2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, in view of the decision of the High Court limiting the powers of the Legislatures of the States in the. matter of direct taxation, and of the fact that there is a continuous falling off in the revenue from Customs and Excise, he will further consider the opinion which he has expressed against the imposition of direct taxation by the Commonwealth Parliament ?
– I have not yet read the full text of the judgment of the High Court in the matter referred to. My impression is. that it affects only payments for services made by the Commonwealth to members of the Parliament, Ministers, and public servants, which is a small matter in comparison with national taxation. I see no real difficulty in the way of members and Ministers continuing to pay income tax to the States, despite the decision of the High Court.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that some honorable members have offered to pay income tax to their own State, and have been deliberately refused? .
– I am not aware of that fact, and’ I can only say that it should strengthen one’s desire to make the offer
– Will the Prime Minister take steps, by an amendment of the Constitution, or in some other way, to enable taxation to be levied on both States and Federal officers?’
– A question affecting a possible amendment of the Constitution is of so serious a character that I require some time for its consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister reconsidered the question which I put to him yesterday in regard to the obtaining of information about our treaty obligations to allow Hindoos to enter all parts of the Empire?
– I have had a conversation with my honorable and learned friend since answering his question yesterday, and, in view of what he has told me, I have now no difficulty in saying that I shall have much pleasure in endeavouring to get the information which he desires.
– In view of the statement of the Prime Minister that he will regard the amendment of which the honorable member for Hume has given notice, in regard to preferential trade, as a motion of no-confidence, will he indicate his intentions with regard to the motion of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat ?
– I will state my views in reference to that motion when it is reached
– Has the Prime Minister read a report appearing in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that a Mr. Louis Phillip Jacobs refused to answer certain questions of great importance that were put to him yesterday by the Select Committee now inquiring into the tobacco trade? If the Committee has not power to compel “witnesses to give the information which it requires, will he convert it into a Royal Commission, so that it may be able to deal properly with the subject referred to it?
– As the witness in question was appearing before a Select Committee of another branch of this Legislature, the matter falls more properly within the province of the Senate. I have read the news- paper account, ‘ however, and I gathered from it that, while the witness at first refused to answer certain questions, he afterwards gavethe information.
– I can only say that if any obstacle is interposed to hinder the labours of any Committee of either branch of this Legislature, the Government will take seriously into consideration the methods available for the compelling of witnesses to give information. In the first instance, however, such refusals more naturally come within the province of the authority which authorized an inquiry. If that authority is not able to deal with the matter, it will be the duty of the Government to see that the information is obtained by some other means. I think that the inability of a Select Committee to obtain information would be a strong reason for the appointment of a Royal Commission.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs say whether any proposals in favour of day labour, in preference to contract labour, for the carrying out of the public works of the Commonwealth, are, or have been, in contemplation by himself or his predecessor? Is he able to tell the House what is the. policy of the Government in regard to the matter?
– So far as’ I know, the only proposal of the kind has been made in connexion with some regulations which have been prepared in connexion with the Public Works branch of the Department of Home Affairs, the suggestion being that the controlling authority in connexion with public works, which would’ mean in some cases the States, and in other cases the Commonwealth, should ask for prices to be given for the performance of the work by day labour. I have not confirmed that proposal, and the custom which previously existed is still in . existence.
– Part of the work has all along been done by day labour.
– Yes, but this is a special proposal.
-Has the attention . of the Minister been directed to a statement in this morning’s Age, that a number of Commonwealth public servants are not insured in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Act? If so, I wish to know if the statement is true. Have the Government yet considered the advisability of establishing a Commonwealth Life Insurance Department, in accordance with the terms of the resolution passed by this House ?
– I am not aware that there has been any neglect of the insurance requirements of the Public Service Act; but if the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall be happy to make inquiries. The Government have not yet come to a decision, nor have they considered the establishment of a Commonwealth Insurance Department.
– Is there a minimum wage clause in the contracts for the supply of clothing for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth ?
– I cannot answer the question without referring to the papers. If the honorable member will set it down for some day next week, I shall, in the meantime, procure the necessary information.
– As the House has determined by resolution that such a clause shall be inserted in every tender, will the Minister see that it is done, if it has not been done?
– I think that such clauses are inserted, but as I cannot be sure about every case, I do not desire to make a positive assertion without first verifying the facts.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) pro posed -
That the proceedings in Committee of Supply which lapsed on Wednesday last be resumed, and that the House do now resolve itself into the Commitree of Supply.
– I oppose the motion. Yesterday I objected to its being moved without notice, not because I wished the order for the consideration of Supply in Committee not to be restored then, but because I object to its restoration altogether, since I have no political confidence in the Ministry, and showed that some time ago by both my voice and my vote. Although on that occasion a. small majority declared for the Government, that did not alter my view. I take it that, if the House refuses to grant the request of the Treasurer, its action will be tantamount to the passing of a vote of no-confidence.
– Another leader of the Opposition !
– I am acting independently.
– Does not the honorable member think that he might have given me notice that he was again getting the guillotine ready ?
– The righthonorable gentleman did not give the Watson Government much notice.
Mr.Reid. - We had days and days of discussion, and every honorable member was here when the division took place.
– I think it is only fair to mention the names of those honorable members who were present when the countout took place on Wednesday.
– That is, those who were in the chamber?
– It is not fair to advertise the absentees at a particular moment, especially when some of them were waiting within the precincts of the House.
– I was within the precincts of the House, but I refused to come into the chamber in order to assist to make a quorum. I am opposed to the Government, and I am prepared to do anything short of murdering them in order to get rid of them.
– Why is the honorable member opposed to them ?
– Because they occupy the Treasury benches.
– I thought it was for some such intelligent reason.
– I think that is a very fair reason. I find that the honorable members who were present when the count out took place were the honorable and learned member for Corio-
– I desire to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the statement which the honorable member is making is relevant to the question of resuming the consideration of Supplv.
– The question which has now arisen is whether the order for the consideration of the Estimates in Committee of Supplv shall be restored to the notice-paper, and therefore anything that may relate to the necessity for the motion, such as the count-out which took place on Wednesday evening, will be in order.
– I desire to show that the Government have no right to ask that the order of the day shall toe restored, because the majority of honorable members who were present when the count-out took place belonged to the Opposition. The Government were actually in a minority.
– Is the honorable member counting the Chairman of Committees-?
– No; but even counting the Chairman, who is paid to be here, the pegging would only be even.
– I would ask whether the honorable member is in order in making a distinct reference to the position which I occupy in this House. He stated in an offensive fashion that the Chairman was paid to be here. I would ask whether he is in order in making a statement of that kind, and whether it is not a fact that all other honorable members are also paid to toe here.
– I withdraw the expression referred to. I did not wish to be offensive.I should have stated that the honorable member was here in his official capacity. I shall now read the list of the honorable members who were present when the count -out took place, as follow: - The honorable members for Corio, Maranoa, Grey, Capricornia, Canobolas, Fremantle, Riverina, Parramatta, Kalgoorlie, Cowper, New England, Gippsland, Wimmera, Kennedy, Yarra, Macquarie, Bass, North Sydney, Balaclava, Bland, Coragamite, Wannon, and Dalley.
– Was the honorable member present?
– No. I went out of the Chamber because I did not want to assist the Government in forming a quorum. If I could secure a count-out by leaving the Chamber at this moment I should do so. I induced one or two honorable members to go home on Wednesday evening for the sake of their health. I thought that ten o’clock was sufficiently late for them to be away from their homes. Out of (twenty -four members present, including the Chairman of Committees, twelve were members or supporters of the Government, and twelve were members of the Opposition. Therefore, exclusive of the Chairman, the Opposition had an actual majority. If the Government can muster only eleven of their supporters when an important matter such as the Estimates is being considered it would almost seem that their own followers are losing confidence in them. They could succeed in keeping here only eleven honorable members out of thirty-eight.
– How often could we have counted out the House when the last Government were in office?
– If the honorable member could have done so, I have no doubt he would have taken advantage of the opportunity.
– Only eight honorable members were present one evening.
– You fellows ‘showed us a lot of mercy.
– I should like to ask if the honorable member is in order in addressing members as “ fellows.” A “ fellow “ is a sheep-stealer.
– I called the honorable member to order for addressing honorable members across the Chamber as “you fellows,” instead of addressing the Chair.
– In order to show that I was not bitterly opposed to the Govern ment, I would point out to honorable members that at 10 o’clock I suggested that we should adjourn.
– And I said that I was prepared to adjourn at 10.30 o’clock in consideration of the fact that some honorable members had been travelling that day, but the honorable member refused to give us an extra quarter of an hour.
– I did not wish to be too hard upon the Government, and I suggested an adjournment at 10 o’clock, but Ministers said that they had a perfect right to conduct the business in their own way. And yet at 10.15 o’clock they, could only muster eleven of their supporters. Only three Ministers were present. Of course Ministers can please themselves whether they come here or stay away. They can stay away altogether, so far as I am concerned. At the same time, if they do absent themselves they can scarcely rely upon the attendance of their- supporters. They certainly can hardly expect the members of the Opposition to be here.
– I thought we were all paid to be here.
– We are not paid to be here to transact the business of the Government.
– It is the business of the country.
– I think that the right honorable gentleman should be the last to complain of the absence of other honorable members. When he was not in receipt of the emoluments of office he did not attend here very frequently in order to assist in forming a House.
– I gave the country more than ^400 worth of my time; that is more than the honorable member could say with regard to any period of his life.
– We had 215 sitting days during the first session of this Parliament, and the right honorable gentleman was absent upon 132 days. Therefore, so far as the greater number of the sittings were concerned, he did not care whether the business of the country was carried on or not. Consequently, I do not see that the honorable member has any right to grumble
At any other honorable members for absenting themselves. It is no part of the duty of the Opposition to help the Government to carry on their business.
– Is the honorable member speaking for the alliance?
– No ; I am speaking for myself upon this occasion, as upon all others. I object to being made a convenience of by certain honorable members who desire to go away to attend to their own private business. Honorable members can stay away as often as they like. I shall not care if they absent themselves altogether. That is entirely a matter for themselves, and their constituents. But I object to their making a convenience of me. I understood that the Ministry came into power in order to restore responsible government, and also with the object of crushing the Labour Party - of strangling the Bengal tigers and removing from the Ministerial side the steerage passengers. Whilst these are the objects of the Ministry,. I am not prepared to assist them, even by helping to form a House. I believe in harassing and hampering the Government as much as possible, because I do not agree with their policy, and do not approve of their occupancy of the Treasury benches. I take it that if the proposal of the Treasurer is not carried the Government will be hampered, and that is my reason for opposing it.
