2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last evening I stated that the Prime Minister was reported to have said, when speaking in the Protestant Hall, Sydney, that although the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was a most amiable and courteous gentleman, he had doner nothing politically to entitle him to the Prime Ministership of Australia. The right honorable gentleman denied having said that.
– That was not the statement made by the honorable member last night.
– The honorable member for Barrier made a number of statements last night which were not correct.
– I accepted the right honorable gentleman’s denial, but in justification of my statement I should like to read the report to which I referred.
– I rise to order. The honorable member imputed to me remarks which I did not make, and he is now proceeding to quote something, probably with a view to corroborate his statement. The remarks which he attributed to me last night were put in quite a different way. He stated then that I had said that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was unfit to be Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Barrier is explaining a misunderstanding of a speech which he made last night, and in doing so is quite within the rules of the House.
– The report to which I refer reads as follows : -
In Mr. Deakin they had, one of the most brilliant and courteous men in public life, one for whom every one in Federal politics had a sincere respect, but more, for his personal qualities than for anything he had ever done. A voice - What have you ever done? Mr. Reid. - That question showsthat the speakermust be a new arrival. (Laughter.) I have two testimonials to my career. Myfriends credit me with endeavouring to put taxation in New South Wales upon something like an honest footing, and my enemies charge me with turning the country upside down. No one could ever justly accuse Mr. Deakin of putting up or throwing anything down. (Laughter.)
I took that passage to ‘mean that while the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has great and pleasing personal qualities, he had done nothing to entitle him to the Prime Ministership. Those are not the actual words of the report, but that is the interpretation which I put upon the passage which I have read. The Prime Minister, however, has stated that it should not carry that interpretation, and I accept his denial ; but 1 wish to have the actual report recorded in Hansard, so that the public may judge between us.
Debate resumed from 29th. September (vide page 5 11 3), on motion by Mr. Watson -
That the present Administration does not possess the confidence of this House.
– I am not quite sure, after having listened to the debate pretty closely for- a fortnight, and much more closely than I have previously been in -the habit of listening to debates, whether I shall be in order in addressing myself to the question if I refrain from making personal explanations, and from diving into ancient history. If I may judge by the experience of previous speakers, my turn for making personal explanations will come after I have spoken. But I shall endeavour to avoid as far as possible going into the ancient history of either Victoria or New South Wales. Interesting and exciting as the episodes recounted to us may have been, they do not seem to rae to bear very directly on the question now at issue. I have waited for nearly a fortnight to speak, because I thought, and but for present experience would still think, that the members of a Ministry whose existence was challenged were entitled to wait until they bad ascertained the causes for challenging it. The motion of want of confidence, which was moved by the honorable member for Bland last Tuesday week, in a speech in which he extolled the beauties of Socialism, and described the ideal state that is to come into existence long after we are dead and buried, so that it has no direct personal interest for us, was seconded by the honorable :a~nd learned member for Indi, who said, “I second the motion, but reserve my right to speak later on.” Apparently it is to Be much later on that that right will be exercised - much later than the country will think he should postpone his speech, and much later than the Ministry which is attacked ha’s a right to expect, if- it is to be treated in. the manner which is customary upon occasions of this kind, and in a way which can be regarded as ordinary, not to say fair, political fighting.
– Why whine ?
– Does the honorable member call that whining? I am not whining. We have had some new definitions added to the English language during the last week or two - a new definition of the word “ truce “ by the honorable and learned member for Indi and others, for example ; and now we are getting a new definition of the word “ whining.” I assure the honorable member for Wide Bay, who joined in running away from the bridges which he and his friends erected from time to time to save the Government of which he was a member, that there will be no whining in my speech. However he may be able to characterize it when I have finished, he will find a notable absence of the whining which he desires to impute to me before I have begun to address myself to the main subject of my remarks. The honorable and learned member for Indi has delayed speaking until now, and we have not been able to ascertain when . he will speak. It is one of those happy events which are to occur in the dim future, which is to come upon us along with many other blessings when the Opposition have achieved their object of ousting the present Government from office, and have secured the first steps in the advance to that sys– tern of perfection which their entrance into office is to insure this time, though when they were there a few months ago none of those steps were even proposed.
– They got a good reference from the Minister’s leader, at any rate.
– I am not going to discuss the past more than is absolutely necessary. »I am willing to admit at once that Honorable members on that side, like honorable members on this side, have said a good deal about each other which they wish now they had not sai3. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said many things which he would like the waters of kindly oblivion to cover, if only for a time.
– Not a thing.
– Then he still believes that what he said about the Labour Party in November last is true.
– I did not say it about the Labour Party, and the Minister knows it.
– Might I ask the honorable member for Bourke if he indorses that statement ? Does he believe that all that he said about the Labour Party in last November and December is still true?
– He was talking about anarchists then, not about the Labour Party.
– If the Labour Party in this House do not mind the things which were said about them a few months ago by some of their bosom friends, there are members of the party outside - a good many thousands of them - who mind it a good deal, and it is those gentlemen, as they have taken care to assure their agents inside this House, who will determine what action is to be taken in consequence of the speeches to which I refer.
– That is the only comfort which the Minister has.
– I do not know what comfort the honorable member has.
– It is a good thing that I have something to comfort me. The honorable member for Bourke is not in that happy position. However, I was referring to the honorable and learned member for Indi andhis methods on the present occasion. He has, I understand, suggested that he helped to frame that beautiful alliance programme, about which I hope to say a word or two later on. I understand that he regards that as his indictment against the Government, which must be answered before he is called upon tospeak. It betokens a most praiseworthy and admirable modesty in the honorable and learned member to say that he helped to frame the alliance programme. There are amongst us those who make a more generous estimate of his ability and his intellectual powers than he appears to hold himself, who ascribe to him much more than a mere share in framing the programme. We see in it one master hand from first to last. To those who, like myself, have some familiarity with the verbiage and procedure of the law courts, the hand of the practised drawer of pleadings appears throughout the document, not merely in the “ a “ and “ b “ provisions to which the Minister of Trade and Customs referred, but from A to Z - from beginning to end. The honorable and learned member says, “ There is my indictment against the Government.” I confess that to me the document appears, to quote a line from Gilbert’s Bab Ballads, “ Pretty ; but I don’t know what it means.” I think a good many of us are in that position with regard to it. The honorable and learned member has adopted the method of pub lishing his opinions by means of newspaper interviews. An interview is an excellent thing in many ways.
– When you write it yourself.
– With that recognition which a great mind always gives to the importance of its prominence in the public eye, the honorable and learned member for Indi has not shrunk from interviews. The interview has many great advantages in comparison with a speech made within the precincts of this House. In the first place, it is. not liable to troublesome interjection or contradiction, and, in the second place, it gets at least a day’s start of the critic, however active he may be.
– Why does not the Minister read the Argus leader in which these views appeared a day or two ago, so that we may have them at first hand. Apparently he has committed it to memory.
– The reading of leading articles is not an occupation which I regard as the summit of bliss, and if I am now expressing the views contained’ in an Argus leader of recent date, it is only another instance of great minds thinking alike, because I have not read the article to which the honorable member refers. I am gratified that for once in a way the Argus and I are in agreement. One great advantage of being interviewed is that it enables one to get ahead of his critics.
– Being interviewed is not peculiar to the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– No; but it is more especially his method than that of any other member of the House at the present time. The honorable and learned member professes to have helped in framing the alliance programme, about which I wish to say, a few words, and, in passing, I would like to remark that it reminds us very forcibly of a fact to which naturalists have so frequently drawn attention, that in the animal world, there are a great number of insects which show a wonderful capacity for adapting themselves to their environment in order to escape the notice of their natural enemies. But nature has once more to yield to art. No insect, however successful in escaping its enemies by means of its adaptability, has shown itself as adaptable as this alliance programme). There is one article - a secret article - of the alliance programme which says that the programme is intended to secure the votes of a majority of members of the House of Representatives, and with that object in view it is to be altered from time to time to an extent to which no natural insect has ever succeeded in changing its appearance. Just remember that the programme as it left the Committee of three which drew it up was full of fight. Fiscalism was to be revived forthwith, the Tariff fight was to be renewed within these halls at all costs and hazards. But this unhappy programme had to undergo the scrutiny of the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party. I will not call them “ seceders,” but the smaller of the two branches into which the party is now divided.
– Oh, no.
– It is said that figures cannot lie, although the men who use them may do so. At any rate, an analysis of the figures as to the division of the twenty-three or twenty-four Deakenites shows conclusively that a majority of the party sit on this side of the House and not upon the Opposition benches. Those honorable members who appear in Opposition may represent the younger and yet the more distinguished branch of the party, and may possess greater intellect, ability, and activity as a set-off to the mere brute force of numbers which is to be found upon this side. Whatever advantage attaches to numbers is undoubtedly on the side of the branch which sits behind the Government. The alliance programme had to go through the crucible of the consideration of the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party. I will say in justice to those honorable members, however, that the programme did not suffer much at their hands. They swallowed the whole of its items, just as they swallowed its subsequent version, with a willingness and cheerfulness which leads one to suppose that they find the operation entirely to their taste. A few days later the programme had to face the Labour Party, which has no fiscal faith. Included in its ranks are men who hold strong opinions against re-opening the Tariff in the way suggested - re-opening it in order to raise duties and not to lower them, re-opening it so that duties may be raised in the interests of a few industries only, leaving alone all the other duties with regard to which free-traders may hold different views. I should like to ask how, if the Tariff were once re-opened, this House could be prevented from discussing or altering any item. We know enough of the forms of the House to be fully aware that that could not be prevented. The programme came before the Labour Party and emerged, subsequent to the meeting of the joint parties, in a somewhat bedraggled condition. It was considerably altered from its original form, and upon it the alliance of thirty-five members stood. Then, alas, the honorable member for Barker came to Victoria. I was not present at the gathering when he arrived, but if the newspaper reports be true he was received with great cheering.
– He had a royal reception.
– Then the question arose, “ Can thirty-five be turned into thirty-six ? “ because that would be, indeed, a noble object to achieve if it could be achieved. Article1 of the programme - I do not refer to the preliminary condition - which stated that “ the Arbitration Bill is to be carried with the substitution of Mr. Watson’s amendment for Mr. McCay’s amendment” became “the Arbitration Bill is to be carried as introduced, but members are to be at liberty to vote as they voted before.” What an adaptation to environment. What insect - I should say what other insect - could show such adaptability?
– The Minister is making a statement that is absolutely untrue.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable memberfor Melbourne Ports has characterized the statement made by the Minister as absolutely untrue.
– I would askthe honorable member to withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw it if the remark is out of order, but I was not aware that it was so. I did not say that the honorable member was telling an untruth, but that the statement made was absolutely untrue.
– I know what the honorable member means. He wishes to convey that what I have stated was not the cause of the change.
– There was no change.
– No change? All I can say is that some press friends of the honorable member and his associates have done them very poor service, because the alliance programme as published before the honorable member for Barker came to Melbourne, said “ The Arbitration Bill as introduced, substituting Mr. Watson’s amendment for Mr. McCay’s amendment,” ‘ and after the honorable member came to Melbourne, and had met the other members of the alliance, the programme said “ The Arbitration Bill, as introduced, but members are to be at liberty to vote as they voted before.”
– That is the part that is wrong.
– These are the facts as they appear from the only sources of information that we have as to honorable members’ proceedings, because they do not tell us what takes place in the meetings at which they arrange all these things.
– The Minister’s information is unreliable.
– It may be more soothing to the Minister to tell him that the facts are not as he states them.
– We have proved more than once that paragraphs in the newspapers cannot be relied on.
– I would ask honorable members opposite whether ?t is not true that the alliance programme was published - I do not say the final programme, because I do not believe that we have yet seen the final programme? If they could change their number from thirty-six into thirty-seven they would again alter’ their programme; and if they could change thirty-seven into thirty-eight - why, “ hang the programme.” The programme was published adopting “the Arbitration Bill as introduced, substituting Mr. Watson’s amendment for Mr. McCay’s amendment.” Will honorable members opposite contradict that ? That was the position before the honorable member for Barker came to Melbourne, and I say that after he arrived here the programme provided “Arbitration Bill to be introduced, but members to be at liberty to vote as they voted before.”
– Hear, hear; those a’re the exact words.
– The Minister is wrong in his data.
– I shall be very glad if it can be shown that I am wrong. I would, however, ask honorable members why the alteration was made?
– That is our business.
– I shall tell the ‘honorable member why it. ‘was made - in order to convert thirty-five into thirty-six.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable member for Bourke is the last man who should interject on a question of honorable members voting as they voted before. The honorable member voted’ for my amendment to limit preferences to majorities. Has he changed his vote ?
– I would ask him further would he have changed his vote if he had had a chance?
– I would ask the Minister to place his question upon the noticepaper.
– Did the honorable member vote for an opportunity to change his vote ?
– I did not get a chance. The Minister took good care of that.
– Did the honorable member vote for the recommittal of the clause in order that he might have an opportunity to change his vote if he wished to ? We all know that he has changed his vote upon another matter.
– Yes, upon one matter, and’ I acted then in accordance with a pledge which I had given to my constituents.
– Now, in regard to the majority proviso in the clause relating to preference to unionists the honorable member has sheltered himself by saying that the motion to recommit clause 48 was not in form a motion for the alteration of the provision as to a majority being required. Was it anything else in effect-
– Yes, it was a motion to eject the Government from office..
– It was a plot.
– Honorable members will not permit me to complete my sentence. Was it anything else in effect but a raising of the question as to whether or not clause 48 was to be altered? And would it have been anything else but that except for the extraordinary course which the Labour Administration took of making: a vital matter of a difference not much greater - according to the honorable member for Bland himself - than the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee.
– The Treasurer can inform the Minister as to that fact.
– I shall ask him when I sit down. Unfortunately I cannot interrupt my speech for the purpose of seeking the information.
– The Labour Government did not make the honorable member’s amendment vital.
– I shall come to that presently. We are not told it in so many words, but it is suggested by the Opposition that this Government need not expect any specially generous treatment from the Opposition. They have not said that thev will not give us fair play, and I am not going to suppose that they will not, but it has been suggested - to put it mildly - that we do not deserve it, because we did not treat the last Government fairly. Honorable members opposite cheer that statement. Well, I shall proceed to show what kind of treatment was meted out to the late Government. There was an amendment made in clause 48 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which provided that preference to unionists should not be granted if there were not a majority of those concerned in favour of the preference.
– In the opinion of the Court.
– Exactly. That amendment was adopted” by a majority of five votes. It has been suggested that that amendment was not discussed. Now, I have taken the trouble to look up Hansard, and I find that the amendment was announced and circulated on the evening of Thursday, the 23rd of June, and the vote was taken at 4 o’clock on the following day, Friday. I find, further, that after I had announced my amendment eight or ten honorable members spoke upon the preference clause, and no less than four of them discussed my amendment.
– The fact that four honorable members out of seventy-five discussed the amendment could not be taken as prov-ing that it was generally discussed.
– But there was nothing to prevent other honorable members from dis-‘ cussing it if they had chosen.
– Yes, there was. It was thought that it would come on for discussion again.
– Well, it did come on for discussion again, and honorable members then complained, and they have been complaining ever since.
– The Minister and those associated with him would not allow the clause to be discussed.
– How could we prevent it from being discussed ?
– By refusing to allow it to be recommitted.
– We had’ been talking for a week upon clause 48. I should like to direct attention to the position that was occupied by myself and other honorable members upon this side of the House in connexion with that amendment upon clause 48. According to Hansard of the 23rd of
June (page 2631), after having proposed this very amendment, I said -
I have been and still am a supporter of the Bill, and whether this provision (my proposal as to majorities) be passed or not, I shall support the measure, as it stands at present, upon the third reading. ,
That was not very hostile to the Bill. I did not make the matter a vital one. I said that I felt strongly about it, and I still feel strongly, and we shall be doing only the barest justice to the people of this country if we maintain that clause as it stands.
– The honorable and learned gentleman wished to obtain credit for being in favour of a useless Bill.
– I can deal with only one matter at a time. The division was taken on the 24th June, and the amendment was carried by a majority of five, which included the honorable and learned member whom I have followed ever since I entered this Parliament - the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I have never deserted him, anyhow.
– The honorable and learned member left this side of the House.
– I left that side of the Chamber when the Labour Administration walked away from this side and filled the Opposition benches. There was nowhere else for me to go. Whilst the honorable and learned member for Bendigo was addressing the House yesterday afternoon, and urging that there was no reason why the Protectionist Party should be hopelessly split into two camps, the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs interjected, “ Why, there are four protectionists upon the Treasury benches.” That is the trouble.
– No. I said that there were four protectionists following the free-trade leader.
– I suppose the whole trouble originates in the fact that it is the wrong four. I am sure the honorable member thinks that there are members of the Protectionist Party who would grace the Treasury benches, but the particular four who now occupy them are most improper persons to be sitting there. He interjects that we are following the free-trade leader. Might I ask “ What leader is he following?” Is he following the honorable and learned member for Indi, or the honorable member for Bland, or both? Whom is he following? I pause for a reply.
– He is following the silent leader.
– If he is following the exponent of golden silence, and not the honorable member for Bland, then I am following the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the honorable member for Gippsland, and not the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– Which one?
– Also I am following the Treasurer. I should be satisfied to follow any one of the three ; but when the three are associated, I am upon very good ground in following the whole of them.
– It is only the ragged regiment which protests.
– I am not going to say anything unkind about the gentlemen with whom I have been associated for years. I trust that throughout my remarks I shall say only what is perfectly fair in political warfare. We are temporarily separated, but I believe that those honorable members who occupy the Opposition corner benches will cross to the Ministerial side of the House before long.
– Hear, hear. After the elections.
– The honorable member may think that they will occupy the Ministerial benches; but he has other fish to fry before that result is achieved. To return to clause 48, I have already stated the position of affairs upon the 24th June. The amendment to which I have referred was then carried by a majority of five, which included the honorable member for Riverina, who afterwards actually declared that he had been trapped into voting for it.
– I say so now.
– The fact is that he saw his leader, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, crossing the Chamber, and, like a good follower, he went where his leader went. He knew what the amendment meant, I presume ?
– Then, I would advise the honorable member to find out what he is going to vote for next time. Does he know what the alliance programme means?
– Yes; there is no doubt about that.
– Is he an A man or a B man? Is he on the A list of contributories, or the B list?
– As far as the alliance programme is concerned, I am A to Z. There is no “ves-no” about me.
– The Scriptural interpretation of from A to Z is from Genesis to Revelations. We have seen the genesis and we are waiting for the revelations, but we have been waiting a long time.
– The honorable and learned member will get the revelations later on.
– The more that is revealed in connexion with the alliance programme and intentions the better pleased we shall be, and the better will it be for the country.
– There will be more revelations than those relating to the alliance programme.
– As long as anything that is said constitutes fair political fighting, no complaint can be made upon either side. I do not propose to make any startling revelations myself, because I do not know anything startling to reveal .
– Was it not agreed, in the caucus meeting held by the Liberal Party, that there should be no party lines drawn in regard to the Arbitration Bill ?
– I shall come to the question of the meeting at a later stage.
– Will the honorable and learned member answer my question now?
