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [4.45]. - Whilst I realize - in common, I think, with most honorable senators - that there is very little hope of either negativing the third reading of this Bill, or securing any modification of its provisions, I am, nevertheless, convinced that it is our duty, if we feel that way, to protest against one part of the measure, which, to my mind, is not merely a distinct invasion of the Federal principle, but strikes a fatal blow at the self-governing powers of the States. I refer, as honorable senators will gather, to that part of clause 4, paragraph b, which proposes to take from the Governments of the States the power of controlling their own servants by means of a provision which declares that " the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, including disputes in relation to employment on or about railways, the property of any State," are to be subject to the law of the Commonwealth.

Senator Findley - Hear, hear !

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The Honorary Minister cheers the sentiment contained in that provision, but I do think that, on mature consideration, some of my honorable friends opposite will come to the conclusion that they are making a very great mistake.I think they will come to that conclusion for this reason: No one can deny that we are here, not for the purpose of subordinating our views upon general questions, or even colouring our views on general questions by our position asstate representatives, but that, subject to that exception, we are here for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of the States. That is primarily our function as senators. I quite recognise that, very often, the expression " State rights " is misused. It is very often employed to designate matters which are not State rights at all. No honorable senator will, I think, accuse me of any inconsistency in that respect, when the course that I took last year in connexion with the Financial Agreement is remembered. A strong argument was used to the effect that that agreement was a vindication, or assertion - or an affirmation, if honorable senators prefer that term - of State rights. Rightly or wrongly, I took the opposite view. But there is a great distinction between the position in connexion with that agreement and the position in connexion with this proposal.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator was right on that occasion, but I am afraid that he is on the wrong track now.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think not. I am not going to import any heat into this question. As was said when this Bill was beforethe Senate for its second reading, there is another tribunal - a far higher tribunal than the Senate, or than this Parliament - before whom the question will be brought, and by whom it will eventually be decided. But now is the time to point out the grave dangers that, in my view, are involved - grave dangers to the Federation itself, to the principles of Federation, and to the foundation upon which the relations between the Commonwealth and the States were laid. We are here, as I have said, for the purpose of safeguarding State rights.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator mean the rights of the Legislative Councils?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Really, I do not think that that matter ought to be introduced.

Senator Long - Surely!

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not think that it has anything to do with the question.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friends ought not to have their judgment warped by any well or illfounded prejudice against any part of the governing bodies of the States. What we have to look to is the fact that the States are self-governing. It is not for us to dictate to them in respect to their methods of self-government.

SenatorW. Russell. - They are only governed by one section.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If the States are governed by a section, it is for the people of the States themselves to set the matter right.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They have not a chance.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It does not concern us here whether they have an opportunity or not. It is for the people of the States to set right their own system of government, if there is a vice in it ; it is for them to find a remedy, if there is a defect. It is not for this Parliament to interfere by overriding them, or by, in any way, upsetting the government of the States.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Surely it is for this Parliament to give the people an opportunity of governing themselves as they think proper.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It is not for this Parliament to think of giving the people an opportunity of remedying their own system of State government. We are not here to interfere with the right of the people of the States to settle their own local affairs. I never will consent to such an interference as this with the self-governing powers of the States. If you are going to interfere with their railway servants, why do you not interfere with the whole of their Public Service? Why do you not interfere with their executive officers? Why do you not remove their Governors? Why do you not take power to subvert the action of their Governments? If you do it in one thing, you may do it in all. I do not, however, desire to go into that aspect of the question, because we have a greater forum before whom we have to appeal; but I do not wish to allow this opportunity to . pass, and to give a. silent vote against this measure, without making perfectly clear at this stage the grounds uponwhich I shall vote. The other matters dealt with in this Bill are, in my judgment, relatively unimportant, in comparison with that to which I am referring.

Senator Findley - We have power to legislate on this subject.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Industrial control, the regulation of monopolies, and so forth, are fair matters for argument. But I say that there is no argument possible to defend an attempt by this Parliament to withdraw from the Parliament of a self-governing sovereign State its control over its own servants.