– The honorable member has referred to honorable members being paid to attend here. I hold, however, that we are not paid. We receive £400 per annum as an allowance - a starvation allowance, against which we should enter a protest. I shall vote with the Government, but not on account of any pay I receive.
– I should like to say a few words in regard to this matter, because my action was practically the cause of the count-out. I take up exactly the same stand as that adopted by the honorable member for Barrier. If I were near the door of the chamber, and the Government desired to form a quorum, I should move further away instead of entering the House. On another occasion I told the honorable member for Dalley when he came into the labour room, that I would not assist to form a quorum, and the honorable member for Barrier was there and took exactly the same position.
– We have no complaint against the honorable member upon that score, but other honorable members occupy a different position.
– My ground for assuming that attitude is that I consider that no Government can possibly carry on with such a slender majority as that possessed by the present Ministry without inflicting humiliation upon themselves, and degrading Parliament. The late Government occupied an entirely different position. If the leader of the Opposition were Prime Minister, and attempted to carry on under similar circumstances, I should not support him for one moment. In fact, I intimated that fact to him very Dlainly. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well - he has stated it repeatedly in this House - that any one of histhirty-six supporters can turn him out of office.
– I did not say that; I said that any one of them might create a lot of trouble.
– One member could turn the right honorable gentleman out of office.
– Undoubtedly .
– That is quite another matter.
– Under such circumstances no Government can carry on with credit to themselves or to the country. I am quite sure that theright honorable gentleman realizes that fact quite as well as does any honorable member of this House. I feel that we are not acting honestly to the electors in allowing the existing condition of affairs to continue, and that something ought to be done to bring about an appeal to the country.
– I do not hear any cheers upon the Opposition side of the Chamber.
– I do not hear any cheers upon the other side.
– We do not want to go to the country.
– I cannot help whether members of the Opposition cheer or riot. If honorable members opposite admit that they do not wish to go to the country - that they are afraid to face their constituents - I say they are the poorest set of representatives that I have yet discovered.
– Wait until we get the rolls in order. Let honorable members try to turn us out of office then.
– From the Prime Minister’s interjection, I take it that he is quite prepared to appeal to the country.
– At any time.
– Let the right honorable gentleman do so now. We are ready whenever he is.
– The Prime Minister declares that he is ready to face the country at any time. I am heartily glad to have that assurance.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe it.
– Within the next week or fortnight, we shall see whether we can accept the Prime Minister’s word.
– There will be no trouble at all.
– The only excuse which the right honorable gentleman now makes for denying us an appeal to out constituents is that the electoral rolls are not in order.
– There are two reasons.
– What is the other?
– It is that we have a majority.
– The Prime Minister has now given us a second reason whyhe is not anxious to bring about a general election. He declares that he has a majority. Yet only a few nights ago, he had to rise in his place and reprove one of his supporters for a certain statement which he had made. The right honorable gentleman affirmed that he would be less than a man if he had not done so, but, nevertheless, he did not repudiate the statement of another honorable member who alleged that he held him in the hollow of his hand. He did not resent that declaration. The same honorable member also added that for the moment he would record his vote in favour of the Government, but that he reserved to himself the right to take different action at a later period.The Government; I repeat, are- prepared to carry on with an exceedingly slender majority. The. whole essence of my argument is that no Ministry which possesses a majority of one can justify its existence. I do not think that Ave can find a parallel to the present position in Australian history.
– The Prime Minister compared a New South Wales Government which held on to office under somewhat similar circumstances, to ring-tailed opossums.
– Yes. In addressing himself to a somewhat similar position in New South Wales, the right honorable gentleman said that, rather than follow the course of clinging to office like a set of ring-tailed opossums, which had been adopted by his predecessors, he would resign his position. Nevertheless, he is now emulating the methods ofthe opossum. Concerning the count-out which occurred on Wednesday evening, I desire to say that I objected to the honorable member for Maranoa withdrawing his call for a division. I had a perfect right to do so. When a proposal is submitted in this House, why should I be called upon to abandon my opinions regarding it, owing to the neglect of honorable members to be present ?
– If the honorable membe’s vote had been properly recorded, he would have voted with the “Ayes.”
– It is quite true that I misunderstood the question when it was put from the Chair, and that I gave my voice upon the wrong side. But I immediately corrected my mistake, and if the Chairman had not accepted my correction, I should certainly have asked him to put the question again. I maintain that the Chairman adopted the proper course. I object to being compelled to forego my opinions for the sake of avoiding a countout. I have no right to be placed in that position. The honorable member for Maranoa called for a division upon the proposal which was under discussion. I was strongly adverse to the increase proposed, and “naturally desired to record my vote against it. The honorable member for Maranoa desired to withdraw his call for a division, because he did not wish to place the Committee in an awkward position. When I explained to him that the business which would lapse consequent upon a count-out could be restored’ to the paper, he was quite satisfied. But I wish to point out that a difficulty is likely to arise in connexion with the motion which is now under consideration, although I presume that the Government have consulted authorities as to the course which should be followed. The motion affirms -
That the proceedings in Committee of Supply, which lapsed on Wednesday last, be resumed, and that the House do now resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
In my judgment there are two distinct proposals involved in that motion. I can quite understand a proposition being submitted affirming that we should resume the consideration of business at the point at which it lapsed. The argument will probably be advanced that the Committee of Supply has lapsed. That, however, is not so. because our Standing Orders provide that we can restore any lapsed business to the paper and resume its consideration at the point at which it was dropped. That is all we have to do upon the present occasion. There is. no need to reconstitute the Committee of Supply.
– But we cannot resume our consideration of the Estimates until Committee of Supply has been set up.
– If the second portion of the motion be carried, the question will at once arise, “ Are we to set up a Committee of Supply de novo, or from the point at which it lapsed last Wednesday?”
– I have looked into this matter very carefully, and I find that there have been many examples of a count-out in Committee of Supply in the House of Commons’, and that there the custom has been for Supply to be restored at the point at which it lapsed, as a matter of form, upon the next dav of sitting. In this case, the House in the first place is called upon to resolve that the consideration of business shall be resumed at the point at which it lapsed, and in the next to affirm when that consideration shall be resumed. To resolve that its consideration shall be resumed without fixing a date for such resumption would be obviously futile. The two proposals are necessary - first, that the consideration of the business shall be resumed, and secondly that a date shall be fixed when it shall be so resumed. The two matters are properly combined in one motion, and no point which has arisen in any such Parliament as this has been overlooked.
– I am very much obliged, sir, for that information. Under the circumstances I have nothing further to add upon that subject. The honorable member for Barrier has been kind enough to inform the House of the names of the members who were present when the count-out occurred upon Wednesday evening. I think that it is only fair to state who were absent.
– What object can be gained by so doing?
– It will allow the electors to see how the country is being governed under existing conditions.
– We are getting a good exhibition of it just now.
– -In the first place, the Government majority, in the person of the honorable member for Wilmot, was absent. Similarly, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, Werriwa, Ballarat, South Sydney, Richmond, Denison, Illawarra, Flinders, Mernda, Angas, and the right honorable member for Swan, were not in attendance. With the exception of the honorable member for South Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, none of these gentlemen are very constant in their attendance.
– I am more constantly in attendance here than is the honorable member.
-Order ! I would point out that not only is it disorderly to interrupt an honorable member by interjection, but that it is equally disorderly to interrupt by laughter.
– It is very difficult for me to proceed, but I desire to’acknowledge that the right honorable member for Swan is very constant in his attendance. Then the honorable members for Lang, Wentworth, Kooyong, Hunter, Corinella, Echuca, Franklin, Bendigo, East Sydney, Grampians, Parkes, and Robertson, many of whom attend regularly, were also absent.
– I was paired with a member of the Opposition on , the evening in question.
– I think’ that the pairing system is objectionable.
– Are all these honorable members Government supporters?
– Yes. I shall leave honorable members opposite to deal with the absentees upon the Opposition side, and I trust that they will in future pay greater attention to their parliamentary duties. The Prime Minister says that he has. given£400 worth of his time to the business of the country, and that some of us would not do that in a lifetime.
– I did not say that. I spoke of one honorable member who referred to me ; it was simply a case of tit for tat.
– We occupy a responsible position. We have been returned to attend to the business of the Commonwealth, but a large number of honorable members do not appear to recognise that fact.
– It would be better for some honorable members to be away than to waste time in this manner.
– That may be, but the Government alone are responsible for any waste of time in regard to this matter. No one knows better than does the Prime Minister that a Government cannot carry on with any degree of success when they have so narrow a majority as have the present Administration, and that in the present state of parties it is a mere waste of time for us to attend here day after day. It is for this reason that we desire the Government to go to the country at the earliest date. The right honorable gentleman has practically told us that as soon as the rolls are in order he will go to the country. We challenge him to keep that promise.
– He told the House of another reason why it was not proposed at present to go to the country.
– That was an after thought. We have also been informed by a member of the Government that within three months the rolls will be in perfect order.
– That was a fortnight ago.
– It was. We may therefore reasonably expect the Prime Minister to fulfil his promise, and let us have a genera] election about January, or February next.
– He made no such promise.
– The honorable member is the representative of only a minority of the electors in his constituency, so that we may feel assured that he does not desire a general election.
– I admit that I do not, but not for the reason which the honorable member suggests.
– I do not think that any material advantage would be gained by voting against the motion, but if the honorable member for Barrier desires to go to a division in order to enter another protest against the position of the Government, I shall certainly support him.
– The Government have only themselves to blame for the present situation. It is certainly the duty of every honorable member to attend to the business of the country ; but it is the especial duty of a Government to see that a quorum is maintained. It is all very well for some honorable members opposite to say that had they desired, they could have secured a count-out of the House while the late Government were in office, but that statement will not bear investigation. As a matter of fact, we always had a sufficient number of honorable members available to maintain a quorum. It is true that on one occasion there was far less than a quorum present, but that was the outcome of a pre-arranged plan to enable the second-reading debate on the Seat of Government Bill to be concluded, so that a ballot for the site might be taken in the following week. It was the result of an arrangement between the leaders of the several parties, and cannot be taken as any evidence of the inability of the Government then in office to keep a quorum.
– And one-half of the honorable members then present were members of the Opposition.
– Surely it is not open to the honorable member to take up that position. If we give, the Government man for man to maintain a quorum, what reason have they for complaint?
– I was asked by the whip of the late Government to assist in maintaining a quorum.
– And honorable members of the Opposition have also been asked to assist in maintaining a quorum since the present Government have been in office.
