2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. O’MALLEY presented a petition, signed by 169 residents of King Island, praying the House to give them a telephone system, telegraphic communication with the mainland, and a better distribution of mails.
Petition received and read.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared with a reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Bourke last night?
– The honorable member for Bourke last nightj on the motion for the adjournment of the House, asked’ a question as to the overtime paid in the Post Office for the sorting of a certain publication. I have ascertained from a copy now in my possession that it is entitled to registration as a newspapet, ‘ to circulation through the Post Office as a newspaper under the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act, and to the benefit of the nominal rate of postage for newspapers as determined by the Post and Telegraph Rates Act. With respect to the statement that no overtime is paid to the sorters for the additional work which they are required to perform in connexion with the large number of the newspaper referred to that is posted, it can only be said that the payment of overtime is governed by the regulations made by the Public Service Commissioner- under the provisions of the Public Service Act. If the sorters work more than the stipulated number of hours per fortnight, namely, ninety-three hours for those who have regular hours, and eighty-four for broken or irregular hours, they will be entitled to payment for overtime.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
In reference to the statement of Major-General Hutton in the Perth Town Hall, as reported in the West Australian newspaper of the 2nd instant, to the following effect : - “ As to the probability of any nation wishing to invade Australia, he would remind them of the extracts from Chinese and Japanese newspapers which had been appearing in the Australian press, and from which it could be seen that the people of China and Japan were casting longing eyes upon the rich Northern Territory of Australia. Further, he had it from no less an authority than the Japanese Admiral who visited Australia some twelve months or so ago that such was the case.”
Has any report of this intimation from the visiting Admiral (Admiral Kamimura) been made by. General Hutton to the Minister of Defence, or to other official authority?
If so, has the Prime Minister any objection to placing such report on the Library table?
If not, will he cause General Hutton to make a full and complete report of the Japanese warning, and its surrounding circumstances?
Will he cause representations to be made to the British Government and to the Japanese Government as to the implied threat on the part of the latter in its Admiral’s statement?
Will he ask the presumably friendly Ja panese Government to make a distinct repudiation of the statement of its Admiral, who, during his visit, officially represented his nation?
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the . Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In the case of Volunteers, Commanding Officers received 30s. per head of establishment, and 20s. for each effective member, for clothing and corps contingent allowance.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether anything has been done with regard to the matter of imported spirits, which are bottled in Australia without purchasers being notified of the fact, about which subject it is understood the South Australian Government made representations to the Commonwealth Government?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The statement was made in. December last that spirit was being imported, bottled, and labelled in a manner contrary to the provisions of the law of the State of South Australia. In January of this year, the Premier of that State was informed that, as the spirit in question had been legally passed through the Customs, the latter had no power in the matter. The Customs officers submit all labels imported for the consideration of the local authorities, and for such action as the latter may desire to take. It is not considered that the Department can do more in this matter.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Regulation under the Post and Telegraph Act, statutory rule No. 45.
Addition to financial and allowance regulations, statutory rules, 1904, No. 43, and amendment of regulations, statutory rules, 1904, No. 42.
Policy and Administration of the Government : Attitude of the Opposition.
– I desire to move - .
The the Standing Orders be suspended to discuss a matter of urgent necessity, namely, “The policy and administration of the Government; also the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament.”
– Standing Order 407 requires -
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order, or Orders of the House, may be suspended for the day’s sitting, on motion, duly made and seconded, without notice : Provided that such motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House.
Does the honorable member claim that the question he desires to discuss isone of urgent necessity?
– I maintain that the question is urgent, because the Opposition, in refusing to allow the Government to recommit Clause 48 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill for its full consideration in Committee, have in view the defeat of the Administration, and their action deprives those who support the Government of the opportunity to justify that support, while it at the same time prevents other honorable members from giving their reasons for opposing the Government. The action of the Opposition is intended to deprive honorable members of their inalienable right to defend their attitudte, not only in regard to a particular measure of legislation, but in regard to the general support given to the Government during its term of office.
– I am not sure as ro whether what may be disclosed by the honorable member in the course of his speech, or in the speeches of those who follow him, will show that the matter is one of absolute urgency ; but if I find it necessary later on to interpose I shall take the opportunity of doing so. For the present the honorable member mav proceed.
– I maintain that the matter is urgent because, should the recommittal proposals of the Government be defeated, members of this House would be deprived of the opportunity of discussing the general question. They would be deprived of their right to explain why they have given the Government their support in the past, or why they have religiously opposed the Government in connexion with its legislation and administration. I maintain that the course of conduct which has been adopted by the Opposition, with a virw to steal a march upon the Government, has practically prevented honorable members from placing before the electors, whom they may have to face in the immediate future, any reason or justification for the attitude thev have taken up, not only on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but on questions involving the whole policy and administration of Ministers. I wish to ask what justification any member of this House has - be he one of those who has great responsibilities cast upon him, or be he the least influential member of the Chamber - to come forward, and by means of the method of procedure which has been adopted, endeavour, while defeating the Government, to rob honorable members of their right to express to the country in general, and to their electors in particular, their reasons for the attitude they have assumed, and their justification for their conduct, whether as supporters or opponents of the Ministrv? If honorable members wish to have detailed argument. I should like to say - why should we send an honorable member like the honorable and learned member for Bendigo back to his constituents, depriving him of the right-
– Depriving him of the opportunity-
– I rise to order. I wish to take your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the expression which has been used by the honorable member for Gwydir was in order, when he asked why we should send the honorable and learned member for Bendigo to his constituents? I wish to ask you whether the prerogative of dissolution, which is vested in the Governor-General, can be referred to as if the GovernorGeneral had made some intimation-
– Which he has not.
– Which he has not, I am sure, to the head of the Government, that such a contingency is involved in the exercise by honorable members of their independence in this House.
– The question of the dissolution of Parliament, or otherwise, is, of course, within the prerogative of the GovernorGeneral, and must not be debated in this House. I am sure that . the honorable member for Gwydir will not transgress the rule.
– I was not discussing the question of a dissolution. I was discussing the probabilities - as to what’ might occur in consequence of the action that has been taken by the Opposition. I maintain that honorable members of this House; before any practical legislation can again be put before the House, may possibly have to face those who sent us here. For that reason, I wish honorable members - as every Britisher would wish - not to adopt, or support that course of procedure which has been pursued by the Opposition.
– I should like to take your ruling, sir, as’ to whether the honorable member is in order, under cover of a motion of this kind, in impugning the motives, attacking the independence of judgment of honorable members, and anticipating debate upon a matter which is not yet decided by the House.
– In no case can an honorable member anticipate debate on a motion which is upon the notice” paper. Therefore, it will not be competent for him to refer in any . way to any debate which is or may be pending - upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, for example. I am quite sure that the House would desire that in the case of every speech reference to a debate now pending should be specifically avoided, and that we should debate not the personalities of members themselves, but the question of policy which may be under consideration.
– I have not transgressed the rule which you have laid down, Mr. Speaker. I have not endeavoured to impugn the motives of any honorable member on account of the opposition which he has given to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is now before the House. Nor do I intend to do so. I have sufficient knowledge of the Standing Orders to be aware that an honorable member cannot anticipate debate on another question which is upon the notice paper. But I have also the knowledge that whenever a Government is threatened with defeat, whether directly or indirectly, honorable members, whether they be victims of that defeat, or whether they may benefit from it, have a right to defend their attitude. Because every defeat of a Government may involve a dissolution. Since that is possible, I appeal for a rightto discuss the question which I have brought forward. I am appealing for a right which would have been granted by any Opposition hitherto existing. No “ Parliamentary Opposition, of which 1 have ever heard, would have made it necessary for me to advance such a claim, nor would it have made any attempt to refuse to a Government the right to recommit a Bill.
– I understand that the first reason given by the honorable member for Gwydir for the motion which he has submitted is, to discuss as a matter of urgent necessity, the policy and administration of the Government.’ At the present time, one question under the consideration of the House is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The honorable member is now referring to what is likely to happen in case of the defeat of the Government. I submit - that he is not entitled to do that. I go further. He also advances, as a reason for bringing forward this motion, the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. When a Government seeks to have certain clauses of a Bill recommitted, it is quite competent for the Opposition to object to the motion, without violating the Standing Orders. Therefore the honorable member is now criticising not the conduct of the Opposition, but virtually the Standing Orders -of this House. This is my -point of order- the honorable mem ber is not entitled, by means of a motion of this kind, to discuss the Standing Orders which have been adopted by the House. I submit that the honorable member is entirely out of order.
– I have looked again at the notice which the honorable member for Gwydir has handed to me. I see in it no reference to discussing the Standing Orders of the House. I am not quite sure that if the honorable member had been pleased to include that matter, to have done so would not have made the motion irregular. The honorable member has brought forward the motion in order to discuss a matter of urgent necessity, namely, the policy and administration of the Government, and also the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. The honorable member, so far as I know, has not transgressed the rules. I may point out that where there are frequent interruptions by points of order, I am not able to listen so closely to the honorable member as I should otherwise do.
– I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to confine the honorable member to the particular purpose of his motion.
– I have already dealt with that matter. The question now under discussion is, whether, or not, the Standing Orders shall be suspended, and the honorable member has the right to use any reasonable arguments upon that point, for the consideration of the House.
– I marvel at the spirit which is being manifested by honorable members who are raising these points of order. They seem to have as many points as has the proverbial porcupine. I am merely asking for a British constitutional right, namely, that every representative in this Chamber shall have an opportunity to lay before his constituents, through Hansard - the only medium we have - his reasons for the attitude he is taking up. I was referring to the unjustifiable conduct of the Opposition. If honorable members opposite had submitted a direct vote of censure upon which honorable members could have discussed the general policy of the Government, there would have been no necessity f6r me to take my present action ; but it is because we have been hobbled and gagged by the methods adopted by the Opposition, that we, -as Britishers, feel called upon to raise our voices in protest.
– The honorable member is now referring to another debate.
– I am referring to the attitude taken up by the Opposition with regard to the conduct of the business of the House.
– The honorable member must not refer to another debate.
– It is necessary for me to refer to the action of the Opposition with regard to the conduct of the business of Parliament, as illustrated by recent events, in order to show why the Standing Orders should be suspended, and why we should be afforded that right of discussion of which the Opposition have sought to deprive us. It is important that facilities should be offered to us to discuss the general administration of the Government. I ask what has been advanced by honorable members opposite against the policy of the Government? What charge has been laid at the door of the Ministry which would justify their ejection from office?
– I would ask if the honorable member’s statements can fairly be considered arguments in favour of the suspension of the Standing Orders?
– I take it that the honorable member is now stating one of the reasons which he indicated when I asked the honorable member to show the urgency of his motion.
– In spite of the opposition “shown by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, which is thoroughly characteristic of him, I have a duty to perform, not only to myself, but to the whole Commonwealth, and I intend to discharge it, despite all attacks on the part of those who are seeking to burk discussion. I wish to know what portion of the policv of the Government has induced the Opposition to assume their present remarkable attitude ? Are they opposed to the policy of Ministers who have succeeded in placing upon our statute-book a measure dealing with a matter which has been dangled before the electors of the Commonwealth ever since the Federation was established? Do they object to the Government because they have expeditiously settled for all time the question as to where we are to go “ in the sweet by-and-by “ ? Are the Opposition seeking indirectly to deprive the Government of office and power because of their action in regard to the Seat of Government Bill ? Do they wish to revert to the state of affairs which existed before we passed an Act to bring about a White Australia? Do those honorable gentlemen who are seeking to conduct the business of this Chamber in the manner which the notice paper indicates, hope that they may reverse that legislation that has been so well administered by the Government in the interests of a White Australia? Are these members prepared to stake their political existence on the attitude which they are now taking up ? I realize that there is only one explanation for the conduct of those who are seeking by these indirect methods to attain something which they have not the courage to achieve by direct means. Are honorable members opposite cognizant of the fact that all the political leanings and all the public utterances of their present leader indicate that he is opposed to a White Australia?
– I have been looking at the standing order 407, and I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in obtruding his speech upon the House, out of its due order, and before the preliminary question has been decided whether or not we shall suspend the Standing Orders. In connexion with a proposal to suspend the Standing Orders, and to interrupt the ordinary course of public business, the honorable member is making a speech which he ought not to deliver until we have determined to throw our Standing Orders to the winds to enable him to do as he desires.
– I intend to deliver another speech afterwards.
– I submit, sir, that the honorable member must be confined to a statement of his reasons for asking that the Standing Orders shall be suspended, and that he must not indulge in a speech on the general question until the House has by an absolute majority determined that the ordinary course of business shall be interrupted.
– I submit that in the first place the standing order referred to by the right honorable gentleman does not provide that under these circumstances the question as to the suspension of the Standing Orders must be submitted without debate. In giving his reasons for the suspension of the Standing Orders the honorable member surely has the right to refer incidentally to the conduct of the right honorable gentleman and those associated with him in this crisis. It seems to me that the honorable member for Gwydir is’ quite within our rules in giving reasons why the Standing Orders should be suspended. Even in an ordinary set of circumstances, if it were proposed to suspend the Standing Orders merely in order to pass a Bill through all its stages hurriedly, it would be open to honorable members to debate the proposal. They could show reasons why it was not a matter of urgency, and conversely in this instance the honorable member for Gwydir can advance reasons why it is a matter of urgency that his views should be placed before the country.
– I desire to point out that upon a previous occasion - I cannot recall the exact date - when Sir Edmund Barton filled the position of Prime Minister, I took exception to a motion to suspend the Standing Orders in connexion with the despatch of certain Australian troops. If my recollection serves me accurately, my attitude then was opposed by a very strong section now upon the Opposition side of the House, and the action of the Prime Minister was upheld. The point which I then raised was whether the Prime Minister was in order in discussing the question which he desired to debate before the Standing Orders had been suspended. I believe that a ruling was given against me, and I claim that that ruling established a precedent in this Cham ber. Consequently, any honorable member who seeks the suspension of the Standing Orders is perfectly entitled” to furnish reasons why that course should be adopted. In this particular instance the honorable member for Gwydir wishes the Standing Orders to be suspended, and the House cannot possibly know whether or not that course ought to be followed until he has advanced reasons in support of his motion. To my mind the grounds which he has already advanced amply warrant the suspension of the Standing Orders. He is perfectly in order in adopting the line of argument which he is pursuing.
– I wish to raise the question of whether, in the whole of the statements of the honorable member for Gwydir, there is a scintilla of evidence of the character contemplated by the Standing Orders? He has informed the House that he has submitted this proposal because some honorable members of the Opposition have adopted an unusual course.
– That does not appear in the motion.
– I am speaking of the honorable member’s argument, and not of the motion. There is nothing in his statements to indicate that the matter which he desires to discuss is one of urgency.
– Oh, yes.
– The motion merely indicates that in this House there is an Opposition, and that there is also a Government which fis pursuing its ordinary purposes of policy and administration. Consequently we require to look to the reasons advanced by the honorable member to ascertain whether any urgency exists in connexion with this matter.
– Why not allow him to state his reasons?
– I submit that he has already sufficiently stated them. After all the tumultuous cheering which occurred in the caucus room this morning, I should have thought that honorable members opposite had quite pumped themselves out.
– Was that the caucus which was held in the Opposition room ?
– No, in the Labour Party’s room.
– There was no caucus meeting there.
– If the meetings of that party continue to be so boisterous, I am not quite certain whether a thicker partition than already exists will not be required between the room in which they assemble and the Opposition room.’ The gravamen of the statements by the honorable member for Gwydir is that the Opposition yesterday adopted a course of which the Government did not approve. To argue that that is a matter the discussion of which urgently requires this motion is a travesty upon the Standing Orders.
– That is for the House to decide.
– It is for Mr. Speaker to say whether the matter is one of urgency, and whether he will permit the discussion upon the motion to suspend the Standing Orders to proceed. I contend that there is nothing to indicate that the slightest urgency exists in connexion with this matter. Upon that ground, as well as upon the other, I submit that the honorable member ought not to be allowed to proceed.
– Two points of order have been put before me. The right honorable member for East Sydney has called attention to the fact that the first matter to be determined by the House is, whether or not it will suspend the Standing Orders, and, that if it determines to suspend them, the debate may then proceed upon the subjects mentioned in the motion. That is so. The only question which honorable members can now debate is, whether or not the Standing Orders should be suspended. Some time since, I called the attention of the honorable member for Gwydir to the fact that that is the question to which he must confine his remarks. The honorable member for Parramatta claims that no urgency has been shown to exist. I am endeavouring, as well as I can, when I am not engaged in determining these points of order, to ascertain whether the honorable member for Gwydir is making out a case of urgency. He claims that there is some probability of the Government losing its position upon the Treasury benches, and I understand that before that event takes place, he desires to enable honorable members to make certain statements. I am quite prepared to listen to him further, reserving to myself the right - which I indicated halfanhour ago - to prevent a continuance of the debate, should urgency not be proved.
– During my Parliamentary experience, I have never been so favoured by an Opposition as I have been upon the present occasion. It is, indeed, considerate on the part of honorable members opposite to afford me such frequent intervals in which to think out fresh points. Personally, I do not care whether I occupy a seat upon the Ministerial side of the House, upon the Opposition side, or upon the cross benches. But, seeing that there is a probability of the Government being defeated, owing to the adoption by the Opposition of tactics which are without a precedent in any Parliament in Australia, I contend that we should be afforded an opportunity of criticising, and, if we think fit, of supporting the policy of the Government. What can be more urgent than the right of honorable members to defend themselves against attacks which are made upon them, not in a constitutional way, but in a manner which is unknown in any other Parliament within the Commonwealth? I wish to obtain the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of discussing the policy and . administration of the Government, and also of considering the attitude that has been adopted by ‘the Opposition in the conduct of the public business. When they resort to such tactics it is a matter of extreme urgency that the Standing Orders- be suspended in order that we may exercise the British right of free speech. When the right honorable member for East Sydney smiles, as he is now doing, I know that he does not relish the arguments that are being adduced. I think I have clearly shown that this is a matter of extreme urgency.
– The honorable member has not yet said a word in support of his motion.
– Even if I availed myself of every word in the dictionary, I do not imagine that I should be able to convince the honorable member. Some honorable members are so full of their own selfimportance that it is impossible to coa vin :e them that they hold erroneous views on any subject, and therefore I shall not attempt to perform impossibilities. We have a right, as free men, representing a free people, to give full expression to our views on an allimportant question of this kind. We have a right to protest against the tactics pursued by the Opposition during the last day or two. What are the planks in the Government policy to which the Opposition object ?
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that while it is perfectly competent for the honorable member to show that it is a matter of urgency that the Standing Orders should be suspended, he is not in order in discussing the general question.
– While the honorable member for Gwydir was speaking, I was looking up the precedent mentioned a little earlier in the proceedings by the honorable member for Kennedy, so that I was not closely following his remarks. If the honorable member was distinctly going beyond the question of whether it is desirable to suspend the Standing Orders, he was certainly out of order.
– As I am only a novice, I feel inclined to accept the kindly advice offered by honorable members opposite. As a tribute to their high intellectual attainments, to their wide knowledge of constitutional law, and to their intimate acquaintance with the rules of procedure, I should perhaps express my gratitude-
– Will the honorable member discuss the question?
– I have already shown that it is a matter of urgency that the Standing Orders should be suspended. I shall now discuss those features in the policy of the present Government to which the Opposition are opposed.
– In discussing that matter the honorable member would go beyond the scope of the motion.
– I wish to show that by the action of the Opposition we are deprived of the right to freely discuss their tactics.
– Not at all.
– I am surprised that the honorable member, in whose veracity I have always had the greatest confidence, should hold that opinion. He knows that the Opposition are anxious to burke discussion - to gag honorable members on this side of the House - and to prevent us from putting before the people of Australia our reasons for objecting to their attempt to follow a course of procedure which has never been adopted in any other Parliament in the Commonwealth.
– The question is whether honorable members are going back on the vote which they gave in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. It is the Ministry who say they will resign if the clause is not recommitted.
– I admire the honorable member’s friendly interest in me, but do not welcome his interposition. By the action of ‘ the Opposition we have been deprived of the right, which we should otherwise have enjoyed, to discuss the general question on a direct motion of want of confidence. Do those who are supporting the Opposition tactics fully realize that they are allowing the impression to go forth to the public that they are not prepared to support the policy of this Government?
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is not discussing the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, and that he is out of order from first to last. I hold that he must absolutely confine himself to the giving of reasons in support of his contention that it is urgently necessary that the Standing Orders should be suspended.
– Having had time to look up the precedent referred to by th’e honorable member for Kennedy-
– If this is a Government move, I do not wish to object to it.
– I hold that it is’ one of the duties of a Government to protect the rights of honorable members in regard to our methods of procedure.
– Hear, hear.
– I have had an opportunity to look up the point referred to by the honorable member for Kennedy, and shall briefly put it before the House. On the 14th January, 1902, the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, wished to make a statement to the House relative to the South African war, and the part which he proposed, on behalf of the Government, that the Commonwealth should play in it. The proposal to make that statement was objected to, on the ground that it would give honorable members no opportunity to reply, and the Prime Minister then proceeded to deal with the subject on a motion to suspend the Standing Orders. On that occasion, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that -
The objection of the honorable member for Kennedy is fatal to the Prime Minister on this occasion making any statement to the House except in the way which he proposes - a speech which will conclude with a motion such as for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
The Prime Minister adopted that form, and concluded with a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Debate then ensued, and the discussion, which is reported in Hansard at pages 8741 to 8800, covered the whole question of the South African war.
– I should like to take your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the point whether the matter to which the honorable member wishes to refer can be discussed by the House even if he obtains the suspension of the Standing Orders. Is it not a matter which is already under discussion?
– He wishes to discuss the general policy of the Government.
– He wishes to refer to the action of the Opposition during the last two days in endeavouring to prevent the discussion of a certain matter.
– And to the policy of the Government.
– In support of the point which I have raised, I should like you to refer, sir, to the following passage on page 264 of May’s Parliamentary Practice -
Nor can a motion be brought forward which is the same in substance as a question which, during the current session, has been decided in the affirmative or negative, nor which anticipates a matter already set down or appointed for consideration by the House.
