2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire, with the permission of the House, to make a personal explanation. My reason for doing so is that I do not wish that any vote which 1 may give upon a future occasion shall be taken to have been affected by the attitude of the Argus towards me. In a leading article that newspaper states that my appearance on the Opposition side of the Chamber would have caused intense interest had it not been for the fact that it was known that my personal disappointment because I was not included in the present Administration had been very great To prove that that statement is absolutely -incorrect, I should like to . lay a few plain facts before the House. I saw the then leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for East Sydney, on the day after the Deakin Government were defeated, and had a little conversation with him.
– What was the conversation?
– It is not necessary to repeat it.
– I rise to order. I’ ask whether the honorable member will be in order, in correcting some statement which has appeared in a newspaper, in entering upon a narrative about other matters. .
– Of what is the right honorable member afraid?
– I am not afraid of anything.
– The honorable member for Wilmot has stated that he desires to make a personal explanation, and so long as he confines himself to that he will be in order. If I find that, as the right honorable gentleman suggests that he may do, he is wandering into. matters which are irrelevant, I shall call his attention to the fact.
– I have npt the slightest intention to refer to any irrelevant matter; I merely wish to say that the result of that interview was satisfactory to me. Shortly afterwards a manifesto appeared over the names of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the right honorable member for East Sydney, and as it did not quite correspond with what I understood to be the arrangement, it aroused certain feelings in my mind. However, the right honorable member for East Sydney was not sent for by His Excellency the Governor-General on that occasion. Time passed, and the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill was further considered. Every honorable member knows that I have from start to finish been intensely, opposed to that measure, and that I have voted against it upon every possible occasion, believing that in doing so I was acting in the best interests of the public. I acted in that way some three weeks ago. The vote was taken on a Fridav, and the honorable member for Bland afterwards announced his intention to resign. On the following day, at two o’clock, before the right honorable member for East Sydney had been sent for, I wrote a letter to him, declaring my intention to take the part of an independent member.
– Quite so.
– It is no fault of mine that that letter was not placed at once in his hands. I gave it to the honorable member for Macquarie, who will bear out my statement. That was done before the right honorable gentleman had been sent for, when he could by no possibility have formed his Cabinet, and I think refutes the statement of the Argus that I have been animated by a feeling of personal annoyance at not having been included in the Ministry.
– Surely the honorable member does not take the newspapers seriously !
– I do take newspaper statements seriously, especially, when they appear in a journal which circulates throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and are republished in other newspapers, particularly in those of my own State. I do not think that I, or any other honorable member, should be supposed to be actuated by motives of petty jealousy in the votes which we gave. However I may vote in the future, I shall vote as conscientiously as I have done in the past. I think that the right honorable member for East Sydney and the honor able member for Macquarie will bear me out in what I have said.
– Hear, hear !
– Hear, hear !
– I may perhaps be permitted to read the following letter, since it is not marked private: -
Dear Mr. Cameron,
Your letter of 13th inst. I got this day. I quite understand your position is an independent one.
I think that that letter, together with my statement, refutes the statement of the Argus, and must convey to the minds of my fellow members the belief that, however my vote may. be cast, I shall not be actuated by interested motives.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, in reference to the statement just made, that immediately after the defeat of the Deakin Government he had an interview-
– While personal explanations are allowed, it is expressly required by the Standing Orders that they shall not be debated.
– I do not propose to debate the personal explanation. I was merely going to ask a question, and, in explanation, to state certain facts.
– If the honorable and learned member proceeds to ask such a question as he has now announced to be his intention to put to the Prime Minister, he will, by doing so, practically be debating the personal explanation made by the honorable member for Wilmot.
– I will ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that, immediately after the defeat of the Deakin Government, he had an interview with the honorable member for Wilmot, in which he expressed his satisfaction at the defeat of . the Deakin Government ?
– I really do not wish to give a flat denial to the question asked by the honorable member. All I can say is that I have not the remotest recollection of what he has suggested.