Senator Findley - If we have power to legislate industrially, our power should apply to the State servants.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend does not seem to realize that we are now attempting to legislate with regard to an instrument of State government. But we are bound to recognise that fact. My honorable friend should know that the whole basis of Federation in Australia is that it is an indestructible union of indestructible States. It is our duty to preserve the indestructibility of the States'. If we are going to destroy them, let us have a plain proposal to that effect.

Senator Gardiner - We are going to enlarge them.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend is going to destroy them by absorbing them, and taking away from them their identity as self-governing bodies. This proposal amounts to a subversion of the whole principles of Federation. If that is to be the policy that is to prevail in this country, let us have it stated plainly and straightforwardly.

Senator de Largie - Surely the industrial peace of the whole Commonwealth is of much greater importance than the tinpot dignity of any one State.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think that my honorable friend is unwise in using the phrase " tin-pot dignity " in respect of any State. I hope that he will withdraw that. I do not think that any of us has a right, in this Senate, where we are the representatives of the States, to describe the importance and the position of their Governments as one of" tin-pot dignity." I trust that my honorable friend did not mean to use the expression in that sense.

Senator de Largie - It is a matter in which the interests of the whole Commonwealth and the policy of one State are in conflict - that is what I meant.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What I am looking to is this : The States of South Australia are self-governing bodies. Each State is as sovereign in its own respective area as this Commonwealth is.

Senator de Largie - But the whole is greater than the part.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The whole is not greater than the part when the whole is restricted in its operation, and when the part is as great within its own sphere as the whole is within its sphere. That is the principle of Federation. It implies the equality of various Governments within their respective spheres.

Senator Keating - It is constitutional, not mathematical.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is the distinction. Mathematically, of course, the whole is greater than the part, but the parts of this Federation are the States, and the States within their own sphere are in a position of equality with the Commonwealth. In the next place, they are sovereign States, just as much as this is a sovereign Federation. Within the scope of their powers of government, their rights are identical with those of the Commonwealth.

Senator Long - But it is competent for any State to transfer certain of its powers to this Commonwealth.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am not going to overlook that point. Undoubtedly it is so.

Senator Long - That is all that the States are asked to do.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I wish to point out what the position of this great country is as a nation. The Commonwealth is supreme within its sphere, and the States are equally supreme within their spheres. . We have no right to attempt - what is more, I will say that wehave no right to suggest - any. invasion of the spheres of the States in this particular fashion.

Senator de Largie - That is all that we are asking - that the Commonwealth shall be supreme within its ambit.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The Commonwealth is supreme within its ambit.

Senator de Largie - Not at present.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Absolutely. But what right have you to take from the States, or to insist, without the consent of their Governments, in the first place, in taking over from them, control over their own servants ?

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator knows that that is incorrect.

Senator Findley - We do not want to take control of their servants.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - These railway men are really their own em plovers. They are employed by the Governments of the States, but they, in common with the other electors, practically elect the Government which employs them.

Senator Rae - That gives away the honorable senator's whole case.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Does it indeed? How does it give my case away? You are asking - or this arrogant Commonwealth Parliament is asking - for control over a certain section of the Public Service of certain sovereign States.

Senator Long - It is competent for the States to say no, and that will be an end of the matter.

Senator Findley - We are asking in regard to the railway servants of the States no more than we are asking in regard to other citizens of the Commonwealth.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Why is not the Government of a State to be trusted to look after its own servants? Has it not the power of self-government and control?

Senator Gardiner - What right have we to interfere with any other employer?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - A State is not in the position of any other employer. It is a sovereign Government, and it has as much right to legislate for its own employes, and to control them, as the Commonwealth has to legislate for, and to control, its servants.