I respectfully ask you to decide, Mr. Speaker, that the object of the honorable mem- ber for Gwydir, in asking for the suspension of the Standing Orders, is to refer to a matter already under the discussion of the House, and to interfere with the right of honorable members to continue that discussion.
– I will deal first with the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Angas. So far as I, as Speaker, have any knowledge, the question under discussion in the debate to which the honorable and learned member refers is whether a certain clause of a certain Bill shall or shall not be recommitted. Whether the fate of the Government is. or is not, involved in that discussion is a question in regard to which I cannot assume to have any knowledge. It is not for me to say whether it is or is not. Therefore, so long as the honorable member for Gwydir does not discuss the motion relating to the Arbitration Bill now on the notice-paper, and the amendment omitting clause 48 from the proposed recommittal, or any other matter of which notice has been given, he will be in order, and the point which the honorable and learned member for Angas has raised will have no application. The honorable member, however, will be out of order instantly if he attempts to debate any motion on the notice-paper. So far as the point raised by the honorable and learned member for East Sydnev is concerned, the House will see that the line between that which the honorable member for Gwydir may discuss and that which he may not discuss is a very faint one. He cannot discuss on the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders the subject which he wishes to discuss if the suspension of the Standing Orders is granted ; but he may give as fully as he pleases the reasons why he thinks the’ Standing Orders should be suspended. At the moment when attention was called to his remarks by “the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, he was, as I understood him, arguing that possiblv the action of the Opposition’ might prevent certain arguments being advanced in the House, which he thought ought to be advanced, and was thereby proving the need for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Another day or two.
– Contemptible minds have contemptible ideas.
– I have every reason to be proud of the wonderful unanimity which exists amongst honorable members opposite in the desire to burke discussion on this question.
– Is the honorable member in order in saying that the members of the Opposition are unanimous in the desire to burke discussion?
– If the remark is objected to by any honorable member, it must be withdrawn.
– If it is objected to by any honorable member opposite, I withdraw it; but, knowing the marvellous abilities of the honorable member for Wentworth, I did not intend to convey the impression that he is capable of burking discussion. It is very difficult for a man to speak connectedly wfien he is being continually badgered. I remember being called to order verv quickly on one occasion for objecting to an honorable member expressing his opinions when he desired to do so.
– Will the honorable member discuss the question before the House ?
– I feel sure that in discussing the wisdom of suspending the Standing Orders to allow honorable members who, during the last nine months, have taken an attitude which seems to me more incomprehensible and more inexplicable -
– Have we anything to do with what has happened during the last nine months ?
– The purpose for which the honorable member desires the suspension of the Standing Orders is to enable him to discuss “the policy and administration of the Government, also the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament.” So far as I can see, that covers all that the honorable member can say in regard to the whole life of this Parliament.
– I am delighted that the right honorable member for East . Sydney raised the point of order, because your ruling, Mr. Speaker, has given me an opportunity for which I am grateful. It considerably enlarges the scope of my observations. We have the right, on whichever side of the chamber we may sit, to explain our actions during the existence of this Parliament, which is not yet twelve months old, in order that later on we may, if possible, obtain the approval of our constituents in regard to what we have done. I am acting as the friend of honorable members on the Opposition side of the House, who, I feel certain, are just as anxious as I am to be able to place on record the reasons why they have taken the course which they have adopted during the existence of this Parliament. I maintain that it is only fair that we should have an opportunity to do so since it is probable that that opportunity may not occur again on account of the action of the Opposition in connexion with a motion which has recently been put before the Chamber. Each and every one of us should have the opportunity to defend his attitude towards the Government, and the vote which he intends to give, thereby once and for all giving to the people whom he represents an honest outline of his reasons for the faith that is in him. Honorable members opposite have the same right to be heard as have the supporters of the Government.
– Does the honorable member say that they should be compelled to explain ?
– I do not believe in compulsion except in connexion with arbitration. In a matter of this kind I feel sure that they will not need to be compelled. I am certain that they are only too anxious to have an opportunity to do so. The methods adopted by the Opposition in relation to the conduct of public business have engaged even their own supporters. But the leader of the Government is prepared to extend to them that which their own party would’ refuse. What have honorable members to object to in the policy of the Government ?
– That question has no relation to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Owing to certain occurrences which may eventuate, and which are well known to honorable members, we shall have no opportunity to discuss the question at a later stage.
– The honorable member may say that, but he must not discuss the policy of the Government.
– I am giving my reasons for thinking that we should have an opportunity to discuss the important questions that are now pending. I am rather sorry that no other point of order has been raised, because it would have given me time to mature my thoughts. Is it not right, in the interests of good Government, that honorable members opposite should have an opportunity to explain why, in connexion with certain legislation, they have opposed the Government, and why they intend to vote in a particular direction in connexion with an event which is likely to occur during the next day or so?
– I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the honorable member is not now referring to the pending vote on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– At the moment when the honorable and learned member for Angas rose to a point of order, I was speaking to the honorable member for Macquarie with reference to the debate; but if the honorable member for Gwydir was doing what the honorable and learned member for Angas says he was doing, he was transgressing the rule. I ask him not to do that.
– I certainly have no desire to transgress the rule. I have always endeavoured to keep within the four corners of the law of Parliament. I admit at once that I have to exercise my right to speak within a barbed wire fence, which has been erected for the purpose of preventing me from explaining my position. But, sir, I did not, as the honorable and learned member for Angas stated, transgress the rule.
– What was the “ pending vote “ to which the honorable member referred ?
– I was not referring to the vote which is to be taken on the Arbitration Bill. I contend that I did not transgress by referring to a subject which undoubtedly is hurtful to honorable members opposite. Why are these constant objections raised to the exercise of my constitutional right to debate a question which we are otherwise prevented from debating by reason of the attitude assumed by the Opposition? Do honorable members realize that as the outcome of this method of conducting public business it is possible that they will have to give an explanation of their opposition to the Government and its policy? There is one thing that it is absolutely essential that honorable members should consider, and that is that in the efforts of the Opposition to displace the Government by means hitherto never adopted by a Parliament in Australasia
– To what means is the honorable member referring?
– I rise to a point of order. This is quite a new point. I should like to have the benefit of your ruling, sir, with regard to it. I have just observed the terms of the motion which the honorable member for Gwydir has sprung on us, and I wish to have your ruling as to whether, under the Standing Orders, the honorable member con include more than one subject in a motion, for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Because, if he can do that, he can include a schedule. I submit to you, sir, that there are two subjects mentioned in this motion - the policy and administration of the Government, that is one thing; and the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. These are two absolutely different things, and seeing that this standing order is not often used, I feel that it would be convenient, and useful in the future, if we had the benefit of your opinion as to whether, upon a motion to suspend the Standing Orders, more than one subject can be included.
– I have no hesitation in giving the ruling asked for. I would remind honorable members that it is a common practice in connexion with Supply Bills and Appropriation Bills to move that the Standing Orders fee suspended, to enable the report of the Committee of Supply to be adopted, and a Bill introduced and passed through all its stages without delay. In such cases, three or four different things are contemplated by the motion, as contrasted with only two under the motion now before honorablemembers. It is quite competent for the House to suspend the Standing Orders for - one purpose or for more than one.
– I shall go on for a few minutes to enable the right honorable gentleman to look up another point of order. Already eleven points have been raised, but they have not disturbed me in the least. I am determined to discharge what I conceive to be my duty, despite the interruptions to which I am being subjected. Honorable members will have to weigh very carefully the reasons which they may be required to give to their constituents for the action which they are taking. Should they not have an opportunity to explain whv they propose to desert a Government which is in favour of a White Australia ?
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether this outrage upon our rules is to be permitted any longer? We are now being addressed on the subject of a White Australia, upon the assumption that it is a matter of urgency which will admit of no delay.
– I distinctly ‘heard what the honorable member was saying. He was urging that some opportunity should be afforded to honorable members to discuss the policy of the Government, which includes the maintenance of a White Australia.
– I know that this subject is a sore point with the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– The honorable member has now a loose rein; the White Australia question is very urgent.
– I desire to impress upon honorable members who are following the right honorable member that they will probably have to explain to their constituents their attitude upon this question. They are leaving in the lurch a Government which has fought tooth and nail to safeguard a principle which is among the most sacred to Australia, namely, the maintenance of a White Australia. Are they prepared to assist into office those who have asserted that if they can secure the reins of Government they will do everything they can by maladministration to defeat the objects of the Immigration Restriction Act, and to go back on the grand principle of a White Australia? Will honorable members also be able to explain the position which they have taken up with regard to the proposal of the Government embodied in the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill now before this Chamber? Will those honorable members who profess to desire to encourage Australian industry, who have shed bitter tears of sympathy with the unfortunate unemployed, and who are pledged to their constituents to legislate, and to administer our laws, upon such lines that our industries will be established upon a sound basis and provide work for our citizens, be able to show that their present’ action is justified ?
– Upon a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member is now submitting as matters of urgent necessity some possible attitude of members of the Opposition at some time or other, with regard to the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill, the White Australian question, the provision of employment for the people, and other items which make up the general programme of the Government, or have relation to their administration. I ask you to rule that none of these are matters of urgent necessity, and that, therefore, they furnish no reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders. They may be matters of great importance, but they have already been discussed and voted upon within the recent past. I submit that there is not a scintilla of proof of urgency in connexion with any of these matters, and that the course which the honorable member is taking constitutes a grave abuse of our Parliamentary privileges and procedure. If this kind of argumentation is to be regarded as a matter of necessity, we may as well set aside all our Parliamentary rules, and allow you, sir, to govern the House without reference to them. What would hinder any honorable member from taking a similar course every day of the vear, and so render it impossible to transact any business?
An Honorable Member. - What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that the honorable member is indulging in a grave abuse of the Standing Orders.
– Order. Will the honorable member state his point of order?
– My point of order is that the honorable member has shown no urgent necessity to adopt’ the course which he desires to follow.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion. It is not a point of order.
– Of course it is my opinion, and I am asking Mr. Speaker to rule upon the matter.
– He has already given a ruling upon it.
– Since Mr. Speaker gave his ruling the honorable member has introduced two or three fresh matters of the most ordinary character - matters which do not relate to the Government programme. For example he mentioned the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill. I submit, therefore, that his conduct amounts to a grave abuse of the Standing Orders. May points out that such a motion should refer only to some matter of grave importance, which arises suddenly, and which requires the immediate attention of the House.
– Is the honorable member giving a ruling or is he asking for my ruling?
– Labour cheers again.
– I respectfully submit that I was supporting my point of order, but I do not think that I need proceed further.
– I submit that the honorable member for Gwydir was perfectly in order in making the remark to which exception has been taken. The prospect of our existing legislation, in respect « of a White Australia being repealed, is a matter of urgency, and I happen to know that it has given rise to very grave concern in the minds of a large number of persons.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has asked me whether the course followed by the honorable member for Gwydir is not an abuse of constitutional practice. Of course, I have not to rule under such Standing Orders as I should prefer, or under such Standing Orders as are in force in some other Parliaments, but under those which are operative in this Parliament. I should much prefer that our Standing Orders should require a motion for their suspension to be put without debate. But under those Standing Orders there is no such requirement, and therefore I cannot uphold the view that the course which is being taken by the honorable member for Gwydir is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. The honorable member has distinctly asserted that it is probable that, even to-night the Government may have to vacate their position upon the Treasury benches, and has argued that before that event takes place, time should be afforded for a certain discussion. From his point of view, that matter is certainly arguable, and I am prepared to hear him debate it still further.
– When I was interrupted I was seeking to discover how honorable members opposite could justify their position before the workers, who would benefit by the granting of a bonus for the production of iron in Australia. It is due to them that they should be afforded an opportunity of telling their constituents in so many words why they have sunk the fiscal question, upon which they were elected to this Parliament. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who has assumed the position of leader of the Opposition, and who is such an adept in the art of making personal explanations, that he can explain the various and conflicting attitudes adopted by him upon any question, should be afforded an opportunity of stating why he has pulled down the fiscal flag, which he nailed to the mast at the last election. He should perform his duty in this House, and not seek to evade responsibility for his conduct by endeavouring to obtain a snatch vote.
– Upon a point of order, I submit that the honorable member is now transgressing the rules of Parliament, in that he is discussing the subject which he proposes to discuss when the Standing Orders have been suspended.
– Seeing that you, sir, have pres’iously ruled upon the same point, is not the honorable member for Lang guilty of disorderly conduct in again raising it?
– The point of order raised by the honorable member has not previously been taken. It relates to a sentence in the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir, which had not been uttered when the last point of order was raised, and, therefore, objection could not then be taken to it. I dismiss the point of order, and call upon the member for Gwydir to proceed.
– Labour cheers again.
– I sympathize with honorable members opposite, who feel that they will not be able to justify the votes they have given, and I am seeking to do justice to them. I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition ; with that democrat of old, the honorable member for Parramatta; with the father of the Labour movement, the honorable member for Lang, and with that self-righteous and lecturing individual known as the honorable member for New England. I desire to secure an opportunity for them to explain their attitude, and to put before their constituents the reasons why they oppose the Government. I wish to know why the honorable and learned member for Ballarat - who Has been conspicuous by his absence from the Chamber during this debate - and those who followed him under the banner of Protection at the last election, are prepared now to lower their colours. They should have an opportunity to explain why they are consenting to this invasion of their sacred rights and privileges, and attempting to burke legitimate and free discussion. I have done my duty.
– Go on.
– All the fighting qualities of the House are not confined to the Opposition benches, and I may go on too long to suit the convenience of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. A time may come when he will wish that I had not said as much. I have done my duty in availing myself of the forms of the House to draw attention to an action on the part of the Opposition, which will stand out prominently in the history of Commonwealth politics,’ as one of the most despicable attempts to burke discussion that has ever been known.
– That is outrageous.
– Order ! The honorable member must not charge the. House, or any section of it, with resorting- to methods which are despicable in their character.
– Then, I shall withdraw the word “ despicable,” and shall say that the action of the Opposition is unfair, unmanly, and un-British. Their methods would not be followed by statesmen of the type of Gladstone, Disraeli, or Chamberlain. Such men would never stoop to the tactics of which the Opposition have been guilty, in order to secure a temporary victory over their opponents. IJnlike the Opposition, they would not gag them and rob them of their pojitical liberty. I have on a previous occasion spoken of certain honorable members as being political highwaymen, and I say, without hesitation, that those who are supporting the Opposition tactics may fairly be described in that way. They are political highwaymen, seeking to rob the Government of their political rights. I trust that my protest will be remembered. It certainly will be recorded on the pages of the history of this Parliament. I do not think that any Labour Government would ever descend to the use of such weapons as the Opposition have employed to defeat their political opponents ; but, if they did, I for one should vigorously protest. I have heard the right honorable member for East Sydney say that he likes a fair fight. He invariably cries out for fair play, and yet he is now the first to shelter himself behind a political hedge and pull the trigger of the revolver which another man holds at the head of the Government. He has spoken of what has occurred in New South Wales, but, as a matter of fact, he is pointing a pistol at the head of the Government, and, without giving them any opportunity to defend themselves,- is demanding their political lives. It is his desire that the hands of the Government shall be tied behind them, and that a gag shall be placed in their mouths, so that they may have no opportunity to defend themselves from an attack which is unprecedented in the annals of Australian Parliaments.
– I heartily congratulate the honorable member for Gwydir on his honest, straightforward, and manly attempt to secure the fullest and freest discussion of the question which is really at issue. I do not know whether the right honorable member for East Sydney is the leader of the Opposition or whether that position is held by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– He is the tail of the Opposition.
– That is polite.
– The leader of the Opposition, whoever he may be, and those behind him, are endeavouring to prevent honorable members from dealing with the policy of the Government in a straightforward and manly way. I care not on which side of the House I sit.
– There is more fun on the other side.
– We shall have a great deal more fun over there.
– Then, why are the Government so slow in leaving the Treasury benches ?
– When we fight we desire the Marquis of Queensberry rules to be observed.
– I challenge any one to point to one act of maladministration on. the part of the Government. As a matter of fact, honorable members opposite are pledged to the policy to which the Ministry are seeking to give effect ; but apparently they are ready to displace them merelv because of a desire to gain possession of the Treasury benches. They have nothing whatever to say against the administration of the Government, and that is probably the reason why the right honorable member for East Sydney has not submitted a straight-out want of confidence motion.
– That’ is” what He told the people of Australia he would do..
– The people of the Commonwealth have a right to know the ground on which it is proposed to displace the Government.
– Clause 48.
– The right honorable member is afraid to submit a straight-out want of confidence motion, because he knows that it is impossible to say that the Government have in any respect violated the trust reposed in them. He has told the House and the country a dozen times that he would come down with a no-confidence motion, and yet we now find him prepared to attain his ends by means of a snatch vote. The House ought to compliment, the honorable member for Gwydir upon the action which he has taken. If he had not moved this motion, honorable members would not have had an opportunity to say whether they approve or disapprove of the actions of the Government, and all that the country would have known would have been that the Government had been defeated on a clause of a Bill. That, to many people, would appear a mere question, of detail, though the Government regard it as covering a vital principle.
– Was not the last Government in the same case?
– No. We acted straightforwardly.
– The last Government took their gruel like men.
– The members of the Opposition are not taking their gruel like men this afternoon. I think that the proper course for them to have followed was to try to defeat the Government on a direct motion. In spite of all his assertions, the right honorable member has not had the pluck to move a motion of want of confidence. There is a great deal of wind and talk about him, but that is about all. There is no “ Yes-no “ policy about me, however. Everyone knows what my position is; but I question if one member in the Chamber can say what the position of the right honorable member is.
– He is in Opposition today, and will be on the Government benches to-morrow.
– There is still an opportunity to discuss this matter, and I challenge the leader of the Opposition to take a course which will enable it to be properly discussed.
– I should like to be allowed to say a few words-
– The right honorable member has a quarter of an hour.
– The right honorable member ought not to sit down before halfpast 4 o’clock.
– I hope that I shall not be continually interrupted during my remarks. I wish, if I may be allowed to do so, to say a few words in reply to the imputations which, even coming from any quarter, must cause one a certain amount of concern. Honorable members who have spoken upon this extraordinary motion have uttered a number of statements as reasons for suspending our ordinary rules which must, to any man of parliamentary experience, appear absolutely absurd. They should know that it is not for this House, when dealing with a particular Bill on which it has recorded its opinions, to specu- late as to the position of the Government. The Ministry chose its own position by attaching a certain significance to a request which the House was at liberty to grant or to refuse. The House was asked to recommit a certain clause, about which honorable members had made up their minds, and having done so, proposed not to recommit it. Surely we cannot make special rules for honorable gentlemen who are so absolutely averse to retention of office-
– Why did the right honorable member select clause 48?
– I did not select that clause.
– The right honorable member was agreeable to the recommittal of the other clauses.
– The Government said outside that they would consider that the House had had enough of them if it did not consent to the recommittal of the clause.
– I have already ruled, on several occasions, that no reference must be made on this motion to a debate which is pending, or to any motion on the business-paper. I therefore ask the right honorable member not to continue his present remarks.
– I fall back upon the sacred principles which you, sir, heard of from the honorable member for Gwydir a hundred times. If he used the words once, he used them a hundred times.
– I rise to order. Is the right honorable member in order in reflecting upon your conduct, Mr. Speaker, by imputing neglect of duty to you in not listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir?
– I recognise no imputation upon myself in what was said by the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– I wish to point out, in reply to the hysterical statements of my honorable friends, in view of an unpleasant position-
– We shall be quite prepared for whatever happens, though I never knew the right honorable member to be so.
– The Prime Minister, in deference to the sacred principles of parliamentary government, invited the House to take a certain course. The House proposes to exercise its free will in regard to the matter. It has not made the occasion significant. It has had nothing to do with the position. 7 c
– Honorable members have been coerced into making the position significant.
– Attempts have been made to induce some honorable members to change their votes on a solemn question of principle, in order to save the Government.
– What about the righthonorable member for Balaclava?
– The Government have succeeded in three or four instances in inducing honorable members to change their votes. The trouble in connexion with the present situation is that they cannot get five or six honorable members to do so.
– What about the right honorable member’s own supporters?
– Yes, what about the honorable member for Dalley?
– He can answer for himself.
– So can the others.
– The honorable member for Dalley has withstood the animosity of the Labour Party for fifteen years, and has beaten them every time. He had a singular success at Balmain the other day in “ downing “ one or two of them.
– What has the Balmain election to do with this question?
– The right honorable member, in referring to the Balmain election, was transgressing the rules of debate-
– I was referring to thesacred principle of the right of the people to choose the men they wish to represent them, as the honorable member for Gwydir would say. I had. had some little experience of the rules of Parliament before the present Government was heard of. These rules are old. They have been established! for many years. It is the most common thing in the world for the House, sometimes on the invitation of the Government, and sometimes against their wish, to vote against the recommittal of a Bill to secure the reconsideration of some provision in it.
– This is an attempt to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government.
– No one who was a supporter of the Government would take part, in such an attempt. But surely those who oppose the Government are entitled to try to take the business of the House out of their hands? This is a new style of administration that honorable members desire. What do we care whether our action does or does not take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government? Are we here to keep the Government in office? Are we here to save them, by building bridges for them at the sacrifice of our own principles? We are not here for that purpose. All the bridges that could be built have been built, and the grievance of honorable members opposite is that they cannot go into the building yard and get another bridge built. That is the only trouble of these valiant heroes, to whom principle is everything, and who have sold the trades unionists of Australia on their own principles. , j
– That is a good gag; but the trades unionists of Australia know the right honorable gentleman. They have been sold by him too often.
– I do not profess to live on them, as other people do.
– No one else lives on them. The right honorable member knows better than that.
– I have taken a straightforward course, and have dealt with them as favorably and as fairly as I have dealt with other members of the community.
– It comes ‘well from the right honorable member to talk about selling. ! .j^
– The right honorable member would sell himself to anybody.
– He has sold every party to which he has belonged.