– I desire . to give notice that on Tuesday next, I willmove -
That the present Administration does not possess the confidence of this House,
– I am so completely surprised by the announcement that the Government do not possess the confidence of the Opposition that, with concurrence, I will move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
– I need hardly say that I am very surprised at the action taken at this time by the leader of the Opposition. I have, of course, no wish or right to object to a want of confidence motion being submitted by him, but I have a tight to express my objection to such action being taken to-day. I have a right to express my great regret that the honorable gentleman, after all the trouble that we have all taken in regard to a measure of great importance to the State which I represent-
– I point out to the right honorable member that the question before the House is -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
The. only question that’ is open for discussion is whether or not that motion shall be carried. The no-confidence motion itself, of which notice has been given, will appear upon the notice-paper later on, but it will not be competent to discuss the general question on the motion now before the House.
– Do I understand that I am not at liberty to discuss the question whether it is advisable for the House to adjourn until Tuesday ?
– The right honorable member can discuss that and’ only that.
– I am going to give my reasons why I think it is very inopportune for the House to adjourn at this time. All parties have taken a great deal of trouble ‘in regard to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. That measure has reached such a stage that a few hours more would have, been sufficient to finish our work in this House. I have no doubt that it could have been completed between now and the usual time for adjourning to-night.
– What about the honorable member for Moira?
– I have not consulted any one, but seeing that the majority in favour of the measure last night was so large, I have no doubt that a very few hours would have been sufficient to complete the Bill in this House.
– Some of the right honorable member’s friends in the corner intended to prevent that.
– There are only one or two honorable members on this side of the House who have spoken strongly against the measure.
– They have done so twice before.
– I am speaking in the interests of Western Australia, and I do not think that I should be interrupted by members from that State. The measure was just about to be disposed of finally by this House. A very few hours’ work would have attained the object that the people and the representatives of Western Australia have desired so long, and for which they have worked so arduously. What is the reason for this hurry ? Surely we might have disposed of the Bill, to which I have alluded, before the honorable member for Bland gave notice of his adverse motion, as we did in the case of the Arbitration Bill? If, of course, the debate upon the Bill were likely to occupy a week or two, political exigencies might demand that the no-confidence motion should be proceeded with. But, seeing that it was not likely that long speeches would be made, we could have finished the work to-day or to-morrow at latest, and the measure that is so important and so urgently desired in. the interests of Western Australia, of the Commonwealth, and Federation itself, would have been disposed of, so far as this House is concerned. Is it fair or reasonable that this measure should be cast aside, and its progress set back for months probably, and especially when there is no urgent reason whatever for doing so?
– It must be in the forefront of the programme of any Government.
– But we might have had the Bill passed, and the survey commenced, before the measure is likely to reach its present stage again. I think that the other Western Australian members must be of the same opinion as I am.
– Why did the right honorable member allow the question to remain so long in abeyance, while he was a Minister ?
– One cannot get all one wants in a day. We have had very up-hill work in regard to this matter, and now that we are just upon succeeding, as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the work is to be put back, and for no reason that I can see - because notice of the motion which the honorable member for Bland has just read might as well have been given to-morrow, or even next week. We might just as well have finished our work on the Bill before adjourning.
– That would not have carried the matter any further.
– We could have disposed of the Bill in this House, and it would have gone to the Senate, in the same way as has been done with the Arbitration Bill.
– Would the Senate have proceeded with it, while a no-confidence motion was being discussed ?