Senator de Largie - If the peace of the Commonwealth is threatened, should not the Commonwealth Government have power to take action to preserve it?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The honorable senator keeps on saying that the Commonwealth ought to have the power; but the Commonwealth has not, and ought not to have, this power, because this is interfering with an instrumentality which belongs to the State Governments. Logically, it would be as. right to add to this a proposal to subject the whole of the p'ublic servants of the States to a tribunal created by the Commonwealth, that is to say, to Commonwealth law, as it is to propose to subject the railway servants of the States to such a, tribunal. Why is it not proposed to include the servants of the Education Departments of the States, or qf any other State Department ?

Senator Rae - Because the necessity exists in the one case.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What necessity? If there is a necessity, it must rest upon some principle. There is no answer.

Senator McGregor - Senator Rae cannot make a speech while the honorable senator has the floor.

Senator Rae - It would take a speech to explain the necessity.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am not complaining because Senator Rae is unable to answer. I ask - What necessity ? And there is no need for the sneer of the VicePresident of the Executive Council.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator must be mistaken as to what I said. Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON.- I beg that the honorable senator will not interrupt me. I am trying to put the matter fairly, and it is too serious to be met with jibes and jests. I make no complaint of Senator Rae. He says that there is a necessity in the case of the railway servants of the States, and none in the case of the other State servants I have mentioned.

Senator Long - A necessity that must be very apparent to the honorable senator.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No, there is no difference, in my opinion.

Senator Long - Surely there is? A difficulty in connexion with the railways might involve a complete dislocation of our social and industrial life, an absolute paralysis of it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I will say just a word about that.. How could there be a complete dislocation ? Is not the Government of a State competent' to deal with such a matter? What is it there for? Do honorable . senators contend that the State Governments' are not fit to control their own services?

Senator Rae - A dislocation in one State might involve a dislocation in the others.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Why should it? The fact of the matter is that what honorable senators opposite wish to do is to obtain an organized force throughout the Commonwealth against some particular State. They are going to override a particular State in its control of its own servants by enabling the railway servants in all the other States to combine with the railway servants in that State. 1 say that that is indefensible, lt will lead to anarchy. It is certainly directly destructive of States' sovereignty, and to that I shall never agree, so long as I have a voice to protest against it. Senator Rae says that there is a necessity in the case of the railway service. Logically I see no difference whatever in principle between a proposal that the Commonwealth should take over the railway servants of the States and a proposal that they should take over all the other .servants of the States. In fact, if we do the one, weshall have introduced the thin end of the wedge, and may proceed to take over the whole of the executive powers of the Government in any State. It must be so. If there is no answer to a proposal to take over the State railway servants, there can be no answer to a proposal to take over the men in the Education Departments, the Lands Departments, and every other of the public Departments of the States.

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator says that there is no answer to it?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do.

Senator McGregor - But that is not final. That does not finish .the matter.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not say that it is final. I am speaking for myself, and not for the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I wish I were speaking for the honorable senator. I am sorry that he does not see with -me. I can only put the matter before him in the way in which it strikes me, and 1 say that if we -can take over the railway servants of a State, and subject them to the control of a . Commonwealth tribunal, we can take over, in the same way, all other public servants of the States. Senator Long sees some distinction between the railway servants and other public servants in a State. It is to me the most marvellous thing in the world that honorable senators opposite should propose to take over the whole of the railway servants who are employed to carry on the great State enterprise of the railways, and do not propose to take over the railways themselves. I could see some sense in this proposal if it were proposed also to take over the railways of the States.

Senator de Largie - We have not said that we will not take over the railways.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But by taking over the railway servants, my honorable friends are going to embarrass and harass the State Governments in the management and control of their railway systems. That is beyond argument or doubt. They are going, I will not say to leg-rope, but to manacle the State Governments in their control of the railway servants of the States. The thing will not bear investigation for a moment.

Senator Rae - The taking over of the State debts will probably embarrass the State Governments in their finances.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What has the taking over of the State debts to do with this matter? Does not my honor able friend see that if we interfere with the industrial conditions in a factory, we, to a certain extent, interfere, I do not say improperly, with the management of the business? Of course, my honorable friends contend that we should do that in the interests of the public good.