– He has sold the freetraders.
– Has he hot sold himself to the protectionists? ‘
– -Poor fellows ! Is it so sad to leave?
– I shall not be as sad about leaving office as the right honorable member was in 1898. I have not crawled round other honorable members, as the right honorable gentleman did.
– I ask Ministers to help me in securing the observance of the rules of debate.
– I am quite prepared to assist in every way in the maintenance of order in this Chamber, but in my view, the right honorable member has no right to suggest improper conduct to Ministers. If he does so. I shall certainly reply to him.
– It is perfectly within the rights of any honorable member who has not spoken to reply to anything said by any other honorable member.
– Time will not permit of my doing so. . The right honorable member knows that.
– The honorable gentleman has had plenty of .time.
– I have, not had a minute.
– As honorable mem: bers know, the rules of the House require them to remain silent while the Speaker is. addressing the Chamber. Every honorable member who has not yet spoken has the right to subsequently reply to the remarks made by other honorable members ; but it is disorderly to interrupt by interjection whoever is addressing the Chair..
– I am sorry if I have said anything offensive, but honorable members have been hurling most offensive epithets at me, five or six at a time, and, like them, if I am hit I feel inclined to hit back.
– The honorable member is a great fighter.
– I have been a pretty good fighter in my time.
– That is why the right’ honorable member is pursuing his present tactics.
– I am . pursuing tactics ! This absurd motion has been sprung on the House by the honorable- member for Gwydir, who went nearly mad in a speech lasting an hour and a half, and was followed by another gentleman, who was in a similar state of hysteria. But honorable members who profess to believe in every one having fair play are grumbling because I wish to occupy a quarter of an hour in replying to the avalanche of abuse which has been poured upon me during the last two hours.
– I am not grumbling.
– I wish to protest against . this unprecedented attempt to anticipate the vote of this House upon a matter of public importance. When the fate of the late Government was at stake in connexion with, a certain amendment having regard to the inclusion of railway servants within the scope of this very Bill, .did the Deakin Government crawl round to get a man up?
– Has any one else done that? Why does not the honorable member say straight out what he means?
– I am not talking about the Ministry, ‘but of the whole Parliament.
– We did not crawl to the. caucus for a penny on tea. The right honorable gentleman has a monopoly in matters of that kind.
– It is not the penny that is. worrying you; it is something more than that.
– I must ask the right honorable member not to address Ministers directly, but to address the Chair.
– Like the honorable member for Gwydir, I am rather a novice, and these sudden attacks lead me from the path of rectitude. The very same situation ara-se in this very Parliament two or three months ago. The same Bill was before the House, and a vote was approaching, regarding which the Government made a certain announcement. Did the Deakin Government countenance - I suppose that the Prime Minister will admit that the present Government countenanced the action of the honorable member for Gwydir - one of their supporters getting up to make an extraordinary speech in abuse of the Opposition, in anticipation of the vote that might be given? Did any such abuse of the dignity of parliamentary life take place? No; the Prime Minister and his colleagues, went out of office without a word.
– They were treated fairly.
– They were engaged upon a Bill of great magnitude, and when a matter of principle arose, upon which the majority of honorable members differed from them, they submitted themselves to the decision of the House.
– No one would have refused them a recommittal of the Bill.
– What ! in order to change their principles?
– No one .would have refused a recommittal if the Government had desired it.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat would never have asked for a recommittal in order that the Government might change its principles. The only point which has created any difficulty, or which has warranted the honorable member for Gwydir in addressing the House for an hour and a half - the whole cause of his action - and it is well that we should know it - was-
– The right honorable gentleman’s trickery.
– Surely we have arrived at a novel state of affairs when an honorable member cannot adhere to the vote which he has previously given on an important matter of principle without being accused of trickery. What is the effect of the complaint of the honorable member for Gwydir ; simply, that we have made up our minds upon a great principle, and that we do not intend to alter them, and that we wish to let the Government know it at the earliest possible moment. That is the situation.
– Will the honorable member kindly take his seat?
Debate interrupted. Business of the day called on under Standing Order ug.
.–In view of the importance of the issue before the House at the present time, I think it is only proper that I should ask honorable members to forego their rights with regard to private business for to-day. Therefore, I move -
That the consideration of general business be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. i, Government business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10th August (vide page 4083), on motion by Mr. Watson -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 4, 37, 38, 39, 46, 48, 52, 67, 68, and 90 and schedule B, and the consideration of proposed new clauses 52A and 95A -
Upon which Mr. McCay had moved by way of amendment -
That clause 48 be omitted from the clauses proposed to be recommitted.
– I think I might appropriately refer to the principal amendments that have been made in the Bill. The measure was not the creation of the present Ministry, but was left on the stocks by the Deakin Administration. It then contained a clause which provided for preference to unionists, and the exercise of untrammelled discretion by the Judge. Some honorable members have stumped the country, and have denounced the present Administration for attempting to ruin the primary industries of the Commonwealth. They have never had the manliness to say that the preference clause originated with the Deakin Ministry, and that it was left as a legacy to the present Administration. I have always considered that the Bill does not go far enough, but I am anxious to carry out the pledge which I gave to. my constituents, and to place upon the statutebook a measure which, although it may not be perfect, will, at least, form the ground work of the legislation that is desired for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. I venture to say that, at the last general election, the great majority of the electors expressed themselves in favour of conciliation and arbitration. The honorable member for Dalley told me that I should vote against the Bill, because it did not entirely meet with my approval ; but I am anxious to do all I can to bring about the reform which every honorable member professes to desire. The honorable and learned member for Corinella succeeded in securing the adoption of an amendment which, I venture to say, would prove absolutely unworkable. Under the common rule an award might apply to the whole of the workmen in a particular industry in the Commonwealth, and it would be impracticable to furnish the Court with information that would satisfy it that an application for preference was indorsed by a majority of those affected. Tate the case of the shearers. What man could tell how many shearers would be affected by an award of the Court? Any one with a practical knowledge of shearing work knows that during seasons when the harvests fail, many hundreds or thousands of men resort to shearing work, who, at other times, would find employment in the agricultural districts. Men may go out as shearers one year, and not shear the next. Still they would be affected by the award of the Court, because they might obtain a run of sheds for the following season. Therefore, no one could tell how many men would be affected by an award of the Court. Then, in the case of miners, a man may follow mining for a time, and then resort to other means of livelihood ; but he may return to work as a miner at any time. No one knows better than does the honorable and learned member for Corinella that it would be impossible to demonstrate to the Court that the majority of the persons affected by an award approved of the application for preference.
– I do not know it. I think that the proviso is workable, or I should not support it.
– The honorable and learned member failed to produce any evidence in proof of the soundness of his view. When I asked him to afford such proof he sneered at me.
– I did not.
– The honorable and learned member seemed to think tha’t, because he knew a little about Castlemaine, he was fully acquainted with the conditions of the mining industry. I might tell him, however, that I was working down a mine before he was born. I think, therefore, that I can claim to know something about miners.
– I admit that freely.
– The honorable member for Wentworth professed to know everything about the aspirations and requirements of the working classes, and he treated my interjections with contempt. Let me tell the honorable member that it is fortunate for him that he has never been under the necessity of making himself acquainted with the wants of the working classes. He came into the world with a silver spoon in his mouth, and his path in life has been made so easy that it is impossible for him to understand the difficulties that would be experienced in complying with the condition laid down in the proviso adopted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The honorable member for Dalley has declared that he will vote against the clause in the Bill which is intended to confer a preference upon unionists, on the ground that it does not go far enough. There is an old saying, that any excuse is better than none ; and I certainly think that that remark is applicable to the lamentable attempt of the honorable member to justify his action in this connexion. He even ref uses to allow the Bill to be taken into Committee, with a view to securing an amendment of . the clause in the direction which he desires. He affirms that he can see no distinction between the proposal of the Government and the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Can his chief see no difference between the two? Does the honorable and learned member for Corinella see no difference? Is there not a vast distinction between requiring an organization to secure the approval of a majority of those affected by an award, and requiring it to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court that it substantially represents the interests of those engaged in any particular industry ?
– The honorable member has said that there is a difference, but he has not explained what it is.
– In quite a number of cases an organization might be able to satisfy the Arbitration Court that it substantially represents the interests of the employes engaged in any industry.
– But. the Prime Minister declares that the words “ substantially represents “ are equivalent to saying that the organization consists of a majority of the workers in a particular industry.
– They do not mean a majority.
– What do they mean?
– If the members of this House were required to represent a majority of the electors, very few could claim their seats. If the individuals who are employed as seamen or shearers to-day, but are not so engaged to-morrow, are to be used to block the desire of. those who wish to obtain a preference under this Bill, it will be impossible for the members of any organization to obtain a preference award. In connexion with municipal arrangements, has it not been repeatedly provided that a certain vote must be polled ?
– This is not a question of voting, but of working.
– It has been said, during the course of the debate upon this Bill, that there is only a limited number of trades unionists in Australia. We have been assured that the number of nonunionists far exceeds that of the unionists. Is that a fair way of stating the facts of the case? Does not the honorable and learned member for Werriwa know that the nonunionists include thousands who are engaged in localities where there are no trades organizations which they could join?
– We ought to consider the interests of men who cannot afford to employ a lawyer to represent them before the Court.
– I have as much consideration for those individuals who are not members of unions - with the exception of some who are resident in places where such organizations exist - as has the honorable and learned member. I would remind him that the profession with which he is associated has a pretty tight union of its own. I wish to show why, other things being equal, a preference should be extended to unionists.
– In the Western Australian Act no preference is given to them.
– In the first place, this Bill does not recognise individuals. It is based upon organizations, in contradistinction from individuals. It was framed upon these lines for the express purpose of enabling the Court to give effect to an award. The organizations are intended to assist in giving effect to the awards of the Court. The individual is not considered at all. A strike occurred in New South Wales recently. The unionists did not strike, although the press of Australia endeavoured to convey the impression that they did. As a matte.: of fact, however, it was only the non-unionists - the members engaged in that particular industry who did not belong to organizations - who struck. They refused to be bound by the award of the Court. But the trades unionists gave effect to that award. I congratulate the Government upon making an honest effort to secure n Arbitration Bill, which would at least be workable. It would be a standing disgrace to them if, for the purpose of remaining upon the Treasury benches, they allowed this Bill to pass in its present form - a disgrace which no time could obliterate. They wish to obtain a recommittal of certain clauses, in order that we may secure a measure, which, if not perfect, will at least be of some utility. I commend them for their action in staking their Ministerial existence upon this particular provision. Personally, I am indifferent as to where I sit in this Chamber, but I am anxious that those engaged in industrial pursuits in the Commonwealth shall secure a workable measure in connexion with the important question of conciliation and arbitration. In my judgment, even the proposal of the Government does not go far enough, but I believe that under its operation there is a possibility of an organization being able to satisfy the Court that it substantially represents the employes in the particular industry affected by an award. That, however, would be quite impossible under the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I cannot help remarking that since the present Government assumed office, there has been continuous underground engineering.
– Because they have not a majority behind them.
– A continuous attempt has been made to overthrow them. Why ? They do not occupy their present positions as the result of self-seeking? Will any honorable member assert that they attempted to secure possession of the Treasury benches by underground tactics?
– I would remind the honorable member that the proposal before the Chair has reference to the recommittal of clause 48.
– I was coming to that matter. I unhesitatingly declare that the action of honorable members of the Opposition is prompted by a desire to place certain of their number upon the Treasury benches. It is a piece of utter cant and hypocrisy for them to claim that it is prompted by a desire to study the best interests of the country. One cannot close his eyes to the fact that in politics we see strange bedfellows. We have now presented to us the spectacle of certain honorable members, in their endeavour to gain the Ministerial benches, falling upon the necks of others, whose names, if mentioned in their presence only a month or two ago, would have produced the same effect as would a red rag upon a bull. It has been asserted on a public platform that the Commonwealth ship of State is being “ steered from the steerage.” Where is the right honorable member who made that statement? Where was he yesterday when this contemptible method was adopted to secure the defeat of the Government ? He was probably in the vaults of the House, or in the sewer. We have had an exhibition of something that is more like sewerage politics-
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in referring to a course of procedure permissible under the Standing Orders as being contemptible?
– I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member not only said that a certain method of procedure was contemptible, but that we were being treated to an exhibition of sewerage politics.
– He said that the right honorable member was probably in the sewer.
– It is a remark that should not be applied to any honorable member.
– I shall ask the honorable member to withdraw the statements to which objection has been taken. At the same time, I would again impress upon him that it is necessary that he should confine his remarks to trie question of whether clause 48 shall or shall not be recommitted. The general question of the position of the Government is not under consideration.
– I was not aware, Mr. Speaker, that it was a breach of the rules of this House to-
– Does the honorable member withdraw the words objected to?
– Withdraw the word “ contemptible “ ?
– The two remarks to which objection has been taken.
– I shall withdraw them, Mr. Speaker,’ and say that we are being treated to an exhibition, not of sewerage, but of underground, politics. The term “steerage politics” has become famous since its use by the main conspirator in the plot that has-been hatched to defeat the Government.
– What has this to do with the question under consideration ? .
– I have on two occasions called the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the question under consideration is whether or. not clause 48 shall be recommitted. I must ask him to confine himself to the matter under debate, or I shall have to ask him not to proceed with his remarks.
– I shall endeavour, Mr. Speaker, to obey your ruling, but would point out that there is no occasion for anxiety on the part of the honorable member for Macquarie. The .little time that I shall occupy, in placing my. views before the House will not materially delay his leader, securing a seat on the Treasury benches.
– The honorable member does not mean that.
– I do. I am ashamed of the party with which I was associated for several years. I believe in fair play, and certainly do not look with favour upon any exhibition of hypocrisy or cant.
– I must ask the honorable member either to debate the matter before the Chair or to discontinue his speech. He is distinctly out of order, and his at,tention has twice been called to that fact..
– Do I understand you to rule, sir, that it is out of order to use the words! “ hypocrisy ‘ ‘ and “ cant ‘ ‘ in dealing with the matter under considera-tion ?
– The honorable member will recognise that the question is not as to any word that he may use, but whether he is dealing with the subject-matter of the motion, to which I have twice called, his attention. He must debate the question as to the recommittal of clause 48, and that only. Any other matter is inadmissible.
– Do you rule, Mr., Speaker, that I cannot discuss the attitude of certain honorable members who are opposed to the recommittal of the clause-
– The honorable member may discuss clause 48, and nothing else.’
– In dealing with that clause, I am referring incidentally to the tactics of those who do not desire that it shall be recommitted. I wish to deal with some of the reasons which have been advanced for the attempt to defeat the Government proposal. If there is one thing that I admire more than another, it is straight-out, honest fighting. I object to underground methods, and exceedingly regret that those who desire to gain possession, of the Treasury benches have not adopted a more manly course. These unseemly tactics have been adopted in order that the Opposition may secure an additional vote through the question being dealt with in the House instead of in Committee. An attempt has also been made to break a Government pair. I refer to the pairing of the right honorable member for Balaclava with an honorable member who supports the Ministry.
– I am sure that the honorable member’s parliamentary experience teaches him that he must confine his attention to the clause under consideration, and that the discussion of the conduct of certain honorable members, whether it be dishonourable or otherwise, is out of order. The honorable member can deal only with clause 48, and with the reasons for and against its recommittal. I. am reluctant to interrupt him so often, but he must obey the Standing Orders.
– I regret, sir, that you will not allow me to give the reasons-
– The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– It is hardly likely that I am going to accept my instructions from honorable members of the Opposition. I wish to show that the Opposition are manipulating a vote.
– That is not before the Chair.
– I am not making any statement that I am not prepared to repeat anywhere else. I was told of the incident to which I refer’ at the entrance to the chamber. What have trades unionists done that they should be treated in the way that honorable members of the Opposition propose ? We are told’ by the Opposition that they sympathize with trades unionists, but their sympathy is always wanting when a proposal is made. to give them some practical support. At one time in the Parliaments of the States, one heard nothing but the cry of “ property, property, property.” That was the “gag” that was commonly used when .efforts were made to extend the franchise to those who were termed “ the lower classes.” We are told to-day that we are seeking to interfere with the liberty of the subject. That is an old cry. It was raised when Lord Shaftesbury first took steps to improve the conditions of pauper children who were being worked in the factories of England to such an extent that many of them became cripples. It was then asserted that if the existing factory system were interfered with, commerce would be ruined ; and we are told again to-day that if we grant preference ‘to unionists we shall interfere with the liberty of the subject, and damage commercial interests. Some honorable members have no regard for anything but commerce. What have trades organizations done that they should be treated as the Opposition propose? Why should they be penalized? Have they not been in the forefront of every reform? Have they not had the courage to take up questions with which weakkneed politicians were afraid to deal, and to boldly fight for reform? In England, America, and Australia, and indeed in all parts of the civilized world, we find members of trades unions bearing the brunt of the fight for reform.
– There is no compulsory arbitration in the United States of America.
– That might have been said a few years ago of New Zealand. Trades unionists were at the bottom of the agitation for the non-employment of women and children in the mines of England, and they were behind the great movement against the employment of children for unduly long hours in the factories of England. In every country they have fought for the improvement of the working conditions of the people. Have not many of them suffered for their efforts? Some honorable members would have us return to the days when certain miners in England were transported to Australia because they stood up for the interests of their associations. History tells us of case after case in which trades unionists sacrificed their liberty, suffered exile, and in some cases lost their lives in their efforts to secure thf advancement of mankind. They have fought not only for themselves, not only for the workers with whom they have been immediately associated, but for the industrial classes generally. Yet some honorable members speak of trades unionists as if they were criminals. They have no consideration for any one but non-unionists.
– Have not nonunionists a right to be considered?
– Have trades unionists never done anything for non-unionists? Has not every reform which they have secured - the better ventilation of mines, the improvement in the sanitary conditions of factories, and a thousand and one other things - benefited non-unionists as well as unionists ?
– We agree that they have done good work.
– Some honorable members speak as if the Governiment desired to subject non-unionists to an injustice.
– No. Have we not made trades unionists Ministers of the Crown ?
– The honorable member did not give much assistance in that direction.
– In the fact that some of the members of the Ministry are trades unionists is to be found the root of the trouble. In the early stages of the present political unrest, the Government was referred to as a trades union Ministry. That is the only fault that can be found with them. It is because the present Administration comprises trades unionists that the Opposition are prepared to sacrifice not only them but trades unionists generally. They desire to make the Bill so useless that it will be a reproach to the Ministry.
– Was the Bill designed in the interests of unionists, or of labour?
-In the interests of the public.
– The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was designed in the interests of organizations. Can any honorable member point to an organization of non-unionists? That is why in New Zealand, in scores of cases, when other things have been equal, preference has been given to unionists. The New Zealand Court has recognised that the whole basis of this kind of legislation is the recognition of organizations.
– According to the honorable member’s showing, there is no need for the clause at all.
– I have not said so, though that may be the opinion of the honorable member. I think that if the clause is not inserted, great numbers of men will have black marks placed against their names. I have known men to be black-marked for miles and miles around. Employers may not have gone to the length of sending their photographs ahead of men whom they deemed objectionable, but they have taken every other precaution to prevent them from getting employment. Unless the giving of preference is provided for, that state of things would exist under this measure. . The honorable member himself knows that what I have described is done. The honorable member for Dalley has repeatedly admitted that it is done, and the honorable member for Parramatta knows that men have been blackmarked throughout a whole district, because they had been chosen as delegates to ask for some concession, not for the unionists alone, but for non-unionists as well. I ask honorable members why do they not make an example of these terrible trades unionists? What have they done for society that they deserve consideration? Honorable members appear to prefer to go back to the old methods. Why are they not honest? Why do they not say that they do not wish to have an Arbitration Bill, and prefer to allow disputes to be settled by strikes? Let us make that the issue. Although they profess to desire arbitration, they are not ready to assist the Government in passing a workable measure. Has any one of them been behind the scenes during a strike, and known the hardship,- suffering, and loss -which such occurrences bring in their train? Yet they wish to pass into law a measure under which, as it stands, not one organization in Australia would register. One Ministry has been placed in difficulties, and another has been sacrificed already, in connexion with this Bill, and the better part of two sessions has been spent in discussing it. The last five months have been occupied in the miserable pretence of doing something in the public interest, but the whole desire of honorable members opposite is to secure possession of the Treasury benches. They are ready to neglect the interests of the industrial organizations, and to forego the opportunity to secure industrial peace, in order to obtain possession of the Treasury benches. I do not care who occupies those benches.
– Then why all this worry ?
– Have we not a right to worry when we think that an important measure should be amended? It is astonishing on what a small pretence some persons will fall from grace. The honorable member has surprised me. I remember the time when he would not have treated the matter so lightly. No one knows better than he does the need for establishing some tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes. He has been in the thick of these troubles. He is not like honorable members who have had no experience. It is therefore his duty, as it is the duty of the whole House, to try to place upon the statute-book a workable measure to secure industrial peace - not a mere rotten, hollow pretence such as this is.
– I am not going to assist a minority to coerce a majority.
– The honorable member supported a Ministry which, during its whole existence, was in a minority.
– That Ministry retired with dignity when the fact was proved.
– I admit that they retired with dignity ; but the members pf the present Government did nothing unworthy to secure possession of the Treasury benches. Indeed, they tried to avoid taking office. An attempt has been made to show that, the present position, is similar to that which resulted when the Deakin Government was defeated ; but on that occasion there was no underground engineering. The Government were twitted a short time ago with having tried to persuade men to change their votes on this subject, and yet the right honorable member for East Sydney, who made the charge, had sitting alongside him an honorable member who intends to change his vote, and who was no doubt influenced to do so by his leader. It will be a disgrace to this Parliament if it places on the statute-book an unworkable measure.
– But the Government are objecting to the insertion of a provision of which the majority has approved.
– We object to the methods which are being adopted. There has not been an opportunity to consider in Committee the advisability of amending the clause. Almost any amendment would make the provision better than it is now. Honorable members are not prepared, however, to give an opportunity for reconsideration. They will not allow even a comma to be added to or taken from the clause. They have got their numbers.