– Will they proceed with the Arbitration Bill ? Is it fair to Western Australia that this precipitate action should be taken? Why was this notice of motion given to-day instead of tomorrow, or even next week? I should like some one to answer that question. Unless the intention was to delay the passing of the measureand, in view of the large majority by which the resolution was passed last night, I cannot believe that that was the motive - I am at a loss to account for the action of the leader of the Opposition. lean only say again that I very much regret the action which has been taken, because I conceive that it is unjustifiable, and absolutely opposed to the interests of the State I represent. A large majority of honorable members have declared themselves in favour of the proposed survey. The Bill was not likely to be the subject of any further great controversy.because honorable members had already given their decision, and we should. have disposed of it in a few hours. I am certain that the people of Western Australia will be greatly disappointed at the result, and I can only express’ my astonishment that my honorable friends of the Labour Party, who have worked so hard, and are so much in sympathy with the proposal, .should have allowed the present action to be taken. The effect of our adjourning from to-day until Tuesday may have the effect of postponing the passing of the Bill for months, and will be regarded as most unfriendly by the people of the western State.
– Whilst joining with the right honorable member for Swan in his expression of regret that anything should have occurred at this particular stage to prevent the passing of the Bill to which he has referred, I think it is only fair to remind him of what occurred last night. I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will agree with me that in seeking to place the blame for delay upon the shoulders of the Labour Party he is doing them a grave injustice.
– I blame them for their precipitate action in giving notice of a want of confidence motion at this stage.
– Just before the division occurred last night-
– I must ask the honorable member not to refer to a previous debate. The only question, that ‘ can be debated now is whether we shall adjourn fi om to-day until Tuesday next. In any case, it would not be competent for the honorable member to refer to some debate that had taken place on a former occasion.
– If you, sir, rule that I cannot directly refer to what occurred at our last sitting, I should like to state generally that the blame for the delay in the passing of the measure referred to by the right honorable member for Swan rests entirely upon honorable members on the Government side of the House. When it was proposed, after the division last night,, to put the Bill through all its stages-
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to last night’s debate.
– I hardly know how I can otherwise -reply to the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan.
– The honorable member will have his opportunity in connexion with the motion for the adjournment- of the House.
– At this stage I merely desire to say that the action of the leader of the Opposition, in giving notice of motion at this stage, was due entirely to the attitude assumed by honorable members opposite, who are opposed to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. It was not the fault of honorable members on this side that the notice of motion was not withheld in order to allow the Bill to be passed. Some honorable members opposite threatened to block the Bill if it were brought forward. Moreover, the measure was given only the second place on the notice-paper, Supply being placed first in the order of business. Therefore, it was evidently not the intention, of the Government to permit the Bill to take first place in the consideration of honorable, members.
– The order of business, so far as Supply is concerned, is regulated by’ the Standing Orders.
– As matters stand, the probability is that a number of speeches would have been made in regard to grievances, and that these would have prevented the Bill from being discussed to-day. Therefore, the charge of blocking the Bill cannot be justly laid at the door of honorable members on this side of the Chamber.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- It seems to me that this protest by the right honorable member for Swan sounds somewhat hollow, coming as it does from an honorable gentleman who allowed three years to pass whilst he himself was in office without taking any definite steps to push through the Bill to which he has referred.
– I brought it to the position which it now occupies.
– With all respect to the right honorable gentleman, I do not think he did. He certainly advocated the construction of the railway upon every occasion upon which opportunity offered, but beyond advocacy the right honorable gentleman did little or nothing to bring the matter to ahead in Parliament.
– At any rate, the honorable member is now blocking the measure.
– I think the .right honorable gentleman has put in some splendid work lately.
– The complaint levelled by the right honorable member against the Opposition for taking the straightforward course of testing the question whether the Government possess the confidence of the House comes curiously from the right honorable gentleman, who, we understand, wished to take action in regard to the last Administration on the first day that they met the House. He said then that action should be taken to test their position.
– That was because the late Ministry had not a majority.
– If the late Government had not possessed a majority, action would have been taken by those who have longer heads than has the right honorable gentleman.
– I wished to give the late Government a fair chance.
– I admit the importance of the question that has been referred to. I have myself urged the desirability of passing the measure, and I think the action
I took when in office afforded some proof of my bona fides in the matter.
– The honorable member is spoiling it all to-day.
– We shall come to that presently. Whenever one moves in the direction of a no-confidence motion, it is inevitable that some matters of public business must be interfered with. It is impossible to move such a motion at any period without dislocating some of the public business that may be in hand.