– I think the honorable member will admit that I should be allowed to progress in my own way.
– My reason for asking the question at this stage is that the honorable and learned member has inferred that we ought to have followed our leader.
– I will say at once that there was no obligation to follow the honorable and learned member for Ballarat upon that matter, and if anything which I have said conveys that inference, I wish to correct it. There was no treachery on the part of honorable members sitting in the Opposition corner in voting as they did on the Arbitration Bill. But I ask them to extend to us the same grace, and to admit that there was no treachery on our part in acting as we did. If there was no obligation upon them - and I freely admit that to be the fact - there was no obligation upon us either. It was not a Protectionist Party question. We were free to vote as we chose upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and to divide as we liked upon it, because the issue as between protection and freetrade was dead for three years by the deliberate act of the honorable member himself, amongst others. Does he know the
Preferential Trade Gazette, which did such good work during the elections?
– I am going to stand to it, too.
– It persuaded the people of Australia to say that for three years the Tariff should not be re-opened. Yet the honorable member now wishes to re-open it in the face of the declarations contained in that publication. I regret that I am being led to say earlier in my speech than I had intended some of the things which I desired to say. But to return again to clause 48.
– The honorable and learned member is getting on well.
– I am doing my best in a fair way for my own side. If I do not speak for my side I shall not get honorable members opposite to do so.
– The complaint is that the Minister is attacking instead of defending.
– But there has been no attack upon us. If the enemy will not come into our country we have to go into the enemy’s country, and sometimes it is not bad strategy to do so.
– If the Minister wishes it he will get enough attacks before the debate is finished.
– On the 24th June the division to which I have already referred was taken upon my amendment. The trapped honorable member for Riverina, the untrapped honorable member for Bourke, and certainly the untrapped honorable member for Barker voted for that amendment, either personally or by pair. The then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland, took time to consider the Government position, and on the following Tuesday announced that he would ask the Committee to reconsider its decision. That was all he said.
– He did not ask the Committee to reconsider the matter then.
– No; he said that he would ask the Committee to reconsider its decision at a later stage. Then came clause 62, upon which an amendment was suggested by the honorable and learned member for Angas, and one was proposed by me, forbidding political unions to become plaintiffs under the Act. Upon that amendment an amendment was submitted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and the honorable and learned member for Indi, for bidding a political character to those unions which wished to obtain a preference.
– No, I think there was some difference between the two proposals.
– It was very slight.
– That amendment was carried against my views by a majority of one. Honorable members will, perhaps, recollect that that majority was in doubt until very late in the debate. They will remember the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland, standing up and announcing that he would accept the spirit of the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, but that it might require some verbal alterations.
– He made that statement the day before the amendment was moved.
– And he made it, in answer to a question by the honorable and learned member for Corio, within an hour of the time of the division being taken- I also recollect that the honorable member for Barker - -andi as all these acts took place under the public eye, I am perfectly justified in referring to them - walked over to the table and spoke to the Prime. Minister. Then the vote was taken upon the exact verbiage of the amendment, and there was no further reference to accepting merely the spirit of it. I cannot forget either the brutal frankness with which the honorable and learned member for Corio had put his question to the Prime Minister, “ Is this amendment vital to the Government, because if it is I shall vote with you, but if it is not I shall vote against you ‘ ‘ ? The honorable member for Bland said very candidly - I do not see what else he could have said under the circumstances - “ Oh, the amendment is vital to the Government.” For that reason, presumably, the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the honorable member for Barker, after walking over to the table and speaking to the Prime Minis- .ter, voted with the Government, with the result that the amendment was carried by a majority of one. Subsequentlythe then Prime Minister informed a press interviewer- in Sydney that the Government also proposed to make clause 48 vital. The honorable and learned member for Corio had announced, “ Make it vital, and I will support you,” and apparently the honorable member for Bland thought - I do not say there was anything improper about it - that to make things vital was sometimes of use. Accordingly, he made clause 48 vital by an announcement outside the House after he had won another amendment by making it vital.
– He made that clause vital to the existence of the Government prior to that, and he informed the honorable and learned member for Ballarat of the fact.
– All I can say is that if that be so, the honorable member for Bland and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat kept the information to themselves. Further, I claim that any private statement of that character is not one which we are justified in seriously regarding. It is only public statements which are made in the House, or in that modern substitute for the House - the press interview - that we are entitled to regard. I did not know that the Watson Administration intended to make clause 48 vital to its existence before I saw the announcement in the public press.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that that was before or after we dealt with clause 62 ?
– It was after.
– I say it was before.
– Of course in these matters our memory may betray us, but I feel sure that I am correct. If the honorable member can show me I am wrong, I shall cheerfully withdraw the statement.
– It it quite possible I shall have a word or two to say on the honorable member’s conduct.
– My conduct?
– I have said nothing personal since I started to speak.
– I shall not be personal.
– Will the honorable member favour me by telling me whether he intends to refer to my conduct in Parliament, or whether it is some of my unhappy past to which he proposes to refer?
– If the honorable and learned member is present he will hear.
– The misfortune is that I shall not have an opportunity to reply to any allegations which the honorable member may make about me personally.
– Make a “ personal explanation.”
– At present I am in the disadvantageous position of not knowing with what the honorable member is going to charge me, and, therefore, I can say nothing now which would entitle me’ to make a personal explanation later on.
– Give a press interview.
– The state of affairs was as I have described, and I have shown very clearly by the extract I read that, though the Government made the question vital, I did not do so - I was not using the clause as a lever for ousting the Government. It was my intention to vote for the Bill in any case, so anxious was I to see the measure law, much as I dreaded, as I said in the same speech, the possibilities of an unrestricted preference to unionists. The then Prime Minister gave notice of recommittal, and having been told by him that he insisted on the amendment to clause 48 being rescinded, and heard the amendment he proposed to insert instead, I challenged his view at the very first opportunity. At that time, I think the word “ sandbagging “ was used once or twice. I must confess that I am not familiar with the ethics , or practice of “sandbagging”; I do not know what it means.
– It is an ancient institution.
– I ask the honorable and learned member whether “sandbagging “ has anything to do with potters. At all events, I believe it has something to do with “potting.” I have an impression of reading somewhere that “ sandbagging “ is a method used by members of the criminal classes, as a sure and silent way of knocking a man down when he is not looking.
– Without hurting him?
– If it only means hitting your opponent without hurting him, there can be no complaint.
– Without disfiguring him.
– Then I am afraid that the Opposition do regard themselves as having been somewhat disfigured; but the light does not fall nearly so well on the other side of the Chamber as it does on the Government side. Whatever the word may mean, it is used in the sense that something unfair was done,’ and that I was a party to the unfairness - not only a party, but one of the main movers. I have told honorable members what took place, and that I seized the first opportunity to challenge the Government’s view. If the Bill had gone into Committee, what more would honorable members have been able to discuss than they were able to discuss in the House?
– We had no opportunity to discuss the clause.
– The honorable member for Riverina says that he had no opportunity to discuss thequestion. In the speech in which he said he had been trapped he could have discussed it. There was nothing to prevent the honorable member discussing clause 48 from A to Z - from Genesis to Revelations - although he complained that he was not able to discuss it in all its “ ramifications.” Every honorable member was able to discuss clause 48 in all its “ ramifications,” and from every conceivable point of view - to discuss the whole question of preference to unionists, the modifications of preference to unionists, the adoption of preference, and the opposition to preference. Honorable members were open to discuss the matter in whatever way they chose, and could have done no more in Committee. If we had gone into Committee honorable members opposite would not have been able, upon clause 48, to discuss the demerits of the right honorable member for East Sydney - that was the trouble. They wanted to be able to talk about the past political history of other honorable members. They wanted to be able to talk about the danger to White Australia - a danger which does not exist. They wanted to be able to talk about every subject under the sun except preference to unionists; and if we had gone into Committee they would not have been able to range over that very wide field.
– Does the honorable and learned member not admit that the amendment was discussed, and a division taken when honorable members were rushing for their trains after 4 o’clock in the afternoon ?
– Is there any special lack of virtue attaching to a division taken after 4 o’clock? If there is, I would suggest that the division on this motion be taken after 4 o’clock some afternoon, so that we may disregard the decision.
– Never again !
– Never again? No more divisions after 4 o’clock? That accounts for the fact that on the 13th August the debate was continued until after 7 o’clock, in order, I suppose, that the division’ might - bevalid. However, honorable’ members would have had no more chance of discussing preference to unionists in Com- . mittee than they had in the House.
They would have had a chance of supporting the then Prime Minister’s amendment, proposed in lieu of that already in the Bill; but it must be remembered that the amendment in the Bill was no longer that of the honorable member for Corinella, but was the amendment of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– We could have proved in Committee that the honorable and learned member’s amendment would kill the Bill.
– The honorable member could have tried to prove that in the House had he chosen to do so. Everything he could have said in Committee on clause 48 he could have said in the House. Why did he not say what he had to say ?
– Because we were waiting for the Bill to be taken into Committee.
– But it will be remembered that when the then Prime Minister formally moved the recommittal of the Bill I immediately moved the omission of clause 48 from the clauses it was proposed” to reconsider. Yet the honorable member says that he was waiting until the Bill was taken into Committee before he endeavoured to do what I and thirty -seven other honorable members were trying to prevent.
– We could not move an amendment until the Bill got into Committee.
– We desired to have the clause as it stood, and we took a definite and undoubted position in order to show what our desire was. We took all the risks of honorable members who nearly, but not quite, agreed with the” clause asit stood. It has been said that by the means adopted we on this side got the vote of the Chairman of Committees.
– And why not?
– Yes; why not? Does the honorable member for Yarra object to the vote of the honorable member for Laanecoorie being recorded ?
– No ; I like to see the honorable member for Laanecoorie in the place where he ought to be - amongst the conservatives.
– I should say that the place of the honorable member for Laanecoorie will be at the top of the poll after what he has done.
– We shall see about that.
– The honorable member for Yarra has been very busy since the change of Government, in pointing out what wickednesses there are on this side of the Chamber.
– I have not said a word yet.
– But the honorable member has made about three thousand interjections. The milk .of human kindness which filled his breast is all curdled. The honorable member was always regarded as one of those kind-hearted people who never think ill of anybody, but now he never seems to think any good, at any rate of us on this side; he finds there is nothing to commend in us.
– We are beginning to find out the other side.
– With his acute perception, the honorable member is beginning to find us out. But at present he finds us in, and we propose to continue in as long as we possibly can, not for our own sakes, but for the sake of the country we represent.
– Ha! ha!
– The honorable member may laugh, but he ought to know that I and others here do not depend on politics for our living - politics are hot a matter of life and death to us.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that honorable members on this side depend an politics for their living?
– But the honorable and learned member implied it.
– I do not desire to make any imputation, even by inuendo ; but when I said that we were here, not for .our benefit, but for the benefit of the country, the honorable member for Yarra laughed. That laugh is an imputation that we have personal objects to serve. That imputation I desire to refute, and in doing so I have not the slightest desire to make any imputation upon honorable members opposite. I say frankly that it is an honorable ambition for a man to become a Minister of the Crown; but I should be the last to suppose that the mere question of money consideration would animate honorable members opposite any more than it would animate honorable members, on this side. I ask the same admission from the other side that I make to them in this, as in other matters. I wish to impute nothing - I also wish to have nothing imputed ; but . what “ is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” I do not know or care which side is the “ goose “ in the present case ; but I suppose we shall know when an appeal is made to the country, because one or the other will be “cooked.”
– It is a pity the Prime Minister does not take the same attitude.
– I do not know to what the honorable member for Bourke refers, but if any of us have said anything we ought not to say, the sooner it is forgotten the better. As I was saying, honorable members could have discussed the amendment as fully as they chose in the House.
– And other amendments could have been suggested.
– Although honorable members remind us that we secured the vote of the Chairman of Committees, they know well that the vote of the honorable member for Barker was lost to us. The honorable member stated in the House, as he stated privately over and over again, that he intended to adhere to his support of clause 48 as it stood. Honorable members opposite must have heard the honorable member for Barker make that statement.
– He made it in the House.
– The honorable member made the statement both publicly and privately. If the Bill had gone into Committee the voting for the Government would, instead of being thirty-eight to thirty-six, have been thirty-eight to thirty-five, and if the honorable member for Bourke had stuck to his opinion, which, he said, he never altered, the voting would have been thirty-nine to thirty-four. Absolutely no injustice whatever was done to the Watson Government.
– There was the injustice that no opportunity was given to amend the clause.
– I have related the facts, and I leave it to the country to say whether there was any injustice. Certain honorable members who supported the late Government charged’ the then Opposition with unfairness in the course of the three or four days’ debate. I have, plainly and simply narrated the facts, and I say without fear of fair contradiction, that there was absolutely no unfairness. It was the then Government who made the question vital, as, of course, they had a right to do. But were we to alter our votes on that account ?
I know that the honorable member for Corio announced that he would alter his vote if the Government regarded the proposal as vital. But I was under no obligation, moral or legal, to do so. I was sitting in direct Opposition, having followed the previous Government when it left office on a similar question. I was opposed to the Watson Government, but I was supporting the Arbitration Bill whereever I believed it ought to be supported - I was supporting practically all its provisions. I was under no obligation to change my honestly-formed opinion. I may be wrong; it may be true, as honorable members say, that the Bill as it stands, will do harm, but I did not, and I do not, think that to be the case. No honorable member was under any obligation to change his vote simply because the Watson Government made the question a vital one. The Government could only have chosen to make it vital, in order to force a decision in their favour, against the convictions of the majority of honorable members ; and I was not going to be cowed by that threat, any more than by any other threats that might be made against us in the matter. I desire now to come to the allegation that has been made, that clause 48 as it stands has wrecked the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– The Prime Minister said that it has made the Bill unworkable
– That is the honorable member’s 3,001st interjection. Do honorable members opposite still say that the amendment in clause 48 wrecks the Bill?
– The unions, or some of them, say that they will not register under it now.
– That shows that the unions wanted to get something that the friends of the Bill never understood that the unions were wanting. It shows nothing less than that. Do honorable members opposite still stand to the statement that the amendment in clause 48 has wrecked the Bill? They will not say “Yes” to that now.
– Yes ; certainly it does.
– Then I will accept their statement that the Arbitration Bill has been wrecked by the amendment in clause 48.
– And the honorable and learned member is the wrecker.
– I am the wrecker ! Look at the signs of conscious guilt imprinted on my countenance. The honorable member for Capricornia asserts that the Bill is wrecked, and that I am the wrecker. I say in the first place that it is absolutely incorrect to say that the Bill is wrecked. My amendment means, and shows clearly that it means, that in the opinion of the Court there must be a majority asking for preference, before a preference is given. The honorable member for Bland to”:d us, while Prime Minister, practically this - that ninety-nine times out of 100 his amendment and’ mine meant the same thing, but not the one-hundredth time. Yesterday when the honorable and learned member for Bendigo was speaking, and quoted that remark, the honorable member for Bland, by an interjection, said, “ I meant my amendment to go further than majority rule.”He wanted his amendment to go further than majority rule ! Honorable members opposite profess to believe in majority rule, but in regard to preference to unionists they ask for the possibility - I do not say the certainty - of minority rule. That is what I am opposed to. I have been in a majority, and I have been ina minority. I have been sorry when I have been in a minority, but I have accepted the decision of those in the majority. I ask honorable members opposite to abide by the principle of majority rule in that way. There seem to be some honorable members - some people - who only believe in majority rule when they are in the majority. It is a fine kind of rule when you are in the majority, but when you are in the minority you have to submit to the will of the majority. I object to minority rule in industrial matters just as much as in political matters. My amendment means nothing more than that there must be a majority before there is a preference. It is bad enough for the minority then.
– It would be impossible to apply the clause in the case of the shearers.
– The honorable member for Darling told us the other day thatfivesixths of the shearers of Australia belong to the union already. I do not know who the Judge of the Arbitration Court is tobe, but whoever he is, he will doubtless be a good man ; and if the clause says that in the opinion of the Judge, there has to be a majority before preference can be granted;. that means that he can inform his mind in any manner he chooses, as the clause specifically says; and a union that can state that it has five-sixths of the number of people engaged in an industry within its ranks will have no difficulty whatever in obtaining the opinion of the Court in its favour. This talk about polling the workers of Australia is bunkum - pure bunkum - and those who make the statement ought to know that it is so.
– How is it possible to find the opinion of the majority of an industry if they are not polled?
– I notice that this talk about a poll of the whole of the people in an industry of Australia comes from the direct Opposition benches. It does not come from the corner. We do not find the Liberal-Protectionist branch of this precious alliance making these allegations. We do not hear the statement from the honorable and learned member for Indi, or from the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. Indeed, we have not heard them at all yet. Perhaps as the revolving seasons change, we may hear something from them in connexion with this matter. But suppose that the amendment means what honorable members opposite say - that there can be no preference to unionists without a poll of the workers throughout Australia in a particular industry. Does that wreck the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– It makes it impracticable.
– What is the central principle of conciliation and arbitration? It is the substitution of a decision of a Court of peace, for the results of a strike, which means war. It may be said that the unions have to make sacrifices in order to get it ; that may be true ; but so long as the central principle is not sacrificed, conciliation and arbitration is not wrecked. That principle remaining intact, the Bill cannot be said to be wrecked in the case to which I refer. But I say further that when we were talking about the Bill at the last election and previously we never heard a whisper about the vital importance of clause 48 as introduced. If the position contended for by honorable members opposite be true, in what position does the alliance stand? If it be true that clause 48, as it stands, wrecks the Bill, what is the situation of the members of the alliance?
– Go-as-you-please !
– It is worse than goasyouplease. This is the article of their programme, referring to the measure -
Conciliation and arbitration, as nearly as possible in accordance with the original Bill as introduced by the Deakin Ministry, but any member is at liberty to adhere to his voles already given.
I like to interpret general statements in the light of existing facts. The existing facts of this case are these. Leaving out of consideration the honorable member for Bourke - assuming that he changes his vote - and I am not putting that in an unpleasant way - the votes already given in Committee, with’ the honorable member foi Barker voting for the clause as it stands, were thirty-eight for the clause as it stands, and thirty-five for an alteration. The alliance declare, in the article of their programme which I have quoted, that they will leave in the Bill the amendment which they say wrecks the Bill.
– I will quote the article again -
Conciliation and arbitration, as nearly as possible in accordance with the original Bill as introduced by the Deakin Ministry, but any member is at liberty to adhere to his votes already given.
Do honorable members expect any one of the thirty-eight members on this side of the House to alter his vote on that clause? Do they expect the honorable member for Barker to alter his vote already given on that clause? Do they expect any member who voted for the clause as it stands to alter his vote ? They dare not say they do, because they know that they cannot possibly expect it.
– We expect to do what we should have done if we had gone into Committee upon the Bill - to alter the clause in a satisfactory manner.
– That is not what the article of the alliance provides for - any member is at liberty to adhere to his votes already given.