– The Ministry have, ever since they took office, been asking us to take action against them.
– The two leaders of the Opposition have, day after day, and week after week, threatened the Ministry with no-confidence motions.
– They were always to be moved next week.
– Yes. Now, however, they are trying to defeat the Government by a miserable subterf uge. They have not had the courage to fight them on a straightout issue.
– Neither of the leaders of the Opposition has yet spoken on this question.
– No. They are not game to take the risk of challenging the Government. Therefore they have put up a novice like the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Age says that the amendment was fixed up at an interview between the honorable and learned member and the two leaders of the Opposition; but they were ashamed to be present yesterday when he was moving it.
– As well they might be.
– Was not the motion moved by the honorable member for Gwydir this afternoon fixed up after consultation with the Government?
– It was not a motion to gag honorable members.
– Did the Ministry not me(an their statement that they would retire if defeated on tliis clause?
– Then why do they complain?
– We complain of the methods by which it is sought to defeat us.
– If we go to the country we shall be asked, “What is all this fuss about? Why are certain honorable members so anxious to get on to the Treasury benches? In what way does their policy differ from that of the Labour Party?” ‘ The Age, on the 18th May, published the two policies side by side, to show their striking similarity. The Government are not being criticised for either their policy or their administration. What reason have the Opposition for their attitude other than the desire to obtain possession of the Treasury benches?
– The honorable member expects other honorable members to reverse their votes in order to save the Ministry.
– What about the honorable member for Dalley ? We desire an opportunity for reconsideration and second thought on a very important provision.
– Have not nv 0 of the honorable members who intend to vote for the Government changed their views ?
– Yes ; two rr three.
– There is always some change on occasions of this kind. No man is so perfect that he has never reason to change his mind. Does the honorable member for Macquarie dare to say that he never changed his mind, or tried to get other honorable members to do so, when he was a Minister?
– But the honorable member complains that the honorable member for Dalley has changed his mind.
– I regret the fact.
– We have a right, therefore, to ask, what about those on the Government side who have changed their mind ?
– It was the right honorable member for East Sydney who complained in effect of the bad taste of the Government in trying to secure the recommittal of the clause, in order to get members who had voted in a certain direction to change their votes. There is nothing disgraceful about that, nothing more than has been done on a number of occasions.
– The honorable member would not consent to a recommittal of the salt duty.
– The honorable member knows the reason. An honorable agreement had been entered into for the imposition of a 12s. 6d. duty, instead of either a 15s. or a ros. duty.
– I must ask the honorable member not to enter into a discussion (upon that point.
– Those honorable members who vote against the Government on this question will have a very hard row to hoe. The people of Australia have demanded a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and honorable members are pledged to give them one. Such a measure must be passed, whether it be by a Reid Go vernment, a Reid-Deakin-McCay Ministry, or a Watson Administration, and until that is done there will be no rest for this Parliament. I complain qf the attitude taken up by honorable members, not only in this case, but on previous occasions. They are now absolutely refusing to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the Bill in Committee, and ascertain if it can be made workable. This conduct is on a par with the tactics which have been used by some honorable members ever since we have been here. I would ask how many times the right honorable member for Swan has voted in favour of the Bill which was introduced by the Ministry of which he was a member ; also, how many times it has had the support of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, or of the honorable member for Denison.
– A number of clauses had been passed without division.
– The attitude assumed by some members of the late Ministry has introduced a new feature into political life. They have made it appear that a man’s convictions will depend upon the side of the House on which he sits. The position which some honorable members occupy is a contemptible one, and is entirely new in my experience. In other Parliaments, honorable members have always had the courage and manliness to give their support to the measures to which they had committed themselves. Are we to assume that the measure has become objectionable merely because it is being handled by a Labour Administration? We have been told that it is desirable, in the interests of some persons, that there should be a change of Ministry. It has been pointed out that, if a new Ministry came into power, there would be no necessity to introduce a Bill to amend the Immigration Restriction Act, because all that was desired could be effected by a change in the administration.
– The honorable member is proceeding beyond the scope of the motion.
– I am endeavouring to indicate the nature of the tactics adopted by honorable members towards the present Government. No Ministry has ever received such wretched treatment. A month ago I expressed the ‘opinion, which has since become a conviction, that the Bill as . it stands is unworkable. I should have been prepared to accept it in a modified form as a basis upon which we could work-; but if it is passed in its present shape the whole of our work will be rendered nugatory, because npt one organization will register under it.
– So far as clause 48 is concerned, I am thoroughly in accord with the action taken by the honorable and learned member for Corinella: I think that the present opportunity should be availed of by honorable members to express their opinions, and to deal with this question in a manner that will insure finality and prevent unnecessary waste of time. I can see no practical difference between the Government proposal and the proviso embodied in the Bill. The omission of the word- “ substantial “ from the amendment suggested by the Government would place it upon the same footing as the proviso, whilst the retention of that word would involve that vagueness of expression to which I have expressed my objection in connexion with other portions of the Bill. I have all along objected to the proposal to give preference to unionists, as being a negation of the fundamental principle of equal rights and equal opportunities. Unfortunately, the amendment to clause 48, which I proposed, was lost, and I merely supported the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because it appeared to me to be the next best thing to do. I am unwilling to disturb the present provision, but if the clause were recommitted, I should certainly submit an amendment upon the lines of that which I previously proposed. The advocates of the Bill are really appearing before the community in the light of opponents to majority rule. That is a most unfortunate position for them to occupy, because it will be exceedingly difficult for them to defend it. Honorable members who sit behind the Government do not speak with one. voice. The party is a double-voiced party, which has one voice for the non-unionist, and another for the unionist - one for use to catch the votes of non-unionists, the other to dish the non-unionists, whose votes have largely put the Labour Party into Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh defended the principle of preference on the ground that non-unionists, as well as the members^ of unions, would benefit. It must be obvious that if preference is to be given to one side as against another, equal benefits cannot be conferred upon both. The honorable member for Darling contended that only unionists had any right to derive benefit. Here we have two diametrically opposite statements coming from two members of the same party. The honorable member for Darling contended that the benefits of the preference provision should be restricted to unionists, because they, and they alone, had been responsible for bringingabout the adoption of this class of legislation. The honorable member has, at other times, told us that the party to which he belongs does not advocate the interest of any particular section, but of the whole of the workers of the Commonwealth. Apparently, he is now prepared to ignore the rights of .workers who are outside the unions, because he says that, from the point of view of the advocates of the Bill, they are not entitled to any benefits. Those honorable members who are opposing the recommittal of clause 48, take the .view that all citizens have equal rights in the eye of the law. We are advocating equal rights of citizenship. That is a position which I regard as absolutely unassailable. I wish. to direct attention to a case, which came under my notice no later than last Monday, which indicates the disastrous effects of this class of legislation upon a great number of those persons who are outside the trades unions. The statement which I am about to read, and which was taken down in writing by me, was made by a man who called at my house last Monday morning, and asked me, “for God’s sake,” to try to do something for him.
– Was he a trades unionist?
– He had been, but had fallen into arrears through illness and lack of employment. He is an educated man. and has been well brought up, and he feels his position very keenly. He said -
I was at one time a member of the Wharf Labourers’ Union, but through illness and loss of employment, was .unable to keep paying into the union ; and I got work from time to time at other occupations. For months past now, however, I have been unable to get work, because I am not a unionist, and cannot afford to pay the fees to become one. My wife, therefore, has had to go to work, while I have minded the house and the children, much to my own sense of humiliation. However, my wife took ill, and after a period of semi-starvation, I at last obtained, through the Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s wharfinger, a job on the wharves as a labourer, after the usual hands had been taken on. I had not been at work very long - about one hour - when the union officer demanded to see my ticket. I, of course, had none, and explained matters. I offered to rejoin the union if they would accept my signed order on my wages, countersigned by the wharfinger, for the entrance fee and a month’s subscription, as I was starving, and had no money. This was refused, and I had to knock off, and after having walked five miles to my job, had to trudge five miles home to my sick wife and starving family.
– What is his name?
– I will not divulge his name, but would not give the statement to the House unless I was fully convinced of the substantial accuracy of these statements, because they were made to me by a man whom I have known for years.
– Is the honorable member aware of the fact that a union does not collect subscriptions from its members when they are out of employment?
– I doubt if the honorable member can speak for every union in Australia. That is the statement which was made to me, and I have every reason to believe that it is true.
– When a unionist is out of employment, he is .not called upon to pay his subscriptions.
– I cite that instance to show that the effect of legislation of this character is to create a close corporation of labour unions, and to displace from employment a large number of men whose only crime is that they are not attached to these organizations. The idea that unionists only should participate in the benefits conferred by such legislation is a most selfish and narrow one. What would be thought of the missionaries to the heathen if they invoked salvation only on behalf of the members of their own denominations ? What would be said if they urged that only their own particular sects should receive the benefits of the work which they professedly performed in the interests of humanity at large? That is exactly the position which the honorable member for Darling is taking up to-day. Because trades unions have been pioneers of the movement for the up-lifting of the workers, he wishes the members of those organizations to secure all the advantages which may result from improved conditions, to the exclusion of that large class in whose interests honorable members opposite are accustomed to declare upon the hustings they have been unselfishly working. I have no desire to prolong the discussion of this question, which was fully debated when the clause was considered in Committee. I merely wished to draw attention to a case of hardship which had come within my personal knowledge, and which had resulted from legislation of this character, which seeks “to create special privileges for some workers, and to impose great disabilities upon the majority. Whatever legislation may be passed, it should be the duty of honorable members to see that it is based upon equality of opportunity for all, justice to all, and special privileges to none.
– I must preface my remarks by an expression of regret that the field of this discussion is so limited. In the past, it has been usual to extend to Governments, whose right to remain upon the Treasury benches has been challenged, the privilege of defending their policy, upon a motion which enabled the whole of that policy to be debated. I cannot compliment the Opposition upon ihe way -in which they have endeavoured to “ gag “ honorable members-
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether a reference to the “ gagging “ of honorable members is relevant to a question of this sort?
– The statement is strictly relevant, but if the right honorable member objects to it, I must ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I do object to it most earnestly.
– Then I must ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to withdraw it.
– Certainly. The light honorable member .for East Sydney does not relish heavy criticism. No doubt he finds himself in such an awkward position that he realizes it would be inadvisable to allow honorable members too wide a field for discussion, lest they should be in a position to fire too many effective shots. At this stage I think I am justified in referring to the circumstances which led up to the present Government’s assumption of office. It will be recollected that when this Parliament assembled, it was found that a majority of its members were in favour of extending the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the public servants of the States and of the Commonwealth. The Government of the day refused to give effect to the wishes of that majority.
– I must ask the honormember to confine his remarks to a discussion of clause 48.
– I was just about to connect the vote upon the proposal to bring public servants within the scope of this Bill with the position in which the Government find themselves to-day.
– If the honorable member does that, he will be in order.
– With the assistance of a number of wreckers, the present Labour Ministry came into power.
An Honorable Member. - What are “ wreckers ?”
– In that term I include those honorable members who are prepared to embrace any opportunity which presents itself to get rid of a Ministry to which they are opposed. The present Government came into office upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, they announced that they intended to proceed with that measure, and that, if necessary, they would relinquish office upon it. Thereupon, assurances were given by the right’ honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that fair play would be accorded to them.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether this question as it affects the fate of the Ministry, is open to discussion at the present time?
– Certainly it is not. I called the attention of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to the fact just now, and he promised to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– I trust that I shall not unduly wander from the matter which is under consideration. I desire to show that the treatment which the Government are receiving is the reverse of creditable to honorable members opposite. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, in the form in which it was introduced by the Deakin Government, provided that, other things being equal, a preference should be accorded to unionists. “Upon its advent to power, the present Ministry accepted that provision as a reasonable one. But what has occurred since? The members of the late Government have absolutely deserted their own Bill.
– Some of them.
– With the exception of the honorable member for Hume, they have absolutely forsaken their own measure.
– The honorable member for Hume deserted some of its principles.
– The honorable member for Hume has always been prepared to adhere to the provisions contained in the Bill as it was introduced by the Deakin Government. There has been a remarkable change of front on the part of members of the late Administration. When we find them playing fast and loose with the electors, I hold, that it is our duty to show the public of Australia the attitude which is adopted by them. In my judgment, unionistsare certainly deserving of some consideration at the hands of the Government in a measure of this description. We must recollect that if it had not been for their strenuous and selfsacrificing efforts, compulsory arbitration would have been impossible in Australia to-day. It is very easy for honorable members to declare their belief in that principle upon the hustings, because they know that the majority of their constituents uphold it. It is very significant, however, that in Parliament these very individuals are prepared to vote for proposals which render industrial peace absolutely impossible. So far no objection has been raised to unionists as such. Even the right honorable member for East Sydney has admitted that the trades unions comprise the very cream of the working men, and that, if he were a working man himself, he would be a unionist. Honorable members opposite admit that these organizations have rendered invaluable service to their fellows, and yet what do they offer them in return? Absolutely nothing. They say in effect, “ By refusing the Court the power to grant you a preference award, we shall make you the victims of unscrupulous employers.” When the Bill was under consideration, ona previous occasion, the honorable member for Maranoa produced a black list, bearing the names of most of the pastoralists in thewestern districts of New South Wales and Queensland. On its title page was the following statement : -
Register of Shearers who Shore for the Members during the year 1895.
This register has been compiled at the office of this association for the information of members only, and in accordance with* counsel’s opinion taken as to its legality.
This register must be kept strictly private and confidential.
J. Westergaard Neilsen,
The object of this register may be briefly explained. If any man who shore in those districts was prepared to stand out for reasonable conditions, or dared at any time to dispute the will of the boss of the board, he was described in this register as “ a good shearer, but strong unionist.” In other words, such men were black-listed. On leaving a shed, a unionist shearer might receive a reference setting forth that he was an excellent shearer, and could “ do a good tally,” but in the private list, circulated among the different station managers the statement would appear opposite his name that he was a strong unionist, and therefore an undesirable character. It is necessary that we should provide for preference to unionists, in order to guard against such tactics. In Western Australia, certain men who brought a dispute before the Arbitration Court, and obtained a settlement by peaceful means, found, on returning to places at which they had been employed for a number of years, that it had suddenly been discovered that they were not competent, or that some other reason was forthcoming for the refusal to further employ them. They were dealt with in this way, merely because they had taken part in the effort to secure an award of the Court granting reasonable conditions to those engaged in the industry. These cases illustrate the object which we have in view in urging that the Court should have power to grant preference to unionists. Without a preference clause the Bill would be useless. If we thought that unionists would even be placed on” an -equal footing with non-unionists we should not be found fighting so strongly, for preference, but it is because we know that without a reasonable provision for preference unionists have been and will be victimised that we deem it necessary to fight so strongly against the clause as it stands. It has been asserted during the course of this debate that the policy of the unions is to starve the non-unionist. I deny that that is so. Every precaution has been taken to safeguard the interests of workers, whether they be unionists or nonunionists. The Bill already provides that a man shall not be refused the right to join a union. That provision was insisted upon, and was rightly inserted. In providing for preference to unionists, we shall assist in the building up and maintenance of those organizations which are absolutely necessary in order that the Bill may be a workable one. It is admitted on all sides of the House that without organizations it is not likely that any satisfactory means of submitting disputes to the Court will be obtained. We hope that by granting prefer- ence to unionists, and holding out an inducement to men to join organizations, and to take an. interest in this measure, we shall conserve the industrial peace of Australia. The cry which is so glibly uttered that unionists desire to deprive non-unionists of the means of obtaining a livelihood has no foundation in fact. The honorable member for Lang has referred to a poor unfortunate fellow, who alleges that he was compelled by stress of circumstances to leave the ranks of unionists, and that unionists subsequently refused to allow him to work on the wharfs, although his wife and children were starving. That is a cowardly charge to make in this House, unless the name of the man be given. If his name were disclosed it would be possible for us to trace the story to its source, and to ascertain whether it was accurate or not. I have heard many complaints made by disappointed persons against unions and unionists, but on investigating them have invariably found that they could not be substantiated. The case to which the honorable member has referred may possibly come within the same category. The clause as it ‘stands would make it absolutely impossible for the Court to grant preference to unionists. The experience which I have had in gauging the number of persons engaged in a particular industry convinces me that it would be impossible for an organization to obtain evidence showing that the majority of those affected by the award desired that preference be granted. It has already been explained by several honorable members who are associated with the great bush unions that the number of persons engaged in the shearing industry varies very considerably from time to time. In addition to that, we know that when men. are scattered all over the country it is impossible to ascertain their opinions on any given question-. A union might be able to ascertain the opinion of the workers when they were congregated in large centres, but it would be almost impossible to ascertain the opinion of every man connected with an industry carried on in scattered, districts. Under the clause as it stands, it would be absolutely impossible for an organization to ascertain the views of a majority of those likely to be affected by . any award. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government proposal is not all that I should like it to be.
– The Prime Minister has said that’ it is substantially the same as the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment.
– If the Prime Minister made that statement, I have reason to differ from it. While I do not like the Government proposal, I feel that it is infinitely better than the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I believe that it would be workable, while the clause, as it stands, would not; and, consequently, I am prepared to accept that which is the nearest approach to perfection that we are likely to obtain from the Committee.
– Does the honorable member think ihat unionists would register under this Bill?
– I see nothing in the clause to prevent them from registering.
– But what about clause 62?
– We are dealing with clause 48, and the honorable member for Dalley has decided to vote in a way that will prevent the reconsideration of clause 62. The attitude adopted by the honorable member is certainly remarkable. He finds himself at variance with the old adage, that “ half a loaf is better than no bread. “ He says, in effect, “ If I cannot secure the passing of the clause as originally introduced - if I cannot obtain an undisputed preference for unionists - I shall accept nothing else.”
– I made that statement three weeks ago.
– Whether that be so or not, the honorable member has certainly adopted a remarkable process of reasoning, and I think that his constituents will require considerable explanation in regard to it.
– I shall not receive any assistance from the honorable member in making that explanation.
– If I were one of the electors of Dalley, I should endeavour to secure for the honorable member the treatment which he expects and undoubtedly deserves.
– Labour men have been trying to do that for years.
– That is not a question which we may now discuss. The fate of the Administration really hangs in the balance. Some honorable members opposite pretend that they do not think the motion should be discussed from that stand-point, but they are hiding behind a most miserable subterfuge. I am certainly surprised to find in the Australian national Parliament a number of honorable members who are prepared to introduce what, in my opinion, is an undoubted gag. I should have thought that” honorable members would endeavour to secure the passing of any measure designed in the interests of the people who are looking to this Parliament to save them from so great a disaster as another maritime strike, or any other Inter-State industrial dispute. It appears to me that the Bill is to be thrust aside simply because certain honorable members are anxious to obtain possession of the Treasury benches. The fate of this Bill is nought to them as compared with the question whether the right honorable member for East Sydneyis to be Prime Minister. This is a most unfortunate state of affairs, and when the people of Australia learn, as they will in the course of the next few days, of the reasons leading to the downfall of the present Administration, and of the sacrifice of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, they will entertain, nought but feelings of disgust towards those who have brought about the present situation. I have little further to say. The clause as it stands does not meet with my approval, and I should have been better pleased had we been permitted to consider it in. Committee once more. Had the course proposed By the Government been adopted, we should have been able to avail ourselves of the advice of honorable mem-‘ bers on all sides of the House, and, possibly, some amendment might have been suggested and have received the approval of the majority of honorable members’.
– And have saved the Government ?
– That seems to be a matter of great importance to the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister says that the Government proposal is practically the same as the honorable and learned mem ber for Corinella’s amendment.
– I can assure the honorable member that the fate of a Government is not so important, to my mind, as is the placing of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill on the Statute-Book of Australia.
– Hear, hear. Mr. FRAZER. - In view of their present attitude, I do not know why honorable mem. bers opposite should applaud that remark. The Bill is to be thrown, aside and its ultimate fate to remain undecided for weeks. We do not know what the defeat of the Ministry may mean. There is always the possibility of a dissolution. I do not hold that out as a threat to any honorable member, but it is possible that within the next month or six weeks we may be engaged in contesting our constituencies, and in the interval there may be an InterState strike. If that happens, the responsibility will be at the doors of those whose action has caused us to be without the machinery to effectually settle such industrial disputes.
– In any case, the Bill could not receive the Royal Assent for probably six weeks.
– The delay will be much longer if there is a general election. The Opposition are trying to defeat the Government on a false issue. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has fired the gun for the leaders of the party, who do not seem disposed to show themselves. I do not wish them success ; but if the Ministry are defeated, I hope that there will be an appeal to the people.
– It is quite refreshing to hear . the comments of Ministerial supporters upon the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is desirous of preventing a waste of time by the reconsideration of a. question which has already been finally settled by a majority. For the past three months the Ministry and their supporters have, by means of press interviews and speeches from the public platforms, been inviting the Opposition to a trial of strength. They have taunted their opponents with continually deferring this trial. But now that they are actually put on. their defence, it is they who cry, “ Give us until to-morrow.” A great deal has been said from the other side of the Chamber about the underground engineering, and the going back upon electoral pledges which has taken place on this side of the Chamber; but if honorable members refresh their memories by referring to Hansard, they will see that some of those who were once ardent supporters of the Deakin Administration, and are now sitting on this side of the House, have before this said clearly and distinctly that, when the opportunity offered, they would attempt to tone down several of the extreme proposals in the Bill. Reference has been made to the attitude of the members of the late Government in reference to this Bill. There are one or two of them against whom the charge of inconsistency cannot be made, but certainly the honorable member for Hume, for whom the present Ministerial supporters claim such wonderful consistency, is not one of them.
– He has been a true protectionist all his life.
– I am dealing with the attitude of the members of the late Government towards this Bill. The right honorable member for Balaclava has been consistent all his political life, and I believe would have shown his consistency in this matter had he been able to attend the sittings of the House. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has also been notably consistent.