– Did our supporters ever refuse such a request when preferred by the whip of the late Government?
– I do not know. The Government have no reason to complain while there is a larger proportion of Opposition members than of Ministerial supporters present.
– But our supporters have never walked out of the House in order that there should not be a quorum.
– If an honorable member wishes to return to his home, he is surely at liberty to do so. The duty of maintaining a quorum rests primarily with the Government, and it is useless for any of their supporters to attempt to throw the responsibility for the recent count-out upon the Opposition.
– Does the honorable member remember the evening when over twenty-five clauses in a certain Bill were passed, although there was not a quorum present? That was during the term of office of the late Government.
– I have already referred to that ; but a quorum could have’ been obtained.
– I disagree with the honorable member. The PostmasterGeneral, as the Opposition whip, was always ready to make an arrangement with a view to economizing time in the. transaction of public business ; but , he takes care to point to the very instances where business was carried on, according to a pre-arranged plan, in the absence of a quorum, as evidence that a quorum was not then obtainable. It does not seem to me that there is anything to gain by our opposing the motion. I feel that a certain proportion of the business of the country, including the Estimates, must be passed, whether we have confidence in the Government or not. These Estimates are framed on lines of which 1 have generally approved. The late Government were, to some extent, responsible for their general preparation although they are not exactly as framed by us. There is no doubt that the finances of the country must be kept going, and, notwithstanding our lack of confidence in the Government, I do not think that we should be justified in taking steps to prevent the passing of these Estimates and the maintenance of the finances of the country in a proper condition.
– An Opposition never has any confidence in a Government.
– I suppose that is the constitutional position of every Opposition. The authority for such an attitude comes from the people. T,he people whom we represent have no confidence in this Government, and it is our duty, whenever a reasonable opportunity offers, to show that that is so. I do not say, however, that my lack of confidence in the Government would lead me to go so far as to oppose the passing of the ordinary Estimates for the services of the Commonwealth. I have no objection to the motion, but I do not think that the Government can complain if some criticism is levelled at them in regard to the causes of the present position of business.
– I hope that honorable members will proceed to transact the business of the country. The granting of the supplies necessary to carry on the services of the Commonwealth is a very important matter, affecting thousands of persons, who are not at all interested in these personal pleasantries or tactical moves. I quite agree with the leader of the Opposition that it is the duty of the Government to maintain a quorum, and it is also true that several members of the Ministry and a number of Government supporters were absent when the count-out took place on Wednesday night. I have no complaint to make against either the leader of the Opposition or the Opposition as a body, although I have my own opinions as to the conduct of one’ or two of its members in taking advantage of the weakness of the House at a particular moment. I have my own opinions as to the methods which one or two of them adopt in the transaction of public business, but I have not much complaint against the honorable member for Kennedy or the honorable member for Maranoa, because, while they are two of our bitterest opponents, every action they take against us is thoroughly open and straightforward. I cannot say that of every member of the Opposition, although I can for the great majority. I admit, as I have done over and over again, that it is always within the power of an Opposition, whose numbers so closely approximate to those of the Government, to bring about a crisis. I believe I am correct in saying, however - and 1 1 speak now with some authority, because I have .the advantage of knowing the opinion of more than one honorable member opposite - that some of the Opposition are perfectly satisfied that all that party fighting requires has been attempted by the two attacks - one by the leader of the Opposition, and the other by the honorable and learned member for Indi - on the Government, and that they are not going to be parties to any attempt by mere obstruction to bring about a crisis in this House.
– Then the honorable member knows more than we do.
– Perhaps I do. It is always open to the Opposition to seek to bring about a crisis by obstructing public business, and I can assure honorable members that there will be no lack of a sense of the duty and the powers of the Government should such a situation arise. Whilst I put certain considerations of public interest before the Parliament and the country, those considerations can ‘be. overborne by an intolerable state of things arising in this House, and creating a new situation. In such circumstances, one -must fling to the winds every consideration of the convenience and rights of hundreds of thousands of persons who are on the rolls of Australia. I am endeavouring, as far as I can, to protect their interests. I admit that a situation may arise in which I may have to disregard even such considerations, but all that I say is that that situation must be forced upon the Government. It must become patent to the House and to the country, but it certainly cannot be forced upon the Government by the honorable member for Barrier.
– It can by the honorable member for Wilmot.
– As one who believes that it is the duty of every honorable member to facilitate the transaction of public business, I have assisted more than once, and shall do so again, to keep a House. But occasions arise when it is necessary to enter a protest, and I think that the honorable member for Barrier, and those who support him, are quite justified in protesting as they have done. On Wednesday night I was in indifferent health, but remained in the House until within two minutes of the count-out. I went away then only because I was very unwell. A Government with so precarious a majority as have the present Administration, ought really to demand more from their own followers than they appear to expect from honorable members of the Opposition. I do not think that honorable members should deliberately walk out of the Chamber when the Estimates are under discussion, but they are entitled to do so when they find that Government supporters care less for the business of the country than thev do for their own private affairs. In such a state of things we find justification for the position taken up by the honorable member for Barrier.
– Most of those who were absent were accepting the hospitality of the Governor-General.
– I object to keeping a House for a Government whose supporters are away accepting the hospitality of the Governor-General, who, I am sure, does not expect us to figure as his guests to the detriment of the business of the country. Although I am willing to assist the Government in the transaction of business, I shall not promise to assist to keep a House if they cannot get their own followers to take part in the sittings in sufficient numbers. If we, on this side, receive fair play, the Prime Minister may rely upon getting similar treatment from us, but not otherwise.
– I should not have risen but for the pointed reference made to my absence by the honorable member for Kennedy. It is somewhat remarkable that, although I have been as close an attendant as any other honorable member of the House during the nine months in which we have been in session, the countout took place during the only quarter of an hour that I have been absent. As a matter of fact, one of my constituents, who was visiting Melbourne, called on me here, and I accompanied him to the foot of the steps as far as the front pavement. I heard the bell ringing, but, as I had not yet learnt to distinguish between the sound of our bell and that of the Senate, I was under the mistaken impression that it was a call for a divison of the Senate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and therefore disregarded it. I had no suspicion that it was a call for a quorum in this Chamber. I returned just after the doors had been closed, and learned too late of the true state of affairs. No one can justly accuse me of having failed in my attendances, and I think it right that I should be allowed to make this explanation.
– It has been stated that when I was Government whip I used to ask members of the Opposition to help to form a quorum. As Opposition whip I always ask members of my own party to help to form a quorum for the present Government. Last Wednesday night I paired with the Prime Minister, but I broke my pair in order to try to prevent a count-out. I shall vote for the motion of the Treasurer, in order to facilitate the transaction of public business; but I am surprised at the statements of honorable members opposite that their party would never be guilty of such tactics as counting the House out. When the Arbitration Bill was under consideration, and the honorable and learned member for Corio was opposing some proposal of the Government, he asked the honorable member for Bland to consent to an adjournment. The Prime Minister replied that it was rather too early. The honorable member for Wentworth then approached the honorable and learned member, and said, “You move to report progress.” I ascertained that there were just enough members of our party present to form a quorum, and the Prime Minister presently consented to an adjournment. There was a quorum present, although the honorable member for Wentworth has stated that more than two-thirds of the House were away.
– I stayed many times to keep a quorum for the last Government.
– On one occasion during the period when the Prime Minister sat on this side of the Chamber, and when the Barton Government were in office, a quorum was rung for twenty times in one sitting in an endeavour to count out the House.
– I was not here.
– It was not the only occasion when the right honorable member was absent. The Postmaster-General has stated that on one occasion the last Government put through twenty-six clauses of the Arbitration Bill when no quorum was present. That is absolutely a mis-statement. There was a quorum present all the time. The honorable member for Kennedy objected to an adjournment, and I went through the building and found out that, although there was not a quorum present in the Chamber, there was a quorum within its precincts. I am willing to help the Government in these matters, but they must be prepared to do their share. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that they should not expect us to do more than that.
– I think that the debate will do good. A large number of honorable members are not so frequent in their attendance as they should be, and I believe that the ventilation of this occurrence will be a warning to them, Such honorable members impose on the generosity of their fellows, who travel thousands of miles during the session to attend here, week by week, and month by month, while they come very seldom. I hope that we shall have a better attendance in the future. I shall vote for the restoration of the order of the day for Supply to the notice-paper.
– I intend to vote for the Government, because I think that public business should not be hindered. The matter, however, is one which requires ventilation. I think, in the first place, that the manner in which attention is called to the state of the House is a bad one, and that the public would prefer that an officer should draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the state of the House than that a Member of Parliament should commit a seeming discourtesy in doing so. The GovernorGeneral on Wednesday night had invited certain honorable members to Government House, and their absence in part accounted for the count-out. I myself, finding that a division was unlikely, was absent for about an hour with some other honorable members, and was equally responsible for what happened. I returned here when the doors of the chamber had been closed. Had I been in the building, I should have been in my place on the ringing of the bell. A member of the Ministry made an interjection while another honorable member was speaking-
– I was alluding to what was said by the honorable member for Barrier.
– Then I leave him to speak for himself. I was under the impression that no one who was absent from the. division could afterwards enter the Chamber. In Switzerland they have a very easy method of preventing counts-out by fining members, whose names are absent from the division lists, and though the quorum there is a. majority of the House, counts-out never occur. When the Government get into recess, they will do well to consider whether, in the present evenly divided state of parties,, which leads only to the harrying of one party by the other, it would not be wise to provide for the election of Ministers, or for some other means to secure continuity of administration.
– I am certainly coming to the view that we shall have to make a change. The public will not stand the present state of things much longer.
– The people do not know why seventy-five members cannot do the work which they are sent here to perform. During the fourteen years that I was in political life in the Victorian Parliament, I was never asked for my vote, because the planks of my platform were known, -and Governments were aware that my support could always be obtained to democratic measures. Any Government bringing in measures which I support will be able to command my vote. I hope that some advantage will flow from the discussion which has taken place, and that the public will recognise the absurdity of carrying on a. Government which has such a slender; majority.
– I have nodoubt the Prime Minister is very grateful to the members of the Opposition for the: assistance they have given him in rounding up his supporters who are not so frequent in their attendance here as’ they should be. Whilst I agree that this discussion may do some good in that direction, I cannot indorse some of the sentiments which have been expressed by honorable members on this side of the House. I do not intend to adopt the pin-prick policy in connexion with party tactics. I do not think it is fair or that it will redound to the credit of the party that follows it. Further, it is not fair to the country. Every time a distinct issue is brought before the House, which involves the question whether or not the Government should continue to occupy their present position, or go to the country, I shall vote directly against them.