Senator Rae - Hear, hear; that is the sanction.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We have all come to the conclusion that it is a right thing, and should be done, but there is no analogy between the position of a sovereign Government of a self-governing country and an individual manufacturer. Senator de Largie referred to the industrial peace of the country. I attach quite as much importance to it as the honorable senator does. I think it is very essential that there should be industrial peace, but I say that we have no right, I will not say under the pretence, but under the appearance, of a desire to secure industrial peace, to invade the self-governing rights of the States. At the risk of seeming to repeat myself, I must impress upon my honorable friends that they are proposing to interfere with what is within the legitimate powers of the sovereign Governments of the States, and, so long as we have a Federal form of government in the Commonwealth, those sovereign rights of the State Governments should be respected. My honorable friends say, truly enough, that they intend to ask the people to assent to this proposal. If they were going to ask the people to agree to hand over to the Commonwealth the railway systems, as well as the railway servants of the States, that would be a logical and intelligible proposal. But they are asking the people to say, " We shall leave to the Governments of the sovereign States the control of the railways as instruments for the public good, and propose to take away from them only the power of controlling their own servants. We are going to say that the Crown, as the Commonwealth, shall control the servants of the Crown as the Government of a State." I ask my honorable friends whether they think such a proposal is in accordance with good sense, or is one which ought to be submitted to the people without first of all getting the consent of the Governments of the States ? It would have been a courteous and reasonable thing to have, first of all, gone to the Governments, or even the Parliaments, of the different States, and asked them whether they were prepared to hand over this portion of their self-governing powers to the Commonwealth, or to subject a section of their public servants to the legislative control of the Commonwealth through a Commonwealth tribunal, or in some other way.

Senator Long - That is what we are doing.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is not what my honorable friends are doing. They are proposing to ride rough-shod over the Parliaments and the Governments of the different States.

Senator Rae - Who are the Governments of the States ? The people.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The Governments of the States are composed of persons who have been elected by the people, and the courteous thing for us to do is. in the first place, to go to these Governments and ask them whether they have any objection to this proposal before bringing a Bill like this into Parliament. I say that this is trampling on the rights of the States, not upon " tin-pot dignities," but upon the just rights of the Governments of the sovereign States.

Senator de Largie - We are going to a higher power than the Governments of the States - to the people.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Certainly, the ultimate court of appeal is the people, but between us and the people there are these State Governments, whom it is our duty to recognise. It is our business to pay some attention to them, and it is not our business in this Parliament to adopt a dictatorial and arrogant attitude, to give the go-by to the State Governments, and say, " We shall not pay any attention to them, but will go direct to the, people."

Senator Long - That is the proper course.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend will have an opportunity to advocate that course, and to show that it is a proper, courteous, and polite way in which to treat the State Governments. I remind honorable senators that we are here, to a certain extent, to represent the State Governments, not their individual policies or the Governments themselves, but the system which they have been appointed to carry out. I do not care who are the members of the Governments of the different States, but I feel that, so long as I am here, it is my business to recognise them. It is my business to appeal to my honorable friends opposite - and I do no more than make what I think is a reasonable appeal, though they may not consider it so - to reflect whether they are doing right in proposing in this way a serious, and I will say a revolutionary, change in the principles and basis of our Federation. It would have been a perfectly easy thing to have ascertained the views of the different States through their Governments. If they expressed wrong views, their people could deal with them. If we felt, as the Parliament representing the Commonwealth, that, notwithstanding any protest the State Governments might make, we should still be justified in this proposal, we might then have referred it to the people.