– No; consistent. On the occasion when the honorable member for Hume refused to support the Bill, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat stood loyally by its provisions, and I think he has proved, even to the satisfaction of the Ministry, and their supporters, that he has been consistent throughout. Whose fault is it if the fate of the Government hangs on the question now before the House? Their present position is due to their own voluntary act. I have no cognisance of any attempts to form combinations on this side to secure a majority against the Government, nor do I think that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has moved the amendment which is said to place the life of the Government in jeopardy, acted after consultation with either of the leaders on this side.
– The honorable member will admit that the original proviso was not fully discussed.
– It might have been discussed. It was printed and circulated a day before it was moved.
– Reference to Hansard will show that a number of honorable members referred to it before the division was taken. In any case, the Government had control of the business, and are responsible if they allowed a division to be taken on a matter of vital importance before honorable members were thoroughly seized of the importance of the question. Moreover, why have they slept in regard to the matter for a month? Why have they not taken an earlier opportunity to try to convert a minority into a majority?
And why are they squealing now, like so many trapped rats?
– The honorable member is a protectionist rat.
– I take no exception to such a statement emanating from such a source. I am responsible for my utterances to the electors of Moira only, and if the honorable member has any fault to find with them, let him, when the dissolution occurs, oppose me at Moira.
– The honorable mem ber will not have a walk-over.
– I have enjoyed that privilege.
– Not so often as I have clone.
– I do not claim to be so notorious as is the honorable member, nor to possess his political virtues. Although the Ministry and their enthusiastic supporters have been looking for trouble, and asking for a fight, they are now, after a month of underground engineering and bridge-building, howling about the tactics of the Opposition, which is strictly parliamentary. Are we to believe that they did not know that the honorable and ‘ learned member for Corinella would stand staunchly in support of his provision? Was it likely that he would allow another fortnight of underground engineering to go on before acting in its defence? Surely we cannot attribute such guilelessness to honorable members opposite. We have been told that they obtained possession of the Treasury benches in an honorable way. T do not deny that. To some extent I admire the attitude which they have taken up. But now, although the numbers are against them, it looks as though dynamite would not remove their tentacles from the Treasury benches. Has any Ministry cried out more loudly than they have done to be challenged at the earliest opportunity.
– We have not had an opportunity to discuss the position.
– Honorable members opposite have had a full and free opportunity to discuss the situation, and to put the position from their stand-point.
– Why do not some of the leaders of the Opposition speak? Why are they putting up “squibs”?
– I am not responsible for the actions of either the right honorable member for East Sydney or the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has always taken direct courses, and those who stood loyally behind him have no reason to regret their allegiance to him. It has been suggested that if there is a dissolution, our seats will be in jeopardy, but that is a question for our constituents to determine. What is the use of honorable members saying, “ We will send you to the country ?” We have also been told that if we refuse to amend the clause so as to give absolute, and complete preference to unionists, industrial warfare will (spread over Australia. Why are these threats made when an important matter of this kind is being discussed? I was amongst those who, with the late Prime Minister, voted for the insertion of subclause b, to give preference to unionists. The only qualification I desired to see attached was the proviso that the unions should be wholly industrial organizations, and not political machines. So long as they were unions, whose funds were not to be used for purposes other than the purposes of the Bill, I was ready to give them a preference. I cannot be charged with being opposed to the granting of preferences.
– The members of the Opposition tried to undo what had been done in regard to the giving of preferences by adding a proviso.
– We were told by the honorable member for Barrier that he would’ be ready to reject the Bill if unions were not given the right to act as political party machines. Under those circumstances I felt justified in the action I took, with a view to preventing the minority comprising a political party machine from dominating the majority under the provisions of a measure to secure industrial peace. That was why I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The members of the Ministry and their supporters accuse the honorable and learned member and those on this side of the House with having acted dishonorably; but has not the Prime Minister been continually telling the country during the last three months that he wishes for a trial of strength - simply that he wanted a test of strength? The opportunity which he has desired is now presented to him. Ministers took possession of the Treasury benches upon a question of policy in connexion with this Bill. Did any Ministers ever retire with more dignity - with one notable exception - than did the Deakin Government. The present Ministers took office in an honorable and straightforward way, and I regret to say that they are not continuing in that path, now that their existence is being threatened upon a matter of policy. Why should they complain ? They must admit that the question on which they are being challenged is purely a matter of policy, and yet they appear to want more time for the purpose of playing to the gallery. A great, deal of time has been wasted already by the honorable member for Gwydir in dealing with the whole range of politics of the last three or four years. The sole object was evidently to gain time.
– The honorable member must not refer to another debate.
– The threats which have been made by the honorable member for Gwydir cause a feeling of resentment on my part, not against honorable members opposite personally, but against the line of action which they are following in deal ing with a question of policy affecting the whole industrial life of Australia. It is beyond question that an important principle is embodied in clause 48. I have nothing but admiration to express in regard to the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in bringing this matter to an issue in the way he has done. I have already stated that the Government have had practically a month in which to think over the situation, and, if possible, improve upon the proviso now in the Bill. What do we find? After a month’s stewing over the situation, the Government now submit a proposal which is substantially the same as that embodied in the Bill. I venture to say that greater discretion would be vested in the Court under the present proviso than if the Government proposal were adopted.
– Under those circumstances, the honorable member ought to support the Government proposal.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio voted against any preference whatever. He voted to strike out the clause altogether.
– What is the explanation of the honorable and learned member’s sudden conversion? Is he afraid of a possible dissolution upon the removal of the present Government from the Treasury benches ?
– I was returned as a protectionist, and I am concerned as to the fate of the Government.
– I am just reminded that, in the event of the House refusing to consent to the recommittal of clause 48, a Free-trade Ministry may assume office, and in that connexion it would be quite pertinent for me to direct attention to the fiscal views entertained by members of the present Ministry. The honorable and learned member for Corio has overlooked the divergent fiscal views of members of the present Ministry.
– That has nothing to do with the matter under discussion.
– I do not think it has. I was simply replying to the remark of the honorable and learned member for Corio, and I do not propose to pursue the matter any further. I would direct the attention of honorable members to the question immediately before the House. The Prime Minister tells us that the amendment which he suggests is substantially the same as the proviso inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Those who say that it is impossible to ascertain what number of employes in any particular industry would constitute a majority, forget that we have statistics available, which are, for all practical purposes, absolutely reliable. We know that we can rely upon the figures given in the Statistical. Register from time to time with regard to the number of miners engaged in coal mining, or gold mining, or other branches of that industry, and that we can also arrive at a very good idea as to the number of hands engaged in the various factories in our cities. We can even ascertain approximately the number of bush workers.
– There are no statistics showing the number of bushworkers.
– Take the case of the shearers, by way of illustration. We can arrive at a fairly good idea as to the number of shearers engaged in the different States, and it is absurd to confuse the number of men actually engaged in that occupation with those who were shearing fifteen or twenty years ago.
– It is not a question of those who were working fifteen years ago only, but of those who were working last vear, and who mav be shearing next year.
– We were told by the Prime Minister that those who were shearing fifteen years ago were still shearers for the purposes of the Bill. If that view were correct, I might be regarded as a shearer, because the honorable member for Grampians has promised, if necessity arises, to give me a pen in his shed. If the honorable member intends to ship all his wool home, however, it may not be advisable for him to give me that opportunity. There is a difference in phraseology, but not in substance, between the Government proposal and the provision now in the Bill. The clause, as it stands, provides that before the Court grants a preference to unionists it must be satisfied that a majority of those affected indorse the application. It will be within the discretion of the Court to say whether or not a majority is represented by the applicants. Under the Government proposal, practically the same provision would be made with regard to the numbers represented by any organization that might apply for preference. The Court, before directing that preference shall be given, must be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected in point of numbers.
– And what else?
– I am now dealing with the numbers, because, as the provision now stands, no reference is made to competence. I am dealing with the points of similarity between the Government proposal and the proviso in the Bill. The clause, as it stands at present, provides that the majority must assent before the Court can grant a preference. I contend that exactly the same condition must prevail under the amendment suggested by the Government.
– Then why should all this fuss be made; why do not honorable members accept the Government proposal ?
– I want to know what all the fuss is about. Is not the amendment suggested by the Government intended to afford them an easy stairway by which they can escape from a difficult situation? It seems to me to be that, and nothing more.
– No. We think there is a difference.
– -I grant that there may be legitimate grounds for a difference pf opinion.
– Does the honorable member think that there is no difference?
– Substantially, I do not think there is any difference with regard to the numbers who will be required to indorse the application for preference. There is, however, a difference between the Government proposal and the provision in the Bill, in so far as the Government amendment refers to the question of competence.
– The honorable member has already been told that the provision which the Government propose is based upon the practice adopted by the New South Wales Court.
– It does not follow that we should adopt the provision because it is contained in the New South Wales Act.
– I did not say that. I said that it followed the practice adopted by the New South Wales Court.
– Even so, it does not follow that we should adopt it.
– No; but that affords an excellent reason why the Government should bring it forward.
– There is no provision for preference in the Western Australian Arbitration Act.
– That is a great defect in the Act.
– It may be. I have already stated, in connexion with clause 48, and my vote on a former occasion proved the truth of my words, that I am prepared to give preference to members of organizations. I think that it is essential to the efficient working of the Bill that practically every person engaged in any industry should become a member of an organization. The Bill can never really be made effective unless we can deal with the workers as members of organizations. I differ from the Government and their supporters, however, with regard to the provisions which should be embodied in the rules of industrial organizations. I do not think that the organizations should be permitted to coerce persons to subscribe to objects other than those which are contemplated bv the Bill.
– The provisions relating to that matter have been omitted.
– They have not been omitted. The Government refused, point blank, to adopt a provision to the effect that the funds of the industrial organizations under the measure should not be used for purposes other than those contemplated by the Bill.
– That condition has been imposed in the case of those unions which apply for preference - that is in the Bill.
– It is not in the Bill, and I hold that such a clause should have been contained in the measure. The rules of an organization should not contain any provision which could have the effect of coercing any of its members in regard to matters of principle, unless the purposes of this Bill were at issue.
– Look at sub-clause b of clause 62.
– I have read that provision, in addition to all the other clauses. It was only after I had voted in favour of extending a preference to unionists, and after the Government had refused point-blank to safeguard the interests of non-members of any organization, that I reserved to myself the right to achieve that end, by any subsequent proposal. That was why I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, which to my mind will prevent a minority from coercing a majority.
– An unorganized majority.
– They may constitute an unorganized majority simply because some provision may be embodied in the rules of an organization, which is repugnant to the mind of any fair individual. Upon a previous occasion I quoted an instance in which a union that was registered under the New South Wales Arbitration Act applied to the Court for the cancellation of the registration of another union. What happened? Its application was refused, because its rules were deemed to be repugnant to any fair-minded man. That, I think, is sufficient justification for my attitude upon this question. Honorable members opposite have threatened us with all sorts of pains and penalties because of our action upon the present occasion. We have been told that a dissolution of Parliament will follow the defeat of the Ministry. I have contested three elections within a period of twelve months, and have had an appeal lodged with the Elections and Qualifications Committee against my return thrown in. Consequently, threats of that sort have no terrors for me. When I go down, I shall do so with a clear conscience. Now that this issue has been raised, I do not think that the Government or their supporters can show us any justification for the lamentations which we have heard from every speaker upon the other side of the chamber. The gauntlet has been thrown down. It has been thrown down upon a question of policy upon which the Government have had a month’ to reflect. During that period they have been constantly inviting the Opposition to meet them in mortal combat. But now that their political scalps are at stake they want to defer a decision upon the issue for another week. Their constant cry is “Wait until to-morrow.”
– The Opposition have cried “ Wait until next week,” ever since the Labour Ministry took office.
– Now that the attack is being made, whence do the lamentations proceed ?
– They are all coming from the opposite side.
– We are quite happy.
– The great trouble with the Government supporters is that they are not to be allowed sufficient time to effect the conversion of some of those who intend to vote against the recommittal of this clause. Only yesterday they, in effect, exclaimed, “Are we to be tested upon this question at once. Le.t us have another week for underground tactics.”
– The honorable member seems to be experienced in underground work.
– I have been accused of engaging in it, but I confess that I have yet a lot to learn. When honorable members opposite charge others with underground engineering, it would be just as well if ‘they supported their statements with facts. It is not sufficient to make bald assertions. It has been urged by the Government supporters that they have been deprived of an opportunity of putting their position fairly. But I would ask, “Have they not exactly the same opportunity of doing so as have honorable members upon this side of the chamber?”
– Our side do not fear daylight being shed upon their actions.
– When the final appeal to our masters comes, there will be no shuffling upon my part. From the smiles of honorable members opposite one would imagine that in the event of the Government proposal to recommit this clause being defeated, none of those upon this side of the House would see the interior of Parliament again. It is beyond their power to determine whether we shall or not. I ask any of those honorable members who twit me with having abandoned my pledges to my constituents to oppose my election when the time to do so arrives. I candidly admit that if my return were opposed by any honorable member opposite I should find a worthy opponent. I was pledged to the principle of conciliation and arbitration before I entered public life.
– And now the honorable member is seeking to kill it.
– That statement cannot be supported by facts. I heard a similar cry raised when the fate of the Deakin Government was at stake. Those who would not support the amendment submitted by the present Minister of Trade and Customs were branded as traitors to the cause of conciliation and arbitration. I can speak upon this matter as one who has had some experience of strikes and of the evils resulting from them. No sane man who is familiar with the conditions which obtain amongst the dependents of the workers during the period in which a strike is in progress can fail to deplore the evils attendant upon it. There is no fair-minded individual - no matter to what class he may belong - who will not royally welcome any legislative enactment which will have the effect of preventing these industrial troubles, with all the disastrous consequences that follow in their train. We have been assured that if the proposal of the Government be not’ adopted within three months, we shall experience a repetition of the wellremembered maritime strike. Surely it does not lie within the mouths of honorable members opposite to make a threat of that sort.
– Who made that statement ?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I did not.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial, and I am prepared to leave it to the records of the House to determine whether his statement or mine is correct. Those who affirm that I am opposed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration ought to be in a position, to prove their contention.. I voiced my objection to clause 48 of this Bill upon the very first opportunity that presented itself. Upon that occasion I took exactly the same stand that I take to-night. I have no desire to burke discussion. The issue before us is clearly defined.
– The statement which the honorable member made just now is absolutely incorrect, so far as I am concerned.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial. To my mind, we are not burking discussion by dealing with this question in the manner that has been adopted. We are asked to decide whether we shall impose a limitation upon the preference provision.
– The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella will have the effect of robbing unionists of all preference.
– A similar statement was made in the earlier stages of the consideration of this Bill. It was urged that if honorable members, opposite had to choose between depriving unions of the power to utilize their organizations for political purposes and offering them this Bill, they would throw this measure to the winds. Is it the desire of any fair-minded man, whether he be in the ranks of the workers or the employers, that the organizations to be constituted under this Bill, in order to secure industrial peace, shall be used for party political purposes? That is the point on which I join issue with honorable members opposite.
– But it is not affected by clause 48.
– It is affected by the Bill, of which this clause forms part. When we were dealing with the clause on a previous occasion, I said that, unless the Bill safeguarded the rights and political convictions of individual members of organizations, I should be no party to giving the Court power to grant unqualified preference to unionists.
– Is not the provision safeguarded by the amendment which was carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs?
– No. I have spoken at greater length than I had intended.
– Go on.
– I am delighted to think that I have interested honorable members opposite, and I trust that I have not said anything that may be considered to be in any way personal.
– We are only surprised at the views which the honorable member holds, knowing what he does of the situation.
– I have not turned any political somersault. The position which I now take up is that which 1 clearly put before my constituents, and i: will require something more than a threat on the part of any honorable member to induce me to go back on my principles.
– The somersault will come later on.
– I have placed before the House the conclusions at which I have arrived, and, come what may, I shall go down smiling. I shall not ask any honorable member what might be the effect of any vote that I might give upon any action contemplated by Ministers.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable gentleman is going to become a freetrader.
– It is again suggested that I am to be converted into a free-trader. I have yet to learn, however, that my views on the fiscal, or any other question, are likely to be affected in any way according to the side of the House on which I sit. I do not think that there is any justification for the charges which have been levelled against the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I believe that he is fully justified in the course which he has adopted to uphold the position originally taken up by him. He has taken an action which is sanctioned by our rules of procedure, and, as I agree with the object which he has in view, I shall be found voting for the amendment.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Moira has accused me of having stated, in the course of my speech, before the adjournment for dinner, that if the Opposition did not accept the Bill in its present form there would be a strike within the next three months. That statement is inaccurate. I did not say that there would be an industrial dispute within the next three months, but I did say that in the event of a strike occurring, as the result of the action of honorable members of the Opposition in hanging up this Bill, they would have to accept the responsibility. “ ‘
– I trust honorable members will bear with me to-night, as I am suffering from a very severe cold, and can scarcely speak. I do not intend to detain the House at length, but’ I cannot refrain from making a few comments on some of the extraordinary phases of the speech made by the honorable member for Moira, who preceded me. He is an honorable member for whom I have the greatest respect;
– So we all have.
– I admire his consistency, but on this occasion he appears to have allowed his feelings to run away with his judgment. He has accused the Ministry, and those who support them, of inconsistency in objecting to the unprecedented course which has been adopted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, prompted, I have no doubt, by the right honorable member for East Sydney. When an honorable member, whom I have always regarded as a fair-minded man, makes such a charge, I cannot help thinking that on this occasion something has gone wrong with his reasoning faculties. I defy the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and, indeed, any member of the Opposition, to bring forward a precedent for the action now being pursued by them. They cannot refer me to any parallel case. I admit that occasionally, when a Ministry have proposed to recommit an unimportant clause,, they have met with opposition ; but I do not know of any case in which a proposal by a Government to recommit a clause, involving so important a question as this, has- been treated in this manner. I have been in public life almost as long as has any honorable member in this House. I cannot say what is the position of the representatives of Victoria, but I have had a longer unbroken public career than has any other honorable member from New South Wales ; yet I cannot call to mind one case which approaches the technically tricky position with which we are now faced.
– I remember a tricky one.
– No; the honorable member remembers-
– When the honorable member came into office as Premier of New South Wales.
– The honorable member remembers that when I discovered that a sum of money had been paid as a bribe to an honorable member I made it the subject of an amendment to a substantive motion, as soon as I ascertained what was the reason for the giving of that bribe. Honorable members know that it was the right honorable member for East Sydney who gave that bribe, and that, in . consequence of that action, he went out of office. What’ was the his’tory of that bribe of ^356 to which I ‘refer? ‘
– I must ask honorable members not to interject so loudly and so frequently, and I appeal to the honorable member for Hume to confine himself to the question under discussion, which is clause 48.
– In justification of my position, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that I was induced to make these observations by the interjection of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– The honorable member was discussing the point before I interjected.
– No. The honorable member is mistaken if he thinks that I had that point in view when he interjected. I shall not make any further reference to the matter, but I repeat that the amendment now before the House has been trickily submitted. The position is a grave one, and those who are prepared to allow the full light of clay to shine on all their actions during a public career extending over many years feel that it is degrading that honorable members should be afraid to challenge the Government in a proper manner. There are two ways in which to deal with a question of this kind. It is open to the Opposition to challenge the Government - by a direct motion of want of confidence, or to endeavour to defeat them by a side-wind ; but it has always been understood that when the life of a Government is at stake the fullest possible discussion should be allowed. What is the history of this attack on the Ministry? The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced by the Deakin Administration, of which I was a member. The honorable member for Moira has compared my consistency with that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and I therefore feel constrained to deal with a matter which I should not otherwise have mentioned. I venture to think that there are not many men who, like me. have risked their advancement in public life before entering this Federal House, and are prepared to do so again, even if they stand alone, rather than follow the right honorable member for East Sydney. The right honorable member’s face is wreathed in smiles.
– Tell us-
– The right honorable member will have an opportunity to speak after I have concluded.
– He has not the pluck.
– Sometimes he has courage, but on other occasions his heart fails him. Let me deal with the course of events leading up to the present situation. This Bill, as introduced by the Deakin Government, did not apply to the railway servants of the States, and it was because of their defeat on the amendment to extend its provisions to those public officers that that Government went out of office. ‘ I presume that the honorable member for Kennedy was referring to the attitude which I took up in regard to that question when he compared my consistency with that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. But my late colleagues know that from the very outset I was in favour of the extension of the Bill to all railway servants, and that I told my constituents so. Had it not been for a statement made by the Premier of Victoria, I should not have been compelled, as I was, in loyalty to my colleagues, to vote for the Bill as it stood. When the late Government retired I was free to exercise my individual judgment and to give effect to the view of the question that I had put before my constituents. My colleagues knew that I favoured the extension of the Bill to the railway servants of the States and of the Commonwealth, and surely when I was at liberty to give effect to that view, I had a right to do so, and, therefore, should not now be charged with inconsistency.
– I was referring to the vote on the amendment to exclude agricultural and horticultural labourers from the operation of the Bill.
– I think that I voted against the inclusion of agricultural labourers.
– That is so.
– Asa matter of fact, when the Bill was being drafted, I was opposed to their inclusion, and therefore was not inconsistent in voting in that way.
– But the Bill, as introduced by the Government of which the honorable member was a member, applied to them.
– The honorable member knows very well that one member of a Cabinet cannot expect to have his own way in regard to every clause in a Bill. He must vote with the Government, or- else retire from the Ministry. That was my position, and when I found myself at liberty to exercise my individual judgment, I did not see why I should not do so. The right honorable member .for Swan knows that what I say is correct.
– It is, and it suits my position exactly.
– As soon as the right honorable member was out of office, he went round like a whirlwind, and we have not yet felt the last whirl of that whirlwind. The late Prime Minister recommended the Governor-General to send for the honorable member for Bland, much to the chagrin of the right honorable member for East Sydney, who expressed his disappointment in the public press in the most childish manner.
– This is not in clause 48.
– Nor is it likely to be.
– I am afraid that there is not likely to be an Arbitration Bill at all if honorable members on that side have their way. The present Ministry, before they accepted office, and after they took their seats on the Treasury benches, were promised by the late Prime Minister - and the promise is reported in Hansard - that they and their party would be given fair play.