I say unhesitatingly that under this article in the programme of the alliance not one honorable member who voted for the amendment will alter his vote. Surely after the two months that have elapsed since the division, and after all the conflict that there has been, every honorable member has made up his mind on this matter. We are not to delay making up our minds for ever. ] charge this alliance, under the specious guise of this kindly article of their programme, with saying in one breath, that the Bill as it stands is wrecked by the amendment made in it, and in the next breath saying, “We will leave the Bill as it stands, if we can only change thirty-five into thirtyeight.” Honorable members may laugh; but that is as true as anything that ever happened in. public life. That article means nothing more nor less, when interpreted in the light of existing facts, and in accordance with the views of existing Members of this Parliament, than that they are prepared at a pinch totake the Bill as it stands, under the terms of their alliance.
– Absolutely without warrant.
– I only take the facts.
– Pure assumption.
– To expect that any honorable member who voted for the Bill as it stands will change his vote, is not pure assumption, but pure presumption. I wish now to refer to a matter about which I was challenged. On the 5th September, 1904, the Age newspaper said -
On Saturday an important stage in the negotiations between’ the Liberal-Protectionist and the Labour wings of the Federal Opposition was passed. The Liberal-Protectionists met at Parliament House in the morning, and discussed the recommendations of the committees - outlined in the Age of Saturday- - and unanimously adopted them as a basis for alliance.
The recommendations are headed “The Official Proposals.”
– Who were present at that meeting?
Six were present - Mr. Isaacs, who was in the chair, Sir William Lyne, Senator Styles, Mr. Groom, Mr. Mauger, and Mr. Hume Cook. Apologies for non-attendance were received from Senator Trenwith, Mr. Starrer, Mr. Wilkinson, Mr. Crouch, and Mr. Chanter. A message of sympathy was received from Sir Langdon Bonython.
By the way, that message of sympathy has never been published.
– The honorable and learned member can have it.
– Let us have it, then.
– Certainly. It is as straightforward as the honorable member for Barker usually is.
– A beautiful message.
– - The honorable member for Barker says he is opposed to the present Government, any way.
The meeting lasted about two hours, and was marked by unanimity, as far as the broad lines of the proposed agreement are concerned. One or two matters were reserved for fuller discussion with the labour members to-morrow evening. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Isaacs made the following brief statement to the representatives of the press : - “ I submitted the draft proposals, and the meeting approved of them as a fair basis for an alliance between the Liberal-Protectionists and the Labour Parties for the consolidation of all the liberal progressive forces of Australia. We are to meet the Labour Party next Tuesday night.”
The first item in “ the official proposals “ for a “ joint platform “ reads -
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, as at present, with the substitution of Watson’s amendment in preference clause for McCay’s.
That was the draft as it passed the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party. On Thursday, 8th September, the Age published this statement : -
Soon after 11.30 the Liberals entered the Labour Party room, where they were received with loud cheers. The Liberals conferring were Mr. Isaacs, Sir William Lyne - who does not grace us much with his presence
– He says that he cannot stand it.
– I quite believe that. It is not the style of debate for which apparently the honorable member for Hume has a preference.
Senator Trenwith, Messrs. Chanter, Groom, Hume Cook, Mauger, and Starrer. Senator Styles and Messrs. Higgins and Crouch were unable to be present. Soon after the joint conference began Sir Langdon Bonython arrived, having come straight from the Adelaide express.
– That is altogether wrong.
– I am quoting from the Age of Thursday, 8th September, a report of what took place on the 7 th September.
– I may inform the honorable and learned gentleman that no reporters were present.
– No reporters were present, and they have not told us much of what took place. Will honorable members in the corner deny that the honorable member for Barker, having been out of Melbourne for a week or so, came to a meeting when it was in progress, and that before he came the “ official proposals “ for a “joint platform” contained the item I. have just read, or that the article, as finally agreed upon, was in these terms : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as nearly as possible in accordance with the original Bill, as introduced by the Deakin Government, but any member is at liberty to adhere to his votes already given.
Will honorable members deny that the honorable member for Barker had nothing to do with that alteration of the items ?
– Not a thing.
– Was it the Labour Party, then, that asked for the alteration? Is it the fact that the Liberal-Protectionists passed “ Watson’s amendment instead of McCay’s,” but that the Labour Party asked for liberty for members to adhere to their votes? If that is what took place I can understand the silence of the Labour Party. They are the people who are going to adopt the wrecked Bill, and not these noble patriots in the corner. So much for the wrecking of the Bill, and so much for the sincerity of those who allege that it is wrecked. Then, with a few exceptions, the Labour Party, ostentatiously, through their leader, abandoned all connected with the Bill. On the 13th September there was a division on clause 62 - the provision to which the honorable member for Bourke referred as having been cheerfully accepted by the Labour Party, and which prevented preference to political unions. I think I am correct in saying that it was the one to which he referred, and about which I asked him last night, when he said he did not remember its number.
– That is so.
– The honorable member said that the Labour Party cheerfully accepted that amendment. The honorable member for Bland, by an interjection the other night, said that he was forced to accept that amendment, that he. only accepted it because otherwise he would have had to accept a worse one, namely, that which I proposed. That is the cheerful acceptance. They cheerfully accepted it further, when on the 13th September, the honorable member for Kennedy moved the omission of that provision from clause 62, and sixteen members of the Opposition voted with him. Only two of the cheerful acceptors on the front Opposition bench - the honorable member for Wide Bay, and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne - stayed there, and the other cheerful acceptors in the Opposition corner cheerfully marched out of the chamber. It was the most cheerful thing I have seen for a long time. Talk of Britons taking their pleasures sadly, I never saw a more notable instance of it than that one. Some marched out at one end of the chamber, and others marched out at the other end. Sixteen of the cheerful acceptors voted against the provision which they were cheerfully accepting, and the other twenty cheerful acceptors ran away from that which they had cheerfully accepted. They were afraid of getting too cheerful; they were afraid of the cheerfulness that pervaded their ranks, taking such an ebullient form as to carry them beyond themselves, and make them say, in the height of their exultation, something more perhaps than they should. I only hope that they will accept the result of the impending division, whatever it may be, as cheerfully as they accepted that. I wish to draw attention to this fact, that there was one honorable member, at any rate with whom that was a gross breach of faith. The honorable and learned member for Corio denounced in loud voice and unmeasured terms - in more unmeasured terms than any other speaker - the preference to unionists clause; but he made a second speech later on, and this was his justification for voting with the Government at a pinch - that is, in the division in which they were defeated. Later on, the Watson Government accepted an amendment - that is the one which they cheerfully accepted - forbidding unions which were political to ask for a preference, and because of that the honorable and learned member said his chief objection was removed. Yet when the Watson Government and its friends went into Opposition, some of them proposed to strike out this guarantee, which was the only justification to the honorable and learned member for altering his vote. I have not heard him speak on that point yet.
– We have not seen him for a few days.
– No; there are several questions which I should have liked to ask him, had he been here to-day. For example, he is hand in hand with the Labour Party. In the alliance he is the only member who last year, in connexion with the proposed establishment of a clothing factory, said, “I abhor Socialism; this is the first step in that path, which will lead to all sorts of things.” I forget his exact words, but that is the substance of what he said. Last night the honorable member for Barrier avowed openly and frankly that he is a Socialist.
– Is not the honorable and learned gentleman one?
– In the sense of the State ownership of the means of production, distribution, andexchange, no; and I never shall be. The honorable member for Barrier said that the further we go along that road the better. The honorable member for Bland, and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney have both said that the only reason why they cannot go the whole hog is that they cannot get the people to go with them. I do not pretend to be quoting their exact words, but that is what their statements amount to. So much for the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I now come to a question which is agitating the public mind more than any other. On the night before last the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that people must not think that clause 48 in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was the great issue before the country. He said that the whole House is practically agreed that there must be a majority asking for a preference before it is got, and the only question is as to the method by which the majority must be ascertained. He says that the majority must be asking for it. What wicked people we are to put in an amendment which says what the honorable member states !
– I said that the House had agreed to such.
– The honorable member is reported to have said that the whole House is practically agreed upon this. Now we come to the fiscal question.
– Ah ! that is the question.
– Now we come to the question of the revival of the Tariff, and the question of preferential trade. In the first place, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the time when the Tariff question was revived.
– Is the raising of the Tariff one of the terms of the alliance?
– All that is to come.
– I shall come to that point. When the Deakin Government - a purely protectionist one - went out of office, and a Government which was half protectionist and half free-trade came in, we heard nothing from honorable members who now sit in that corner about re-opening the Tariff, or the danger to protection in having any free-traders on the Treasury bench.
– It was not evolved then.
– No ; and that is just what I am coming to. The most remarkable thing is the date on which it evolved. The Watson Government was formed half of protectionists and half of free-traders. The honorable member for Bland says that that was a pure accident. So little did he think about the fiscal issue when he formed his Government, that he never stopped to considerwhether its members were protectionists or free-traders. We thought a little more about it than that.
– This Government is halfandhalf.
– This Government is halfandhalf designedly, as the last Government was half-and-half accidentally.
– And it has a protectionist at the Custom House.
– We have a protectionist at the Custom House, and that is more than the last Government had.
– Which the Government would not have had, only that it was made a condition by the caucus.
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman say that the labour members ever made protection versus freetrade a vital issue?
– No; they never did. I ask honorable members to listen to the words of the leader of the protectionist revival on Sunday night.
– Who is this?
– ‘The honorable member for Bland, of course. Does he not lead that side of the House? We have heard talk about others aspiring to the leadership, but we have not yet heard that it has devolved upon anybody but the honorable member for Bland.
– He does not lead that corner; he leads these benches.
– Then there is to be another coalition - another Government with two heads? On Sunday night, the honorable member for Bland said -
I am free to confess that in my view, unless there are grave anomalies, it is better that the Tariff should not be opened too frequently; but as one who has always been inclined to a protectionist Tariff -
The cause of protection is in the hands of one who is “ inclined to a protectionist Tariff.” We recollect the debates on the items in the Tariff. The honorable member for Bland was not always found voting with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and myself.
– And the right honorable member for East Sydney was never found voting with the honorable and learned member.
– The honorable member will admit that I, in the face of difficulties more than he had to contend with, voted with him all the time.
– I never charged the honorable and learned gentleman with doing otherwise.
– So far as agricultural implements were concerned, in spite of my having more farmers in my electorate than the honorable member had-
– Would the Barton Government have had any Tariff but for the followers of the honorable member for Bland?
– If he had been a freetrader, we might not have had a Tariff ; but he is the gentleman who is leading the’ fiscal revival, and who is to re-open the Tariff for the purpose of raising duties.
– I repeat that there would have been no Tariff had it not been for the honorable member for Bland.
– The honorable member for Darwin, at any rate, was pretty uncertain.
– He was not so uncertain as were those now on the Treasury benches.
– The free-traders were never uncertain. They were consistently opposed to the imposition of protective duties. They admit now that they were beaten, and they accept their beating for the present. I do not think that the Prime Minister and the ex-Postmaster-General ever voted on opposite sides in the divisions on the Tariff.
– I promise the honorable and learned member that we shall never be united again.
– Has the honorable member become a protectionist ? That is indeed good news. I welcome converts to the cause, even though they be converted by propagandists in whom I have not the utmost faith. I am glad to hear that the honorable member is now a protectionist, and that his eyes have been opened to what I believe to be the true light. There are some who do not agree with me, but we have agreed to differ amicably on this question.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie is willing to place duties on the people merely to gratify his spite against a particular individual.
– To continue my quotation from the report of the speech of the honorable member for Bland -
But as one who has always been inclined to a protectionist Tariff, when matters more important to the Labour. Party’s platform were not involved-
In other words, the honorable member who leads the Labour Party, and who is to lead in the protectionist revival, says, “ I am inclined to the protectionist view when matters more important to the Labour Party’s platform are not involved.” The protectionists who have joined the alliance are in the ranks of the Opposition only because of the Tariff.
– Nonsense ! Certainly not.
– Then, matters which are more important to them are involved in the issue.
– Most decidedly.
– These are the champions of the re-opening of the Tariff ! They are using the Tariff as a stalking horse, and nothing else. There are matters involved which are more important to them than it. I ask them, then, by what right do they demand the re-opening of the Tariff, without going to the electors ? This precious alliance speaks clearly of Tariff revision without an election, or with an election, if that unfortunate result must follow - because there are honorable members opposite who are afraid that the gun which they have loaded is, after all, carrying ball cartridge instead of blank cartridge.
– Honorable members on this side are not afraid.
– None of us is afraid to meet his own constituents, because, by the dispensation of a beneficent Providence, each thinks that he will win, though he may be doubtful about the other fellow. We all face an election with more or less cheerfulness.
– Mostly less.
– I understand the tone in which the honorable member says “mostly less,” and under the circumstances I do not blame him.
– I have never had a walk-over, as the honorable and learned member has had.
– I have had one, but I am told that I shall never have another. I have also, like the honorable member, had my defeats.
– The honorable member has had only one opportunity to be beaten. I ask every member of the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party whether he did not expressly or impliedly bind himself to fiscal peace, and no Tariff reopening for the remainder of the book-keeping period ?
– I never mentioned the book-keeping period.
– What did the honorable member mention ? Did he say, “ During the life-time of the coming Parliament “ ? The honorable member had the honorable and learned member for Ballarat in his district to support him. Was he not, therefore, subscribing to the programme of the honorable and learned member, ,who had declared, in no unmistakable terms, that the Tariff was not to be re-opened during the Parliament of 1903-6? The bookkeeping period expires in October, 1906, five years after the imposition of a uniform Tariff, which is the time when the reopening of the Tariff might fairly be suggested. It was the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs who, when speaking on the Address-in-Reply, noted the coincidence, and it was he who stated that the people had said definitely, and that the State of Queensland, for one, had declared absolutely, that there should be no reopening of the Tariff during the bookkeeping period. There was not an honorable member on that side but said or agreed without reservation that the Tariff should remain untouched during the life-time of the approaching Parliament.
– Surely we said that because we believed it to be best in the interests of the industries concerned?
– Because we believed it to be best in the interests of protection. The honorable member was reported in the Argus the other day to have said that, although he did not like the Tariff, it was to be at rest for five or six years, and he was glad of it.
– I did not say that.
– If the honorable member did not say it, we have another to add to the numerous instances of mis-reporting of which we have heard so much. We protectionists pledged ourselves, bad as we thought the Tariff to be in many respects, to leave it alone, and to fight those who wished to re-open it for the purpose of reducing duties. This has been spoken of as though it were a battle between the two parties in which the victors named their terms ; but it was nothing of the kind. The two contending parties went to the Arbitration Court - the people of Australia - and obtained an award, and now those in whose favour the award was given - not those against whom the matter was decided - wish to re-open, it without going back to the Court. They have no right to do so. If we protectionists believed that the
Tariff should be re-opened in order to do justice, the first thing we should demand is a dissolution and a general election, in order to obtain a fresh mandate from the people on the subject. The re-opening of the Tariff was suggested iri this House for the first time on the 20th July by the giving of the following, notice of motion by the honorable member for Bourke : -
That, in the opinion of this House, the existing Customs Tariff is unscientific in its operation and mischievous in its effects; and that, with a special view to the promotion of the agricultural and manufacturing industries and the more settled employment of all classes of workers, a readjustment of its incidence on some of its leading lines is highly desirable.
That motion first appeared on the noticepaper on the 26th July, when the Watson Administration had been beaten on clause 48, and had just succeeded in carrying, by a single vote, the amendment in clause 62 which was taken in preference to mine. They had also been beaten on their proposal to include the navigation clauses in the Arbitration Bill. It was then recognised that the Bill would probably go through this House in the form in which it stood at the time, and the line of cleavage between honorable members in reference to it had become apparent. The Watson Government had also declared that they would make the re-amendment of clause 48 vital to their existence. That was when we first heard of the re-opening of the Tariff.-
– It was a pure accident that the notice of motion first appeared then.
– Whatever view we may take of the question, as free-traders or protectionists. I, as a protectionist, say that a great cause has been prostituted for party purposes by honorable members who wish to go behind the decision of their own Arbitration Court - the people of Australia. The day upon which the honorable member for Bland gave notice of his motion of want of confidence, the honorable and learned member for Indi immediately beforehand gave notice of a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of the Tariff on specific lines. He gave notice of that motion on a Thursday, and had it set down on the business-paper for the following day, namely, Friday. Now, private members’ business is taken on Thursday. A private member can, under ordinary circumstances, if he gives notice of a motion for a Thursday a good way ahead, have it discussed, so that the result of putting the motion of which I am speaking down for a Friday, is that it appears manfully on the notice-paper week after week, in a position where it cannot be reached, except with the good will of every member of the House. That shows the genuineness of the honorable and learned member’s action. That notice of motion was accompanied by a notice of motion given by the honorable member for Boothby, for a Royal Commission to inquire into the tobacco monopoly. Was that a *bond fide way to raise the question? The Government have said what they propose to do. They are prepared to abide by the decision of the Arbitration Court - the people of Australia - that the Tariff is not to be re-opened during the present Parliament. But as the Prime Minister has declared, protectionists and free-traders alike are prepared to make the fullest inquiry into the operation of the Tariff. We do not desire a Commission which will sit indefinitely, and postpone the consideration of the question for ever. That is not the object of the Government. We recognise that, some1 time or other, the Tariff question will re-arise in an active form, and that honorable members must sooner or later range themselves as protectionists or free-traders.
– What will the Yes-No Government do then?
– The Government will do whatever honest conduct requires under the circumstances. We have, up to the present, shown our desire to act honestly. We are prepared to appoint a Royal Commission for the consideration of every complaint that may be submitted on behalf of any industry. We shall not confine the investigation of the Commission to the position of a few favoured industries which a majority of honorable members may select; we are prepared to consider the complaints of every industry affected by the Tariff. It must be remembered that the inquiry will have to extend over the whole of Australia.
– Spread it about.
– We cannot inquire into the position of Victorian industries alone, though some honorable members would like the investigation to be so confined.
– We desire to have the remedy as quickly as possible.
– Victorian and protectionist as I am, I shall not show myself as provincial as that.
– No one has suggested it.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports impliedly suggested it. No doubt each side believes that the inquiry will prove its case, but neither side will have ground to complain of the investigation.
– Will action be taken on the inquiry ?
– When the inquiry has been made, there will be another party entitled to consider its results - the people of Australia. We must have a dissolution and an election upon the question of Tariff revision before we meddle with the Tariff. That should be the main question at the elections, which will come sooner or later.
– The sooner the better.
– The noble courage of words is always easily displayed. The honorable member yearns for a dissolution. I venture to say that most honorable members being merely human, however willingly they may face a dissolution, do not yearn for it. The yearning is confined to a few altruistic breasts. The honorable member, I am afraid, has acquired a vitiated taste for a series of elections. Can anything be fairer than the position I have stated ? I quarrel with the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Indi in its details. He proposes : -
That a Royal Commission, consisting of Members of Parliament, selected by the respective Houses, should be at once appointed to inquire and report as to the injurious effect produced by the present Tariff upon certain Australian industries, which are to be specifically referred to such Commission after determination by this House.
Personally, I should prefer to see the Commission composed of gentlemen who are not Members of Parliament. Take myself as an illustration-
– The Minister appears to me to be proceeding to discuss a matter regarding which a notice of motion appears upon the paper. I would ask him not to do that. I have permitted him to refer incidentally to the subject for a certain time, and he may continue to follow that course, but if he proceeds to discuss the proposal contained in the motion, he will be out of order.