– Is there no principle involved, when the Government have the avowed intention of crushing the Labour Party at the first chance?
– I quite believe that they are anxious to do that,; but I am not sure that they will be able to accomplish their purpose. The honorable member for Grey argued that the business of the country was being interfered with by honorable members who absented themselves, and that members from the more distant States were being inconvenienced on that account. I am one of those honorable members who represent one of the more distant States, and I have been here continuously for nine months; but I do not agree with the honorable member for Grey, when he asks for an increased attendance of honorable members. It is a deplorable fact that the attendance of honorable members here in large numbers seems only to interfere with the progress of business. As one who has attended here very regularly, it appears to me that some honorable members come here to make speeches for the benefit of the electors, and not with the object of furthering the business. All the work is performed practically by the faithful few who are indifferent to the consideration whether or not they are obtaining a good advertisement for themselves. I believe the discussion will do some good, and I hope it will also direct the attention of the public to the necessity for some radical change, in our parliamentary methods. I believe that such a change is- necessary, and when the opportunity occurs, I shall do my best to bring it about.
– Although I sit upon the Opposition benches, I do not think that I can be charged with entertaining any personal hostility towards the members of the Government, or with having unduly harassed them. I recognise that the business of the country must be carried on, whether it be by a Government having a large or a narrow majority. It very often happens that the business is more efficiently transacted by . a Government with a narrow majority than by one having an overwhelming number of supporters. A Government which is confronted by a weak Opposition very often fails to accomplish its purpose. For these reasons, I am not favorable to anything in the way of opposition which will involve a mere waste of time. The Government appear to think that this debate is a pure waste of time; but it may accomplish some good by directing attention to the unsatisfactory manner in which the busi ness of the country is being carried on by reason of the absence of a large number of honorable members, who, whilst professing to serve the country, are more concerned in looking after their own private interests. I do not agree with the honorable member for Perth, who says that our work is carried on more, effectively, when there is a small attendance of honorable members, than when there is a large one. It is true that a few honorable members sit here for long hours at great personal inconvenience, in order to facilitate the business, and that time is wasted principally by those honorable members who attend only occasionally, and make long speeches to let their constituents know that they are here.
– The honorable member himself makes the longest speeches.
– I do not speak very often - not so often as does the right honorable gentleman, whose speeches occupy more space in Hansard than mine do. The honorable members referred to make long speeches, and then clear out again. That is the last that is seen of them, so far as the actual work of the House is concerned. The present condition of affairs is not a healthy one, because honorable members who conscientiously attend to their duties are expected to make up for the deficiencies of those honorable members who attend here only when they desire to deliver a speech. Some reform should be effected in this direction. We. do not want more talk or longer speeches, but a more regular attendance, and fuller consideration of the measures -which are being placed upon the Statute-book. The Prime Minister, when he was Premier of New South Wales, was able to arrange for all-night sittings, and, indeed, all-week sittings, in order to push through the work of the country. He had no difficulty in maintaining a quorum, because he had the Labour Party behind him. He must now realize that he is in a very different position, and that if he desires to keep a House he must rely upon supporters who have not been remarkable for the regularity of their attendance. Honorable members should recognise their obligation to attend here, not merely for the purpose of maintaining a quorum, but also in order that the measures which are brought before us shall fairly reflect the wishes of our constituents. The honorable member for Barrier has done good service in raising this question, and pointing to the need of more regular attendance on the part of honorable members.
– My sole ob- 1ject in rising is to make a few remarks by way of explanation in connexion with the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra. He accused me, by inference, of adopting the same tactics that were resorted to by some honorable members on Wednesday evening, when they had the House counted out, although only routine business was under discussion- I was told that I had harassed the late Government by similar methods. I find that on, the occasion which I think the honorable member referred to, the House sat until half -past eleven. I considered that the Government were seeking by the aid of their majority to force their will upon the House in regard to a matter which should not have been disposed of except after the fullest discussion. The honorable and learned member for Corio moved that progress be reported, and as far as my memory serves, I think I asked him to take that course. Attention was not drawn to the state of the House. A little later on the honorable and learned member for Corio said -
I understand that the Prime Minister has made some arrangement with the honorable member for North Sydney, and I wish to withdraw my motion.
So that on that occasion nothing unfair was done. .
– The honorable member tried to humiliate the Watson Government.
– There was no question of humiliation ; I was simply endeavouring to prevent the Government rushing business of a most important nature through a thin House.
– I saw the honorable member doing it.
– The honorable member is stating what is absolutely incorrect.
– I wish the honorable and learned member for Corio was here.
– I understand the honorable member to imply a doubt as to the correctness of my statement. I shall be glad if the honorable member will say plainly whether he doubts my word.
– I shall do so.
– I shall be fully prepared at all times, when a Government is attempting to improperly force its will upon a weak Opposition, to take every legitimate step that can be taken to resist it. I shall, if necessary, move that progress be reported in order to secure fair play. But the inference of the honorable member for Yarra was that I had adopted tactics such as those resorted to on Wednesday last, when the business was brought to a .complete standstill owing to the bitterness displayed towards the Government by a few honorable members. I shall never indulge in such tactics.
– I do not think there can be two opinions as to whether this discussion is a waste of time. It is not my intention to deal with the question of the attendance of other honorable members. That is a matter for which they will have to render an account to their constituents. I should not have risen but for the fact that the honorable member for Kennedy thought it necessary to mention the fact that I was absent when the count-out took place.
– I subsequently withdrew my reference to the honorable member.
– I do not mind the honorable member’s criticism. I shall please myself as to when I come here and when I stop away. When my constituents think that I am not devoting sufficient attention to the public business, they will tell me so at the ballot-box. In the first Parliament, I believe that I was the most regular attendant from New South Wales. I believe I spend as much time in this Chamber as does any other honorable member. During this session I have missed one week, when I was ill in bed, and Hansard will show that I have not taken up very much time in speaking. I believe that in the last Parliament I spoke less than any other honorable member. On Wednesday I was here from the time the House met until nine o’clock. I then left the chamber, because I had accepted an invitation to attend a ball at Government House, and’ consequently I was absent when the count-out took place. I make this statement in answer to the charge which has been preferred against me by the honorable member for Kennedy- His statement may have been made in a lighthearted manner, but- light-hearted statements of that character, in the absence of an explanation, are sometimes, productive of trouble. In my opinion there must be a limit to the patience and forbearance of the Government. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer interject that .there must be an end to the tactics which are being adopted upon the present occasion. I do not know that it would not be wise for the Prime Minister or the Treasurer to rise and openly declare that they can tolerate the present position no longer, .that accordingly they would ask the House to grant them three months’ supply, that in the interim the electoral rolls would be put in order, and that we should then have an appeal to the country. If that course were decided upon, the Government would command my hearty support. Upon more than one occasion .the Prime Minister has declared that with the small majority which the Government possesses, it is impossible to carry on business without the reasonable co-operation of members of the Opposition. If the latter have decided not to extend that co-operation, to the Ministry, is it not wise that we should have the rolls put in order preparatory to a general election, or that an appeal should be made to the country upon the present rolls? I regret that the adoption of such a course would prevent the passing of two or three measures which are of an urgent character. For example, it would delay the passage of the Manufactures Encouragemment Bill, and of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. Nevertheless, it is obvious that under present conditions we are merely marking time. I ask some member of the Governmen to make a statement regarding the position. I am quite prepared to record mv vote upon some question in such a way as* will bring about a dissolution. In my opinion, however, many of those who are crying out most loudly for a dissolution, are praying to God that we shall not have one. I will undertake to say that most “members of this House genuinely desire to avoid a dissolution. What is the -use of endeavouring ,to humbug the people by pretending to work for a dissolution whilst honorable members are using their best efforts to avert it? If I were a member of the Opposition, and I thought that an appeal to the country was desirable, I should have no hesitation whatever in using all the forms of the House to bring about that result. I should certainly prevent the transaction of public business by every means in my power. What is the use of continuing this farce indefinitely - for it is nothing but a farce? What object can be gained bv dragging Federation in the mud? The Treasurer has declared that he is tired of the present position. I hold that the proper course to adopt is to see whether an amicable arrangement cannot be arrived at between the Government and the leader of the Opposition, whereby certain necessary measures of it non-party character may be passed into law. We ought then to make the necessary financial arrangements to permit of an appeal to the people.
– The honorable member’s vote can bring about a dissolution.
– I take no exception to the tactics of the Opposition. I am not anxious for a dissolution, but if the present farce is to continue, I shall feel it my duty to vote in favour of bringing about an appeal to the country. The Treasurer is right in affirming that the limit to his patience has been reached. I regret that the honorable member for Kennedy should have felt it necessary to introduce my name into this discussion. Of course it is easy for him to declare that he subsequently withdrew it. I did not hear him withdraw it. I owe a duty to my constituents, and1 that duty is to attend here, and to do my best in the interests of the Commonwealth. I am under no obligation to anybody else. I am free to record my vote in favour of whatever proposals com~ mend themselves to my judgment. I believe that it would be a good thing for the Government to pass certain measures which are now claiming the attention of Parlia- ment, and in the interim to put the electoral rolls in order. That is why I have given them my ungrudging support. At the same time, what object is to be gained by pretending that we desire a dissolution when our professions in that direction are merely a sham ? I am not prepared to rush into recess, notwithstanding the long period which the House has been in session, and that I desire to return to my home, so as to be able to attend to my business. We hear some honorable members, like the honorable member for Wentworth, who are possessed of much more of this world’s substance than I am, declaring that they cannot attend here throughout long sessions. I say that they ought to be prepared to attend constantly . if it were necessary to have long sessions. But no such necessity exists. We ought to be able to transact the business of this Parliament in sessions extending over three or four months. To a large extent, we are merely throwing dust in the eyes of the people by pretending that we desire to bring about certain results which we are praying to God that we shall avoid. After all, what does it matter who occupies the Treasury benches, so long as a policy acceptable . to the country is being carried out? I repeat that an arrangement should be arrived at between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition as to what measures it is necessary to pass. The rolls could then be put in order, and supply granted to cover a certain period.
– We must make provision for public works.
– If we want those works to be undertaken, let us vote the necessary funds. If I occupied a seat upon the front Opposition bench, and if I were as anxious for a dissolution as some honorable members profess to be, I should take such steps as would bring about the desired result. It could be very easily accomplished, and it would be better to adopt that course than to continue to harrass the Ministry.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I do not desire a dissolution, but I have just as little to fear from one as has the honorable member. After all, we have to consider the reputation of this Parliament. Federation, I regret to say, is becoming a word to scoff at. People are beginning to wonder why this national Parliament should exist, if it is to devote the whole of its time to paltry intrigues. Those who wish to bring about a change have the remedy in their own hands. There is no man in this House who fears a dissolution less, or who has less cause to fear one, than has the Treasurer. We all know that he was practically driven into office, and that he would be glad to relinquish it if he did not feel that he has a public- duty to perform.