– What has this to do with the question?
– It bears on the question, as I shall show. I wish to know where is the consistency of honorable members on that side of the House, and of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat? It was through his instrumentality that the present Ministers were placed in office, and he promised to give them fair play.
– Why is he not present?
– I regret that he is not present. Until to-day the right honorable member for East Sydney and his following were absent, too. If there is one thing which I like in public life, it is open, fair play.
– The honorable member gives us a shock when he talks in that way, because we know him so well.
– The honorable member for Macquarie is not a judge of fair play.
– I would not go to the honorable member for it. We know his ‘ tricky ways.
– What is the use’ of making such a fuss about this matter ?
– I never knew any Premier make such a fuss as did the right honorable gentleman when he was put out of office. He went into a certain room - the Labour room - and on his bended knees begged for a penny.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Hume must be aware that he is wandering from the question. I ask him to set a good example to younger members.
– I always do; but when interjections are made I am tempted to reply to them, and you must not blame me, Mr. Speaker, if my retorts are rather caustic.
– Hear, hear. The honorable member has had the gout.
– I wish the right honorable member had the gout in his tongue. The present position has been brought about by the intrigues of the right honorable gentleman, supported by 50 per cent, of those who voted to displace the last Government. They wish to destroy theBill, lock, stock, and barrel, and at all costs.
– One would think that the honorable member was himself a Minister. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether he is observing the ordinary Parliamentary rule which requires debate to be confined to the question before the House.
– I have twice, if not thrice, called the attention of the honorable member to the fact that he is travelling beyond the question. I ask him to confine himself strictly to it. If the right honorable member will not interject quite so frequently, it may not be so difficult for the honorable member.
– I will endeavour to confine my remarks to the question. The honorable and learned member for Corinella was quite justified, viewing the matter from his stand-point, in moving ths proviso which was added to the clause. The Government, however, consider that it destroyed an important and practically a vital principle of the Bill, and they took what was about the only course they could take, short of actually resigning, in regard to it. They intimated that they would ask the House to recommit the Bill, with a view to reconsidering its decision in regard to the clause. That was the proper and constitutional course to take. The Prime Minister, shortly after making that announcement, said thai: it would take a week or two for the Cabinet to consider the amendments which would probably have to be moved on the recommittal, and I was surprised, therefore, to hear the honorable member for Moira to-night accuse the Government of having deliberately delayed the consideration of the measure.
– I did not say that.
– The Government were being pestered by honorable members, including the leader of the Opposition and his party-
– I did not say a word to them.
– The right honorable member and his supporters asked the Government to deal with the Seat of Government Bill in the interim. That measure was considered to be of the gravest importance, and the Ministry, true to their promises, introduced it, and carried it through. Now, however, the honorable member for Moira twits the Government with having delayed the consideration of the Bill at present before the House.
– The honorable member asked, in effect - “Why did not tha Government submit the recommittal for reconsideration at an earlier date?”
– I said that they had had a month for the consideration of the amendment carried by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and could not complain of his present action.
– I have great belief in the honorable member, and therefore I was surprised at the construction which it seemed to me could be put upon some of the remarks which he made tonight. The Ministry could not have done more than they have done. They have performed marvellous work in passing the Seat of Government Bill, a measure which under other circumstances might have been “ hung up “ for months or years, but which will now become law within a few days. Although I was unsuccessful in obtaining the adoption of the site which I favoured, I submit without grumbling, and give the Ministry credit for having stuck to the measure. The country will give them credit, too. But during the last two days when it was under discussion, I felt that there was something in the wind, and when I tried to get another vote on the Welaregang site, and the right honorable member who was sitting on the cross-benches asked, “ What is the use of talking? I will give you a pair for any one who is away “-
– Order !
– I felt that there was something behind the beautiful smooth tones of the right honorable member’s tongue.
– If an honorable member’ of the experience pf the honorable member for Hume does not confine himself to the question at issue, I ask him how is it possible for me to require other honorable members to do so?
– Although I know that technically our remarks should be confined to clause 48, I have listened attentively to the speeches of many of those who have preceded me, and I have heard many divergencies from strict relevance to the question. I shall, however, try to obey your ruling. I was only incidentally describing the thoughts that entered my mind on the occasion I speak of. Then, next day-
Honorable Members. - What about clause 48 ?
– I have a perfect right to say what I am about to say. Next day I ascertained what was the matter, because the “cat was out of the bag.” The antics of the right honorable member for East Sydney are amusing, but he should remember that he is not now in the Tivoli Theatre.
– Worse luck.
– That is where they would like to have him. If he is not careful, I will tell the House a little story about Harry Rickards’ views on the matter. Under present circumstances the Government will not have an opportunity to defend its policy and its administration.
– What opportunity did our Government get?
– I think that the right honorable member has had a pretty good show since.
– What show did we get when we were being put out?
– That was the right honorable member’s fault. The case was altogether different then. There was no catch-penny business about what then occurred. The great fault was with the late Prime Minister. The present Government, however, are not, in my opinion, getting the fair play which should be extended to them. I am not with them on many of their principles.
– The honorable member only votes with them.
– I vote according to my conscience, which is what the honorable and learned member does not do. Although I may be opposed to the present Government in regard to many matters, I think that they are entitled to fair play before they are displaced from office. Although what is being done now is technically correct, and according to the rules of the House, the country will know that they have never had fair play since they have been sitting on the Treasury benches.
– The honorable member is worse than a Minister.
– They have not had fair play from those who were attending to the work of Parliament. The right honorable member has not been here until recently. If I am any judge of the opinions of the country, however-
– Are we discussing the opinions of the country or clause 48 ?
– I think that honorable members may safely leave questions of order to me. If anything takes place which is contrary to the Standing Orders I will myself, as I have done many times already, call the honorable member who offends io order.
– I would ask whether it is not competent, sir, for any honorable member to raise a point of order when he thinks that the honorable member addressing the Chair is straying from the point at issue? If honorable members have not the right 1o do that, they may be placed in a very awkward position. For example, you may not hear some unparliamentary language; but surely honorable members who do hear it should be allowed to draw your attention to it.
– I should be very far from stating that any honorable member was not free to raise a point of order whenever he pleased. Every honorable member has that right, and if, at any time, I miss a remark honorable members may properly call my attention to it. I suggest, however, that they should abstain, as far as may be practicable, from taking points of order again and again, and relv upon my watchfulness.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- The action taken by the Opposition will have the effect of preventing the Government from placing before the country anything more than their policy with regard to clause 48. They cannot discuss such matters as preferential trade,, or the offering of the iron and other bonuses. If the result of the vote on the present occasion is, as expected, to displace the Government, and to hand over to a new Ministry the administration of all such matters as those relating to the maintenance of a White Australia-
– I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable member for Hume is entirely out of order.
– I shall do everything I can to keep the honorable member to the point.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member will decline to extend to me the courtesy that he would exhibit to any other member of this House; but I can put up with’ that.
– The honorable member for Macquarie will get his thirty pieces.
– If the Government are defeated, and ejected from office, the new Ministry will take charge of a number of important matters, with regard to which we are unfortunately unable to enlighten the country at the present time. With regard to the statement that a threat has been made that if the Bill were lost a great strike would occur, I may say that I listened attentively to the statements of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and he certainly did not make any threat. What he said was that those who destroy the Bill must bear the responsibility if a strike unfortunately took place. It is not fair to endeavour to fasten upon the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, or upon any other honorable member, a statement which he did not make. I think that honorable members generally would regard with sorrow anything in the shape of a great industrial conflict. The object of this Bill is to prevent the possibility of anything of that kind. I support the proposal of the Government, first, in the interests of fair play, and, secondly, because it is based upon the practice followed by the Arbitration Court in New South Wales. The Arbitration Act in that State goes a great deal further than is proposed under the Bill now before us. For instance, farm labourers are brought within the jurisdiction of the Court, and there is practically no limitation to the scope of the measure in that regard.
– Order. I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is referring to agricultural labourers, who are not in any way dealt with in clause 48.
– I was certainly making an incidental reference to them, but not with the object of acting contrary to your ruling. I simply wished to point out that, notwithstanding the dreadful consequences which some Honorable members appear to apprehend from the passing of this measure, it is not nearly so drastic ns is the New South Wales Act. All I desire to do is to make my position absolutely, clear. I feel that I cannot, under any circumstances, support the Opposition, composed as it is, and led by the individual who is at its head. Whatever may be the result, even though I stand alone. I shall be consistent - 1 shall not be consistent in my inconsistency. I am not going to sacrifice my principles for the sake of office, and I do not intend to form one of a protectionist tail under a discredited free-trade leader.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I desire to say that the honorable member for Hume stated that I had accused him of inconsistency in connexion with the vote which he gave with reference to the extension of the operation of the Bill to public servants. What I did say was that the honorable member voted for the exclusion of agricultural labourers from the operation of the Bill, although, as a member of the Deakin Government, he was one of those who introduced the Bill, which originally embraced the agricultural industry. The honorable member also stated that I had accused the Government of undue delay in dealing with this Bill. I made no such statement. I commended the Government for the despatch with which they had dealt with the measure, but I did say that since clause 48 had previously been before the Committee, the Government had had something like a month for reflection, and that their suggested amendment represented their mature judgment.
– T am sorry to see so much heat imparted to the debate by some honorable members. There is no necessity for any extraordinary trouble over the matter. As a party, we are game to die to-night. There is no hesitation on our part. For the three months during which I have been sitting on this side of the House I have felt like a muzzled Rocky Mountain tiger cat, and the sooner we can go over to the Opposition benches, the better I shall’ be pleased.
I do not see why the prospect of the right honorable member for East Sydney coming over to this side of the House should arouse any great excitement. What we object to is the way in which the Opposition are taking advantage of the Government. No opportunity is being afforded to honorable members to discuss the vital issues before the country. If the right honorable member for East Sydney had moved a no-> confidence motion, and succeeded in ejecting the Government from the Treasury benches, we should have been satisfied. Under present conditions, however, we are absolutely muzzled, because we are prevented from discussing anything but clause 48. The action of the Opposition might be all right, viewed from the stand-point of the Tammany Hall bludgers or the sand-baggers of Pennsylvania or the Louisiana Kuklux clans, but it is altogether out of place in a British Legislature. Ever since I have been here, British institutions have been held up to me as the glorious apotheosis of liberty and righteousness. We are not troubled at the prospect of crossing over to the other side of the House, but we should like to have an opportunity to discuss clause 48 in Committee. How can we go into Committee, when the numbers are against us ? I do not blame the right honorable . member for East Sydney. He is playing the political’ game. ‘
– He is playing a very dirty game.
– It is a Tammany Hall game. I had hoped that there would be no political trickery or dodgery in this Parliament, but we now have presented to us a sorrowful and pathetic sight. When I look across the chamber and see the sadness depicted in the faces of honorable members opposite, I realize that in their heart of hearts they feel ashamed of what they are doing. I ask them to repent.
An Honorable Member. - Ask them to testify.
– I do not ask them to speak, because they have the numbers. It is for those who have not the numbers to speak. The essence of democratic government consists in the preservation of human rights, and no . scheming or trickery should be indulged in which would endanger those rights. Honorable members opposite have set themselves up as the party of negation. In this great Parliament of the Commonwealth we are absolutely tied up. I have known nothing like it in the United States Congress. When that body was discussing the great Ben Butler case, there was nothing like that which we now see here. I admit that the Labour Government have not occupied the Treasury benches for any great length of time.
– That has nothing to do with clause 48.
– I quite agree with you, sir; but nearly all the great discussions that we have had in this House have turned upon matters that have had nothing to do with the question before the Chair. I understand that a majority of honorable members are opposed to the recommittal of this clause. It is absolutely certain, therefore, that it cannot be recommitted, and if that be so, what is the use of endeavouring to recommit it? It must be painfully evident to all that there is a section of this House which does not exactly know where it is. Either honorable members or the Ministerial supporters are at sea. After the skipper of a vessel has been drifting at sea, in storm and darkness, for a prolonged period, what is the first thing which he endeavours to do? He endeavours to ascertain his bearings. I wish to ‘ascertain our bearings, so that we may determine exactly our position. When speaking upon this question, some time ago. the honorable member for Franklin declared that the miners of the West Coast of Tasmania are not in favour of granting a preference to unionists.
– I did not say that.
– Well, the honorable member said something to that effect. I hold in my hand a letter which I have received from the secretary of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, at Zeehan, bearing upon this point. This communication is important, as showing that the people of the West Coast of Tasmania are favorable to the extension of a preference to unionists.
– How many persons resident in that locality belong to that union ?
– There is a great crowd in Zeehan.
– No objection can be urged against a preference being granted to them if they constitute a majority.
– I am not prepared to say that they do constitute a ma jority. The letter to which I have referred reads -
Mr. K. O’Malley, M.H.R.
Dear Sir, - During the debate on the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill now before the Federal House, a statement was made by Mr. Mcwilliams that the workers of Tasmania were satisfied with the existing state of affairs, and did not desire arbitration. This has caused a great deal of adverse comment here on the West Coast, where the population is more or less of a cosmopolitan description, being composed of workers who have travelled the whole, not only of Tasmania, but in most cases of the Commonwealth. The feeling here, which, I believe, is shared by the workers throughout Tasmania, is that the passing of the Arbitration Act will mark a new era in the history (industrially) of. every portion of Australia ; and in place of wishing to revert to the old order of things, we look forward to the passing of the Arbitration Bill as a further step in the march of progress and democracy. I trust that if this expression of dissent from the opinions expressed by the member for Franklin will assist you or any member of the Ministry in their efforts to place this important and progressive measure on the Statute Book of the Commonwealth you will not hesitate to use it. With every good wish for your continued prosperity, and regards from’ inquiring friends,
I am, yours sincerely,
– Does the honorable member say that that communication relates to the proposal to grant a preference to unionists ?
– Indirectly it does. It is not couched in the language of a lawyer, but in that of the ordinary miner.
– The question immediately before the Chair is not the passing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but the recommittal of a clause which relates to the granting of a preference to unionists.
– Exactly. That is the position which these miners take up. They say that without a preference to unionists the Bill will prove inoperative.
– Many honorable members will vote against that clause from a desire to kill the measure.
– I would not say that, because I do not think that we have a right to attribute ulterior motives to one another. I wish to put the position as fairly as possible. In the absence of this provision, can any honorable member assure me that there is any power on earth to enforce an award against an individual workman? If a wealthy individual against whom judgment has been recorded in a civil action fails to satisfy that judgment, his property can be sold at public auction. But if a preference is not granted to unionists, how can any award of the Arbitration Court be enforced against the individual workman? Such a preference must be granted, because the trades unions represent the capital of their members. Personally, I should much prefer to institute an action against a strong unionist organization than against a solitary workman. How can we extract blood from a stone? Honorable members are being starved upon a stipend of ^400 a year ; but what I wish to know is how we can enforce an award against the individual work’man.
– A member of Parliament still has Dower to strike.
– I am not at liberty to strike. That liberty was taken away from me, when I had to spend so much money in fighting my election. I do not think that my honorable friends opposite have studied this question. They have been consumed with too great an anxiety to displace the Ministry. I know that the right honorable member for East Sydney is usually a most reasonable individual. But, reasoning with a man who has renounced his reason, is like administering medicine to a dead mule. It. is inefficacious. No man is capable of expressing an opinion unless he can think for himself. ,
– A man requires something to think with.
– My honorable friend will never be troubled by his thinker. The more we examine this question from a financial stand-point, the more we shall come to the conclusion that labour must be organized. I firmly believe that honorable members opposite are labouring under a frightful hallucination. In their anxiety to jump the seats of the present Ministry they have neglected to study this question.
– What question?
– The honorable member should go home and sleep upon it. I believe that he is open to reason, but he should recollect that prejudice is the deadliest enemy of investigation.
– Four twelves.
– I do not know whether the honorable member has ever visited the Rocky Mountains, but if he has, he is probably familiar with the Rocky Mountain flea. With that insect, it is a case of “ Now you have him, now you haven’t,” but he is always bothering one. I am anxious to put this matter so clearly that even the most unintelligent may understand it. There is no reason why we should attempt to destroy each other. This is a socialistic House, and we are all partners.
– Except in the matter of allowances.
– The time will come when Ministers will have to divide with the brethren.
– There will be no trouble then.
– I shall not deny the fact that I believe that the Labour Party have, in one respect, set a bad example.
– The honorable member must discuss the question before the Chair.
– It is remarkable how a man will wander away from the question. I believe in preference to unionists, and think that we should give effect to that principle in the Bill. I am anxious that honorable members should consider this question in an impartial manner, and, banishing all sordid considerations, endeavour to deal with it on its merits. I appeal to honorable members to say how an award could be enforced if each individual in the land had to be dealt with separately?
– No one proposes anything of the kind.
– If it were merely necessary to found organizations consisting of 100 members each, and having only a few pounds at their disposal - the moneys of the unions on which they were based being kept entirely apart from the organizations themselves - it would be impossible to give effect to any award imposing penalties upon them. That, however, would be the position if the course proposed by the Opposition were adopted. I should like honorable members not to be carried away by the awful fears which some appear to entertain in regard to members of the Labour Party. They are no more dangerous than are members of any other party in the House. They are endeavouring to carry out that which they believe to be in accordance with the principles of justice. Some persons have not so clear a conception of the principles of justice as have others, but every member of the Labour Party is filled with his mission to repletion. So far as this question is concerned, the Labour Party are missionaries among the heathen. Honorable members remember that the cannibals in Fiji used to eat missionaries-
– That question has nothing to do with the matter before the House.
– I bow to your ruling, sir.
– It shows a preference.
– A preference to unionists for white men, as missionaries are unionists. After cannibalism was abolished, they had to substitute mutton for missionary.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I agree with you, sir. Unions may exist among savages. We had various unions among the Yaqui Indians in Mexico, and the Grand Sagamore used to sit back in his chair, while the members fell at his feet to worship him. We are making a great mistake in proposing to deal with this question without carefully investigating it. It is proposed to turn out of office a Ministry which, during its short career, has set a splendid example to the world. I should not object so strongly to their defeat if it took place after the presentation of our case in the clearest possible way, so that the people might judge for themselves of the attitude which we take up. But I seriously object to the action of the Opposition, for we have no such opportunity to discuss the general question as we should have if a straight-out motion of want of confidence were submitted. Many persons condemn the Labour Party - men who have no chance to place their views before the country by means of the press. Could the evil which is in the minds of our opponents die with them, and their bad example also, we might enjoy the luxury of forgetting all about them. That, however, cannot be, because the evil which men do must live after them. The action which honorable members of the Opposition are now taking against the Government may recoil on them with tenfold strength long before they anticipate anything of the kind. Evil and the example of evil acquire tenfold strength when they speak from the grave. We have good memories, and we shall never forget this night. It may be necessary for us to metaphorically gibbet those who are treating the Government in this unchristian, unrighteous, and dishonorable manner, so that with the steel pen of a century to come their names will be written so high, and in letters so black, that their children’s children will be ashamed to bear their name. I am sad to-night. When I think of honorable members opposite, after a struggle for protection-
– The honorable member is again wandering away from the subject.
– I admit, sir> that. I am. It is because I cannot touch the main question that I feel so sad. Tonight we see among the ranks of the Opposition honorable members, whom we assited to carry the great policy of protection, standing up and denouncing us.
– Not all of them.
– No; thank the Lord, there is one saved. I have witnessed sad scenes in the United States of America, but have never seen so sad a spectacle as that which now confronts me. We may be mistaken, we may feel that we cannot endure it-
– I must ask the honorable member to debate the clause, or to cease speaking.
– I come back to the consideration of clause 48. I do not desire in any way to come into conflict with the Chair, but I should like to point out that there is at least one essential difference between capital and labour. Labour is an organization possessing a soul, a heart, and a conscience, while capital is an organization that is soulless, heartless, grasping, and vicious.
– There is no soul in clause 48.
– I am sorry to say there is not.
– It has been torn out nl it.
– That is so. I am really amazed that Ministers should have been so foolish as to make this a vital question. If ever I obtained office the Opposition would have a difficulty in displacing me. They would not put me out in such a light and easy way.
– -That has nothing to do with the question.
– I desire to be absolutely fair, and I wish to know what the Opposition propose in lieu of the Government amendment.
– The proviso already in the clause.
– But it will hot cover the ground. It certainly does not mean that a “unionist shall have preference. Have honorable members opposite any conception of that which the workers are surrendering in submitting themselves and all trade disputes to a Justice of the High Court ? We know that a Justice of the High Court is nurtured, reared, and trained in a school remote from that of the vast multitudes who toil in poverty year after year. These people are prepared to surrender the right to strike and to submit themselves to the Court, and what is to be given them in return ? At the root of this attack on labour there is the feeling that, for some reason or other, an ordinary workman is made of inferior clay as compared with that of which the so-called better classes are composed. The goldplated aristocrats, whose bank overdrafts are their patents of nobility, think that the ideal State for ordinary workmen is that of a hatdoffing peasantry ; and that they should intrust all their hopes and prospects to the keeping of these unattached slave masters. Unions have throughout the world awakened millions of people to a sense of community pf interest, to sentiments of comradeship, and to the power of associnted effort to such an extent that to-day philosophers and other good men, who are devoting themselves to an investigation of the troubles caused by poverty, have arrived at the conclusion that monopoly is the arch-enemy of the workers and of the people. If that be the case, and if the unions have worked to secure the uplifting of the wage-earners, why should they now be cast aside and branded as bodies of criminals? That is what the clause, as it stands, would do.
– Preference is monopoly.
– It would be where there was a vast aggregation of money ; but it is never a monopoly when you say to the working men, “ Organize, and form yourselves into associations, so that we may deal with you.” There is no greater unionist than is the honorable member for South Sydney ; but to-night he has wandered from the true path of unionism, as even the best Christian may go astray when he gets into bad company. The honorable member must not think that I have not a great respect for him, however. We ought not to take this vote suddenly. We ought to tryto look into the question.
– Why should not the vote be taken?
– Are honorable members anxious for it?