– I must apologize if I have transgressed. It is difficult to know where to draw the line in these matters. I shall not pursue the subject any further than to say that any Commission might as well be composed of those who are not committed by their public utterances .to a partisan view.
– Where can they be found ?
– How could a strongly protectionist member, for instance, come to the conclusion that an industry was being injured by protection; or how could a strong free-trader come to the conclusion that it was not being injured by protection? Both these men would have pledged themselves to their constituents to pursue a certain policy. In fact, we are all presumed to have investigated the matter already, and to have arrived at a conclusion.
– How are we to select the members of the Commission ? Where are we to find unprejudiced men?
– I admit that the Commission must be composed of an equal number of representatives of both sides ; but I think it is obvious that Members of Parliament are - if I may so express it - less open than are others to change their opinions. However, the matter is not a vital one, and I am merely stating my own personal view. I say, further, that it shoud be open to those engaged in any industry who may feel that they are being injured, to make their representations to the Commission. The investigation should not. be restricted to those industries which are included in a selected list. The honorable and learned member for Hume is like the man in the comic opera. He has “ a little list “ of twelve or thirteen industries which are to be made the subject of inquiry, but I ask why the Commission should restrict its investigations in the manner proposed ? The Government offered what was indicated long before the alliance suggested it, because I-
– It was indicated before the Minister said anything about it.
– Yes ; I believe it was first mentioned privately by the honorable member for Echuca.
– No. It was first indicated at a meeting held in Melbourne.
– The point is that one who happens to be a member of the present Administration indicated it before the alliance mentioned it. I suggested in a report, published in the Age of 16th August, that there should be a Tariff Commission, and I am still of that opinion, and my colleagues hold the same view. That is all that honorable members opposite ask, except that the report must be in by next session, and action must be taken at once. If a general election intervenes, and the public see what is in the report, and approve of it, I have no objection to immediate action being taken.
– Why did not the Prime Minister say that in his speech in this House ?
– He said it at Ballarat last Monday night. I do not wish to refer to myself, but I directed .attention to this matter on the 16th August.
– Not as part of the Ministerial programme.
– But surely the honorable member, knowing that I had expressed that opinion before I joined the Cabinet, might take it for granted that I would press it upon the Government. Are the Government to be confined to the items contained in their policy speech? Are they not to be allowed to frame any further policy, or to add anything to their original programme? The Government must be judged by their action under circumstances as they arise. I have indicated the Government proposal, which I regard as a perfectly fair one.
– It is ineffective.
– I would direct attention to the fact that it offers more than does the alliance programme. The alliance programme - I do not know whether this free to-do-as-you-like provision applies to the Royal Commission - provides -
A Royal Commission to be at once appointed to inquire into the necessity for Tariff legislation ; personnel to be approved by Parliament; Commission to report in sufficient time to enable any desired legislation to be introduced next session.
If there is a general election in between, and the people approve of the report of the Commission there will be no cause for complaint; but until the protectionists and free-traders of Australia have had an opportunity to say whether or not they believe in altering the Tariff we have no right to touch it. ,
– And in the meantime men and women may be allowed to starve.
– That is an unfair interjection.
– That is the fact. Men are starving, and the Minister ought to know it.
– And the electors are to accept the decision of a few people in Melbourne.
– The electors have spoken, and the Government propose to abide by their decision, but I am perfectly willing to give them a chance of altering their opinion as soon as possible.
– And a number of engineers may go begging for work in the meantime.
– I think that the honorable member is interjecting most unfairly, because he is implying a callousness to suffering on my part, which he knows does not exist.
– I do not impute that personally, and if the .Minister takes that view, I shall withdraw my remark.
– Now, in regard to preferential trade, a proposal is on the noticepaper in the name of the honorable member for Hume -
That in the opinion of this House, negotiations should be opened without delay with the Imperial Government, with a view to, if possible, establishing preference in trade between Great Britain and Australia.
The honorable and learned member for Indi, in the course of an interview, has gone one better than that. He says - “ We must pass an Act at once, describing exactly what preferences are to be given.” He says that what is proposed by the honorable member for Hume is not enough, and the old rivalry between those two hon;orable members goes on apace. It is quite interesting to watch their eagerness to outdo each other in promoting the welfare of the community. My view of this matter has been, and is still - and I venture to hope that it has some authority - that a fair opportunity should be afforded to ascertain the view of this House on the question of preferential trade. I feel quite satisfied that if any honorable member prominently identified with the question were to ask for an opportunity for a discussion in the House upon the subject, in order that our views may be communicated to the people of Great Britain, the Cabinet would do their best to grant the request-
– We want more than an opportunity.
– I do not know what some honorable members want. I am suggesting that an opportunity should be afforded for discussing the matter in this House; but honorable members opposite do not want that. They wish the matter to be discussel by the joint party at an early date. What are they going to decide? I can imagine the honorable member for Maranoa cheering the views of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the subject of raising the Customs duties against the foreigner, in order to enable us to give a preference to Great Britain. Surely the proper place to discuss this subject is not at a secret meeting of the joint party on the Opposition side, but in this House, where all members will have an opportunity to con sider the matter. If honorable members opposite came into office to-morrow, would preferential trade be a plank of their platform, or an open question?
– We do not say that it is a plank of our platform.
– No, and if I am not mistaken, the honorable member in his speech upon the Address-in-Reply made some remarks that were not at all friendly to preferential trade. Did he not say, “ What is the good of talking about preferential trade until our own people have been provided for,” or something of that sort. I suppose that he is not going to change ‘his opinion.
– My opinion is the same now as then.
– The joint party will leave preferential trade an open question.
– Do not call them the joint party, call them the dishcloth party.
– I call them the alliance party - the great Victorian alliance. I think that in view of the statements being made at home, it is only fair that this House should have an opportunity to express its views upon preferenial trade, and I have no objection to that opportunity being afforded in a reasonable way.
– What responsibility will the Government take?
– Honorable members must know that members of the Government take different views as to what should be done in this matter, just as honorable members opposite do. Honorable members are divided upon certain clauses in the Arbitration Bill, and any Cabinet composed of free-traders and protectionists must hold differing views upon such a subject as preferential trade. Any Cabinet that might be formed of honorable members from the Opposition benches would also hold differing views, and upon that question would be, to all intents and purposes, a coalition Cabinet. There is one other matter connected with. the fiscal issue to which I desire to refer, and that is the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. ‘ As has already been announced, that is left an open question by this Government. The protectionist members upon this side are free to vote as they think best, and the freetraders are at liberty to exercise their own discretion. This question is also practically an open one with honorable members opposite. I shall read the article in the alliance programme : -
Iron Bonus Bill - every member to have freedom of action as to method of control.
– Yes, as to the method.
– I desire to interpret the general statement in the light of existing facts. Do honorable members know why the Bill is not law at the present time? Do they know who is. responsible for the fact that we have not a Manufactures Encouragement Act ?
– I say the free-traders.
– Who moved that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, in order to prevent its becoming law ? - the honorable member for Bland.
– That was not the object.
– Will the honorable and learned member be good enough to restrict his energies to the production of letters which he says will prove certain statements hehas made regarding the Prime Minister having been guilty of “cooking” the public accounts of New South Wales. The honorable and learned member had better keep quiet until he has done that. The honorable and learned member said that he had letters which would prove his charge that the Prime Minister had “ cooked “ the public accounts, and undertook to produce them, but he has not redeemed his promise. This is the honorable member who says that he abhors Socialism, and everything connected with it. He even opposed the establishment of a Government clothing factory, because he held that it constituted the introduction of Socialism, and yet he is now allied with the Socialist Party. When the Prime Minister read letters from the members of the Committee - from Mr. T. A. Dibbs and others - he interjected that he had a letter over Mr. Dibbs’ signature, in which it was stated that the accounts of the Prime Minister were “ cooked.” He was challenged to produce it, but he has not done so. I do not believe that he has it. Instead, he produced a letter in which there was the following postscript: -
The finding of the Committee was adverse to Mr. Reid.
Is that the statement that the accounts were “cooked?” The honorable and learned member had better look after the mote which is in his own eye before he searches for the beam that is in his brother’s eye.
– The Minister does not want to hear the truth, anyhow.
– I do ; but I am not always sure that I shall hear it from the source from which it is offered. I challenge the honorable and learned member to produce the letter bearing Mr. Dibbs’ signature, in which the Prime Minister is charged with having “cooked “ the public accounts. That is all I ask him to do.
– Why this heat when I tell the Minister that the free-trade leader of the present Government voted against the Manufactures Encouragement Bill?
– I ask whose fault it was that that Bill did not become law? If the protectionists in the Labour Party had voted with the protectionists outside of it, that measure would have been law to-day. It is because the protectionists of the Labour Party joined with the Free-trade Party in this House to shelve that Bill that it is not already upon the statute-book. The freetraders voted against it. The honorable member for Bourke has told us that it is no longer an open question with honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House. Does the honorable member for Maranoa recollect talking about “ barefaced robbery.”
– I say so to-day.
– I thought it was no longer an open question. The only reason why the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is not law to-day is that the protectionist members of the Labour Party joined with the free-traders to shelve it. Had they remained true to the protectionist view that that measure was a good one, it would have been placed upon the statute-book. The Bill is an open question with this Government; but Ministers have offered to provide time for its discussion. Then if there is a majority in its favour, it will become law.
– I think that the Minister
– If the honorable and learned member will allow me to proceed upon my own wandering course, instead of confining me to the paths which he thinks that I should follow-
– Do not! make misstatements.
– I will not, if I can avoid it. According to the alliance programme, every member of it is to have “freedom of action as to method of control “ in respect of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. What does that mean ? That once more we shall have the question raised as to whether a bounty shall be paid upon the production of iron, or whether State iron works shall be established, and once more the socialistic party will vote in favour of nationalizing the industry. Consequently we may again have the free-traders voting with them to destroy the Bill, because there is no State that is likely to establish such WOrks. That is the joint action suggested by the alliance. I say that the proposal of the Government to allow the matter to be discussed, and to ascertain whether honorable members are willing to stand by their views1 - to support the Bill or oppose it - is infinitely better than the half-and-half proposals in the alliance programme. I wish now to say a few words regarding one or two articles in that programme. Article 3 states that each’ member of the alliance is to use his influence individually and collectively with its organizations and supporters, to secure support for and immunity from opposition to members of either party during the currency of the_alliance, which is for this Parliament and the next. Upon Sunday evening last the honorable member for Bland, in addressing a meeting at the Queen’s Hall, said -
We are, it is true, bound to use our influence t-j prevent opposition by our party to those who are allied with us. But is not that right? Would I not be false to my principles if I believed a nian to bc helping us and did not use my influence with my party to secure him from opposition? But that does” not prevent us using our influence i 1 favour of any man whom the organizations may decide to bring forward.
In last week’s Tocsin, too, I read a signed article by Mr. Anstey, M.L.A., in which he expressed a very decided view as to what the labour organizations would do. I also read a speech delivered by Mr. Scott Bennett some ten days ago at Ballarat, in which he expressed very pronounced opinions as to what the Victorian Labour Party would do. The honorable member for Bland was unable to promise that his organizations would give the support that ought to be extended to every member of any decent alliance. He had not the authority to make that promise. Of course it may- happen that a leader who has authority to make a promise may make it and afterwards find that those for whom he has spoken, will not back him up. But in this case, the leader of the Labour Party had no authority to make a promise, and he owns it. Mr. Scott Bennett, M.L.A., says -
He would leave the party and sink once more into private life, and sacrifice the position he held at the present time rather than lose his principles by mixing with such a gang-
He does not call it an alliance.
– He is only one man. I have heard the honorable and learned member called a “ robber,” but I do not think that he is one.
– His colleagues have called him that.
– I remember the honorable member for Coolgardie saying something to that effect.
– I defy the Minister to produce the statement.
– I remember one occasion upon which thirty-nine honorable members voted for the imposition of a duty, and twenty-five against it, and the honorable member said, “ It only requires one more to make up forty thieves.”
– No. That statement was made after a division upon a no-confidence motion.
– I can produce a statement by the Minister’s own leader, in which he designated the protectionists “plunderers.”
– That is quite possible. But there are honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber who have said exactly the same. What I have said was in reply to the honorable member for Yarra. I have not uttered a single word in regard to that sort of thing during the whole morning, unless I have first been challenegd by honorable members opposite. I am aware that free-traders have spoken of protectionists in unmeasured terms. They believe that a protective policy is so wrong that certain results will follow its operation. But in making those statements they do not reflect upon the personal integrity of protectionists.
– They go very close to it.
– Here is the Hansard report bearing upon the remark of the honorable member for Coolgardie, to which reference has been made.
– I see that the honorable member’s statement in regard to it was quite correct. The remark in question was made upon a no-confidence motion.
– The Minister was wrong again. “
– If that remark satisfies the honorable and learned member I am content. I wish now to say a word or two in reference to the question of old-age pensions. In .the Labour Party’s platform this plank is summed up in three words, namely, “old-age pensions.” I do not see it mentioned in the alliance programme which was published in the Age on the 5th September. Honorable members who occupy seats in the Opposition corner did’ not think the matter of sufficient importance to include it in the draft programme of thealliance.
– That was a printer’s error.
– We have been attacked because the Prime Minister omitted to mention old-age pensions in his declaration of policy, and yet the Liberal- Protectionists in Opposition did not include it in their draft programme. In the programme of the alliance, however, as finally agreed to, I find the following: -
Old-age pensions upon a basis fair and equitable to the several States and to individuals.
As 1 have previously stated, the platform of the Labour Party merely contains the words “ old-age pensions.” The honorable member for Bland says that, irrespective of whether or not the States agree to it, the alliance will adopt a scheme of old-age pensions. I should like to ask whether the words “ fair and equitable to the several States and to individuals “ were inserted before or after the honorable member for Barker came to Melbourne?
– He had absolutely nothing whatever to do with it.
– He had something to do with the other matter.
– The Minister is wrong again.
– I do not think so. What do the words “ upon a basis fair and equitable to the several States and to individuals “ mean. They can only mean that the States must agree to some arrangement by which pensions shall be granted. Otherwise the scheme will not come into operation. The only alternative is for the Commonwealth Government to impose direct taxation. For my own part I say frankly that I cannot agree to Federal direct taxation. At the present time the taxpayer finds the Federal authority putting its hand into his right breeches pocket, and the State authority putting its hand into his left breeches pocket. This proposal, therefore, means that the Federal authority shall assist the State authorities in further raiding the taxpayer’s left breeches pocket. It means that there must be a Federal, as well as a State, land tax.
– That is the Minister’s way of putting it.
– The honorable member cannot suggestany way of raising the money required for the payment of old-age pensions, except by arrangement with the States. We certainly cannot take it out of our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– We shall take a portion of it out of the profits derived from the establishment of a State tobacco monopoly.
– I would remind the honorable member that the establishment of such a monopoly means that we shall lose the whole of the revenue at present collected by the excise upon tobacco. There will not be a large profit left after that revenue has been deducted. I can imagine the outcry which would be raised by the public if the State proposed to make a profit upon a pound of tobacco as large as is the excise duty at the present time. The question would immediately be asked, “ Where is our cheap tobacco? Why do you not give us the benefit accruing from your assumption of ownership by reducing the price?” If honorable members think that there will be bigger profit from this source than the excise, I venture to say they take a view different from that of the ordinary elector. I want to refer to one other condition of the alliance as follows: -
Any member of the Parliament who agrees to this alliance may, subject to the approval of both parties, be admitted to it. “ Subject to the approval of both parties” ! Before an honorable member can join the Opposition (branch of. the Protectionist Party, he has to get the consent of the Labour Party.
– That is not correct.
– I have just read the terms of the alliance.
– And if a labour representative wishes to join, he has to get the consent of the Protectionist Party.
– That is equally ridiculous. Each party is to retain its separate identity ; but there are to be pariahs or outcasts, who will not, under any circumstances, be admitted to either party, the other party objecting.
– That provision was made in case the honorable member for Wilmot should apply.
– I should have thought that any honorable member who was prepared to accept the programme of the alliance, and whose personal character justified his being associated with other people, would have been welcome. But the Opposition are getting too particular; and I suppose that the four wicked protectionists who have ventured to take their seats on the Ministerial benches would not be admitted to the alliance. What does it mean ?
– Let the honorable and learned member make application himself.
– I do not propose to make application. I have taken my side, and there I am prepared to stand. I have never changed my vote from one side to the other because I was afraid something might happen, and I do not propose to be guilty of such conduct now. In reference to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, I see that thirty voted for the appointment of a select committee, or, in other words, for State ownership, and fifteen against; and amongst those who voted with the majority were the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Bourke. But what about honorable members who did not vote in that direction? What about the honorable and learned member for Indi, who voted for the Bill? What about the stand which that honorable and learned member took in regard to the inclusion of railway servants under the Arbitration Bill ? We on this side have been taunted because we accepted that Bill containing a public service clause; but I opposed that clause because I believed it to be unconstitutional. The honorable and learned member for Indi, however, would not, say whether the clause was or was not constitutional, but he characterized the provision as in the highest degree inexpedient.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi did not say that the clause was unconstitutional.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi would not say whether it was or was not constitutional ; but he did say that it was in the highest degree Inexpedient and most improper to have such a clause in the Bill. That honor - able and learned member has more ‘difficulty in swallowing a clause of that kind than have some honorable members who believe the clause to be unconstitutional, and who are satisfied that the High Court will so decide.
– Expediency is variable,
– Obviously, and it varies with great rapidity .sometimes. Expediency varied in the alliance programme between the 5th and the 8th September, and it will probably vary between the 29th September and the 1st October if circumstances justify the variation. I find I have far exceeded the time limit I gave myself, but I wish to say, in conclusion, that, with other honorable members on. this side, I have been subject during the last six weeks to a great deal of abuse. For example, I have been taunted with having personal motives - taunted not by one member but by a score. I have drawn attention to the fact that before a division was taken on Te 23rd June, I announced that, win or lose, I should support the Arbitration Bill. I am afraid that some honorable members must have forgotten that announcement; but I may say that when I made it, I meant to abide by it. I should have supported the Bill whatever the result, but, naturally, I preferred a Bill in the form which I believed to be the best. Honorable members on this side have also had to submit to the taunt of “ sand-bagging,” and of having been guilty of unfair play. I have endeavoured to fairly state the facts which led up to the division when the Watson Government went out of office ; and I venture to say that the electors, when they consider those facts impartially, will fully absolve every honorable member on this side, and, I admit, every honorable member on the other side, from having done anything unfair or politically improper. We differed extremely on a point of considerable importance - that is, at first ; but subsequently, owing to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Bland being in his view nearly the same as my own, we differed very little. I did not know, and I do not know now, why the Watson Government made the matter vital. I can think of only one reason, namely, that they feared the ‘ amendment they had agreed to had gone too far, and they felt, from their point of view, that they must take a stand, because the preference to unionists amendment, relating to political objects, was one the unions did not approve. But whatever their reason - and I do not ascribe wrong motives of any kind - it is only fair that those charges of “ sandbagging and unfair or improper conduct should cease. If I have said a single word in the course of ray speech which ascribes any improper motives or conduct to any honorable member, I have to express ‘my regret. I spoke more warmly when referring to the honorable and learned member for Corio than perhaps I should have done on another occasion. L can only say that the honorable and learned member promised to produce a letter in this House, and for that letter I wait. Before I sit down, I should like to refer to the split in the Protectionist Party. It has been suggested that the protectionists who now sit on the Government side are responsible for the split. In the Melbourne Age of Thursday, nth August - which was a day or two before the vote was given which put out the Watson Government, there appeared the following: -
We are requested -
I did not make any request, nor I think did any honorable member on this side. to announce that as the result of much consideration of the political situation it has been decided by the Liberal-Protectionist members of the House of Representatives now sitting in the Opposition corner to form, at the earliest moment, consistent with efficiency, a new Liberal progressive organization. Progressive legislation of a cautious but thoroughly democratic character of protection is, it is stated, to be the main objective of the new body. The decision arrived at has no relation to the immediate crisis. Whether Mr. Reid form a Government, or the Watson Ministry obtain a dissolution, the new organization is to be set going.