– We have one patriot.
– The honorable member for Barrier may scoff at the Treasurer’s patriotism, but if, when his political career has terminated, he can point to as good a record as can the Treasurer, he will have something to his credit of which he may be proud. I am glad that the Treasurer has spoken, in the way that he has. It is time that this solemn farce came to an end, and I again invite those who are so anxious for a dissolution to avail themselves of the forms of this House. Any two members of the Opposition could bring about an appeal to the country within a fortnight. The Prime Minister has already admitted that he cannot carry on the Government of the Commonwealth without the co-operation of members of the Opposition. Whilst I am not anxious for a dissolution, I should prefer to face my constituents rather than continue the existing state of affairs.
– It is refreshing to hear the speech to which honorable members have just listened. That deliverance is reminiscent of the utterances of the old colleague with whom I used to work. I know that if he were sitting in Opposition he would be one of the strongest members in this House to carry out what he has stated can be done. I can assure him that if he will endeavour to bring the Government to book, and to force an appeal to the country, I shall be very happy to assist him in every possible way. To-day the Prime Minister has declared that he intends to await his own convenience, and then to dissolve this House. The Opposition, I claim, have no right to study his convenience. It is their duty to force a dissolution at the earliest possible moment. It is incumbent upon them to prevent the Ministry from continuing to humbug the country. I have no confidence either in the Prime Minister or in the Government. I have given sufficient evidence of that. : What has the Prime Minister done during the past ten days? He is opposed to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and yet He professed an anxiety to afford the honorable member for Eden-Monaro an opportunity to carry it into law. He is opposed to any interference with the Tariff, and yet he has promised to appoint a Commission to inquire into its operation, with a view . to interefering with it. He is opposed to preferential trade, yet he proposes to give the House an opportunity fo deal with it ; he is opposed to granting protection to Australian manufacturers, and yet in the course of a speech delivered by him a few days ago he said that he would give them a preference. When we have such a right honorable member at the head of the Government the Opposition is’ not only justified in taking any action that it may deem desirable to show that, in its opinion, the Government lacks the confidence of the people, but would be recreant to its duty if it did not do so.
– Come oh again !
– I have been after the right honorable member for some time, but he cannot accuse me of wobbling. I do not say one thing and mean another. I have never attempted to humbug the country. I am prepared to stand by any statement I have made, and to defend any position that I have taken up. I am prepared to go to the country next week, if necessary, for I feel that until there has been such an appeal no good work will be accomplished. The statement made by the Prime Minister that it would take a long time to complete the rolls is all moonshine. If an urgent appeal were made to electors to enrol their names the work of compiling the rolls would be carried out in three or four weeks. The discrepancy between the number on the rolls and the actual number of persons entitled to vote is nothing like as large as has been suggested, and in these circumstances I feel that I am justified in the attitude which I take. The country expects the Opposition not merely to speak, but to act, on an occasion of this kind. I am daily in receipt of large numbers of letters from persons living in all parts of the Commonwealth, who desire to know when the Opposition is going to turn this Government out. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he has received an assurance from certain members of the Opposition .that they will not vote against the Government, but I should regret to learn that such an assurance had been given.
– I never said that an assurance had been given.
– The right honorable member stated that he had the assurance of some honorable members, supposed to belong to the Opposition, that they considered the Government had been sufficiently attacked by means of the two votes of censure which had been moved, and that they were not going to support any further attempt to displace them.
– That is incorrect.
– I appeal to. honorable members to say whether I have not quoted in effect the statement made by the right honorable gentleman.
– That was the effect of the statement.
– See what Hansard will show.
– I trust that there are no members of the Opposition who, unknown to their leader, would make such a compact with the Government.
– Who is the leader’ of these honorable members?
– The leader of the Opposition.
– Is he the honorable member’s leader?
– Whilst we have such a leader as the honorable member for Bland I am not going to assume that T am a leader.
– But is he the honorable member’s leader?
– Have I not been following his lead to some extent? The honorable member has eyes to see and ears to hear.
– Why does not the honorable member answer the question ?
– I have said as much as is necessary, and I do not wish to hear that gurgle emanating from the Prime Minister which has been so aptly described by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. That journal has clearly stated what the Prime Minister would have done in the State had he been in Mr. Carruthers’ place. I repeat that the statement by the Prime Minister in regard to the attitude of certain members of the Opposition was in effect that which I mentioned.
– It is well that we should know whether any members of the Opposition are prepared to make a compact with the head of the Government as to their future actions.
– The word “ compact “ was never used.
– I do not know what Hansard will show, and I certainly have no desire to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member cannot help it. It is ingrained in him. He has been misrepresenting me for years.
– The right honorable gentleman need not be offensive. I certainly have not been offensive to him this morning.
– I apologize.
– The “vacant laugh “ is no answer to my assertion. If the right honorable member attacks me, he certainly will not find me turning the other cheek. I know that that which the honorable 1 member for Eden-Monaro has said is absolutely true. If half-a-dozen members of the Opposition feel as strongly as I do in regard to the position of the present Government, and as to the personnel of a section of it, they will prevent them from making a pretence to carry on business with which they do not- really intend to deal. They will prevent time being wasted - because, after all, that is what the action of the Government really means if they have no intention of dealing with the business which they have promised to consider. It will probably take some time to pass the Estimates, even if we have only an ordinary legitimate discussion, but there is no necessity for us to delay our attack, until they shall have been passed. The proper course for an Opposition to take in dealing with a Government in which they have no confidence, is to refuse to pass the Estimates for the whole year, but if necessary to agree to the passing of a Supply Bill, which would enable .the finances of the country to be carried on pending the holding of a general election. That would be a constitutional course to adopt.
– What about-
– It is all very well for the right honorable member for Swan to chuckle, because he is anxious to see the vote passed for the Transcontinental Railway survey.
– The Bill itself makes the necessary provision.
– I overlooked that fact for the moment, but I am quite prepared to help the right honorable member to have the survey made.
– It is the gun for Fremantle which is troubling the right honorable member.
– Then, let us make him a present of it. An honorable member should not support the passing of Estimates, merely because they provide for a small expenditure in his own electorate, when they are introduced by a Government in which the country has no confidence. He certainly should not take up such an attitude when the feeling of the people is that no business of importance can be done while the Government remain in power. What business has really been dealt with since the present Administration came into office? I heard the Prime Minister say a few days ago that during his term of office he had done more work than had any other Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman was so often absent when good work was transacted by the Parliament, that he, perhaps, knows nothing about it. He has practically done nothing and, judging by the state of parties, he is not likely to do very much. His majority depends upon the attitude of one honorable member who recently denounced the Government in the most extreme terms. Such an honorable member as the one to whom I refer, and who recently denounced the Government, if giving evidence in a Court, would produce this result - that the side calling him would treat him as an adverse witness.
– What he said about the Government was as nothing compared with his denunciation of the Opposition.
– I do not know what he said about the Opposition, but I know that he could not have said more than he did against the Government, even if he had been one of their strongest opponents. As to the count-out which took place on Wednesday night, I am glad that no one can accuse me of having had a hand in it. I was away at the time, receiving the hospitality of the Governor-General, but had I been Prime Minister, I certainly should not have been absent. The head of the Government has no right to be absent from the House, unless he is thoroughly assured that while he ‘is away the business of the country will be proceeded with as usual.
– Surely the Prime Minister had a right to assume that it would go on, in such circumstances, in his absence ^
– We have proof that he had no right to assume anything of the kind.
– That is the worst charge that has been made against me.
– I was as much surprised as was any one when I read next morning of the count-out. I certainly did not know that anything of the kind was contemplated. I wish to emphasize the point that a Prime Minister should always be at his post, or have some one acting for him who will be able to insure the maintenance of a quorum. On . many occasions, as Premier of New South Wales, I abstained from attending public functions because of my belief that it was the duty of the head of a Government to be at his post in the House. There is no legitimate excuse for his absence while the House is sitting. It is somewhat remarkable that the Prime Minister was absent on the two occasions on which a count-out occurred this session. It is the duty of a Government to see that the business of a country is carried on, and members of the Opposition need not necessarily attend if there are any difficulties in the way of their doing so. The responsibility of maintaining a quorum rests with the Ministry and their supporters, and the attacks which have been made on the honorable member, for Barrier are quite unfounded. When the count-out took place on Wednesday night, there was a larger number of members of the Opposition than of Government supporters present; surely, therefore, the Ministry have no reason to complain. Owing to the action of the Ministry and their supporters, Supply was allowed to disappear from the notice-paper, and it is- only right that not only the Opposition, but Government supporters should direct attention to the incident.
– We do not care about doing mean things.
– It is not a mean thing to do. It is a proper constitutional course to follow, and I think that the honorable member for Barrier had a perfect right to draw pointed attention to it. His action has led to an interesting debate, and to remarks being made by some of ‘the supporters of the Government which are worthy of notice, and even if it does no more, it will have served a useful purpose. I must say, so far as the attendance of the Opposition is concerned, that the members of the Labour. Party are most constant in their attention to the business of the country. It is seldom that one of them is absent.
– What is the use of their being here if they do not keep a House ?
– They are not supposed to keep a House for the Government. If I am opposed to a Government, and am anxious to make them go to the country, I am justified in doing all that I can to force them to do so.
– Inside the House.
– And on the public platforms. It has been asserted that the House might have been counted out on more than one occasion whilst the late Government were in office. I remember that an understanding was arrived at that the debate on the Seat of Government Bill should be brought to a conclusion one evening although there was not a quorum present. I left for Sydney during the afternoon, and was informed by the leaders of both sides of the House that the arrangement had been made that attention should not be directed to the absence of a quorum. I take full responsibility for all my absences, although, excepting for occasional illness, I have been one of the most regular attendants. As the honorable member ibr Eden-Monaro said, I shall exercise my own judgment as to how I act and vote. I have not come into the Federal Parliament to be hampered in my actions. I should hail a dissolution with great satisfaction, as the only way to bring about a better state of things. I do not think we should wait until it suits the Prime Minister and his supporters to go to the country. The Prime Minister has stated on the public platform, and in this Chamber, more than once, that the next battle cry will be “unionism or nonunionism, labour or capital?”
– Nothing of the sort.