– If they are ready to die, it is all right. I do not wish to talk for hours, if there fs nothing to be gained by doing so.
– The honorable member is delivering the funeral oration of the Government.
– The Ministry is being sacrificed to the commercial and corporate greed of Australia.
– At the mandate of the Employers’ ‘Federation.
– I would not say anything like that. But the libertyloving, truthful workers of Australia, the great toilers of this country, if they cannot get justice from this House, may eventually be forced to demand the restoration of the Mosaic law, which requires “ an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” During the three months that the Ministry have been in office, they have proved themselves to be as good administrators as we have had in Australasia, and as there have been anywhere else in the world. In this southern, sunny land we may yet see . a monument erected which will for ever perpetuate the era when corporate and commercial aggression met its doom,, and humanity achieved its regeneration.
– I considered that the few words which I may say were ill-suited to so warm a temperature as we had in this Chamber a short time ago; but now that the honorable member for Darwin has brought the House again into good humour, what I have to say may not be so inappropriate. The limits of the discussion have, if I may say so, been very rightly narrowed by your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and in my remarks I shall narrow them still more. The question before the House is simply whether the Government shall be granted leave to recommit one of the gravest and most difficult clauses to frame which there is in the Bill. Some honorable members wish to refuse the request for recommittal, and they are, of course, perfectly entitled to do so. But the effect of their action will be that’ a proviso,” which all must admit was inserted without argument and without discussion, by a snatch majority, when honorable members were hurrying away to catch the trains to other States, cannot be re-discussed.
– Discussed, nott rediscussed.
– Yes, discussed; Because it has never yet been discussed. Honorable members who were present on the occasion, remember that the Committee had been wearied with the discussion of other amendments.
– With the discussion of clause 48.
– With the discussion of amendments in that clause. The Prime Minister at last arranged to allow a certain amendment to be accepted. Another amendment was rejected, and then the honorable and learned member for Corinella moved the proviso of which he had given notice. It is quite true that it had been printed and circulated; but ‘ he said, “I will not argue it, if Ministers will not do so”; and Ministers did not argue if. There was a division forthwith, and the Government were beaten. That proviso has not yet been discussed. Any one who wishes to refer to the proceedings will find them recorded on page 2689 of the Hansard report for the current session, so that I am speaking by the card. Ministers who are responsible to the House and to the country for this grave measure ask the House, under these circumstances, not to merely consider the amendment which they propose to move, but to see whether some device cannot be found, by the ingenuity of honorable members, which will make the proviso workable. Apparently a majority, led by one or two, are inclined not to give us leave to do this. If the action of the House is meant to be an insult, a slap in the face to Ministers, we must take it as such. Honorable members are quite entitled to act as they have acted; but it is not the way in which statesmen act. It is not right to refuse to discuss the amendment of a proviso which was inserted in such a grave clause as that now before the House under the circumstances which I have detailed. I assure honorable members that I have studied the proviso with the utmost care, and I have to warn them that I have come to the conclusion, which is shared byothers whose opinions I regard very highly, that it is most unskilfully drawn, and if passed into law is likely to cause great difficult)’ to the President of the Court. Furthermore, it certainly will not carry out the object which its mover has expressed himself as desirous of carrying out. I say that, knowing that- 1 am speaking in some respects to . deaf ears ; but I think it is my duty to let the House know that the proviso will not achieve the object which its mover, and those who have supported it, think it will achieve. If honorable members will look for a moment at its concluding words, they will see that before a preference is granted there is required a majority, “ of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.” Who are those who are “ affected by the award ?” I should think that they are not merely those who are bound by it, but their families and others as well. But, in order to come to graver matters, I will assume that “affected by the award” means “ bound by the award:” The proviso, however, assumes that it is only by an award that preference can be given. That is a mistake. Preference may also be given by an order. Clause 48 itself allows preference to be given by an order; but there is no proviso that there must be it majority of those who are to be affected by the order. That is not the worst of it. Let us go a step further. The proviso says, “ those who have interests in common with the applicants.” Who are they ? The words used are not “ those who are in the industry,” but “those who have interests in common with the applicants.”
– Every workman in Australia.
– That may or may not be; but let me give the House a concrete instance. Let me assume that an award is made affecting all seamen, amongst whom are unionists and nonunionists, including lascars in receipt of, perhaps, 15s. per week. Incidentally, I might observe that honorable members who say that where workmen are not united they do not get fair play are perfectly correct. Suppose that an award is made affecting all seamen, and application is made for the granting of a preference to unionists, who will be “ those who have interests in common with the applicants “ ? Surely not the lascars, and those who are not united, bur the unionists themselves, and it will be easy to obtain a majority of unionists in favour of the granting of the preference. The honorable and learned member for
Corinella, who is not now present, is i man of brains, and deserves great credit for the manner in which he prepares his work. He would be the first to admit that the clause needs to be reconsidered.
– So does the proposal of the honorable and learned gentleman. There is more slovenly drafting in it. The words “ the industry affected “ would include both sides.
– The honorable member is entitled to express his opinion on the drafting to which he alludes. I am quite willing to take responsibility for it, though it happens that it was not mine. What I say is that the Government are not attempting to thrust any amendment down the throats of honorable members. We wish that the clause shall be recommitted and reconsidered, and we are determined that the country shall know what our position is.
– Is it not monstrous that the House should be asked to reconsider a clause which may take the bread out of men’s mouths?
– I wish that we could take words out of some men’s mouths. I say with all respect that the phraseology of the proviso is obscure. Honorable members opposite, however, do not see fit to trust the House to put it right. They will not even allow their own meaning to be rightly expressed, and to be made clear. They say, “ We are opposed to a recommittal. We shall not have any discussion, we shall limit the debate, we shall prevent the Ministerial supporters from expressing their minds with regard to the line of conduct that has been pursued, and we shall also secure the vote of one honorable member whose vote will count two in the division, and that will give us a majority.”
– Does the AttorneyGeneral desire the recommittal merely in order to remedy the drafting?
– I wish to remedy the drafting in order to effect my object, and I also wish my honorable and learned friend, the member for Corinella, to remedy the drafting of his amendment in order to prevent the provision from being nonsensical. The only question at present is, are we going to trust the House with the task of converting a stupid clause into one which will be effective? Afterwards, when we come to the clause - if we ever get to it - some honorable members may say that they wish it to read in one way, whilst I may wish to adopt other phraseology. Surely that will be the time to discuss it. A number of honorable members have sought to persuade us that we should have no alternative but to adopt the Government proposal, or allow the proviso to stand. That, however, is not the case. The question is, is the House to be trusted, or not. Is it to be allowed an opportunity to put the clause right, and to make its meaning clear? I feel that I have no right to complain of the action taken.. As a Ministry we can submit. We came into office with out seeking it, and we shall go out without having disgraced ourselves. We came into office without cadging, and we shall go out without cringing. All that I can say is that our occupancy of office has provided a beneficial lesson for the country, which will see that a Labour Ministry has been displaced before it has committed any fault of administration, before it has proposed anything contrary to the programme put forward by its leaders at the outset. I must say that I think it is fortunate for us that the present course has been followed by the Opposition. It might have been difficult for us to explain from the platform, to those who are not versed in the intricacies of unionism and arbitration, the difference between the clause as it stands and as it would appear if the Government proposal were adopted. When, however, it comes to a question of taking the conduct of the business of the House, and the ordinary machinery of Government out of the hands of Ministers, we can make our position clear to the constituencies. We can show that, because the Ministry has been sneered at as a Labour Ministry by snobs, therefore, it has been regarded as not entitled to fair play. If the clause be not rediscussed, we shall be able to go to the outside public untrammelled. Our hands will not be tied, even by the amendment which we have put before the House. We shall be absolutely free. I think we went to the utmost limits in that amendment. I am not at all sure that we did not go too far; but we went so far in order to save the Bill from being wrecked. Whenever the people ask for bread, whatever we do - no matter what the consequences may be - we shall not give them a stone. When the people are asking for an Arbitration Bill which will work, we shall not give them a Bill which will not work. We were quite willing to exclude from the scope of the Bill for the present the agricultural industry, domestic occupations, and so forth, to which the House did not think the Bill should apply. But when it becomes a question of amending the Bill in such a way as to make it useless for any industry we hold our hands and say, “ No ; we will have nothing of the sort.” I regretted to hear the speech delivered by the honorable member for Moira, whom I have respected extremely in the Victorian Parliament and here. I did not understand the unjust way in which he treated the action of the Ministry in regard to the Bill now before us and the Seat of Government Bill. I ask any fair man if we have taken any unfair advantage, or have been guilty of any trickery. I am quite sure when the honorable member comes to think of it, he will see that this Ministry, whatever its faults may have been, has acted honorably and above board, and has not been guilty of any underground engineering; that it has fought for its principles, that it has not sought office, and that it will leave it with a good record and an unstained flag. The right honorable member for East Sydney is not here. He has always spoken of this measure as one embodying “ a great reform.”A certain air of cynical irony has characterized the right honorable gentleman, but still that is the expression that has been recorded in Hansard, and that can be referred to when there is need. He has spoken of this as a great reform. I suppose because it is a great reform it is to be whittled away as much as possible - the greater it is, the more can be cut off. I am surprised at the position taken up with regard to clause 48 by my friend the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, whom I have followed with great interest and great enthusiasm. The honorable and learned member voted for the insertion of the proviso proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable and learned member said that he had not voted against a single line of the Bill he introduced.
– Hear, hear.
– That is true, but although it is literally true, it conveys an impression which I am sure the honorable and learned member would not wish to convey.
– I said that I had voted for two alterations.
– Yes, but the point is that it is not necessary to cut a clause, or even a line, out of a Bill in order to injure it. You may kill a man as well by poisoning him as by cutting a piece out of him, and you_can kill a Bill as effectually by inserting a proviso as by taking one out of it. We never entertained the least idea that the honorable and ‘ learned member would favour the proviso. He never suggested it in his great second-reading speech on the Bill. We brought down clause 48 in the exact form in which it had been proposed by the’ honorable and learned member, and without any warning to us, the proviso was inserted,’ with the assistance of the honorable and learned member.
– The Attorney-General is blaming the honorable and learned member for making two alterations, whereas twentythree alterations are proposed by the Government.
– I can assure the honorable and learned member that I was not referring to him when I was speaking just now. The best test of the present situation is this: Let. us talk of this great reform. The right honorable member for East Sydney frequently reiterates that this is a great reform. Let us see upon which side those who are honestly opposed to all arbitration matters are going to vote on this occasion.
– The honorable member who proposed arbitration - the honorable and learned.member for Ballarat - is voting on this side.
– The honorable member is very ready at edging away from the point. The point is, upon which side are the avowed opponents of the Arbitration Bill going to vote?
– They are wreckers of the Bill.
– They put the Ministry on the Treasury benches.
– We did not thank them for it.
– Ministers were very pleased to accept their assistance.
– That is not true.
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– All I desire to say is that not only will the proviso not have the effect which the honorable and learned member for Corinella wishes, but it will prove unworkable. ‘ The majority of those engaged in any industry cannot be ascertained unless a census is taken. It will be necessary to have practically an electoral roll, practically a revision court, and practically a referendum, and all the machinery necessary for ascertaining who are on this side or on that. Other honorable members have dealt with this measure with a grasp and grip which only experience, can give, and I am not in the position to follow them. I can only avow myself to be convinced by the experience gained in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia that the very best thing for Australia is a good Arbitration Bill, with a very strong preference clause. I do not think that an arbitration measure can be worked without preference to unionists. I know enough from my experience in regard to union delegates having been “ spotted “ by employers, and told that they must stand down without any reason being given. I feel convinced that, unless a preference is given to unionists, the employers will be able to weed out whenever it suits them those men who stand up for the rights of their fellows. I thank honorable members for having listened to me for so long. I do not speak at any great length as a rule, and I do not propose to extend my remarks beyond reiterating that the clause is vague and imperfect, and will not carry out the purposes of its framers.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Moira is not present. Before he left I directed his attention to certain remarks which he made with regard to the honorable member for Barrier, and he was manly enough to withdraw them. He declared that he would never be a party to voting for preference to unionists unless it was qualified, after hearing the honorable member for Barrier say that the unions should be political machines, and their funds should be used for political purposes. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Barrier did not say that, and did not speak between the vote for preference to unionists and the vote for the qualification. I have purposely refrained from speaking upon this Bill in order to facilitate its passage through the House. I do not suppose that any honorable member will deny that most of the speeches which have been delivered upon it have emanated from the Opposition side of the Chamber. A reference to Hansard will establish that fact. An other reason why I did not address myself to this measure was that the other Chamber is absolutely unable to proceed with its legislative work for lack of business. At the present time it is anxiously waiting for this Bill. That House represents the democracy of Australia by the votes of the whole of the States. Shall it be said that honorable members denied to the other branch of the Legislature an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon this Bill ? I confess that I was fairly staggered by the incontestable proof which the Attorney-General advanced that this very provision has never been debated. In the Victorian Parliament I have seen many Ministries displaced from office, but I have never known methods to be employed similar to those which are being adopted in the present instance. This Government would have welcomed a straight-out want of confidence motion, the discussion upon which would not have been limited. During the two election contests for the representation of Melbourne in this House, the dominant questions raised had reference to protection and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. After having had two elections and a law suit crammed into the brief space of two and a half months, honorable members will understand that a a little rest would be acceptable to me. Nevertheless, so fond am I of fighting, that if honorable members opposite are willing to appeal to the country, I shall gladly welcome the opportunity of again facing my constituents. Who is responsible for the delay in the passing of this Bill? The columns of Hansard will show that the fault does not rest with the Ministerial supporters. Is it not a significant circumstance that upon an amendment affecting the existence of the Government, neither of the two leaders of the Opposition have uttered a single word? Where are those leaders now? They should be seated at the table of the House. It seems to me that the honorable and learned member for Corinella must have studied the words of the great American jurist - one of the greatest jurists in the world - who said that -
For the betrayer of a country or of a great cause we have not far to seek. We shall find him in the lawyer ready-made.
I know that the honorable and learned member for Corinella acted in a similar manner in the Victorian Parliament, and I am sure that he regretted his action. It is true that by Act of Parliament he could « call himself, as Minister, “honorable,” but’ his constituents did not indorse his right to that title. I am sorry to have to say that. No man ever entered parliamentary life with better opportunities. His keenest admirers, however, will experience a feeling of regret when they see him attempting by a legal quibble of this kind, to oust the Government from office. Personally, I should much prefer to support the right honorable member for East Sydney, because I have studied a record of the measures which he passed when Premier of New South Wales, than the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. The former, with the assistance of the Labour Party, was instrumental in placing some very good laws upon the statute-book of that State. But I cannot find any record of a single good measure which has been passed at the instance of the honorable and learned member, for Ballarat, and I challenge anybody else to point to one.
– Who introduced the first Factories Bill?
– But did not I receive my first cold douche when, a few weeks after the magnificent meeting which he addressed in the Melbourne Town Hall,. I asked him if he would make an attempt to put down sweating? His reply was, “ How can we put down sweating ?”
– What about the Factories Act?
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat never accomplished as much good in the Victorian Parliament as did the honorable member for Echuca. Does any honorable member of this House affirm that it is possible to give effect to the principles contained in this Bill unless a preference be granted to unionists? Why do honorable members object to the Government proposal ? I do not believe that there is any member in this House who wishes to see a continuance of the accursed system of strikes. The legal union is the strongest union in the world.
– But the learned professions are privileged.
– They will not be privileged when the proletariat obtain the voting power, when the universities of the world are thrown open to the children of the workers. The honorable member for Franklin declared that it was slavery to compel a man to conform to the judgment of the Arbitration Court. I admit that the honorable member is an honest opponent, but his criticism of the Bill reminds me very forcibly of those persons who used to argue that the prosperity of England would disappear if the employment of child labour were prevented by the Factories Act. I am sure that if he had read the words used in this connexion by one of the greatest of English nobles - I refer to Lord Shaftesbury - he would never forget them. In volume I., page 418, of his Life by Edwin Hodder, his Lordship says : -
We were told that without the employment of child labour the pits could not possibly be worked with a profit, for after a certain age the vertebrae of the back do not conform to the required position.
The backbone of the child - if it were too old - could not bend to the proper position. Consequently, children of five years of age were preferred, and they died like flies in a summer swamp. The honorable member for Dalley, in his straightforward way, has declared that he is not a member of the Labour Party, and that he always has to fight its candidates. I trust that they will always fight him” fairly. He says that he wishes to secure a workable measure. But is he not aware that this particular clause has never been properly considered? How does he propose to secure its amendment. Would it not be better for the Bill to be reconsidered in Committee, and afterwards transmitted to the other Chamber, so that its members might have an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it? The Senate is a more democratic Chamber than is this House. Why should we prevent its members from voicing their opinion upon one of the most important questions which could possibly occupy their attention ? What is more important than the avoidance of strikes? I hold that nobody can advocate that method of settling industrial disputes without doing violence to his intelligence. I am perfectly satisfied that if the electors were consulted as to whether they would prefer this Bill in the form in which the Government desire that it shall be passed, or in the form which its opponents advocate, they would unhesitatingly declare in favour of the Ministry. They wish to obtain a workable Bill. Since I was returned to this House, upon 30th March last - some four months ago - I have not occupied ten minutes in discussing, the proposals contained in this measure. If it is now to be thrown aside, the fault does not rest with the Ministry, or with their supporters. It chiefly rests with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. One never knows where he is going, because he possesses no more backbone than does a jelly fish.
– That is a most improper and very unfair remark to make. He is a better man than is the honorable member.
– I do not think that he is, and I know that in every way I am a better man than is the honorable and learned member who interjects. With the mighty bower which .the honorable and learned member for Ballarat- had behind him, he could have passed an Arbitration Act in Victoria years ago. The mightiest power in Victoria was at his beck and call for fifteen years, and had he desired he might have been Premier of Victoria years ago.
– He might have had the power of a Czar.
– He might, at all events, have been a kind of dictator. There is no such power as that to which I am referring in New South Wales, and during all this period the honorable and learned member had its full support. I wish that he had the backbone of the grey-haired man who has so long exercised that power; if he had democracy would be the better for it. The four months which we have devoted to the consideration of this Bill are to be absolutely wasted. I could have wished that the late Government had been able to pass the Bill into law. One honorable member has said that all should be equal in the eye of the law. It was because of that belief that we endeavoured to extend the provisions of the Bill to the public servants of the States and of the Commonwealth. Would it not have been better for the welfare of the Commonwealth had this Bill become law long ago? Do I not know that many cigar-makers are today walking the streets of Melbourne in search of employment, ar.d that their position is due to the absence of such a law as this? Did I not meet last week a cigar-maker who had found it necessary to leave Melbourne for Sydney to earn a livelihood because of the action taken by a syndicate or a monopoly in this State? That syndicate is employing girls in South Australia to manufacture cigars at such low rates that many men in this city have been thrown out of employment. That would not have been possible had this Bill been passed into law. Men are being deprived of an opportunity to earn a livelihood as cigar manufacturers simply because of the action of this syndicate, which would rob any one in the tobacco trade. If a Royal Commission were appointed to deal with the industry the disclosures which would follow would be almost as bad as the iniquitous and infamous proceedings which have been brought to light by the Butter Commission. What will be the result of the consideration which we have given to this Bill during the last four months? I suppose that if the Government be defeated, and a dissolution does not follow, the incoming Ministry will require an adjournment of something like three weeks, and that we shall then be called upon to go over the whole fight again. If we succeed in carrying the Bill into law by December next we shall be fortunate.
– We shall npt see the Bill again.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member hopes with me that that will not be the case. It ls only by such a Bill as this that we may avoid strikes.
– The honorable member need not expect to see such a Bill supported by the incoming Government.
– I hope that if, as the result of the attitude which we have taken up in regard to clause 48, the Bill be lost, our masters - the public - will take action. If a referendum were taken the whole question would be very speedily settled. The people of Australia would demand the passing of this Bill, and we should have to carry out their behest. If there is to be a dissolution, I shall gladly welcome it. I shall go into the fight with a light and happy heart ; but I do hope that, if we are returned, we shall come back pledged not to grant a preference to unionists subject to all sorts of restriction, but to give the unions some tangible security. We have no desire to lean to either side. Those who ask for preference to unionists are willing that the Bill shall be so framed as to provide that, when unions are in the wrong, they shall be liable to punishment. We are quite willing that, when a union is at fault, it shall be liable to be fined, just as an employer, who is in the wrong, should be liable to punishment. I have to-day experienced the bitterness of seeing in our gallery some of the men who organized the system now in operation in Adelaide, which has had the effect of robbing many men of their means of employment.
This state of affairs would not be possible if a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act were in operation. There is no cigar-maker in Australia who does not deplore the absence of such a measure, and I believe I may, say the same of those engaged in every industry. I cheerfully face the vote which is to be taken on this question, and I am sure that the Government do not fear it. If a dissolution be granted as the result of the defeat of the Ministry, I am sure that the honorable member for Moira will cheerfully face the consequence, and that even if his constituents wish him to object to the passing of the Bill in the form which we desire, they will admit that we should at least have had an opportunity to fairly discuss it.