I should like to ask if the honorable and learned member for Ballarat communicated that information?
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat knew all about it.
– The paragraph proceeds -
It will fight for its principles in the House of Representatives and on the platform and in the country, no matter what stop-gap Government occupies the Treasury benches.
The words “ stop-gap Government “ indicate the nature of the communication. It was known what the division list would be - it was known that the Watson Government would be beaten by two votes. The next day there is a further reference in the Melbourne Age, headed “ Meeting of Liberal Protectionists,” as follows: -
The solidarity of the Liberal-Protectionist Party in the House of Representatives, and its determination to maintain its identity and usefulness, despite the extraordinary attitude of Mr. Deakin, was eagerly discussed by members and their acquaintance in the lobbies last evening. that was the gentleman who knew all about it.
– Did he give that information ?
– I suppose he did.
– He knew all about it.
– The paragraph goes on -
Labour members frankly say that the continued existence of this party will do more to denude labour politics of unelastic caucus rule - it is looking like it ! and fiscal atheism - it looks like it ! than a dozen speeches of the character of that delivered by Mr. Deakin at Ballarat nearly a fortnight ago.
I suppose the honorable and learned member gave that information to the press -
As soon as the present crisis is over the party will meet -
What party ? whether the outcome of events be a Reid Government or a dissolution - and formulate a policy for submission to the country, together with a plan of campaign. The members who are expected to attend the meeting include the following : - Sir William Lyne, Mr. Isaacs, Sir Langdon Bonython, Mr. Chanter, Mr. Crouch, Mr. L. E. Groom, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Storrer, and Mr. Wilkinson.
Who gave that information? Was it the honorable and learned member for Ballarat ? That happened on the Thursday, and was reported on the Friday, and in the Age of the following Saturday this appeared -
The Liberal-Protectionist Party, as an effective, engine of fiscal truth and progressive legislation, stands in danger of being temporarily, if not permanently, split by yesterday’s division in the House of Representatives. It was announced in the Age yesterday that the LiberalProtectionists who were supporting the Government - the Watson Government - were determined to maintain their solidarity and independence of both the Reid and the official Labour Party. they are maintaining it now -
It was announced that a meeting would be held soon after the immediate crisis was over, at which the attitude of the radical wing - “ the radical wing “ ! of the protectionist members’ would be defined, and the policy and plan of campaign considered.
The names mentioned are, I believe, the same as those in the list I previously read, though there may be one or two less -
Amongst the members named as being expected to attend this meeting were Sir William Lyne, Mr. Isaacs, Mr. Chanter, Sir Langdon Bonython, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Mauger, Mr. L. E. Groom, Mr. Starrer, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Crouch. … A counter move, however, has been taken by those Liberal-Protectionists who favour a Coalition Ministry headed by Mr. Reid, and yet declare that they preserve their fiscal faith unimpaired. Mr. Chapman, ex-Minister of Defence, was its author. The. counter move took the form of a kind of round robin, which was signed by Sir George Turner, Sir John Quick, and Messrs. Ewing, Chapman, Harper, Kennedy, McCay, McColl, McLean, Phillips, and Salmon, and presented to Mr. Deakin yesterday afternoon.
– I never heard of this before.
– As a matter of fact, there was not any signed document. Honorable members on this side were asked if they still had faith in the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as leader, and they said that they had ; and the fact was communicated to the honorable and learned member in writing.
– What is the difference?
– The honorable member for Bourke is charging me with having said something which is incorrect, and apparently will not allow me to say what did happen. I do not say that there is any difference; I am only answering an anticipatory charge of making an incorrect statement.
– Who took action first ?
– The honorable member for Gippsland in joining the Government.
– We had taken no action at that time.
– Those events happened on the Wednesday and Thursday, and were reported on the Friday, and the statements could not have appeared in the Age unless there was some fire.
– I say that no meeting was held until the 17th August.
– I know that. A meeting of the Protectionist Party sitting in the corner was held long before any members of the Protectionist Party on this side of the House held any meeting.
– The protectionists on that side have not yet had a meeting.
– No, we have not ; but we have not formed an exclusive section of the party, and arrogated to ourselves the whole of the righteousness of the party.
– The honorable and learned member ran away from the party.
– The honorable and learned member had an intimation from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as to where he stood long before we did anything officially.
– Honorable members who were going to vote for the Watson Government did something - I do not know what.
– They did not do anything officially.
– It is the poorest of shields to say that nothing was done officially.
– They held no meeting.
– What was done was done officially, or no newspaper would have contained such statements as those I have read.
– The statements in the newspapers are correct.
– They were never contradicted.
– What was done was to ask the protectionists on this side whether they had faith in the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and they replied in the affirmative. In whom had we faith except in the honorable and learned member? Had we faith in the honorable and learned member for Indi ? I say that sitting on this side we have the honorable member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Gippsland
– And the honorable member for Kooyong, and the honorable member for Grampians !
– The honorable members I mention, so far as we protectionists and liberals are concerned, were leaders of politics in this part of Australia before honorable members opposite, or some of them, were heard of. As to the division in our party, if I had any doubts as to which way I should go, and I arrived at a decision, that decision would be fortified and strengthened if I found myself with men who for a score of years have been high in the public regard as advocates of progress and advancement.
– They never joined free-traders before.
– The honorable member for Bourke joined free-traders when he voted for the McLean Government against the Turner Government in Victoria in 1899. On that occasion all the Free-trade Party were against the Turner Government.
– The honorable and learned member left his leader then.
– Yes, I was charged with leaving my leader. I thought I had reason for doing so, but my constituents were not of that opinion ; and if I sinned I suffered. I always thought that if a man sinned, and suffered his sentence, and was re-elected - which is a sort of free pardon - the incident wasclosed. Whatever I did I paid for.
– I took the lesson to heart, but apparently the honorable and learned member did not.
– I am astounded ! The honorable member says he took the lesson to heart. He left his leader, and I left the same leader; but I am with my leader still. Where is the honorable member?
– The honorable member is behind a free-trader, and I am not.
– I say without hesitation that when the great mass of the electors are asked to say on which side they will range themselves - whether it shall be with men like the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, the honorable and learned member for Balaclava, and the honorable member for Gippsland, or with that solitary figure, the honorable* and learned member for Indi, and his interjector-general, the honorable and learned member for Corio - I have no doubt that Victoria will declare that we on this side have done what we were justified in doing - that we have been amply warranted in following leaders whose names have been long honoured in Victorian politics. Having done that duty to the country, we need fear no result.
– I regret that it has become the fashion in this House, on motions of censure, and also on other motions, to delay decision by prolonged speeches. I do not mean to say that honorable members on one side are more to blame in this respect than honorablemembers on the other; but I do think that the Minister of Defence, who spoke last, and who contributed a speech lasting nearly three hours-
– Two hours and twenty minutes, to be accurate.
– The honorable and learned gentleman might very well have eliminated the two hours, for everything he said pertinent or relevant to the subject could have been uttered in twenty minutes. I have no wish to follow him through all the tortuous mazes of his arguments, nor into his narrative respecting the defeat of the late Government. I believe that this House and the country knows sufficient of the facts not to accept any partisan interpretation of them. Windy declarations cannot obscure the fact that the late Government were denied the privilege usually accorded to Governments of reconsidering, under proper circumstances, an amendment to an important measure, carried by a snatch vote in Committee. The country will know also that the amendment was one which, in the opinion of those for whom we intended to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the workers of Australia, would render that measure of little use.
– One section of the workers.
– It is true that all workers are not members of unions, but the great majority of Australian democrats, the men who have rendered advanced legislation possible, are members of industrial unions. I say that the action of the majority, in taking the business of the House out of the hands of the Government on the occasion referred to, has no parallel in the parliamentary history of Australia.
An Honorable Member. - -There is no precedent for it anywhere.
– Very likely. I cannot conceive such procedure being adopted by any party with even rudimentary appreciation of fair play. The last speaker sought to cloud the main issue by digressions having only a remote bearing upon it. An opponent might accept many of his conclusions, so unimportant are they, without in any degree mitigating his antagonism to the present Ministry. Those of his fallacies which are calculated to mislead the House on any material point will, no doubt, be exposed by subsequent speakers. What I should first like to draw attention to is the extraordinary composition of the present Government.
– Hear, hear.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister cheers that statement.
– The honorable gentleman means by contrast with the last Government.
– There is undoubtedly a vast difference between the two Administrations, and any comparison must be to the. disadvantage of the existing one. The last Government, at all events, fairly represented the various States of Australia, with, perhaps, one exception. Looking at thepersonnel of the present Government, we see that the two principal States of the Commonwealth practically dominate the whole Ministry. Out of eight members in the Cabinet, New South Wales and Victoria are represented by six. The Prime Minister now professes the utmost solicitude for the effacement of the unhappy jealousies that have been rife in the several States, yet, in forming his Government, he supplied some of the States with a first-class grievance. He has practically ignored the smaller States in the formation of his Ministry. Certainly he has given Queensland and South Australia representation in the Cabinet, but not from this House; so we have the curious and sinister situation that the two larger States control the entire Cabinet in the House of Representatives. I ask the right honorable gentleman why he passed over Western Australia in forming his Government. Why did the Prime Minister ignore the right honorable member for Swan - a man whose great career is crowded with practical achievements, which make even the Prime Minister a mere political pigmy in comparison?
– Hear hear ; I admit it.
– The admission is good, but the explanation would be better. The right honorable member for Swan is a man whose name will be handed down to posterity as an intrepid explorer, arid one of the most capable administrators that Australia has ever seen. What possible justification was there for passing him over and filling the place which he might have occupied I do not desire to be disrespectful - by our military friend, the honorable and learned member for Corinella? The right honorable member for Swan has been in the public life of Australia for nearly a quarter of a century. For a great portion of that time he has been at the head of an Administration, and has to his credit the successful accomplishment of the greatest engineering feat yet attempted anywhere.
– If there should be a dissolution, will the honorable gentleman get on to the platform of the right honorable member for Swan, and say that?
– I shall try to speak the truth wherever I may be. Now, I find that the States of New South Wales and Victoria return to the Federal Parliament sixty-one members, whilst the other four States return fifty members. Yet the sixty-one members are represented by six members of the Cabinet, whilst the fifty members are represented by only two.
– If the representation were on the population basis, New South Wales and Victoria should have aneven greater representation in the Cabinet.
– The honorable gentleman has included the Senate in his figures.
– Does the Prime Minister mean to say that the Senate should be denied representation in the Cabinet?
– They have got it, and as much as any other Government gave them.
– My point is that the four States which send fifty members to the Federal Parliament are entitled to more than two representatives in the Cabinet. A consideration of thepersonnel of the Cabinet exposes the hollowness of the Prime Minister’s professed solicitude to restore good feeling between the various States. Why, the entire Cabinet in this House consists entirely of representatives of New South Wales and Victoria. All the other States are absolutely ignored. Why should that be? It is not for lack of men of high capacity and large experience, for in the right honorable member for Swan the Prime Minister could have had a colleague combining all essential qualifications. I need scarcely say that no disparagement is intended of the Treasurer, the Minister of Trade and Customs, or the Minister of Home Affairs ; I am glad to see those three gentlemen in the Ministry. I am especially glad to see the honorable member for North Sydney in the Government. When the Prime Minister abdicated his functions as leader of the Opposition, and retired to look after his private business, the honorable member for North Sydney sat here night after night, week after week, and month after month, fighting the cause which the right honorable member for East Sydney had deserted.
– A generous acknowledgment.
– In making a generous acknowledgment to a political foe, I hope 1 am setting an example which the Prime Minister will occasionally follow. I have a word or two to say about the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman has a lively Celtic imagination, and a gift of honeyed persuasiveness which, to borrow an old-world saying, would coax the birds from the bushes. He went up to Ballarat lately, and attempted to justify the extraordinary position in which, as a protectionist, he finds himself - co-leader of a Ministry with a free-trader. Speaking on that occasion, the honorable member explained that the Watson Government contained four free-traders and four protectionists, as the Reid Government does ; and therefore if one alliance were morally defensible, so is the other. But there is a kink in this argument. The Labour Party never made the fiscal issue a fetish, as did the respective parties captained by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs. They relegated fiscalism to a subordinate place.
– That is just what we object to.
– The Labour Party had, from the inception of this Parliament, been absolutely cohesive on all fundamental issues. It agreed to differ on the Tariff, just as it does on the acquisition of State debts and State railways, or the construction of the Transcontinental railway. The junction of certain Labour members of opposite fiscal beliefs in an Administration, therefore, involved no sacrifice of principle or betrayal of pledges. But how stands this Government? The joint leaders represent policies which are mutually destructive. Theirs is, in truth, a perfect “ Yes-No “ combination. Not merely are their principles hostile, but, from the outset, and up to the present hour, they isolate themselves in separate apartments within parliamentary precincts.
– That is not correct.
– At least it was so publicly reported. Their pretended fusion is only for the public eye. It is idle, therefore; for the Minister for Trade and Customs to attempt to justify this immoral political compact by fastening a precedent for it on the Labour Party. The cases are in no respect parallel, and nothing in the composition or history of the Labour Government palliates the shameless abandonment of principle which can be sheeted home to the joint leaders of this combination. Their rival policies are as utterly distinctive as day is from night, or truth from falsehood.
– They blend occasionally very satisfactorily.
– It ls clear that they do blend satisfactorily for the right honorable gentleman at times.
– The honorable member fights for the Labour Party; we fight against it.
– I shall come to the honorable member for Corangamite presently, and to what he is fighting for. The honorable member is fighting for “the maintenance of the ascendency of a small caste in the community.
– Not at all.
– Why, the honorable member is in this House on a minority vote I say that the position of the two parties is radically different. The honorable and learned, gentleman who spoke last amused me very much by the importance which he professed to attach to a trifling reference which I made in a jocular moment to the “ forty thieves.” As explained at the time, that observation had no personal application. But the right honorable gentleman whom he is now following has repeatedly denounced the protectionists of Victoria, even in this House, as plunderers.
– He meant blunderers.
– No, plunderers. I shall read from Hansard a few passages, which will illustrate the sentiments entertained by the free-trade leader for the gentlemen with whom he has now entered into a coalition. In Hansard of the 15th October, 1901, I find this passage -
– I rise now because I find there is a conspiracy of silence on the other side of the House.
– Plunderers should keep silence.
– I ought to have been called to order.
– That is very true; unwarranted lenity was shown.
– I withdraw the expression at this late date.
– Better late than never. When the honorable member for Macquarie pitied Victoria for adopting protection instead of that system which made New South Wales powerful, the honorable member for Mernda interjected, “ On borrowed money,” and evoked this retort -
The honorable member has thrived under the protectionist policy of Victoria at the expense of the great mass of workers of this State.
Here is a charge of corruption levelled at the honorable member for Mernda by a gentleman who is now a member of the Ministry, and yet he is supporting them.
– I shall use nothing but “ Silver starch “ now.
– Continuing, the honorable member for Macquarie said -
He has accumulated wealth by extorting higher rates under this iniquitous system of protection than he had any right to expect from consumers.
The “honorable member so unsparingly denounced by the present Postmaster-General is now expected to maintain in office members who thus slandered him. A few quotations showing the Prime Minister’s opinion of the Tariff he is now content to administer, will not come amiss. On numerous platforms he refused to abandon free trade, and said he would decline to take office by protectionist votes.
– Can the honorable member give me a reference to that statement?
– I shall do so before I finish my speech.
– I never refused a vote in my life, and I do not know a political leader who ever did.
– I shall give the “right honorable gentleman ample proof of what I said.
– All right. Is not the honorable member angling for a vote which does not belong ‘to his party ?
– In the Argus of nth October, 1902, the right honorable gentleman is reported to Save said at Portland -
He believed that he should be ten times stronger politically, and save himself much annoyance and worry, if he would consent to accept the Tariff as it now stood. He had only to say that he would do so, and he would get tens of thousands of protectionist supporters behind him. But he did not intend to take that opportunity.
– I was fighting them then.
– I ask honorable members to listen to this passage -
He had not come into the Federal Parliament in the closing years of his political life to play that kind of game. It would not be worth his while to be there unless he could do something that would cause him to be remembered with respect and esteem by the country.
– But that was said some time ago. He has changed his opinion several times since then.
– No, I am still holding the fort.
– The Prime . Minister is not holding the free-trade fort at any rate. Then he went on -
Whatever self interest may do in the way of pointing to this way, or that way, as the easy path, he would tell them and the country that no protectionist need give him a vote in the House or out of it.
– I was fighting them then. I have a truce with them now, and I cannot fight them.
– But the point of this is that the Prime Minister pledged himself never to make a truce with the protectionists. Does not this quotation prove what I said, that he repudiated protectionist aid to office? He said further -
From the moment he got power he would make that Tariff an honest Tariff.
– Now that the right honorable gentleman has got the power, is he going to do it?
– No; my “ better half “ will not allow me.
– That was not the first time the right honorable gentleman made this declaration. Speaking at Fremantle, a few months before, he made similar remarks, which I shall quote-
– Do not my speeches read beautifully ?
– There is no doubt about that. I cannot put my hand on the quotation at the moment, and, therefore, I propose to read from Hansard, a few extracts as to the right honorable gentleman’s opinion of the Tariff, which he previously denounced as a robbery of the wage earners, and under which he is quite prepared to carry on. On the 15th October, 1901, he said -
A high Tariff is not necessary for revenue ; it is an outrage upon every principle of fairness and humanity.
How does the Minister of Trade and Customs like that statement?
– That statement was made at the beginning of the fight. We got a lot of the duties taken off after that. .
– I shall read the opinion which the right honorable gentleman expressed after the duties were in operation. It will be seen that it is not much different from what he said on the 15th October, 1901-
– When is the honorable member going to begin the free-trade crusade with the honorable member for Parramatta?