– Why has the honorable member given notice of motion to-day instead of to-morrow ?
– For this reason: I was so anxious to meet the view put forward by the right honorable member for Swan, that I did not make up my mind as to the precise moment at which I should give notice of motion until I had exhausted every opportunity to ascertain the views of those honorable” members who were opposed to the Bill. I spent a good deal of time this morning in endeavouring to ascertain their views, and I sent word to the right honorable gentleman himself before ten o’clock to-day, asking him to ascertain how far the opponents of the measure were willing to let it go without any serious debate, resting on the vote given last night as their excuse for abstaining from anything like stone-walling tactics.
– Where is the necessity for giving notice of motion to-day?
– If the right honorable gentleman will restrain his impatience he will probably find out why I chose to take action to-day rather than to-morrow. Unfortunately, I was not able to communicate with the honorable member who has made himself most prominent in his opposition to the measure.
– He has gone home.
– If I had been assured of that, I might have adopted a different course. I was not aware where the honorable member could be found, but I spoke to one or two. other honorable members, who did not seem inclined to waive their rights in the matter. Then, again - as has already been pointed out - the discussion of grievances and of private members’ business would have occupied the House until half-past 6 o’clock this evening. I understand that there is quite a crop of grievances to be ventilated. Therefore, if any two or three honorable members had cared to talk out the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, they could easily have accomplished their design. Regarding the reasons which induced me to give notice of motion today, instead of to-morrow, I wish to say that I was aware that a large number of honorable members were leaving for the other capitals this afternoon, and I feared that if I deferred action until to-morrow, it might have been impossible to obtain a quorum, and in that way the discussion of the question of want of confidence in the Government upon Tuesday next would not have been possible.
– Could not the honorable member have deferred giving notice of the motion until this evening?
– No?, very well. However, even with this motion in the way, there is no probability that the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill will meet with any further serious delay in its passage through this House. There is a majority behind that measure, and if those who are opposed to it will, to some extent, forego their right of speech, it should not take long to dispose of it.
– Will the Commonwealth collapse if that Bill be not passed?
– No; but the matter having been advanced to a certain stage, it is only reasonable that it should be pushed to a conclusion, and I have no wish to stand in the way of that being accomplished.
– The action of the Prime Minister is in . accordance with’ the history of Parliaments.
– Oh !
– I will ask the right honorable member for Swan, who interjects, to remain silent for a moment. I intend to challenge him, with a view to ascertain if he has the courage of his opinions. Whether the right honorable member, who has had considerable parliamentary experience in Western Australia, entertains a different idea from mine in regard to carrying on the Government of the country, I do not know. I dare say there is a bit of the iconoclast in me as well as in the right honorable member. If he presses his objection to a division I shall vote with him. At the same time I doubt whether he will do so. I regard his action this afternoon as a little exhibition of fireworks, which is intended for advertisement purposes. Seeing that I voted for the motion relating to the surveyof the Transcontinental Railway, and abstained from speaking upon it, in order’ to expedite its adoption, I have a right to strongly resent his action this afternoon.
– I entirely differ from the right honorable member for Swan upon this matter. I think that the country will owe a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Bland for affording honorable members an opportunity of further considering the survey of the projected Transcontinental Railway. I anaware that at the present juncture it is impossible for me to debate that question, but I sincerely hope that the interval which will be allowed for further consideration will induce several honorable members to change the views which they now entertain. ‘ Owing to my position as Chairman of Committees I was debarred from speaking upon the motion under discussion yesterday, but I hope to have an opportunity of fully expressing my opinions upon the ‘second reading of the Bill. I trust that when that time arrives a very much better appreciation of the difficulties which the Commonwealth is al present undergoing will be exhibited by honorable members, who. for some unaccountable reason, seem to have suddenly altered their expressed opinions upon a question which- very vitally affects the wellbeing of Australia.