– I wish to state in a very few words why I propose to vote against the honorable and learned member for Corinella’ s amendment. There are two considerations which appeal to me in connexion with this question. The first relates to the merits of the amendment which has been inserted in clause 48, and has given rise to this discussion, while the second deals with the merits of the amendment now before the Chair. With regard to the desirableness of preserving the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, as contrasted with the Government proposal, I think that there are various points which some of my honorable friends, who base their opposition to the recommittal of the clause upon their regard for non-unionists, would do well to consider. There cannot be the slightest doubt that whether we consider the interests of unionists or non-unionists, a fair comparison of the two amendments must tell heavily in favour of the Government proposal. Both proposals would permit preference to be granted. It cannot be too distinctly emphasized at this stage - having regard more particularly to the possibilities of the situation in the near future - that both proposals assume preference to be given to unionists under certain conditions. There should be no misunderstanding in regard to that point. It is a question not of refusing preference, or of voting that there shall be no preference, but of admitting preference, and of saying what are the fair terms under which it shall be allowed. From the stand-point of the unionists the Government proposal is infinitely superior, because it is workable, while the clause as it now stands is open to the animadversions which we have heard to-night from the AttorneyGeneral - animadversions which, to my mind, are nearly all, if not all, thoroughly well founded. The clause as it stands is a provision that may be evaded, and if not evaded, may render the whole proposal as to preference either illusory or harsh. So far as non-unionists are concerned, the proposal of the Government is; much fairer and much more liberal. The clause, as amended, on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, prohibits the granting of preference where it is not proven to the satisfaction of the Court that organizations making application represent a majority in number of the workers of the industry- It says nothing about competency. A mere majority of one, without any other condition, would enable the Court to give any preference that it pleased. On the other hand, the Government proposal, while being much more workable in the interests of unionism, would conserve the interests of nonunionists. It provides that the Court shall not merely have regard to the bare majority in number; but that it shall see whether the unionists making application substantially represent the industry, both in numbers and in competency.
– How would the Court decide the question of competency?
– The Court would not be required to decide what is competency.
– Then the Government proposal is only a make shift?
– The Court will hot be required to decide the competency of workers, but to determine whether the unionists’ substantially represent the industry in point of competency.
– What is the meaning of “ substantially ?”
– Something more than the honorable member’s interjection.
– It is too substantial for the honorable and learned member to answer.
– If we compare the merits of the two proposals - I was going to say before the House - one of which is already embodied in the clause, while the other cannot be brought before us, although it is within our cognisance, I have no hesitation in saying it must be recognised that the Government proposition would be fairer to the Bill, fairer to unionists, and much fairer to non-unionists. If, therefore, my honorable friends on this side of the House, who propose to vote against the Government on this occasion, are sincerely actuated by a desire to preserve the interests of non-unionists, they should cast their votes with the other side. The other phase of the question is, what is the real meaning of the amendment immediately before the House. I thoroughly indorse what has been said as to its extraordinary nature. I cannot conceive how any honorable member, desiring fairly to treat this question as a matter to be debated, and to be determined,- could refuse to allow the Government an opportunity to deal with the clause in Committee. The ordinary course of Parliamentary procedure is to deal with such a question in Committee. What is to happen if that course be not followed?
– In this case a full House has given expression to its opinion. Every vote was accounted for.
– The honorable and learned member has, perhaps, forgotten that which is within the knowledge of the House, and which has been repeated to-night - that the division which led to the amendment of the clause, on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, was taken in the last hours of the week. It was taken unexpectedly. The proposal of that honorable and learned member was that the vote should take place without debate. The Prime Minister expressed the view that he had already sufficiently met the wishes of the House, but he consented courteously, to meet the convenience of the honorable and learned member and others, who desired to leave, and allowed the division to be taken without debate. Whatever the decision may have been, it was unfortunate that so important and vital a matter - for it was a vital matter, however we may regard the merits of the question - should have been determined without proper and ordinary consideration.
– Is not the House now satisfied?
– If the honorable member is perfectly satisfied of the strength of his position, why does he not allow the Governmnent to take the Bill into Committee, and debate the clause there? Of what is he afraid ? If he is satisfied of the strength of his argument, why does he not welcome the opportunity to take the Bill into Committee and have the matter discussed ? I never yet knew of an instance in which a man who was convinced of the strength of his argument feared to put it to the test. I have had some years of experience in parliamentary government, and 1 have never yet known an honorable member who was convinced that his position was right, and who yet refused to his opponents the opportunity to test it.
– We are testing the: matter now. Let us get to the vote.
– The Government cannot turn any more votes, so what is the use of wasting time?
– The right honorable member is afraid of light being thrown on this subject.
– He must not be in too great a hurry to wear his crown.
– He is very anxious; he has been out of office for a long time.
– We should have regard, not to the desire of any honorable member to sit upon the Treasury benches, but to the interests of hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen; and any course which burkes deliberation, which blocks improvement, and which amounts to the application of the closure, is not one which should commend itself to those who support and admire representative institutions. There is only one course marked out by our pal.liamentary procedure as a proper one to be followed in the present instance. If the only desire of honorable members is to fling an insult at the Government, and to oust it from office, whether it be in the right or in the wrong, the course now being taken may be the right one. But it is the invariable practice of Parliaments to allow a .Government to take its proposals into Committee, and to deal with them there upon their merits. In Committee objections can be answered, suggestions may be made, and there are no limitations beyond those imposed by his own reasonable discretion upon the number of times which a member can rise to discuss the matter. No ‘one would grudge any honorable member, the opportunity to speak more than once in Committee on a question of this magnitude. Yet, we are now discussing it in the House, where honorable members can speak only once. An honorable member who has spoken may hear arguments adduced in opposition to the views which he has put forward, but he has not an opportunity to reply. Beyond all other considerations, the course which is now being taken abridges the ordinary rights of debate in regard to the question.
– Will the honorable and learned member give an interpretation of the words “ substantial majority” ?
– I should say that they mean a greater majority than will vote against the Government upon this question. I do ‘ not wish to occupy more time than is necessary for the expression of my views. The strongest reason I have for voting as I intend to vote, is that I think it is only just that the Government should have a full and fair opportunity to place their proposals before honorable members. I do. not think that they will have the opportunity which they should have, and which the country desires that they should have - which perhaps, in the interests of fair play, the country will see that they have in the future - if they are blocked from taking this question into Committee. I know that it will be said of some honorable members that they were so satisfied with the correctness of their views upon this question, that they felt that there was no need for debate; that they were so imbued with the feeling that non-unionists are the persons to be protected, that they were prepared to go to any lengths, and beyond the fair limits of parliamentary warfare, to protect them.
-No. Fair play to all.
– Fair play to all ! Then why not give the Government fair play?
– We have discussed this matter over and over again, and the honorable and learned member knows it.
– I do not think that the Government have had fair play since they have come into office.
– That is perfectly true.
– The honorable and learned member’s statement is a mere assertion, and requires proof.
– They have had fairer play than they gave to the last Administration.
– I think it is common history that before the Government had done one single public act, efforts were made to dislodge them. I regard the amendment as the culmination of such efforts, and therefore I feel bound to give them fair play in this case, and to let them deal with the question on its merits.
– The Government have been perpetually saying that we will not challenge them.
– The Opposition are not game to meet us openly even now. They are creeping in.
– That is the way in which the last Administration got in.
– I intend to vote against the amendment. I feel as strongly as any honorable member can that there should be no coercion against any worker.
– No coercion for nonunionists.
– No coercion for nonunionists.
– That is what the honorable and learned member is trying to get.
– The honorable member forgets that the power which we desire to place in the Bill is a power which has been confided to the Judges in the various States. No one has yet been able to bring against them the charge that they have done anything socialistic, or to the detriment of non-unionists. Surely, we are not afraid to confide to a Justice of the High Court of Australia the power that has been confided to the Judges in the States. Does anybody believe that that high dignitary, clothed with all the power and force at his command, who will be under the domination of no party, who will have no fear of any party, nor hope of benefit from any one, will do anything socialistic? When we frame an Arbitration Bill - in which we do not say that preference shall be given, but merely that the Judge shall have power to give preference under very strict conditions, to prevent an evasion of the Act, and so that it may not be made a dead-letter - who is there in the community who can say that we are doing anything to coerce non-unionists ? We are doing nothing of the kind. But by whom do we heal that said ?
– By the opponents of the Bill.
– Let me remind the House that, in the interests of. the employ eis, we have framed clauses in this Bill which drive men into unions, in. order that thev may bring industrial disputes before the Court. All workers must join unions it they wish to bring their disputes before this tribunal. No dispute can be brought before the Court, except by a unionist. If we were to propose to disband the unions, and to provide that any number of non- organized workers should be able to bring their grievances before the Court, would not honorable members of the Opposition be against the provision? Of course, they would. They would say that unionists alone should have the opportunity to submit disputes to the Court. When the Court is told that it may grant preferences under certain circumstances which commend themselves to its good sense - and the proposal of the Government is that the applicants for the preference shall substantially represent not only in numbers, but in competency, the whole industry - what have my honorable friends to fear? Where is the coercion of nonunionists there? If I were to speak for a week I could not more fully express my views than I have done. Although I feel that we shall not be superior in numbers when the division is taken, I trust that we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have taken the right course, and have done our duty to the country and to the Ministry.
- Mr. Speaker .
– Bridge-builder number two !
– Bill-wrecker number one ! Not only is there a desire to prevent the Bill from going into Committee for the discussion of this clause, but there has been a wilful abstention on the part of some honorable members from the discussion of the merits of the proposal of the Government, and when an honorable member wishes to discuss it a taunt is hurled at him the moment he rises to speak. This is done by the members of the party who claim to give fair play to all. I think that in this matter the Government are not receiving fair play from the Opposition, and particularly from those who are not desirous of having the principle of compulsory arbitration placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has treated the House in this matter with a degree of fairness which has never been surpassed in this Parliament. The position he has taken up in regard to the Bill is that there are certain provisions in it which are vital, and other provisions which may be modified. One of the vital provisions is that which gives preference to unionists. But the honorable gentleman has allowed modifications which were never even hinted at during the secondreading debate. The leader of the Opposition has expressed himself as a firm believer in compulsory arbitration. He is not going to his constituency as an opponent of that principle. He does not believe in voluntary submission to a self-constituted board. He stands before the public of Australia as a believer in the principle of compulsory arbitration. He is also pledged to a coalition with the party led by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who is also a supporter of compulsory arbitration. Therefore, should we go to the country, there will be no misunderstanding as to the issue. It will be not whether there shall or shall not be compulsory arbitration, but whether there shall or shall not be fair discussion. That is the sole issue now. It is not a question of preference or no preference to unionists. The House has affirmed the principle of preference to unionists, and the question is now whether a small modification shall be made, and whether we shall have in the Bill a proviso which is workable or a proviso which is not workable. What position has the Prime Minister taken up in respect to the clause? The Bill was first introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, as Attorney-General in the Barton Government, and on each occasion on which the Bill has been before the House it has embodied the principle of preference to unionists, unmodified, and in exactly the sameterms that are adopted in the New South. Wales.. Western Australian, and New Zealand Acts.
– There is no provision for preference in the Western Australian Act.
– Perhaps the terms are not the same, but the effect is the same.
– The Court has refused to grant preference.
– Yes; the Court, in the exercise of its discretion, has refused to grant preference, but it has the power to give it all the same. The right honorable member has all along supported the principle of the Bill, and I respect him for it. He has always been a liberal man, and he is not in his right place among the Conservatives.
– I never intended to give preference to unionists.
– I am sorry to hear it. There is no doubt that the clause, as introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, contained provision for preference, without any modification whatever, and, further, the honorable and learnedmember recommended the Bill to the House on two occasions. It is also well known that the right honorable member for East Sydneysupported the Bill, and never asked for any modification of the preference clause. The measure was not attacked by any responsible member of the Opposition on the ground that it contained provision for preference to unionists ; but when the Bill was considered in detail, after the defeat of the Deakin Ministry, honorable members attacked the principle. A great many of those who opposed it desired simply to knock out the Bill, whilst others, like the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who throughout has been a conscientious and consistent believer in the Bill, honestly desired some modification. I do not for one moment question the motives of my honorable friend, because I know he is still a firm believer in the Bill.
– He is not a believer in his own Bill.
– I am not a believer in the Bill of the present Ministry.
– ‘Nor in the Bill as first introduced, either.
– When the Bill was discussed in Committee/ the Prime Minister showed that he was prepared to accept certain amendments. He agreed to a proviso that before any preference was granted notice must be given to all those engaged in the industry affected, so that any persons interested might appear before the Arbitration Court, and raise objections. That was absolutely a new provision that was not to be found in any existing Statute, and yet the Prime Minister was prepared to accept it. Again, it was urged that men might be forced to join unions with objects repugnant to them, and the Prime Minister expressed himself as willing to accept an amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, to enable the Court to suspend its award in cases where it had directed that preference should be given, and review the rules of the unions concerned. At the instance of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, a provision was made that if any rules of an organization proved to be oppressive or obnoxious, the person aggrieved could make application to have them cancelled. That was the third modification accepted by the Prime Minister. It was urged by honorable members . that some of the unions were political organizations, and that men might be compelled to join those bodies against their inclinations. Again, the Prime Minister was prepared to meet the objection in a fair and reasonable way. He accepted an amendment to the effect that, before preference could be granted, the Court must be satisfied that the rules of the applicant union were of a non-political character. I contend that he has treated the Committee with the utmost fairness. Even at this moment, he says, “I am willing to go a still further stage, and to provide that before any preference can be given, the Court shall be satisfied that the organization applying for it substantially represents the majority of the persons affected, both as to numbers and competency.” Let us compare the state of the clause as introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the provision as it now stands with the modifications agreed to by the Prime Minister. It contains no less than six conditions, and all that the Prime Minister asks is that at least the House shall do him the courtesy of considering the justice of his proposal.
– What is the proposal ?
– The honorable member must know it.
– Yes; but what does “ substantially represents “ mean?
– That is a matter to be considered in Committee.
– If if is only a mere question as to the particular words to be employed, let us consider the clause in Committee, and adopt the right phraseology. I am sure that the Prime Minister will not take up too rigid an attitude with regard to that. If other words would have the same effect as those which he proposes, they could be substituted. I think that the Prime Minister has treated the Committee with every courtesy and respect, and that he is perfectly justified in asking that honorable members shall have an opportunity to consider a proviso which was inserted as the result of a snatch vote, and without proper consideration.
– That is not correct.
– The amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is nothing more nor less than a subterfuge. It is a want of confidence motion in disguise, and is being supported by honorable members who are not prepared to attack the Government upon the weakness of their administration. I am not appearing here as a defender of the Government, but I claim that every honorable member should receive fair play, and be afforded a fair opportunity to consider the clause. The Opposition have taken up the position that those honorable members who have not already expressed their opinions shall not have an opportunity to do so in Committee, and shall not be permitted to consider the rival proposals, or to suggest any other amendments. They are practically applying the closure. They have the majority, and they are going to exercise their power for the purpose of wrecking the Bill. There is a desire on the part of honorable members, whose policy is antagonistic to the feelings of the great majority of the electors, to take possession of the Treasury benches; and, unfortunately, under the cover of the present motion, they are carrying with them men who do not sympathize either with their principles or with their methods. I feel that this is an occasion upon which -we are justified in expressing our opinions, and that we are entitled to know the true reasons which are actuating honorable members in voting against the Government. It is not fair to attack the Government under cover of a motion of this description. If the merits of the rival proposals were considered, it would be found that the provision in the Bill would not compare with the amendment suggested by the Prime Minister. Even if the clause were passed in its original form, there would not be any valid reason for throwing the Bill on one side, because it would simply make provision for the principle which has been adopted in the States Acts, under which the Courts are exercising a reasonable discretion. They do not give mere arbitrary rulings, but in each case require that evidence shall be given which would justify them in granting a preference. They act according to intelligible principles. They do not grant a preference unless it is shown that the organization applying substantially represents those engaged in the industry affected. Judge Edwards, in giving judgment in the New Zealand Court, in one case refused preference on the ground that the union . did not really represent the greater number of persons employed in the trade. I have looked up the decisions of the New South Wales Court, and I find that Judge Cohen practically acts on the same principle. The Prime Minister says that the States Acts have been in operation for some time, and that the Judges have acted ‘ upon certain definite principles which he is prepared to embody in the Bill in black and white.
– We already have a practice established.
– Yes, and we know that Judges will be prepared to follow the precedents already laid down. There has been a great deal of press criticism with regard to the granting of preference, and Judge Cohen has directed attention to it, and has stated that persons who were affected by the awards should have come to the Court and represented their case before the award was given, instead of complaining afterwards.
– He has also stated that if there is any complaint it should now be made to the Court.
– Exactly. The Court canalways vary its award, and the Prime Ministerhas anticipated many objections by accepting a provision under which notice must be given to the persons likely to be affected by an award, so that they may have an opportunity of representing their case before preference is granted. Therefore, every safeguard as being provided. We should make it perfectly clear that in this Bill the granting of preference is to be purely discretionary. Several articles have appeared in the newspapers, and several speeches have been made at banquets and elsewhere, from which it would appear that preference to unionists is to be made compulsory. That is an absolute misrepresentation. I should not like to see preference unduly given or granted without discrimination.
– The honorable and learned member said that he would vote for absolute preference. Why has he not the courage of his opinions?
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has not the courage of his opinions. He sits like a dumb dog.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly, but conversations across the chamber are grossly disorderly, and I must ask honorable members not to further offend against the rules of the House.
– I apologize, Mr. Speaker.
– I was pointing out that the granting of preferences was to be purely optional, and that the Court would not act until a full investigation had been made. The discretion to grant preferences is to be given to a Judge who is to be selected on account of his integrity, ability, and learning, and also because of the confidence which he will command from all classes of the community. Further than that, we shall know that he cannot be removed from his high office unless for some proved misconduct. Therefore, the discretion will be exercised by a reliable and responsible person, to whom we may fairly look for fair and impartial decisions. Some of the greatest strikes have arisen owing to unionists being called upon to work with non-unionists, and some honorable members desire to take away from the Court the means of disposing of one of the most fruitful sources of trouble. It is desirable that we should proceed to a division as soon as possible, and also that the attitude of honorable members upon a principle which has been approved by the whole of the constituencies of the Com.monwealth should be fully understood. Our constituencies sent us here to pass an Act dealing with compulsory arbitration. That measure has been before us upon two occasions, and, with the exception of one amendment, it has been fully discussed. But at this stage honorable members who desire to do what is fair and just are blocked by an intrigue to displace the Ministry. I shall not lend myself to such a proceeding, and, therefore, I shall vote for the recommittal of the clause.
Motion (by Mr. McDonald) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Mi. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I should like to know when the Government propose to conclude this discussion. The Opposition have no desire to avoid fair debate. On the contrary, we wish to do everything to facilitate discussion.
– The Opposition have a peculiar method of showing it.
– There has been no attempt on the part of the Opposition to prevent full discussion. I understand that the Prime Minister desires to bring the debate to a conclusion, and, under the circumstances, I think that my question is a fair one.
– I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will not consent to curtail this debate in any way. A number of honorable members upon this side of the House are desirous of speaking, and the question involved is too important to be rushed.
.The Government have no desire to prolong the debate unduly. It is a fact that this evening the right honorable member for East Sydney made a most insulting insinuation in this connexion, and one which I resent. At the same time, the Government would not be justified upon an occasion of this sort in attempting to close the mouths of honorable members sitting behind them.
– It is just a little too early to adjourn.
– I do not think so. We have to reassemble at half -past ten o’clock to-morrow morning, and I do not suppose that all honorable members possess the physique of the honorable and learned member.
– It is quite refreshing to see all the members of the Opposition present.
– I admit that that is rather unusual ; but I suppose they think that the end justifies the means. The Government fee] that it is their duty to facilitate the delivery of any remarks which their supporters may desire to make. The present is an important occasion, and I do not think that honorable members opposite can take the slightest exception to a reasonable statement of the views of Ministerial supporters upon this subject. The procedure which has been adopted on the present occasion very considerably limits the scope of the debate, so that honorable members cannot make very long speeches. For that reason we need not fear that the discussion will be unduly prolonged.
– Will the Prime Minister promise to close the debate to-morrow ?
– I shall not attempt to close it before all those honorable members who desire to speak have had an opportunity of addressing themselves to this. question. I have asked Government supporters to curtail their remarks as far as they possibly can, with a view to bringing tHe debate to a close as early as possible.
– I can assure the Prime Minister that I have no desire to add to the present embarrassments of the Government in any way. I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that when we were discussing the preference clause in Committee the honorable and learned member for Corio asked for an adjournment of the debate some time after 11 p.m. The Prime Minister thereupon replied -
We have been dealing with this clause for the past three days. That cannot be called burking discussion…… The principle underlying the clause was also discussed on the second reading debate, and upon other occasions, so that it is not asking too much to ask for a division to. night. However, I am prepared to adjourn upon the understanding that there will be a division to-morrow.
To-day, without taking into consideration the last two speakers, the Government supporters have occupied 280 minutes, and Opposition members only 78 minutes.
– Why will not the Opposition speak?
– It seems to me that, judging from the speeches of Government supporters, it is quite unnecessary for members of the Opposition to say anything upon this question. I only rose to point out that the Prime Minister’s present attitude is considerably discounted by the attitude he took up in Committee on this same clause 48 when the numbers lay with him; and not with us.
– I regret that I was absent from the chamber when the adjournment of the debate was moved. I am sure that there can be no possible objection to such a motion. Every honorable member has a perfect right to an adjournment to enable him to speak on this question as fully as he may desire. Of course the adjournment will be till tomorrow morning?
– In the heat of debate we often make observations that would be better left unsaid, but I wish to say at once that I do not, for a moment, seriously accuse the Government as has been supposed.
An Honorable Member. - But the right honorable member ‘ did.
– And I regret it. I suppose that even I may be allowed to express regret. Sometimes much smaller men than myself will not humble themselves to do that.
– Will the right honorable member say what he meant?
– When I am endeavouring to act fairly my honorable friend may just as well not make such observations. I can reply to him either way - I can give him just what he pleases. It is a perfectly reasonable proposal to adjourn the debate, ‘ and I do not offer the slightest . objection 10 that course. That is all. I hope that is not offensive.
– I understood the right honorable member desired to make an explana tion and withdraw certain statements. This afternoon he made the statement that the Government were endeavouring to remain in office a day or two longer, thereby insinuating that Ministers were guilty of cupidity. Such a suggestion is beneath the dignity of the right honorable member.
– Surely there may be some other motive for such a desire than that of cupidity.
Several honorable members interjecting -
-Order. I shall have to name honorable members who distinctly and repeatedly disobey the Chair.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) agreed to -
That Orders of the Day, general business, be postponed as follows : -
Order of the Day No. 1, till the 25th August.
Order of the Day No. 2, till the 8th September.
House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 August 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040811_reps_2_21/>.