– In reply to the Prime Minister, who has vacated the position of leader of the Free-trade Party, I wish to say that when a capable successor arises on the political horizon I shall be prepared to consider the propriety of joining him. Speaking here, on the 15th October, 1901, and referring to the Victorians, he said -
I am not addressing men whose minds have been saddened with a long course of these outrages on humanity and sound finance. It would be idle for any one to talk to them, for their ears are dulled. I am talking to Australia in all its conditions as represented by this House. Those who have been accustomed to run a country on these lines are not likely to listen to anything which I might say. I speak, however, beyond them, to those who, unlike them, have not become inoculated with that poison. I speak to those . . . who have not been accustomed to regard the public as a flock of sheep to be used for the benefit of politicians and manufacturers.
The right honorable gentleman was further complimentary to Victoria on the same day, when he addressed the House in these terms -
All that is wanted in Victoria now is a little fresh air. In contrast with this artificially constructed paradise of labour every other country in the world has proved more attractive than Victoria. I am told that Victoria is becoming a ruinous place even for lawyers, and when a country is in that state it is almost near its end. Stagnation is the picture that the policy of protection presents in Victoria, while in New South Wales there is nothing put progress.
And the Prime Minister, now madly anxious to reconcile the jealousies of Victoria and New South Wales, went on to compare the people of Victoria with the downtrodden and oppressed ‘people of Ireland. On another occasion he proceeded to. ridicule Victorian enterprise, and on the 22nd January, 1902, he cast this taunt at the Victorian members-
– The honorable member has been busy digging up these things. Has he not had anything better to do?
– Does not theright honorable member know that I represent a miming constituency, and that it is my business to dig up things.
– And do I not represent them too? They treated me like a brother.
– Hear, hear; and they would do so again if the right honorable gentleman were out of office.
– They would receive me, anyhow.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will find the weather more genial than it was last time. On the 22nd January, 1902, the question of imposing a duty on barbed wire and wire netting was being discussed. Barbed wire is manufactured considerably in Melbourne, and wire netting is manufactured considerably in Sydney. A duty was to be put on for the benefit of the Melbourne industry, and the Sydney industry was to get no protection.
– Did not the honorable member vote with me?
– I admit that I did. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman said -
We are in favour of a moderate Tariff based on revenue principles, but our friends opposite favour a protective Tariff - protective for Victoria, but free-trade, so far as the industriesof New South Wales are concerned. . . . When all these gifts are being showered about, it is singular that the shower of fair benefits should fall so thickly on one little spot in Australia and so sparsely in other parts. . . . Would the Ministry have dared to take up their present position if 1,300 men had been engaged in the wire netting industry in Melbourne instead of in Sydney ?
That statement was made by the right honorable gentleman who is so desirous of removing the ill-feeling which prevailed between the various States, and who, in a few months, if he be in office, will endeavour to convene a conference of the States Premiers with a view to achieving that object.
– Do not make it too hard for me.
– Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman has made it very hard for himself, but he has such a capacity for swallowing his previous remarks and professions of principle that I have no doubt he will be successful on. this occasion.
– No man in this world was ever more consistent. My creed is the same now as it was when I began.
– Consistent in inconsistency. Then the Prime Minister remarked -
If there is anything absurd and ridiculous in the world it is the attempt which little Victoria has made to cope with the marvellous magnitude of the manufacturing industries of a great nation like America. The moment the Victorian product goes out upon the ocean the stilts of protection fall into Hobson’s Bay.
In the same speech the right honorable gentleman said -
The protective system of Victoria was professedly a hideous robbery of the wage-earners.
– I withdraw the word “ hideous “ ; it is too strong.
– It is a curious thing that the right honorable gentleman is prepared to concur in that hideous robbery of the wage-earners. He is now prepared to go on until 1906, or some late date, before ho initiates another great free-trade campaign.
– Can the honorable member have tied himself up to this high duty revival? Surely not, after all this.
– The right honorable gentleman must not imagine that I am a witness and he the cross-examining counsel. Conditions are reversed - he is now in the box. When I come to the high duties I shall make a statement in my own way. It is quite time enough for me to make up my mind when we have a concrete proposal before us. The right honorable gentleman was not even complimentary to some of his present colleagues a little while ago. On the 17th January, 1902, he interjected “Nonsense!” when the honorable and learned member for Corinella rose to a point of order, and met with this retort: -
The right honorable the leader of the Opposition never allowed me to speak without interruption, and his interjection “Nonsense,” is not ordinarily courteous.
– Those wounds have healed.
– Wonderful !
– I misunderstood him in those days.
– If the honorable member for Corangamite, in the practice of his profession, should be able to discover an equally efficacious specific for ordinary physical ills, he will make a fortune. Again, the honorable member for Macquarie spoke of the suspicion which must attach to any member who for political purposes took a certain view one day and another view the next day, whereupon the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is now a supporter of the coalition, said - “The honorable member’s remarks form a strong accusation against his own leader.” I thought that these little sidelights on past history might prove interesting to the House.
– Most interesting !
– Especially, in such a debate as this, to one like the honorable member for Corangamite, who had not an opportunity of being present during the last Parliament. I have shown that the Prime Minister denounced the Tariff as a robbery of the wage-earners, and’ I will prove from his own remarks, made after the Tariff was passed, that he actually advocated what he now condemns in the honorable and learned member for Indi. I will quote first what he said on the 15th January, 1902, after the Tariff had become operative : -
The Government brought in a tolerably sound protective Tariff. . . . We, on this side, who consider that the Tariff- has been moulded on absolutely wrong principles, have a very difficult task in endeavouring to alter it ; but it must be understood that we in no sense recognised the Tariff when altered as being founded on sound principles.
I call the attention of the House especially to this passage -
It is impossible to create a hybrid production such as this Tariff will be, without having a number of striking anomalies which must be radically altered at the earliest opportunity possible.
The honorable and learned member for Indi and those who are acting with him have in that declaration by the present Prime Minister sufficient justification for advocating the reopening of the Tariff. The Prime Minister cannot get over his declaration that there are a number of striking anomalies in the Tariff which must be radically altered at the first opportunity possible. In view of this declaration that the Tariff must be radically altered at the earliest opportunity, how can the Prime Minister resist the demand for revision?
– I was beaten on that; the electors decided against me. I have to bow to the will of the people, as every good democrat does.
– But the right honorable gentleman cannot get over the passage that
I will next read.
– Show me anything that I cannot get over.
– The right honorable gentleman is pretty bulky, but I believe he can get through most obstacles. He came to Western Australia in 1903, and on the 20th’ January he made the following statement to an interviewer representing a newspaper known as the West Australian.
– I repudiate the interview !
– What the right honorable gentleman cannot get over he will repudiate. Is that so? Would he repudiate the interview if it were favorable to his present position? He said this -
He had a profound conviction that the Tariff, not only was thoroughly unsound and injurious, but that the people would at the earliest opportunity repudiate it. He believed, if he were content to sink the fiscal issue and allow the Tariff to stand, the Free-trade Party would come into power without any delay.
– That was before election talk.
– But here is the crux of the statement -
But he was not in the public life of Australia to make clever arrangements of that sort.
– I can explain that. I said that I would not sink the fiscal issue, but it sunk me.
– I did not know it was quite so bad as that, though it is clear enough that some people at times get very low down. Then the Prime Minister went on to say -
And he was determined to fight for a genuine revenue Tarin”.
Then it is claimed that the right honorable gentleman came into power to restore responsible government.
– That meant experienced government.
– If responsibility could roe measured by bulk there is no doubt that the Prime Minister has restored it. But I take it that responsible government is not to be restored by a Government which puts before this House a programme of absolutely non-contentious measures, and wherever it mentions a Bill about which it is possible to have two opinions informs the country that the members of the Cabinet have a free hand. The Prime Minister calls this responsible government. Let us see what people on the other side of the world - independent critics, and some of the most capable critics in Great Britain - think of this gentleman who has come into power to restore responsible government. Let me quote shortly what the Saturday Review has to say about the Prime Minister.
– That is a good conservative paper.
– On the 27th August of this year the Saturday Review wrote as follows: -
Mr. Reid has inaugurated his Premiership of Australia with a couple of excited addresses in no way calculated to strengthen his not too firm grip of the political machinery of the country.
– That is a long way to go for an opinion on Australian politics.
– Sometimes the right honorable gentleman goes to the Privy Council for an opinion.
– That is a judicial opinion.
– If the Saturday Review were to say anything that was favorable to the rig ht honorable gentleman’s policy, he would not hesitate to quote it. The article pro ceeds -
To charge arrogance, corruption, and insanity against the Labour Party, which is bound to have a large, if not preponderant,following in a community such as the Australian, is just the sort of ineptitude we should expect from Mr. Reid.
– They know me there. Some people are not even known at the other end of the world.
– And some are too well known. The article proceeds -
He is prepared to go any length just now to undermine the position of the Socialists who have, he contends, utterly destroyed public confidence by visionary schemes. He is sure that he has rendered the Commonwealth a lasting service by securing “ a period of fiscal peace,” which is Mr. Reid’s way of saying that he has subordinated his own free-trade views in order to secure protectionist support in forming his first Government. Whatever Mr. Reid may think of the Labour Party, it is certain that Australia has no idea of playing fast and loose with its economic possibilities by adopting a general system of free imports.
In the previous issue the same journal wrote this-
Mr. Reid’s Cabinet can hardly be a stable one, and it would probably have been much better if Lord Northcote had accepted Mr. Watson’s advice and dissolved. A dissolution would have cleared away some uncertainties in the situation.
– I never heard of the Saturday Review before as a Socialist journal.
– Perhaps it is one of Mr. B. R. Wise’s articles?
– It sounds like a bit of B. R.
– It rings true, anyhow. I regret very much that so few of the supporters of the Government are present today, and I also regret the absence of the honorable member for Mernda. Surely some specific must have been discovered and’ administered to him to induce him to become reconciled to his present leader. The little incursion into what may be called ancient history which I shall now make has a very striking bearing, as will be seen, upon the majority which’ at present keeps the Government in power. On the 22nd October, 1901. the following dialogue took place in this House, as recorded in Hansard. The honorable member for Mernda said -
One thing that struck me about this Tariff immediately it was enunciated was-
– I trust that the right honorable member will recollect the obligation of noblesse oblige. He occupies a prominent position in the country, and aspires to a still more prominent one. Surely he might set an example of something like decent behaviour.
– That is very true.
– I found the right honorable gentleman breaking all the traditions of Parliament. . . I am not going to be bounced by the right honorable gentleman.
– Only as a man, not as a manufacturer.
– I have a right to courteous treatment. I have been a Member of Parliament for twenty years.
– So have I, but I do not get courteous treatment always.
– He has himself to thank for that. . . The game ought to be played fairly, and that was not done by the right honorable member.
– Get on to starch.
– My honorable friend had better keep quiet, or I may get on to the subject of jam.
– Starch on jam !
– The leader of the Opposition . . leads other honorable members into unmannerly interruption, and conduct, in my opinion, unbecoming a Member of Parliament.
– Or a manufacturer of starch.
– The right honorable gentleman had introduced into his’ remarks a series of personal reflections on me, which were utterly unwarrantable, ungentlemanly, and against all the traditions of parliamentary order and procedure.
– Now go on about starch.
The honorable member for Mernda proceeded to accuse the right honorable member for East Sydney of retailing mere gossip, of talking from a brief “made in Ger- many,” and of contributing to a base form of business rivalry. “ His remarks would,” he said, “ be good fun on a variety stage”-
– That is more than could be said of the honorable member’s remarks. Fancy him on the variety stage !
– “ But they showed that he knew nothing whatever of what he was talking about. His statement that the Victorian industries were all shoddy industries showed his ignorance, nothing more. It was an absolute fabrication that his firm and two others were netting£10,000 a year from these duties.” The right honable gentleman appealed to Mr. Speaker for protection. The honorable member for. Mernda went on to say that the right honorable gentleman “ desired to put a stigma on him. His conduct was despicable in the extreme.”
I believe he will live to regret the day that he ever put such a statement on the records of this House.
– I do regret it now.
– The honorable member for Mernda, continuing, said -
The right honorable gentleman is all’ right on Town-hall platforms, where he cannot be answered ; but I am thankful to have him here, where I can show his absolute incorrectness and unreliability as a public man.
– That is very rough.
– The honorable member for Mernda went on to ask -
Was it not bringing parliamentary proceedings down to the level of a farce when private business was discussed, as was done by the honorable member for Macquarie?
– It is indecent for the honorable member for Mernda to thus advertise his firm throughout the country.
– That comes with very bad grace from the honorable member, who brought the matter up.
Then the present Minister for Trade and Customs accused the honorable member for Macquarie of unfairness. What I have read is a transcript from the Hansard report; it is an absolutely correct one, and I can give chapter and verse for every statement which I have made.
– The honorable member for Macquarie has since apologized.
– And my honorable friend has accepted the apology.
– All healed with coalition salve !
– The amusing part of all this is that after all these hard words have been exchanged - though we are told that hard words break no bones - honorable members can fraternize and join together to resist the advancing tide of Socialism.
– Has the honorable member read the remarks of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney on the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, as recorded in Hansard?
– No ; I have not looked them up.
– I have forgiven him.
– Another extraordinary incident occurred in connexion with the honorable member for Denison. He was a member of both the Barton and Deakin Administrations, who were continually reproached by the leader of the Free-trade Party as robbers and plunderers. The only retort upon which the honorable member for Denison ventured was to quote Mr. Justin McCarthy’s description of Gathorne Hardy, and apply it to the right honorable and learned gentleman -
His speech was as stirring as a rolling drum, as flowing as the sand in an hour glass ; but as empty as the drum, and as dry as the sand in the hour glass.
Now I come to the relations between the right honorable members for Swan and East Sydney. A very remarkable affinity between these statesmen has sprung up during the last few months; but the virtues which each possesses had not been discovered by the other until the Watson Administration came into power. On the 22nd October, 1901, the right honorable member for Swan, replying to the right honorable member for East Sydney, who had been speaking against the imposition of taxation on the pioneers in the back country of Australia, and had been drawing a lurid picture of the hardships which the Tariff would place upon them, said -
I ask the right honorable member for East Sydney what he knows about “ the bold pioneer or the man with the pannikin in the bush”? His experience of the “ bold pioneer” consists of having read of him.
– I am afraid that I have not even done that.
– He proceeds-
What has he ever done for the poor man ? . . . Certainly he has talked a great deal about him, but talk is very cheap.
– That is all the poor man gets from politicians as a rule.
– And he added-
I want to expose those who use this cheap way of advertising themselves. If some of them went out to the back-blocks they would soon get lost.
– I plead guilty to that.
– The relations between these gentlemen were not cordial, to judge by their newspaper speeches, when the right honorable member for East Sydney visited Western Australia.
– There has not been a break in our personal friendship.
– It is not more than nine or ten months ago since the Prime Minister sent a telegram toWestern Australia, in which he charged the right honorable member for Swan with being very ungenerous, and with degrading political life.
– That telegram was sent on false information. The right honorable member for Swan explained to me that he had not said what was attributed to him. I believe that the statement appeared in the newspaper of the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– Ridiculous. Ihaveno newspaper. The daily papers are my authority. This explanation about false information comes very late in the day.
– The honorable member did not read the correction.
– It was not made before today.
– The fact remains that in a telegram sent to Senator Staniforth Smith on the 28th November, 1903, the Prime Minister said that the right honorable member for Swan was very ungenerous, and had degraded public life.
– That was during the elections.
– No; just before.
– It has all been cleared up since.
– I suppose what cannot be “cleared up” or “explained” can be “ repudiated.” Well, here is another statement, which was not based upon false information. These are some of the remarks made by the Prime Minister when he visited Fremantle, not very long ago -
Nine of the eleven representatives sent by Western Australia to the Federal Parliament sat upon his side, and every one of the nine was a straight, true man.
– At that time.
– Something has evidently happened since -
If they had not been, by this time Sir John Forrest would have got them for his side. (Laughter.) Sir John Forrest had been throwing out some rather adroit remarks, not quite plain to the ordinary ear perhaps, but clear enough to the. political intelligence, to the effect that if his (Mr. Reid’s) friends would only leave him and go over to the Government it might be better for the Trans-Australian railway. (Laughter and applause.)
I ask the attention of the House to the concluding sentence -
He was astonished that a gentleman of such high reputation, and hitherto unblemished character - (laughter) - should be guilty of such a palpable attempt at bribery for political support.
– Well, I withdraw that charge.
– What? Another withdrawal ?
– The information upon which that statement was made was not correct.
– This is a conspiracy to make us quarrel.
– I think that the right honorable member for Swan is making a mistake, because the Prime Minister, when making the speech from which I have quoted, was relying upon the reports of the proceedings of this House.
– I told them that they should stand by me, not that they should stand by the Government.
– That is what the Prime Minister described as “ a palpable attempt at bribery for political support.”
– I said that we should be united, that is all.
– The words which I have quoted were published in the right honorable gentleman’s own organ, the West Australian, on the 21st January) 1903.
– Was that when I was at Fremantle?
– I doubt whether I used the expression which the honorable member has just repeated.
– If the right honorable gentleman has any doubt about the matter, I refer him to the file of the West Australian in the library, where he can read the report for himself.
– That is why I doubt it.
– I do not think that I ever advised the representatives of Western Australia to join me as a member, of the Government. I’ advised them to unite with me, thinking that in that way we should do better.
– I cannot pretend to explain the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan, which justified the Prime Minister’s ‘charge, which I have before me in black and white. Then the Prime Minister went on to Kalgoorlie, where, on the 30th January, 1903, he said -
The Government water scheme will, no doubt, prove a great blessing to the gold-fields. But 1 could not help thinking, when Sir John Forrest so eloquently dilated upon the benefits of the scheme, that he bent his efforts towards shutting out from the gold-fields so many other blessings and comforts of civilized life.
The right honorable member for Swan must have seen the report of those remarks.
– The Prime Minister was at the time sitting in opposition to me.
– Then the right honorable member for Swan, speaking at Northam, on the 14th December, 1903, is reported in the West Australian of the following day to have said -
Mr. Reid had accused him of degrading politics, but if Mr. Reid had done nothing more than he had to degrade politics, he would have a better political reputation than he had. Mr. Reid had accused him of want of generosity in not acknowledging his (Mr. Reid’s) support to the railway movement. As soon as he saw the statement, he telegraphed to Mr. Reid, informing him that some mischief-maker had been telling him a “banger.”
– That is quite true.
– Then the right honorable gentleman added -
Mr. Reid, with his usual discourtesy, had not acknowledged that telegram.
– I should have had to pay for that telegram whilst’ the right honorable gentleman was in office.
– Then the right honorable gentleman characterized Mr. Reid’s statement that he had degraded politics as “ absolutely unfair and diabolically untrue.”
– To whom does that refer ?
– To the right honorable gentleman himself.
– I shall require an explanation from my right honorable friend.
– I do not remember the statement. Were we electioneering?
– That statement was made on some occasion soon after the opening of the Coolgardie water scheme. The right honorable member for Swan went on to say -
Mr. Reid, when in Western Australia, considered the Transcontinental Railway to be trumps - in Victoria he changed the trumps. (Laughter.)
The Prime Minister had been going through Victoria, speaking upon various topics, but never saying one word with regard to the proposed Transcontinental Railway. The right honorable member for Swan continued -
Throughout a long campaign in Victoria, Mr. Reid omitted any reference to the line, and meeting him afterwards, he (Sir John Forrest) reminded Mr. Reid of the omission. Whereupon Mr. Reid, in characteristic style, replied, “ By Jove, I forgot all about it!” (Laughter.)