– The Prime Minister obtained his present position with the assistance of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat on the distinct understanding that he would get rid of the three party system, and resolve the House into two parties - the democrats and the conservatives. He is opposed to the principles of the Arbitration Bill, and now he and his Government are trying to pass it through the Senate as it left this Chamber. If he were true to the principles which he has professed, he would, instead of continuing to dupe the people, obtain supply, and go to the country at once. His object, however, is to cause delay, in order that the public mind may be diverted from the position which he took up a short time ago. Under these circumstances, the Opposition is quite justified in using every means to force him to the country as soon as possible.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that, although the honorable member for Hume twice stated that he agreed with the statement of the honorable member for EdenMonaro that the Prime Minister was humbugging the people, I never made any such statement. The Prime Minister has frankly told the House that he could not carry on the business of the country without the cooperation of the Opposition, and I said th.at those who were humbugging the people were those who were clamouring for a dissolution, and yet would not take advantage of the forms of the House to bring one about.
– Two hours having now elapsed since the House met, the orders of the day must be called on, unless honorable members determine otherwise.
– I would point out to honorable members that, no matter what our private feelings may be, it is our duty to the public to pass the Estimates. There is a large number of public works to be carried out, and I have already strained my advance vote to meet necessary expenditure. I do not object to the criticism which Ave have heard, and to enable the matter to be dealt Avith now, I move -
That the consideration of the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the completion of the debate just interrupted.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I point out that there are a number of important measures, such as the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, among the orders of the day which the House might very well deal with now, instead of postponing them indefinitely. There is also the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, inwhich the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is so interested, and of which most honorable members, with the exception of the Prime Minister and myself, and a few others, are in favour. Another important measure is the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill which has been sent to us by the Senate. That body is beginning to feel that we are not desirous of dealing with measures sent to us by them, and we should do nothing to encourage that feeling. We should let the Senate understand that we are very wishful to consider such measures. If the Government do not try to conciliate the Senate - I give them this advice in all friendliness - they may refuse to pass the Appropriation Bill, which would create antagonism between the Houses, and the Government are already in a minority in the Senate in regard to certain matters. The resumption of the consideration of Ways and Means in Committee is another order of the day which might be dealt with. According to the last returns, our revenue is falling month by month, so that it is only a matter of a short time when we shall not be able to return to the States even the three-fourths required to be returned by the Constitution. That is a very serious matter, about which all the present States Treasurers are much concerned, and it will have to be faced at an early date. The Government might therefore give us some information as to what they intend to do in regard to it. We might very well postpone the resumption of the consideration of the Estimates until next week, when we can make a fair start, and go straight on, and to-day, in the few hours which are left to us, dispose of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, which we might possibly pass this afternoon. The Treasurer, in moving the postponement of the orders of the day, should have explained to us much more fully the reasons why he made such a motion. I urge him to withdraw it, so that we may proceed with the consideration of the business upon the paper, and I am sure that in making this request I shall be supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the right honorable member for Swan.
I understand that the right honorable member for Swan desires to get away for a few days, and if the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill is not proceeded with to-day it will probably be dealt with in his absence. The Government should show some consideration for their supporters. I propose to get into close communication with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, with a view to ascertain the way in which two honorable members can bring about a dissolution.
– I would ask whether the remark of the honorable member with regard to getting into close communication with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro with a view to bringing about a dissolution is relevant ?
– The remark to which the right honorable gentleman has raised an objection is not relevant.
– I shall not give the Prime Minister much further cause for irritation. I desire to enter my most emphatic protest against the postponement of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, and I cannot understand why the right honorable member for Swan does not exert his influence with the Government in order to have the Bill disposed of as quickly as possible. The right honorable gentleman accused the members of the Labour Partv of delaying the passing of the measure by bringing forward a no-confidence motion, but now, when he is in a position to bring pressure to bear upon the Government, he is content to sit silent. I can only come to the conclusion that the right honorable gentleman is not so sincere as he would have honorable members believe. I am not here to champion the Bill, but am content to continue to play the part of humble follower of the right honorable member for Swan in regard to the measure. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro should press the claims of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I do not know why he does not use his influence with the Government to inducethem to allow the Bill to be taken in its proper order on the noticepaper.
– Because some honorable members started to talk out the Bill.
– It is certainly not fair to suggest that any attempt wasmade by honorable members on this side of the House to talk out the Bill. I venture to say that if the Bill were proceeded with it would be passed without much difficulty.
I can only conclude from the inertness of the right honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that they are not particularly anxious with regard ,to the measures in which they profess to be so greatly interested.
– I desire to emphasize what has been said by the honorable member for Kennedy with regard to the indifference displayed by some honorable members in reference to the passage of two very important measures. Whilst we are prepared to deal with matters of practical legislation, we find the Treasurer adopting a course which can only have the effect of prolonging a useless debate, and involving serious waste of time. Why did not the Treasurer adopt the course permitted by the Standing Orders of allowing the Estimates to stand over for the present, and thus afford honorable members an opportunity to proceed with the business on the noticepaper in its proper order?
– That would shut out Supply, and we should start on Wednesday where we began to-day, and have another long discussion.
– The Treasurer should be prepared to adopt the course best calculated to facilitate public business and to avoid waste of time. There is no more effective way of wasting time than by continuing a debate of this kind. We could dispose of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill this afternoon, and might also make some progress with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, whereas the Treasurer is quite content that honorable members should continue a useless debate.
– Are these the high standards of the new national party?
– We should be promoting the best interests of the country by discussing measures which deal with great national issues. If the Prime Minister will consent to proceed with the measures I have indicated I shall do my best to assist him in keeping a quorum, and I am satisfied that the honorable member for Barrier will give a similar undertaking. The right honorable member for Swan has complained that the State he represents has not been fairly treated in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, but, apparently, he has made no effort to induce the Government to push on the measure.
– Is this the high ideal of the great Labour Party? Is this their concep tion of how the public business is to be transacted ? “ Oh ! what a falling-off was there.”
– The right honorable gentleman cannot expect much from the “steerage passengers.”
– I do not see that much objection can be taken to the attitude of the Labour Party, when they are expressing a desire to proceed with the legitimate business of the country. We are trying to promote the business, whereas the Treasurer has proposed a course which will lead to further delay.
– I would point out to . the honorable member that the question before the Chair is whether we shall take steps preparatory to resuming the consideration of the Estimates in Committee of Supply, or proceed with the orders of the day as they appear on the notice-paper. That matter has nothing to do with the personal attitude that may be assumed by the Treasurer or other honorable members.
– I cannot deal with the motion without referring to the mover.
– No personal matter can have anything whatever to do with the motion.
– I am not dealing with a personal matter. I am endeavouring to deal with the right honorable gentleman who is representing the Government.
– Will the honorable gentleman resume his seat? The question before us is whether we shall proceed with the motion preparatory to considering the Estimates or deal with the orders of the day.
– I am endeavouring to argue that we should go on with the orders of the day.
– The honorable member will be quite in order if ,he does that.
– The honorable member is hardly a success as a humorist.
– I do not claim to be. I do not regard this as a place for humorists, but as one in which we should give our serious attention to the business of the country. The Manufactures Encouragement Bill is of great importance, and as a” supporter of it, I desire to see it passed. Then there is the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, which is urgently needed, and should be disposed of as soon as possible.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier).- I trust that the Treasurer will not press this motion to a division to-day. I think that it would be a pity to postpone the orders of the day- :
– Why not take a vote upon it in order to ascertain the wish of the House ?
– To my mind, the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill is one of very great importance.
– That is right. The honorable member continues to maintain the high ideals of his party.
– I do not see that the Prime Minister can expect much from “ steerage passengers.”
– I would remind the honorable member that “ steerage passengers “ have nothing whatever to do with the question that is before the House.
– Personally, I have always supported the proposal to authorize a survey of the projected transcontinental railway. I am very glad to see that the right honorable member for Swan is present. I know that he is intensely anxious to see that work carried out. I understand that if the Bill to which I have referred were proceeded with this afternoon it would meet with no opposition from honorable members upon this side of the House. If the Government will consent to the adoption of that course I am prepared to remain in Melbourne - instead of leaving for Adelaide this after - noon - for the purpose of assisting to maintain a quorum. I am prepared to stay here until midnight, or even later, if necessary.
– Has the honorable member reformed ?
– I understand that the people of Western Australia earnestly desire the construction of this railway. I claim that we ought to do all in our power to satisfy the citizens of that State, who have already expressed approval of our actions in this connexion. The honorable member for Kennedy has expressed the opinion that the Government should afford the House an opportunity to proceed with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. Personally, I think that it would be too much to ask the Prime Minister to devote more time to the discussion of that measure, in view of his own utterances upon it. There is one other reason why I should like to see a division upon the motion submitted by the Treasurer deferred until Tuesday next. As honorable members are aware, the honorable member for Darling, who is one of the most regular attendants in this Chamber, is absent to-day. He was not present at the count-out which occurred upon Wednesday evening,’ and I think that he should be afforded an opportunity of stating why he was absent.
– I intend to support the proposal of the Treasurer, to enable the business which has lapsed to be restored to the paper. In my judgment, it is essential that we should deal with financial matters before proceeding with any other business. Seeing that the consideration of the Estimates lapsed as the result of an accident, and not of design, it would be only an act of grace upon our part to allow the business to be reinstated as soon as possible. If the leader of the Opposition chooses to submit a direct no-confidence motion, it can be dealt with in the ordinary way ; but I object to any unnecessary waste of time when we should be engaged in the transaction of public business.
Question - That the consideration of the Orders of the Day be postponed - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I intend to accept the laudable advice given by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. After the incident which occurred on Wednesday night last, I decided to take no further part in the discussion of the Estimates. If only some twenty-three honorable members were to be left to deal with them, I failed to see why
I should sit here hour after hour, dealing with i’tem after item in the Estimates, whilst most honorable members were away enjoying themselves. But in view of the advice which has been given bv the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I” intend to fight the Ministry at every turn. I do not mean to suggest that I shall take any dishonorable advantage, or do anything mean or contemptible, but I shall certainly fight them fairly and squarely.
– Hear, hear ! not from behind a hedge.
– I shall fight them for reasons which may be briefly stated. The Prime Minister has said again and again, both inside the House and out of it, that he intends from this time forward to throw himself in the path of the Labour Party. I have heard States Premiers make the same assertion, and every one of them has come to grief.
– Let us hope that the Prime Minister, too, will come to grief.