Senator Rae - If we were antagonistic to the State Governments then, the honorable senator would say that we were acting in defiance of them.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON -I should not say so if some overwhelming reason were shown for what was proposed. The Vice-President of the Executive Council says that this is only my view, but we have the undoubted fact that the people whom we are seeking to bring under Commonwealth legislation, and in that respect under Commonwealth control, are the' instruments employed to carry on a particular State Government enterprise. As such, they are under the control of the State Governments, and we have no more right to take over the men who drive the engines than to take over the engines they drive. So far as the system is concerned, such a proposition could only be defended if it were associated with a proposal to take over the whole of the railways. At any rate, my view is that this is an interference with the highest of all State rights, and that is the right of a State to exercise its own government in accordance with the views expressed by its representatives and in the ultimate resort by the people who elect them. The enterprise of running the railways is just as much a part of a State Government as is the administration of the Lands Department. If you take over the instrumentality, that is, the employes, without taking over the thing itself, you will give them a sort of truncated system, and will not facilitate their operations, but will hamper and injure them.

Senator McDougall - The States do not put the workers in the Lands Department and the workers in the Railway Department on the same footing.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON -I do not know what my honorable friend means.

Senator Long - What he means is that whereas one branch is in the Public

Service, the Railway Department is under separate control.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - There is a Commissioner, but all the funds go into the Consolidated Revenue.

Senator Long - The railway men are not controlled by the Public Service Board.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - In South Australia we have no Public Service Board or Public Service Commissioner. The public servants in one Department are in principle identical with the public servants in another Department. We have a Cool Storage Depot, the principle of which I applaud, and which has been of great service.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Thanks to the Labour party.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No doubt Labour men are little gods. According to their own judgment they are filled with a divine inspiration, but many other persons think that it is an inspiration of another kind. Why should not the Commonwealth take over the employes in our Cool Storage Depot?

Senator McGregor - We do not propose to take anybody over.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not know what this proposal is, then. We had better strike it out. I do not know why you should not propose to place all other public servants under the control of Commonwealth legislation. I have always thought that the management of the railways by theStates was a great example of State Socialism, and a very salutary one. I am one of those who have always believed in certain descriptions of State Socialism within proper limits and for proper purposes. I have always thought that the railway service was one of the subjects which might very well be controlled by the State, as it always has been. I cannot understand those who talk Socialism interfering with the management, by the State, and one of its Socialistic enterprises.

Senator McDougall - We are not interfering with them.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I should think that you propose to seriously interfere with them. If you say that the States are not competent to do justice to their servants, and must submit themselves to a tribunal of the Commonwealth, you are interfering with them, and no amount of argument can alter plain terms.

Senator de Largie - The Constitution provides for our doing that if we choose.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It does not do anything of the kind.

Senator de Largie - Under the Constitution we could take all the railways over to-morrow.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Now I have gained one point. I will not say that my honorable friend is convinced, but he thinks that that would get over the difficulty. I think so, too. If the Commonwealth took over the whole of the railways not a soul could raise the slightest objection to the control of the men, because it can do what it likes with its own employes.

Senator Rae - They might object to our taking over the railways.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If you cannot take over the railways, on what possible principle are you to take over the men who are running them under the control of the State Governments? I do not profess to believe for a moment that my honorable friends opposite assent to the view I am putting, but I ask them to consider whether this is not a direct interference with the self-governing power of the States, their sovereignty within their' sphere. Their sovereignty includes the conduct of the railway enterprises within their territory, and that must comprise the control, the management, and the doing of justice to the men in their service. The moment you ask the people to vote that they shall be made subject to Commonwealth legislation, which may be one thing today and another thing to-morrow, and subject to the tribunals which it may create, you declare that the State sovereignty is not competent to do justice to its own employes in that Department, and that the power should be withdrawn from them. If anything is degrading to the States, that, it seems to me, is. Therefore, I shall oppose the motion on the ground that this proposal is one which ought not to be submitted to the people except in consultation and harmony with the State Governments to begin with, and is one which I think every man should resist to the utmost, if he intends to remain under a Federal Government in which the State to which he belongs is still regarded as a sovereign entity with the full power of doing justice and managing its enterprises and servants.

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