In just the same way the right honorable gentleman forgot the old-age pensions scheme, and omitted it from his policy speech. That is the kind of recollection he has for any great work in which his friends are interested.
– I am only human.
– What a convenient memory the right honorable gentleman has. I should like now to say a word or two with regard to the extraordinary attitude assumed by the Government in connexion with contracts for supplies for the Post and Telegraph Department. This matter has already been the subject of personal explanations by myself and the PostmasterGeneral. The Minister will do me the justice to say that did not introduce this question into the House.
– No, I introduced it.
– The matter was introduced by the honorable member for Parramatta, and I observe that the honorable member for Parkes, another supporter of the Government, has a question on the paper in connexion with the same subject. What has the Postmaster-General done? He, a professing free-trader, acting under a free-trade leader, has given a preference to the local contractors to the extent of fully 15 per cent., in addition to the protection afforded by the Tariff upon the articles. I ask how this line of action can be reconciled with his free-trade principles.
– In the first place, I have not given a preference of 15 per cent.
– Then the Minister has misled the House.
– I referred to a previous decision. The preference did not amount to 15 per cent. ; but only represented a total of £64.
– Did not the Minister give any preferences at all ?
– I carried out the previous decision.
– Exactly ; the decision of the Barton Government, which was that local contractors should receive a preference to the extent of 15 per cent. These
Ministers who all their lives have been making a fetish of free-trade, and who were elected to Parliament solely because of that fact, have, upon obtaining office, swallowed their principles and given protection to the local manufacturers.
– What duty was levied upon the articles supplied by the tenderers?
– I believe that the duty amounted to about 20 per cent.
– Did not the honorable member say that he would give a preference to the British over American goods ?
– Yes. I said that I would give a reasonable preference to British goods. I would point out, however, that, unlike the Postmaster-General, I never made free-trade the cardinal principle of my life. I did not go into politics to advance free-trade, but to further the cause of labour.
– Did not the honorable member think that the interests of labour were affected by the fiscal question?
– Yes, I did, and I do still; but the obligation to carry out a freetrade policy does not rest so heavily upon me as upon men like the PostmasterGeneral. What is he, if he is not a freetrader ? Has he a shred of principle apart from the fiscal question? If free-trade, which has brought him into public life, were removed from the Minister’s programme, his slate would be left absolutely blank.
– My honorable colleague has done more for the workers of Australia than has the honorable member.
– Yet, when such men get into office, they have the shocking indecency to sink their principles and give preference to manufacturers.
– How does the honorable member justify his action in giving preference ?
– I am prepared to justify my actions at the proper time, and in the proper place. At present there are Other people in the dock.
– It is a very attractive dock.
– I stated in this House that if the local article were equal to the imported article in quality and price, I would give it a preference. What does the Minister do? He, a professing freetrader, to whom free-trade is everything, immediately he gets into office begins to practise protection. He has been mouthing free-trade all his life, and yet he is ready to renounce his principles for the sake of office.
– The honorable member was afraid to give a decision.
– The Minister knows that that is not correct. He is aware that I held back the papers for the consideration of the Cabinet.
– The honorable member’s minute does not say so.
– Does a minute disclose everything? Does a Minister, when he makes a minute, say everything that is to be said on the subject? The Minister is placing the very worst construction upon the minute, because it suits his purpose to do so.
– This is a case of Satan reproving sin.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. I ask him to look up the answer I gave in this House when I was questioned upon this subject. I stated that if the local article were equal in quality and price, I would give it a preference. That is the answer of a man who is a free-trader, and if the honorable member for Parramatta were in office, he could not do less. No wonder that the honorable and learned member for Parkes has placed a question on the notice-paper. No wonder that the honorable member for New England, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa are disgusted with the attitude of the Minister. They are honest men, who believe in carrying out to their logical conclusion the principles oftheir lives, but the Postmaster- General, after having vapoured about free-trade on the platform, shows his readiness to practise protection immediately on his accession to office. He has given a preference to contractors for articles which are already heavily protected by the Tariff. I defy the Minister to show that tenderers were ever told that local contractors would receive a preference.
– I can show a letter written by the honorable member to an American firm, stating that local tenderers were to receive a preference. On that account the firm refrained from tendering.
– I challenge the Minister to produce any letter in which I said that I would give a preference such as he has extended. If the honorable member produces such a letter I shall acknowledge my error.
– Is it true that the honorable member proposedto enter upon a free-trade crusade in Victoria, in combination with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports?
– No. I was going to enter upon a crusade in New South Wales with a view to discover a leader for the free-trade cause, seeing that the Prime Minister had abdicated that position.
– I have here the letter to which I referred, and the honorable member’s reply when he was acting as PostmasterGeneral.
– I shall read the letter, which is as follows: -
North . British Chambers, 39 Queen-street,
Post and Telegraph Department, Melbourne.
In reference to your advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette, that you will receive tenders in Adelaide on the21stSeptembernextfor telegraph material, as verbally explained to you today, I beg leave to point out that on a former occasion, when I tendered for such material, although my price was the lowest, my tender was declined, on the ground that you were giving the preference to goods of British manufacture. As I am agent here for Messrs. John A. Roeblings, Sons and Co., of New York, and would be offering their well-known manufactures, I have been asked by these friends whether it is still your intention to give a preference as regards price for British goods. In an article like copper wire, the difference in price between British or other manufacture would only amount to a few shillings per ton, so you can see there is no room for any margin, and if there was such a preference given, my friends would not care to go to the expense of cabling over their tender. I shall be much obliged if you will kindly let me have a reply as to this to-morrow, so as to enable me to write to New York by Saturday’s mail. If there was not any preference as to price, I should, of course, be very glad to submit a tender on account of Messrs. Roebling’s, as before.
I am, dear sir,
Upon that I wrote this minute-
As the writer says the difference in price between British and American wire is small, I think he may be informed that we intend to take the British article. - H.M.,15/7/’04.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The honorable member is blaming the Government for doing the same thing.
– The intimation was given the agent to save him the expense of cabling. I recollect the incident. My impression at the time was, and this letter shows it, that the difference at stake would be represented by shillings rather than by pounds, and that there was no real advantage in taking the American article. As this agent wanted the information at once, and did not appear desirous of obtaining the contract, it was to his advantage, and to that of the Department, to act as I did.
– I do not blame the honorable member for adopting that course ; but he has declared that he did not do so.
– If the PostmasterGeneral could not find something stronger than that to support his statement, it would have been wiser of him to have kept it in the background.
– The honorable member is blaming others for doing what he himself did.
– I certainly blame the politician who, having made free-trade the great cause of his life, declares that he lives politically only to advance its triumph, who secures office through its instrumentality, repudiating his professions when in power and practising protection. I regret having to introduce into this debate anything of a personal character ; but the speech delivered a few evenings ago by the right honorable member for Swan compels me to do so. For a man of such broad and generous instincts, I think that he betrayed almost incredible pettiness upon that occasion. He was good enough to say that I am his personal friend. I do hope that the relationship is reciprocal, and that he is also my friend. If he is, all I can say is that he has a very remarkable way of manifesting his friendship. What has he done ? I think that he has really misrepresented facts, not merely for the purpose of damaging me, but to injure the other labour representatives of Western Australia in connexion with the Transcontinental Railway. He also went to the length of threatening opposition to me. Of course I suppose that the opposition will come, and that I must meet it as best I can. But, should there be a dissolution, I think that the right honorable member may require to look after himself. Ever since I have been a member of this House his practice has been to blow hot and to blow cold. He knows very well that I have assisted him in every possible way in connexion with the Transcontinental Railway project-
– I said so.
– Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman said so in one breath and said something else in the next breath.
– I was referring to the honorable member’s allegiance to his party, and not to him personally. He is bound to the party.
– The right honorable member knows no friend except one who will follow him blindly. The real trouble is that I owe allegiance to somebody other than himself. I am not one to blindly follow any person. I have never fulfilled that condition, and never shall. I tell the right honorable member that, so that there may be no mistake in the future. I prefer to think and to act for myself. I consider that his attack upon the Western Australian representatives was unprovoked, ungenerous, and unworthy.
– I assure the honorable member that there was nothing personal in my attack.
– I am bound to put my own interpretation upon it. The right honorable member sometimes lectures honorable members as if they were children, or as if the records of the House did not enable them to ascertain the true facts concerning the postponement of the motion relating to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. I say that the records of the House flatly contradict the attitude which he has taken up. The right honorable member himself is largely blameworthy for the position in which the Bill relating to that project stands to-day. As far back as June last the Watson Administration took the matter up.
– The honorable member assisted to turn the Deakin Government out of office, or we should have put the Bill through.
– The right honorable member also assisted to turn the Watson Government out of office, when we were prepared to proceed with it. I freely admit that the Labour Party did form a portion of the majority which displaced the Deakin Administration. But the right honorable member cannot deny that he was three years in office before the project was brought before the House in a concrete form. It never came before honorable members until what was practically a motion of censure upon the Government had been tabled.
– It was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech as forming part of the programme of the Government prior to that.
– I will admit that, but the House had no opportunity of considering it until the Government were actually under sentence of death.
– Which Government?
– The Deakin Government. What happened upon that occasion ? Who were the members who blocked the Bill ? One is a member of the present Government, which is supported by the right honorable member for Swan, and another is a leading Ministerial follower. Upon the first occasion the present Minister of Home Affairs protested against the preliminary message relating to the matter being taken into consideration - protested at a stage which is usually regarded as formal.
– It was not regarded as formal when the next Government brought the’ matter forward.
– It was not then regarded as formal, simply because the present Minister for Home Affairs made an objection never raised before at that stage in the progress of a Bill. The proposal had to be shelved by the Deakin Government owing to his action, and to that of the honorable member for Moira, another Government supporter. Then the Watson Administration took up the Bill. Again a supporter of the present Government blocked the measure and talked it out. The right honorable member for Swan voted against the Watson Ministry, and in that way helped to defer its passage.
– But it reached a further stage after the present Government took office.
– I am aware of that. The right honorable member, however, knows perfectly well that the honorable member for Moira talked three hours against the motion relating to the Bill, despite the fact that the measure had to pass its first and second readings, the Committee stage, and its third reading, before it could be sent to another place. At every one of those stages it would have been blocked by the supporters of the present Government.
– They had threatened to block it.
– The right honorable member was informed that the honorable member for Fremantle and other Western Australian representatives had seen the opponents of the Bill, and done everything in their power to induce them to withdraw their opposition to it, but without success. Consequently, his condemnation of the Western Australian members for not holding back the censure motion was wholly unwarrantable.
– Where was the hurry about it?
– Was a motion, which invokes the life of a Government, and which is of far-reaching consequence to the whole of Australia, to be deferred upon the offchance that the Bill would be dealt with? The right honorable member knows quite well that the measure could not have left this House that week, and that even if it could, it would not have been dealt with by the Senate, because of the want of confidence motion intervening. Then upon what ground does he assume that it would have been carried in another place? The Government have not a majority there. They have only five or six supporters in that Chamber. How, then, could’ they have put the Bill through? I wish to show the unreasonable character of the right honorable member’s expectation in regard to the passage of this measure, and his equally unreasonable attitude in claiming that the honorable member for Bland should have deferred his want of confidence motion until it had been got out of the way.
– That is only a matter of opinion.
– I think that the right honorable member has acted very wrongly in reproaching the Labour Party in connexion with this matter. Instead of reproaching them. I will show that he should have been grateful” to the Labour Party for the assistance which they had rendered him. What are the facts?
– The honorable member is as much pledged to the railway asI am.
Mir. MAHON. - But I am speaking of labour representatives of the other States who are not pledged to it. Of the thirtynine affirmative votes cast in favour of the motion, seventeen; were those of labour members. In addition to that two labour representatives paired in its favour, so that almost one-half of the total number of those who voted for the motion were members of the Labour Party. I am of opinion that the right honorable member is merely endeavouring to . cover up the fundamental error which Re madeprior to the accom plishment of Federation, in neglecting to make the construction of this railway a condition precedent to Western Australia joining the Union. But, instead of doing that, he insisted upon something which Western Australia did not require - something which has engendered in this House a great deal of irritation and ill-feeling against that State. It was a signal error that he did’ not insist upon the construction of the Transcontinental Railway as a condition precedent to Western Australia joining the Federation.
– The Prime Minister himself is pledged to it.
– Yes, we have that in black and white.
– The honorable member’s party would not allow me to insist upon any such condition. They would not even ask for an alteration of the Constitution, so that we might have the right to build the railway.
– The right honorable member knows as well as I do that the people of Western Australia did not have a vote in the selection of delegates to the Federal Convention.
– But I am speaking of a subsequent period.
– Had the right honorable member put forward such a proposal I believe that the residents of the gold- fields would have been solidly behind him.
– They wanted Federation at any price.
– But the right honorable gentleman should have made this railway part of the price ; and other people think so, too.
– It is not soeasy to do.
– When the Prime Minister was at Fremantle on the 21st January, 1903, he said -
SirJohn Forrest had not pushed therailwayatthepremiers’ Conference to the point of formal agreement,and in that respect he had not quite acted up to the lines he (Mr.Reid) had followed when getting something for hisown State. (Laughter.) He got all he could into a document before he signed it, and that waswhy he was called No-Yes. (Laughter.)
– The Prime Minister forgot that I tried my best to introduce the subject at the Premiers’ Conference, but did not succeed.
– In thereport of the Conference nomention is made of the railway.
– It is exceedingly regrettable that the right honorable gentleman was led into making personal remarks abouthonorable members from Western Australia.
– The honorable member’s interjections were the cause.
– I can assure the right honorable gentleman that I never made an interjection until he attacked me, and said I was a stranger in Western Australia.
– What did I say?
– He made the really dreadful charge that I was a stranger in Western Australia. Then he went on to say that I am indifferent to the interests of that State.
– Surely I didnot voluntarily make that statement without any provocation?
– If the right honorable gentleman desires, I shall refer to the report of his speech in Hansdrd. .
– What made me say that ?
– The right honorable gentleman was referring to my action in indorsing the action of the leader of the Opposition, in giving notice of the motion before the House.
– The honorable member must have said something to make me say that.
– Not on that occasion. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that I had no public service to my credit, and that that explained why 30,000 infuriated diggers had never chased me out of Kalgoorlie. As to the first charge, that I am unknown in Western Australia, all I can say is that I lived in that State from 1895 until I was elected to this Parliament. It may be true that I am not so widely known as is the right honorable gentleman, but that may be because I never sought to stand, under the limelight on all possible occasions. I was, however, sufficiently well known three and a half years ago to beat one of his proteges for a seat in this House.
– The honorable member only just beat his opponent - it was a very narrow “squeak.”
– For an unknown man it was not too bad to have a majority of nearly 400 in a poll of about 3,000. ‘
– The honorable member’s opponent was, or was represented to be, a capitalist. At any rate, he gave the honorable member a “ run for his money.”
– I quite agree that my opponent had a pretty good run for his money. I have heard that where I spent £1 he spent £10.
– It was a fair run. Mr. MAHON.- There is no doubt that the candidate on that occasion, who, I may say, proved a scrupulously honorable opponent, was a friend of the right honorable gentleman. .
– Hear, hear !
– And the fact that I beat him reflects on the right honorable gentleman who used the argument that I was unknown.
– I was not very popular at that time, as the honorable member knows.
– That is true, and I am glad to have that confession from the right honorable gentleman.
– I ought to have been popular, but I was not.
– The right honorable member for Swan has already spoken.
– The right honorable member ought to take care not to use those boomerang arguments, which only recoil on himself.
– The people ofttimes reject their best friends.
– It was not altogether judicious on the part of the right honorable member to mention this matter. However, I can give ample proof that I am prettywell Known in Western Australia ; perhaps inconveniently well known to some friends of the right honorable member. It is unfortunate that he should have indulged in these purely personal allusions to which I shall give the briefest possible answer. Surely the charge of indifference to the interestsof Western Australia, coming from the right honorable member, was either an accidental indiscretion or an exhibition of sublime audacity.
– I think the remark was quite justified.
– I do not complain of the right honorable member’s thoughts. He can think, what he likes. But I shall show that his thoughts, when put into words, are quite incorrect. I will illustrate my position by stating that when, the Barton. Government, of which . the right honorable gentleman was a member, brought down a Tariff imposing a duty of 25 per cent. on mining and agricultural machinery - on the implements which are used in the two great primary industries of Western Australia - I voted for the lowest possible duty, whereas he voted for the highest.
– I was not in favour of the highest, I can tell the honorable mem ber.
– Very likely not ; this is another revelation which the right honorable gentleman has given to us. However, when he was Premier in his own State–
– I was responsible then.
– The right honorable gentleman then had an opportunity to carry out his own desires. And what did he do? He placed a duty of only 5 per cent.-a purely revenue duty - on mining and agricultural machinery.
– I removed the duty altogether.
– I believe the right honorable member did remove the duty later on. At any rate, the duty imposed was for purely revenue purposes ; and for thatthe right honorable member is entitled to credit. But it does not become him to charge me with indifference to the interests of Western Australia, seeing that I voted for the lowest duties on mining machinery, while he voted for the highest.
– The honorable member was not a member of the Government then. What did he do the other day when he was a member of the Watson Government ?
– I did nothing injurious to Western Australia.
– What about the shipping clauses?
– They were rejected, anyhow. The right honorable gentleman says that I have no public service - no great public work - to my credit.
– Did I say that? I did not say so much as that, I think.
– The right honorable gentleman certainly said that I had no public service to my credit. Assuming that to be true, though I do not admit it, what is the explanation? Does the right honorable gentleman forget that, when in power in Western Australia, he never gave anybody a chance? He was dictator in that State, though I must say that he was a very benevolent despot. ‘ He would give everything to the people except votes. Never in Australia has there been a more progressive politician in regard to public works. Telegraphs and railway lines pursued the prospector into the forbidding interior of the State with unexampled rapidity. Of course all these lines of communication had their base in Perth. But it is safe to say that no other Australian administrator ever catered more actively for the business requirements of the people. He was bold, courageous, and modern in his ideas; and if some of the officials necessary to the carrying out of his designs failed him in his hour of need, I do not think he ought to be blamed.
– The honorable member had a very narrow escape from being a supporter of mine at Menzies.
– I was just about to refer to that matter. I say that the right honorable member should not reproach me for lack of public service, seeing that he never gave me, or any other democrat, any chance whatever to take part in public life. He kept Parliament and the electoral roll a close corporation.
– No, no !
– There was manhood suffrage.
– That is so; but it was combined with restrictions which made it impossible for men to get their names on the roll. In Western Australia a man must be in the State six months before he can even apply to be on the roll, and he must be a resident for at least twelve months before he is permitted to exercise the franchise.
– There is the same law in Queensland.
– Surely, the right honorable member knows that two wrongs do not make one right.
– We cannot get everything at once.