– It is quite evident that the last speaker is preparing for an election. Personally I think that the right honorable member for Swan should have taken exception to the action of the Prime Minister, who submitted the motion relating to the special adjournment, rather than to that of the honorable member for Bland. I rise chiefly to point out thai it is idle for him to attempt to blame the Opposition for delaying the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. Even if the honorable member for Bland had deferred giving notice of his motion until tomorrow, we should have been no further forward.
– I think that we should.
– I will show that we should not. Hid the notice of motion been given to-morrow, we should presumably have passed the Bill through this House in the interim. Under ordinary circumstances it would then have ‘been forwarded to the Senate, where it would have been made an Order of the Day for Tuesday next. But the moment that notice was given of a motion of want of confidence in the Government, there would have been no discussion of other business, either in this House or in the Senate. As far as I am aware the right honorable member for Swan has no reasonable ground for complaint, unless he is prepared to declare that the honorable member for Bland had no right to give notice of his motion for several weeks - until after the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill had been disposed of.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to obtain a reply from the Prime Minister to a question which has appeared upon the business paper for about a month. It was placed there prior to the three weeks’ adjournment which recently occurred.
– The honorable and learned member cannot anticipate discussion upon a notice of motion which appears upon the business paper.
– It is not a notice of motion, but a question.
– The honorable and learnedmember cannot anticipate that.
– I am very sorry that the Minister has found it necessary to repeatedly postpone answers to certain questions. I understand that it is the policy of the Government to treat its protectionist minority fairly. That was what was alleged when the present Administration was formed.
– We shall have enough of this sort of talk next week. What is the use of firing a squib?
– The Prime Minister evidently prepared his manifesto in a jocular spirit. When I say that I understand the Prime Minister has made a bargain with his protectionist minority, he immediately goes into convulsions of humour. It is just as well that the Government’s protectionist minority should see the fun of the position, and recognise how humorous is the suggestion that the Prime Minister would keep any promise made by him in this respect. In view of the development likely to take place next week, I should like the Prime Minister to say, before the House adjourns, whether it is his intention to see that in the administration of the Departments local employment
– Order ! The honorable and learned member is attempting, by a side wind, to evade the instruction which I gave him a few moments ago. He must not directly or indirectly anticipate business which is on the noticepaper.
– I do not know that I am seeking to obtain any information by a side wind. I make that statement in all seriousness.
– The honorable and learned member must either submit to the direction of the Chair, or I must call on some other honorable member. He cannot set the Standing Orders at defiance.
– Very well, sir. It seems that I am not to be allowed to say anything on this subject. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he regards as a joke the statement which I made - that he promised to endeavour to keep faith with his protectionist minority.
– I also wish to know whether he intends to carry out the proposals contained in his manifesto to the people of Australia that he would see that the legislation already passed by a former protectionist Ministry remained in force, and that the Government would continue to administer the Departments on the lines adopted by their predecessors.
– I merely wish to saythat I did not laugh at the serious matter to which the honorable and learned member referred. I quite agree that the subject is-
– I rise to a point of order. If the Prime Minister speaks at this stage he will close the debate, and thus render it impossible for me to refer to a matter which I rose a few minutes ago to put before the House.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I thought the debate had finished. I do not wish to close his mouth.
– The Prime Minister has risen, and has commenced his reply-
– I did not intend to prevent discussion, and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to give way to the honorable member.
– That being so, no doubt the House will permit the honorable member for Fremantle to speak.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I did not know that the Prime Minister was about to close the debate, but I think he will recognise that I am entitled to complete my remarks on the subject which I brought forward on the motion for special adjournment, but which, under the Standing Orders, I was unable to discuss. I was pointing out that just prior to the division which took place last night on the motion for an appropriation in connexion with the preliminary survey for the Transcontinental Railway, I suggested to the right honorable member for Swan that if the Bill relating to that matter were ready, the House would probably agree, as honorable members appeared to be so unanimously in favour of the motion, to pass it through all its stages that night.
– That is so.