– There is nothing more certain. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that he has decided to take up the hardest job he has ever tackled, but from what I know of him, I feel satisfied that he will give us a “ square go.” I shall certainly treat him fairly, and I believe I may say that that is the intention of every member of our party. . I would sooner see halfadozen resolute straight-out labour men than twenty-six “shandy-gaff” politicians on our side. Let us have straight-out labour men, who recognise that they are here to fight for labour principles.
– Like the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– He does not profess to be a member of the Labour Party, but he is just as good a labour man as are many honorable members opposite, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and assert that they are “ as good as any labour man.”
– Some honorable members think .that they are better.
– The honorable member is one of those who consider that they are better than are members of the Labour Party. He may be better than a member of the Labour Party, according to his own way of thinking, but I do not consider that he is. When the honorable member for Wentworth was complaining that we had taken advantage of the Government, I interjected that he had done the same with the late Government. The Watson Government, on the occasion in question, were placed in one of the most humiliating positions that any Ministry could OcCUpY. They found themselves in the same position as the Reid-McLean EqualinallThings Government are in to-day. The honorable member for Wentworth said, however, that my statement was absolutely incorrect. I am not in the habit of telling lies:
– I did not infer that the honorable member was.
– I am not in the habit of misrepresenting honorable members.
– I merely stated that the honorable member’s assertion was incorrect.
– I can speak of what I saw and heard. On the occasion to which I refer I saw the honorable member for Wentworth approach the honorable and learned member for Corio, and he spoke so loudly that I could not help hearing him advise him to move that progress be reported.
– I told the House that an hour ago.
– Yet the honorable member says that I was absolutely incorrect.
– The inference drawn by the honorable member was not justifiable.
– I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Corio to say whether my statement is true.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement to which the honorable member refers was made in connexion with another debate, and I submit that he should confine himself to the motion immediately before the Chair.
– When, in the course of a debate, a remark has been made by one honorable member, it is hardly possible that honorable members, speaking subsequently, should refrain from referring to it. I think that these remarks, made on both sides of the Chamber, in reference to past debates, and casting reflections upon the previous actions of honorable members, are very undesirable ; but after what has -taken place, I cannot rule the honorable member out of order.
– I am surprised that - the honorable member for Parramatta should take exception to my attempt to set myself right in the eves of the House.
– I ask the honorable member to proceed.
– I am satisfied, sir, that I told no lies.
– I assure the ‘ honorable member that I did not intend to infer that he did.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. I wish now to refer to the count-out which took place on Wednesday night. When I called for a division, I had no desire to place the Government in an awkward position. Honorable members are aware that throughout the consideration of the Estimates I have been fighting cai principle against the granting of increases, which, in my opinion, are too high, and that the call for a division was made on an amendment to reduce a certain item. Had I known that there was not a quorum, I certainly should not have pressed it. As it was I tried to withdraw my call, for I had no wish to place the Government in an unenviable position. I intend to fight them, as I have said, at every turn, but always in an honorable way. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said this morning that we could soon send the Government to the country if we fought them properly under the Standing Orders. I have since been looking through the Standing Orders, and I intend to adopt his suggestion. I tell the House frankly that I do not desire to go to the country - not because I fear that I might lose my seat, but because I do not care about the prospect of travelling for four months throughout the length and breadth of Western Queensland.
– There is no justification for a dissolution.
– I entirely disagree with the honorable member. I think that there is some need for a dissolution. Let us look for a moment at the position which the Government occupy to-day. Let me remind honorable members of the humiliating position in which the honorable member for Wilmot placed not only the Government, but the Opposition when he said that he held both parties in the hollow of his hand. The Prime Minister is not the man I take him to be, if he tolerates such a position. I am under the impression that he will yet tell the honorable member when he makes one of his wild, mad statements
– The honorable member must not say that an honorable member makes mad statements.
– I withdraw the word “mad.” It seems to me that the Prime Minister will yet give a decisive answer to the honorable member when he again makes one of his wild statements to the effect that he holds the two parties in the hollow of his hand. Where was the honorable member for Wilmot that he did not attend on Wednesday night, and save the Government of which he thinks so much ? The Prime Minister treats the matter in a jocular way; but from what I know of him, I do not think he is pleased with the position of his Ministry. If we are to take any notice of the statement made this morning by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, his majority has disappeared. That honorable member said that if this guerilla warfare were carried on. to such an extent as to prevent the transaction of public business - if it were shown, after every constitutional means to transact business had been exhausted, that only a dissolution would right the Parliament - he would support our efforts to bring about that result. He is not anxious that we should go to the country, but if we continue to fight the Government, and make it impossible for them to transact the business of the country, he will assist us in forcing on a dissolution. In view of that statement, it must be seen that the Government majority has disappeared. If the honorable member means what he says - and I believe that he does - he will shortly have an opportunity to carry out his promise. I shall fight the Government in every constitutional way.
– What for? What have they done?
– It is not what they have done, but what they have not done. It seems to me that they would do a great deal more if it were not for the protectionist members of the Cabinet. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Barrier read the names of those who were present when the count-out took place. I do not think he acted wisely in doing so, and I think it is still more regrettable that the honorable member for Kennedy should have read out the list of those who were absent. I feel assured that no one is more sorry than he is for his action in that respect. He must recognise that he has done an injustice to many honorable members. No one is more regular in his attendance than is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who was one of the absentees. He is here from the time the House meets until it adjourns; and naturally an honorable member feels very keenly a complaint that he was away from the House in such circumstances.
– Especially when he was at Government House.
– A man has a right to go where he pleases. The honorable members for Lang, Eden-Monaro, Oxley, and
Illawarra, who were absent last Wednesday, are most regular in their attendance, and I do not think that the honorable member for Kennedy acted altogether squarely in reading out the list. I am sure that the honorable member for Kennedy is sorry for what he has said, because, while he is a born fighter, he likes to do the square thing.
– It is bad Christianity.
– In political warfare we must stick to our own party. We know what half-a-dozen determined men have been able to do at various times in British history, and, similarly, a determined body, though small, may do a good deal here. If half-a-dozen of us stick together we can make things very unpleasant for the Government. While I am a novice, I have a good deal of knowledge which I intend to put to profit. Although the Government have declared their opposition to the Labour Party and to Socialism, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has warned them that that declaration will not be sufficient to maintain them in office, and that they must come down with a progressive policy.
– The honorable member would not support them if thev did.
– I wish them to put their policy before the electors, so that we can fight them there. The more the Government abuse us, the better we like it. It would be of no use to tell the people of my district that I do not believe in the marriage tie, or in Christianity, or that I wish to confiscate property-
– Has this anything to do with the question before the Chair ?
– I am discussing the conduct of business by the Government.
– I do not consider that the motion -gives opportunity for the discussion of the policy of the Government.
– Although the Government declare themselves to be anti-socialistic, the request for Supply is in itself a socialistic proposal. However, I do not wish to detain honorable members longer now, though, if I liked, I could speak for some hours on the motion. I merely wish to put myself right with regard to the division taken on Wednesday night. I do not ask for consideration, and 1 am going to show none to the Government. From this time out I shall take the advice of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and, while keeping within the Standing Orders, fight the Government at every turn.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I regret that the Government have forced us into a debate of this character by their postponement of the orders of the day; but, as they are responsible for the conduct of the business of the House, I have no alternative but to continue, it. One or two contributions to the discussion have been very encouraging to those on this side of the House. For instance, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro told us what effect the exercise of our powers would have upon the Government if we realized them. It is not often that a supporter of a Government gives such advice to those who are opposing it. I do not think he was altogether sincere in his loud protestations that we should go on with the business of the country. I think his speech savoured largely of braggadocio and bluff. He apparently wishes his constituents to believe that we are enacting a farce, but at the same time he tells us that two members of the Opposition, if they liked to use their powers under the Standing Orders, could absolutely prevent the Government from doing business. The Government may well be suspicious of a supporter who teaches their enemies what ammunition to employ, and how to load and fire the guns to be used against them. I credit him with being a past-master in the arts of upsetting a Government without striking a direct blow. He is undoubtedly an artist in secret manipulation. No doubt, if we knew more, we should find him at the bottom of many things which now puzzle us. The Prime Minister has told us that he will allow us to go to our masters when the rolls are ready. They will be ready, no doubt, when the Government can no longer hang on to the Treasury benches, or think that the Opposition can be taken at a disadvantage. We have a right to say, however, “ There shall be a dissolution, not at your time, but at our time.” Having been told our powers, we should say to the Prime Minister, “We shall not act as you wish, but shall obey the mandate of the people who sent us here, and who wish for the restoration of responsible government.” Have we responsible government now, when the Ministry have to rely upon the Opposition to help them to carry on the business of the House ? The late Sir Henry Parkes would long since have put an end to such responsible government as that. Although the Prime Minister and those associated with him complain of the tactics which we are adopting, when he was in opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, and the Government of the day was hanging on to office with a majority of one vote, it had to meet one motion of censure after another, and was subjected to long and harassing speeches from him and his supporters.
– Does .that make the present action of the honorable member right?
– If the honorable member were on this side of the House he would be one of the most caustic critics and persistent opponents of honorable members opposite, and would do everything he could to bring about their defeat.
– Another misrepresentation.
– The honorable member is ill at ease, because he cannot fight with those weapons which he has been accustomed to wield with such terrific force in times gone by. He is muzzled, gagged, and leg-ironed, and I often feel the greatest pity for him.
– I shall go on if the honorable member will sit down.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to dictate to me as to the course I shall pursue. I am not here at his behest, nor at that of any other honorable member, but because my constituents thought that I was qualified to represent them. I intend to prove before I leave this Parliament that their confidence in me. is well placed. The fact that the House has been counted out on two occasions since the Government has been in office does not reflect any credit upon them. I have been very regular in my attendance, and I have not even paired, except for halfanhour on one occasion.
– The honorable member has been away.
– Only for one week, during which I was unwell. I have attended here more regularly, and have sat here for longer hours than has .the Minister of Home Affairs. I do not like the system of pairing, because I believe that it is largely responsible for the very small attendances we have here. From twenty to thirty members sometimes pair off, and go to their homes, and leave others to carry on the business, The Prime Minister claims that his Government, and those who are associated with him, have done more than has any previous Administration during the present session. But I would ask, what has been done? The Prime Minister has merely picked up a few windfalls which were left by his predecessors, and has practically nothing to show for himself. The right honorable gentleman has not yet succeeded in passing even the Papua Bill. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, and the Trade Marks Bill still require to have the finishing touches applied to them. The Government picked up the Arbitration Bill, and did not even stop to remedy what they conceived to be its defects, but left that work for the Senate. It is farcical for the Government to talk about having achieved anything beyond that which has been done by their predecessors. We have heard something with regard to honorable members being driven to their constituents.