– We could have had proper manhood suffrage in Western Australia at once, if the right honorable gentleman had been agreeable. The people got everything they wanted, so far as telegraph and postal communication, railways, tramways, and the electric light were concerned. But the one thing without which the people would not be satisfied - adequate representation in Parliament - the right honorable gentleman denied to them as long as he. dared to do so. He has said that I narrowly escaped being a supporter of his. I offered myself as a candidate for Parliament only once before I was elected, and that was for the constituency of North Coolgardie, in 1897. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that I did not then offer myself as a supporter of his. except on one matter, and that was the establishment of public batteries in the hack country.
– That is Socialism.
– Of course it is a measure of Socialism. I direct the attention of honorable members to the condition of Western Australian electorates in the year to which I refer. Four or five years after the great inrush’ of people into Western Australia there were about 10,000 adult males in the North Coolgardie district, and not 1,000 of them were on the roll. The bulk of the people who .were on the roll at that time were on it in respect of a. property qualification. The right honorable member for Swan knows that. In a closely contested election, during which my opponent spent money like water, I was beaten by only sixty votes; but if I had got into Parliament at that election it would not have been, as the right honorable member imagines, as one of his supporters.
– Perhaps the honorable member would have supported some one not so good.
– It is very likely. I give the right honorable gentleman credit for being everything that a statesman should be in his care for the material wants of the people. I had no wish to recall the unfortunate incident at Kalgoorlie, when 30,000- infuriated diggers interviewed the right honorable gentleman. The reference I made to it was really dragged out of me by the rather forceful and vigorous attacks which he made on myself. The right honorable gentleman claims great credit for the democratic legislation which he has passed in the State Parliament of Western Australia. T make the statement that every democratic and progressive measure which he - has initiated has been wrenched from him by the force of public opinion, and that he never in his whole history voluntarily conceded any democratic proposal to the people of Western Australia. I shall prove it. I say that every liberal measure, carried under his administration, was forced from the right honorable gentleman literally at the point of the bayonet.
– He had a majority in the Parliament, and there was no Labour Party.
– The right honorable gentleman takes credit for having granted the franchise to the women of Western Australia.
– What was the reason for that? The right honorable gentleman knew that on the gold-fields, where the agitation for Federation was strongest, the population consisted chiefly of adult males, whilst a large proportion of the older population on the coast was made up of women. The right honorable gentleman was opposed to Federation at the time. He changed sides several times.
– No, no.
– Twice, anyhow.
– The honorable gentleman cannot prove that I changed once.
– I can show the right honorable gentleman that he repeatedly wobbled on the question of Federation.
– I wanted better terms, that was all.
– The right honorable gentleman was wobbling at the time to which I refer, and in order to “dish” the adult males of the gold-fields, he conferred the franchise on women, in the hope that at the Federal referendum the proposal that Western Australia should enter the union would be defeated.
– I supported it.
– At that time he did, but a little while before the right honorable gentleman spoke to the people of Western Australia as an opponent of Federation.
– Never; the honorable gentleman cannot find that speech.
– I feel quite certain that the right honorable gentleman shifted his ground on the question several times.
– I did not want Federation at any price, as some persons did.
– The right honorable gentleman takes credit for the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill introduced by him in Western Australia. I propose to give the House a little bit of unpublished history in connexion with that which will prove that the right honorable gentleman’s statement on the subject was anything but candid. He would lead this House to believe that that measure proceeded from him out of a spontaneous desire for the welfare of the workers of Australia.
– I never said there was no pressure. I have said openly that there was a considerable amount of pressure outside.
– The right honorable gentleman took care to point out that there was no organized Labour Party in the Western Australian Parliament at the time.
– Nor was there.
– I propose to make a statement of the facts connected with the matter, and to account for the pressure to which the right honorable gentleman refers. The right honorable gentleman would have been a little more candid if he had given the particluars to the House.
– It would have taken too long. .
– The right honorable gentleman repeated himself so often that he might well have devoted a little of the time he occupied in giving the facts of the case. In September, 1.900, a Trades Congress was sitting in Perth, representing the trade unions of the State, including those on the gold-fields and coast.
– I had introduced the measure into Parliament the year before.
– The right honorable gentleman may have introduced it, but it did not get any further.
– No; it did not.
– At that time Mr. Illingworth, M.L.A., was the1 leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. Some of the supporters of the right honorable member for Swan, representing radical constituencies, were threatening to leave him.
– It is a fact. Mr. Mingworth intimated that he would move a motion of no-confidence in the Government. The Trades Congress appointed a deputation, of which Senators Pearce and de Largie were members, to wait Upon the right honorable member for Swan, and ask for the introduction of an Arbitration Bill.
– The re-introduction it was.
– Well, we will leave it at that. The representatives of the press were present, and the right honorable gentleman heard the deputation, and gave . the usual non-committal reply. I specially direct the attention of honorable members to what followed. After the reporters had withdrawn, the right honorable gentleman told the deputation that he would introduce a Bill if the deputation would induce certain membe!rs of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, who were threatening to vote for Mr. Illingworth’s motion, to support himself.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– I have the word of two members of the Senate for it.
– I do not care if the honorable gentleman has the word of thirty members; it is not right.
– Perhaps the right honorable gentleman will allow me to state the case in my own way, and he can make any correction which he thinks necessary by way of explanation afterwards. I feel sure that there i§ no reason why the gentlemen to whom I have referred should give this report of what took place unless it is true.
– Is there any reason why I should deny it if it were true ?
– I do not know of any. except that perhaps the right honorable gentleman may not have a very good memory. The deputation promised to do what the right honorable gentleman asked, and they accordingly waited on Mr. Illingworth, and requested him not to move the no-confidence motion. Mr. Illingworth refused to accede to their request. The deputation then said they would treat him as hostile to the Bill if be moved the censure motion. Subsequently the deputation waited upon certain members of the Legislative Assembly, with the result that Mr. Illingworth did not move the motion of censure, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced by the right honorable member for Swan, and carried. Those are the facts connected with the matter.
– They are not facts ; but I shall explain some other lime.
– I think the right honorable gentleman must see that he was not entirely candid in the statement he made to the House. What the right honorable gentleman said was that when he introduced the measure in 1900, the representatives of the labour organizations of Western Australia waited on him, and said that his name would be always honoured as that of a man who had done good service for the cause for which they worked.
– Yes; Senator de Largie said that.
– Exactly, but that was after the right honorable gentleman had made the promise to which I have referred.
– Certainly, but it was at the same interview.
– Yes, but it was also after the reporters had left.
– I do not remember that ; but it may be so.
– The right honorable gentleman also saidthat he passed the measure when there was no payment of members in Western Australia. I
– And no Labour I Party in the State Parliament.
– And no Labour Party in the State Parliament. I say that here again there was a great absence of candour, and I propose to supplement the right honorable gentleman’s version by my own. The history of payment of members in Western Australia is this: A resolution in favour of payment of members was introduced in the session of 1899 in the Legislative Assembly of that State, and the right honorable member for’ Swan,and all the members of . HisMinistry, voted against it. Towards the end of 1900, Mr. Piesse, the Minister of Railways at the time, resigned, and the late Mr. Barry Wood was appointed to succeedhim. Mr. Wood had to go before his constituency, West Perth, and the LabourParty determined to contest the seat, so as to have some one to force on payment of members. Mr. Rason, then Ministerial whip, authorized by the right honorable member for Swan, offered the Labour Party, if they would promise to withdraw opposition to Mr. Wood, that he would introduce payment of members. Mr. Rason said that the right honorable gentleman was prepared to give a promise in writing if the Labour Party requested it, that he would pass a Payment of Members Bill.
– I absolutely deny that; there is not an iota of truth in the statement.
– The Labour executive said that they did not require a written promise, and that they were satisfied with his word.
– Some one has been “getting at” the honorable gentleman, and making fun of him. I absolutely deny the statement.
– Will the right honorable gentleman deny that the executive of the Political Labour Party agreed to withdraw opposition to Mr. Barry Wood, that he was elected, and that subsequently the Payment of Members Bill was introduced in the State Parliament, and carried through the Legislative Assembly ?
– I absolutely deny that I had anything to do with the Political Labour League.
– Have the references of the honorable member for Coolgardie to these matters anything to do with the noconfidence motion ?
– I think that they have. When the right honorable member for Swan a few evenings ago was speaking on the no-confidence motion, he urged that his record as a promoter of democratic legislation in Western Australia did not justify the aspersions made upon him in connexion with the course he has pursued on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which was before this House. That has induced me to show that the right honorable gen tleman was never democratic, and that the hostility he has shown to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill before this House is a part of his very nature. I am endeavouring to show that in his hostility to that measure the right honorable gentleman is more consistent than he has been on any other matter that has come before the House.
– Mr. Barry Wood was opposed.
– Not by a labour candidate. The right honorable member for Swan has a curious doctrine with respect to Cabinet government, which I was rather astonished to hear him propound here the other day. He holds that when a Minister leaves office he is free, as a private member, to vote against a measure which he fathered while in office. I defy the right honorable gentleman to give any precedent in support of that, except his own.
– I could give the honorable gentleman one - the honorable member for Hume.
– I am referring to precedents by statesmen of note, because the right honorable member for Swan, when he desires to justify himself, goes for his precedents to the British House of Commons.
– I referred to. the details of Bills.
– I invite the right Honorable gentleman to show where any statesman of note has ever voted as a private member against a leading principle in a Bill which he fathered while in office.
– Two members of the Labour Government, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne and the honorable member for Wide Bay, did it. On one occasion they voted against what they had previously voted for.
– In order to secure something better.
– The right honorable member for Swan, since he left office, has denounced in this House two measures for which, as a member of the Deakin Cabinet, he was himself responsible. If that doctrine is to prevail, the example will prove demoralizing to Cabinet Ministers in future. He has denounced a provision for preference to unionists, and an important provision in the Post and Telegraph Act, although they were created by a Government of which he was a member.
– Forced upon them.
– Why did the right honorable gentleman allow anything to be forced upon him ?
– I was not in command.
– Was there any compulsion upon the right honorable gentleman to remain in office? I cannot see that there was. His doctrine was so strange to my ears that I wrote to a fairly high constitutional authority to know whether in his extensive reading he had ever discovered a precedent for a Minister out of office, speaking and voting against the provisions of a Bill which he had fathered when in office.
– I said that we made a mistake in regard to the seamen. That isallIsaid.
– Is that all? If a proposal were made to repeal that section, would the right honorable gentleman vote for it ?
– I, should like to. I say we made a mistake.
– That is sufficient for my purpose. The right honorable gentleman should never admit a mistake.
– I believe that the honorable member was in accord with me, too.
-I shall not say what I am in accord with just now. I have not permission to mention the name of the authority to whom I wrote about this doctrine, but I think that if I had that privi lege it would be recognised that he is an eminent man whose words are entitled to the greatest respect. He replied to my inquiry in these terms -
So far as my reading goes, the vital principle of Cabinet Government, as now developed, is unity and solidarity. Every Cabinet measure is equally the measure of each Minister and of the whole body, and, as such, is presented to Parliament and to the country. The preservation to the world of this unity and solidarity is the reason why its meetings are in secret and no record is kept. Of course there may be from time to time comparatively unimportant measures which are allowed to be open. But if a measure is of sufficient importance to appear in the opening speech, or later, to be proposed as a Government measure, a ‘Minister must agree to it in toto or resign. If he so far differs when he has ceased to be a Minister, he can, by permission of the Crown, explain to Parliament why he has resigned,It is because of his oath as an Executive Minister that he must have permission to explain to Parliament his resignation. But I know of no precedent where a Minister, having in Cabinet accepted a Cabinet measure and remained in office with such measure on the Ministerial programme, has, when out of office, spoken or voted against such measure.
– “ Such measure !”
– Surely the right honorable gentleman will not quibble in that way ?
– Yes, I will. The writer refers to the measure, not to the details of the measure.
– The right honorable gentleman votes to emasculate a measure, to render it unworkable, and of no service to the people for whom it is being passed, and then he says that he has not voted against the measure.
– I think the honorable member is misrepresenting me.
– I am surprised that a right honorable gentleman who is usually broad-minded should resort to such a subterranean means of escape.
– I am quite satisfied.
– This authority goes on to say - .
It may be argued that, after all, this limitation upon an ex-Minister is only a constitutional convention. But it seems to be an absolute necessity, if there is to be any reliance upon public men in their capacity as Ministers, and any mutual confidence, while, as regards the ex-Minister personally, it is a sort of moral suicide, and a confession of judgment.
I present that extract to the right honorable gentleman.
– I am quite content with that.It refers to the whole measure.
– I cannot see that. I am sorry that I have been obliged by these interruptions and interjections to detain the House so long. The right honorable gentleman’s action towards the Labour Party is very unjust, and if he finds himself to-day a derelict politician, high and dry on the back benches in this House, he has to thank himself a good deal for it. His own actions have largely influenced the course of events in that regard. I regret very much that he is not representing Western Australia in this Ministry. It is little short of impertinence for the Prime Minister to say that he is going to be the representative of the western State in the Cabinet. It is a curious coincidence that when the right honorable member for Swan denied the gold-fields representation in the State Parliament, he made precisely the same excuse which the PrimeMinister now makes for shunting him aside. The right honorable member for Swan then declared that he would act for the miners in Parliament. This personal affront to the right honorable member for Swan, and this injustice to Western Australia is now being justified by precisely the same pretext used to disfranchise the ‘gold-fields.
– He has just as much influence though, as if he were in the Cabinet.
– I feel sure of that. But if Western Australia has to depend upon the Prime Minister for representation, then God help that State. We shall take care that the Ministry does not neglect it. and. I feel sure that the right honorable member forSwan will be with us in that respect. I hope that this motion will be carried first of all, because I regard the Ministerial combination as hopelessly immoral. It is composed of men who have absolutely nothing in common, except a hatred of the progressive party in this House, and of democratic legislation. It is not in the interests of this country that men who show so little regard for political principles should be intrusted with the administration of great Departments. Australia should not trust its destinies to men who carry out a policy in which they say they do not believe. Here we have the Prime Minister declaiming against the operation of the White Australia policy, and yet carrying it out.
– Not against the White Australia policy.
– Practically that ; I refer to contract labour. The Prime Minister was grossly unjust to his predecessor in the Department. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney carried out the law as he believed it should be carried out, and the right honorable gentleman had ample opportunity of reversing that policy if he chose to do so. It is mere hypocrisy for him to pretend that he had no option but to adopt the policy of his predecessor. He is in a responsible position now, and if he is the man he professes to be before the House, he should have had the courage of his convictions, and whatever stage these proceedings might have reached he should have arrested them. For these reasons, amongst others, I trust this motion will be carried. The country never called these gentlemen to take up the reins of government. On the contrary, the constituencies pronounced against them. They hold office in abrogation of constitutional principles, and in flat defiance of the people’swill. Do they challenge this statement? If so, why do they cower at’ the mere mention of a dissolution ? We invite - nay, we challenge - them to remit the issue to the electors. They tremble at the prospect because they know, as we do, that an appeal . to the country is to them equivalent to a sentence of death. They know, as we do, that it means the disappearance of most of the reactionary politician’s who surround them, and the triumph of the party of progress, whose policy I am convinced makes’ for the true welfare of the people of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Skene) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I rise to make a short personal explanation. I do not wish to detain honorable members ; but the honorable member for Coolgardie, in referring to an administrative act of mine in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, rather misrepresented the true facts of the case.
– Order ! I have already pointed, out several times that a personal explanation can only be made concerning some matter in respect of which an honorable member has been misrepresented or misunderstood.
– If the honorable gentleman desires to explain any matter concerning which he has been misrepresented or misunderstood, of course he can do so in a personal explanation ; but if it is in regard toany other matter. I shallhave to ask the House if it is prepared to listen to him. I have no doubt that it will extend the usual courtesy to him.
– It is a personal explanation I wish to make, and it will be perfectly in order.
– As the honorable gentleman has not spokenyet, he will have plenty of time to explain.
– It is in connexion with a matter which came before the House on a previous occasion.
– These frequent personal explanations are becoming a perfect scandal.
– If an act of mine has been misrepresented, it is only fair that I should have an opportunity to put the matter right.
– So the honorable gentleman will when he is called. He can speak for four hours if be likes.
– With reference to the question of preference in postal contracts, the honorable member for Coolgardie knows full well that on a previous occasion I pointed out that the tenders were invited in about April of thisyear, that under Ministerial decisions certain preference was to be allowed, and that because the honorable gentleman had declined to give a decision on the preference matter, the tenders were submitted to me for my determination.
– Not declined, but merely deferred.
– The honorable gentleman may put it as he likes,
– The Minister has no right to put it wrongly.
– I shall accept the honorable gentleman’s version that his decision was merely deferred. At all events, he declined to accept tenders whereany preference was involved’, but accepted all the rest. He left the question of preference in abeyance, and it came on to me for determination. I merely minuted the paper to theeffect that the practice in force! at the time the lenders were invited should be followed, and I take it that it would have been a breach of faith with tenderers if the terms of the previous Minister’s decision had not been carried out.
– And the minute relates only to those?
– Yes. The total amount of the contracts-
– I cannot see that what the Minister is stating is a personal explana tion,To some extent it is a reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie, and to the remaining extent it is an introduction of new matter. I would suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that he should either ask leave to make a statement - in which case I have no doubt that the House would give its consent - or leave the matter until he speaks lateron.
– He is trying to justify protection, when he was returned as a freetrader.
– I do not wish to justify anything, but merely to place the true facts before honorable members,
– He did the rightthing.
– That is a matter with which I shall deal by-and-by. I think, sir, it is a personal explanation I am making. I am seeking to show that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Coolgardie in regard to a matter which I brought before the House at the instance of the honorable member for Parramatta. The total amount of all contracts involved in this particular case was £13,600, and the total amount of preference was £6412s.9d. on sums amounting to, I think, , £1,700 or , £1,800. So that the total amount of preference given under previous Ministerial decisions which I was carrying out amounts to £64 12s.9d.
– I wish to refer to one or two matters which have been mentioned by the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– Does the right honorable member intend to explain his own speech?
– I wish to explain that the statement of the honorable member that I entered into negotiations through the persons he named - Mr. Rason and -the late Mr. Barry Wood - with the Labour Party to prevent the Minister of Railways from being opposed at the election, and that I promised to introduce a Bill for the payment of members if no opposition was offered, is’ without any foundation. . I had no communication, directly or indirectly, with any members of the Labour Party in regard to that matter.
– I shall produce the . witnesses.
– I give. the statement an absolute and unqualified denial.
– I shall produce evidence.
– In regard to the statement that I made conditions with a
– My information came from men who saw the right honorable member.
– I absolutely deny the accuracy of the statements.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– Inmoving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I would remind honorable members or. both sides that we are making very slow progress, indeed, with business. I appeal to them to endeavour by every means in their power to bring the debate to a conclusion as soon as possible, consistent, of course, with reasonable opportunities for discussion.
– I am sure that we all agree with what the Minister of Trade and Customs has said, but after he and other Ministers have made long speeches, -it seems strange that he should expect those who have not addressed themselves to the question before the House to contract their remarks unduly. If the honorable gentleman would propose a new standing order to limit the duration of speeches, I would support it, but I do not think that it is fair, after long speeches have been made by Ministers and others, that honorable members who have not spoken should be shut out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040930_reps_2_22/>.