– The right honorable member consulted the Minister in charge of the Bill-
– As well as some other honorable members on this side of the House.
– Quite so. He consulted them in order to learn whether they would agree to the adoption of the course which I suggested.
– They said they would not.
– A distinct threat was made by the honorable member for Moira that if the House were asked to pass the Bill through all its stages that evening we might expect a debate extending over at least two days. He threatened that he would read various reports, and do his best to obstruct the passage of the Bill. After consultation, I and some of my fellow representatives of Western Australia this morning saw the leader of the Opposition, and inquired whether, notwithstanding this threat, it was not worth while making another attempt to persuade honorable members opposite to allow the Bill to pass through all its stages this afternoon, and to postpone the notice of motion of want of confidence until to-morrow. The leader of the Opposition at once’ said that if he could persuade Government supporters to adopt that course he would willingly postpone his notice of motion. 8 a 2
– What about the’ honorable member’s leader,- the honorable and learned member for Indi?
– I am speaking of what happened.
– But why does the honorable member endeavour to throw all the blame on Government supporters ? What about his own leader, the honorable and learned member for Indi?
– He is not a leader, but a. sub-leader - a paragraph.
– He will prove, a rather awkward “paragraph” for honorable members opposite.
– Order ! The honorable member for Fremantle is addressing the House, and I must ask honorable members to give him an opportunity to conclude his remarks. These loud interjections across the chamber, and the conversations which are taking place in a loud voice, render it almost impossible for the honorable member to proceed.
– I was simply relating what took place this morning outside the chamber. The leader of the Opposition assured us that he would do his best to persuade Government supporters to agree to the passing of the Bill this evening, and that if that arrangement could be made, the notice of motion to which I have referred would be postponed until tomorrow.
– Whom did he see?
– I do not know how many the honorable member interviewed, but he subsequently informed me that he found it impossible to induce the supporters of the Government to agree to the passing of the Bill to-day.
– He did not see any one on this side of the House.
– It would have been useless for him to interview the honorable member for Parramatta. I make this statement to show that the charge which has been levelled against members of the Labour Party and of the Opposition generally, that they are obstructing the passing of the Bill in question, is without foundation.
– Why all this unreasonable hurry to press a motion of want of confidence?
– We have done our utmost, both in the House and outside’ of it, to facilitate the passing of the Bill. The reason that it is not being discussed and dealt with to-day is that honorable members sitting behind the Government refuse to allow that course to be followed.
– In view of what we have done that is a very unfair statement for the honorable member to make.
– It is perfectly correct.
– I trust that it will not be thought that when I referred to the obstruction of the Bill dealing with the preliminary survey for the Transcontinental Railway by the motion of the leader of the Labour Party I desired to reflect on the three representatives of Western Australia who are members of the Opposition. Nothing was further from my thoughts than to suggest that they were willing parties to delaying that measure, for I know that they have always been earnest advocates of the railway. What I wished to convey was that it was their duty to have brought more influence to bear to prevent the notice of motion of want of confidence being given before that Bill had been dealt with.
– But the right honorable member referred to us.
– I said that I was surprised that honorable members representing Western Australia should have consented to the course taken by the leader of the Opposition, and I reiterate, in the strongest manner, that opinion. With regard to the opposition shown by honorable members sitting in the Government corner to the motion relating to the Transcontinental Railway survey, I would remind the House that the Government cannot interfere with the free expression of the views of their sup*porters. The Bill dealing with the survey could not have been passed through all its stages last night without the suspension of the Standing Orders. That was impossible.
– I think it was quite possible.
– I do not think it would have been possible to pass the Bill through all its stages last night. But, in any event, it is surely desirable that such a Bill should be passed even at the risk of delaying for one or two days a motion adverse to the Government. The Government have been doing very good work. I do not believe that at any time during the present session greater expedition has been shown in dealing with measures than we have witnessed during the last few days.
– That is the trouble.
– Why the passing of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Survey Bill should be postponed and ignored, when the postponement of the notice of the motion of want of confidence for probably one day would have passed the Bill, is difficult to understand. I wish to refer to a remark made, not only to-day by the leader of the Opposition, and other members of the Labour Party, but by members of the Labour Party sitting in another place, while visiting Western Australia, to the effect that I was for three years a member of the Barton and Deakin Governments, and did nothing to push forward this measure. Any one who repeats that statement grossly misrepresents my action, because no one can honestly say that I have not done all that I could to advance the project.
– What did the right honorable member do to advance the project?
– The right honorable member remained in the Government after they had refused to bring the measure forward.
– Should I have advanced it had I left the Government?
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The Watson Government were in office four months without doing anything in the matter.
– I kept the fire burning, and the result is shown by the vote which was given last night. It would have been impossible to obtain such a vote at a much earlier period in the history of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who, with the other representatives of Western Australia, has done all he could to have the project advanced as far as it was yesterday, was four months in office without getting it further advanced than when he took office.
– The Watson Government carried it as far in four months as the Government in which the right honorable member was a Minister did in three years.
– During the three years I was in office, I got the project carried as far as the point at which it was yesterday. It Was advanced another stage then. The Government in which the honorable member was a Minister did not advance it a single step.
– The right honorable gentleman would not let us.
– I am not blaming honorable members. I desire to thank them, not to blame them; but when they say that I did nothing they are very ungenerous, and are trying to injure me politically in the estimation of the people of my own State. But they cannot do it. It would take some one more powerful than the leader of the Opposition to injure me there. Still it comes with a bad grace from him to misrepresent my actions in this matter. Any representative of Western Australia who says that during the three years in which I was in office I did nothing, has a very poor knowledge of my exertions and of the trouble which I took in the matter. Do honorable members think that the Government was committed to the project, so that every speech of the Governor-General contained a reference to it, without any one urging the matter forward, and without any arguments or facts being brought to bear in regard to it? If so, they have very little knowledge of what took place. The remark of the leader of the Opposition is as incorrect as it was uncalled for; but it is only in keeping with what has been already said by. members of the Labour Party who desire to misrepresent me before the people of the western State. It has been said before, and the interjection of the member for Coolgardie might lead one to think that he holds the same view. Hitherto I was always of the opinion that he and I, and the other representatives of Western Australia, had been working together as vigorously as we could to push forward this project. My complaint is that, as the House was doing good work in passing important measures, and had nearly passed this Bill, this motion, which means a delay for an indefinite time, and perhaps other things-
– That is what the right honorable member is afraid of.
– The honorable member does not know me if he thinks that. I advise the honorable member to look after himself, which will probably give him quite enough to do without troubling about me. The House has been doing good work during the last few days, and it was a mistake to interrupt business by giving notice of a motion of which notice might have been given equally well one or two days later. The effect will be that the people of Western Australia will believe that there is some ulterior motive ; and the facts before us certainly make it appear that there is something behind this action of honorable members opposite. There is no reason whatever why the motion should not have been deferred for a day or two, so that we might have disposed of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, the Papua Bill, and some other measures, in the same way as the mover was careful to dispose of the Arbitration Bill, before hurriedly launching his noconfidence motion.
– I. regret that the right honorable member for Swan found it necessary at this stage of the proceedings to indulge in what I must, even though in a charitable mood, describe as rather a theatrical display.
– Not at all ; it was genuine.
– No doubt the right honorable member had a genuine purpose to serve, but he had no justification for the remarks which he made. He rather misrepresented what was said by the honorable member for Bland, who, in defending his party’s action in connexion with the measure to which reference has been made, charged the right honorable member with himself having done nothing practical to forward it. He did not say that the right honorable gentleman had not done valuable work in the House, and in the country, in advocating the construction of the railway, but that for all practical purposes the project had not been advanced a step after the right honorable member had been in office for three years. It was not until a motion of want of confidence had been accepted—
– It had not been accepted. It had not been moved.
– The honorable member for North Sydney refused to allow the Committee stage to be taken, because a motion of want of confidence had been moved.
– It had not been moved.
– I refer’ the right honor ; able member to Hansard. There was virtually a motion of want of confidence before the House at the time. What the honorable member for Bland said was that the right honorable member had not, during the three years that he was in the Ministry, brought the project for the construction of the Transcontinental Railway to a successful issue. The right honorable member was nob- just to the honorable member for Bland in saying that he had done nothing in the matter during the four months that he was in office. As a matter of fact, the first really practicable step taken in connexion with it was his proposal to the Premier of Western Australia, that that State should pay more than her -per capita share of the loss during the first ten years. In that action, he went a long way in furthering this proposition, and to reconcile Parliament to its acceptance.
– I am very glad if he did that.
– I do not think that the right honorable member really intended to be quite so unreasonable as he seemed to be, and I do regret very much that he should, at this stage, have taken the opportunity to cast reflections upon members of this party, and also to put his colleagues from Western Australia’ in a false light before the people of that State. I feel sure that, upon reconsideration, he will regret having done so. As far as this matter is concerned, I can corroborate every word that was said by the honorable member for Fremantle, in regard to the efforts made during the day, to induce the Government supporters in the corner to abandon their opposition.
– What about honorable members on the Opposition side?
– There was no one in the Opposition corner who was inclined to stonewall the Bill.
– What about the honorable and learned member for Indi?
– The honorable and learned member for Indi said very little about it.
– He opposed thé survey.
– Did he make a threehours’ speech like the honorable member for Moira, who was plainly “stone-walling” the measure ?
– This comes from being bound hand and foot to the Labour Party !
– I say that every effort was made by the honorable member for Bland, and by the Western Australian members, to induce the Government supporters to abandon their opposition to the Bill. Having done our best in that direction, we were not going to interpose a barrier to the motion of which the honorable member for Bland has given notice.
– If the honorable member had told the leader of the Opposition that he would not support him in his action his wishes would have been consulted.
– I am afraid that my ideal of loyalty to my leader and to my colleagues . must be different from that cherished by the right honorable member for Swan. I can assure the House that we did everything possible to induce the Government supporters, and other honorable members who were opposed to the Bill, to allow it to go through to-day, and I am perfectly satisfied with the course taken by the honorable member for Bland, which has my full approval and indorsement.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - Minister of External Affairs). - I merely wish to make one remark in reply to the honorable and learned member for Corio. He complained that I neglected to answer a question for a month. The statement is wildly inaccurate, as usual.
– The right honorable member ought not to say “ as usual.”
– I say “as. usual.” Surely I can have my own opinion on the subject.
– It is not fair to say. that the honorable and learned member for Corio was “ wildly inaccurate.”
– The fastidious conscience of the honorable member who has interjected is an annoyance to himself as well as to every one else. With reference to’ the statement of the honorable and learned member for Corio, I should like to point out that the question to which he refers was put down for the 7 th September. Through some mischance, the question was not brought under my attention until the morning of the 7th. Until that moment I had not the remotest idea that such a question was upon the paper. When the House met on the 7th, I asked the honorable and learned member to postpone his question for a week. He did so, and it appears on the paper for to-day. I have the answer in my hand, and intended to read it; but, as every honorable member with any parliamentary experience is aware, the moment a notice of motion such as that of the leader of the Opposition is given it becomes impossible even to put such questions. Consequently, I was debarred by nothing for which I was responsible from answering the question to which the honorable and learned member has referred. I wish’ to say that when I smiled at what the honorable and learned member said I was not smiling at the urgent necessity for the revision of the Tariff, which is now the object of interest to the Opposition, but I was smiling at the attempt to drag a rather stale red herring across the trail. I also wish to say that since the motion of which notice has been given is one which will afford every honorable member the fullest opportunity to deal with every subject of interest, the desire to commence these observations so soon’ as to-day is evidence of a morbid appetite.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040915_reps_2_21/>.