– That is a painful subject.
– I know it must be painful to the honorable member, and it is not particularly attractive to me. I do not fear to face my constituents, but I do not regard with pleasant anticipations the necessity for conducting another campaign.
– Has not the honorable member saved sufficient money to enable him to defray his expenses?
– If I have to wait until I can save sufficient money to contest an election out of my allowance of ,£400 a year, I shall never face my constituents.
– Will ‘the honorable member discuss the question before the Chair.
– I . do not wish to ramble any further. If the Government are prepared to go to the country, honorable members on this side are perfectly ready. The Prime Minister has indicated that the electoral rolls in the various States are so far on the way to completion that they should be ready for use within another month. This Parliament has outlived its usefulness. The Labour Government were shaping well until they were practically sand-bagged out of existence. I do not propose to adopt similar methods in dealing with the present Government - to attack them from behind. I intend to fight them legitimately, in order, if possible, to secure an appeal to the people.
– Does the honorable member describe last Wednesday’s proceedings as a frontal attack?
– The attack made upon the Government last Wednesday was absolutely justifiable. We could not be blamed for taking advantage of the enemy when they were in small force. The responsibility for keeping a House rests with the Government, and not with the Opposition, and yet upon the occasion referred to there were twelve members of the Opposition present, as contrasted with eleven members on the Government Side. That should clearly indicate to the country that the Government are not attending to their duties, and that they cannot rely even upon their own followers. Honorable members appear to have been unable to resist the temptation to leave this House, and take part in a social gathering. In the House of Commons the leader of the Government and the leader of the Opposition rarely leave their seats while the House is sitting, because they regard it as their duty to be on hand continuously, in- order that they may give information or advice as required. In this Parliament, however, neither the leader of the Government nor the leader of the Opposition seems to fully recognise the obligations which rest upon him in that regard. If the leaders are not present, how can the rank and file be expected to remain?
– We shall appoint the honorable member as leader, and :hen we shall have a model.
– I must compliment the honorable member for North Sydney upon the facility with which he is adopting the practice of his leader, and substituting personalities for argument. There are two leaders of .the Government - two Ministers with co-ordinate powers - and yet at times we cannot secure the attendance of one of them. AVe have been ,told by the Prime Minister that when the time is ripe, when the electoral rolls have been put in order, honorable members will be sent before their masters. I deeply sympathize with the position of the right honorable gentleman because I know that he does not desire a dissolution. He has attained to his present position, and has no wish to relinquish it. I do not desire him to vacate his present office so long as he is prepared to lead his party, and to avoid repeated counts-out. What has produced this discussion to-day ? The count-out. I am sure that the Treasurer is anxious that we should deal with the troublesome question of the finances-
– I am anxious to know what we are fighting about.
– I did not wish to fight this morning. I asked, the Treasurer not to compel me to do so. However, he “ sooled ‘ ‘ me on-
– Does the honorable member acknowledge that he is a dog?
– If I were, I trust that I should be more faithful than are some of the right honorable gentleman’s followers. However, I do not wish to be drawn into any canine discussion. I am dealing with men, and not with dogs. The Treasurer desires to know what we are quarrelling about. Let me tell him that the members of the Opposition are anxious that an appeal shall be made to the country, because we recognise that no business can be transacted by this House. Personally, I object to drawing my parliamentary allowance when I cannot earn it. I_know that that feeling would not get upon the nerves of the honorable member for Wentworth
– I rise to a point of order. 1 desire to ask whether the nerves of an honorable member have anything to do with the question before the Chair.
-I recognise that if interjections were less frequent the speeches of honorable members would be very much less prolonged ; but I do not see that the honorable member is out of order.
– With me it is not a question’ of nerves, but of duty. The Government claim to have a majority, but of what is it constituted? Did ever the leader of a Government continue to hold office under such humiliating circumstances as does the present Prime Minister? When the recent no-confidence motion was under discussion it will be recollected that the right honorable gentleman was informed by one honorable member that he held the balance of power, and could send him about his business whenever he felt disposed to do so. I am aware that subsequently the Prime Minister made some reference to the mental equilibrium of the honorable member in question, but that was a mere afterthought. Personally, I do not think that the honorable member for Wilmot deserved the castigation which the Prime Minister afterwards administered. The Prime Minister’s remarks upon that occasion indicated that the Government were saved from defeat by the vote of a gentleman who is not altogether responsible for his actions. I would further point out that the honorable member for Moira would’ probably have prevented the count-out on Wed-
– What is that attitude?
– We are justified in preventing the Government from wasting the time of the country. I admit that that was not our attitude this morning. In the interval, however, a great change has come over the scene, so that what constituted a waste of time this morning has now ‘become a sacred duty to the people. As an Opposition we are justified in doing all that we can to regain a position which we never should have lost - to get back to the Treasury benches by fair and honest means. We shall countenance no “ sand-bagging “ in our efforts in that direction. We wish to regain possession of the Treasury benches, because we feel that the best interests of the people will not be served by a continuance of the present Government in power. It has been painful to watch the sufferings of the honorable member for Lang since the Government have been, so to speak, on the gridiron. He has indicated time after time that in his opinion the Opposition are actuated by a desire to obtain possession of the Treasury benches, and that he is prepared to do his utmost to keep the Government in power, although they gained1 office by methods which we should not adopt. As one of the privates in the ranks of the Labour Party, I am prepared to keep step
– After the honorable member has learned to shoot>
– Possibly, after I have received a little instruction from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, my right honorable friend will find a great improvement in my sighting and in my judging of the wind when next I pull the trigger.
– Do not forget the. national ideal.
– The national ideal of the Labour Party is the restoration of responsible government.
– It looks to-day as if it were that of degrading the Parliament.
– We cannot say that we have anything in the shape of responsible government at the present time. Never was responsible government in such a sorry plight as it has been since the present Ministry took office. The right honorable gentleman says that there are two reasons why he does not seek a dissolution - that he is waiting for the compilation of the rolls, and secondly that he has a majority.
– There is only one consolation, .and that is that the Opposition are sorry that the Government are in power.
– The Opposition are not whining.
– What are we to call this?
– Our attitude does not fit in with the position taken up by the Prime Minister when he finds himself in a difficult position. In such an emergency he seldom takes the whip in hand ; he takes care to stroke the fur down the right way. There is no whining when the right honor.able member is seeking to maintain his majority.
– It is then a case of cringing.
– If I were to use the word that would most fitly describe the right honorable member’s attitude in such circumstances, it might be considered unparliamentary, and as a recruit I desire to keep within the rules of debate. I hold that we are taking up a justifiable position. We call upon the Government to proceed with important matters” with which they refuse to deal. Every supporter of the Government must accept the responsibility for what has taken place as the result of the count-out on Wednesday last. It is the duty of the Government to keep a House, and the people will have a right to inquire of their representatives why they have been counted out on two occasions within a short period. The people will have a right to say to every one of them, “Were you absent? Were you attending to the business of the country or seeking your own personal pleasure ?” Such questions have never to be put to members of the Labour Party. We are always on deck. It was only because two or three of us decided that whilst it was not unreasonable to expect us to do a little deckwork, we should not be asked to always remain at the wheel, doing the lion’s share of the work-
– While the captain was not on the bridge.
– The absence of the captain from the bridge has led to the Government ship being brought into, close contact with some of the submerged rocks in the political sea. The Government have no right to remain in office unless they can so control their supporters as to be able to conduct the business of the ‘House.
– Can the honorable member’s leader control him ?
– He has always been able to control me.
– He has had to vote against the honorable member to-day.
– The leader of the Opposition has his own peculiar way of fighting. We are not cast in the same mould, and it is unreasonable to expect that we all should adopt the same methods; but the House may rest assured that the members of the Labour Party are firing in the- same direction. Every one of us is seeking to get on the bull’s-eye’
– Does that mean that the leader of the Opposition is playing the same game as the honorable member is to-day ?
– I mean to say that, although the leader of the Opposition may take up a different position, we we’ll understand each other. The Prime Minister and his subordinate followers do not understand the arithmetic of our party discipline; but we know exactly what we have to do as privates in the ranks. We are doing our duty, and if the honorable member wishes to understand our code - if he wishes to have an insight into our scheme of discipline, he had better join the party.
– I only wished to know whether the leader of the Opposition was in this game. It seems that he is.
– The honorable member cannot induce me to draw across the throat of my leader the political razor that I have unsheathed for the Government. I shall fight the Government legitimately on every possible occasion. It is just as well that thev should know what are our intentions. ‘We intend to fight on constitutional lines.
– Does that mean that the Opposition will endeavour to block business ?
– I do not say that. We shall avail ourselves of every legitimate opportunity to criticise the business brought forward by the Government. If they do not deal with it in such a way as to meet our requirements, we shall block it.
– That is the plan of campaign agreed upon.
– We feel that in declaring war at this stage–
– A private cannot declare war.
– But the honorable member said that the leader and the privates understood each other.
– Camp followers may, do this-
– Camp followers !
Mr. Watson. - A camp follower on the other side is now interjecting.
– And a very humble one. The camp followers, as they have been described, on this side of the House, are at liberty to express their opinions, and to declare what they intend to do. Unlike the Government camp followers, they are not bound in ropes. The subordinate members of the Government party have been absolutely as dumb as an oyster, save when it has been necessary for them to take up the cudgels on behalf of a member of the Cabinet, who has shown a lack of knowledge, for example, as to the treatment of the savages in the South Sea Islands.
– Is the honorable’ member discussing the question?
– I think I am. I take it, sir, that we shall have to deal with that question. We, on this- side of the House, are free. My leader does not tell me to sit down, to stand up, to come in, or to go out.
– I cannot see what relation the honorable member’s remarks have to the question before the Chair. Will he confine himself to the question?
– Honorable members, . by their interjections, are continually drawing me off the track. A Government which is kept in office by a servile majority cannot conduct the business of the country.
– The honorable member has no right to say that the Government majority is a servile one.
– Then I shall speak of it as a slavish majority.
– The honorable member may describe any section of the House bv any term that is well within the practice of Parliament ; but he knows very well that it is not parliamentary to speak of any section of the House as a servile or slavish majority.
– I will not use those words if they are out of order, though it is difficult at times to know where to draw the line. I sympathize with the position of the Government whip, who is responsible for the two days’ waste of time which we have had. The Government which he supports, however, is prepared to remain in office, no matter how humiliating the circumstances. If we have to go to the country, let us go quickly. Five or six months will not make a material difference to the position. In that time the average Member of Parliament, no matter how economical, cannot save more than£25 or £30, and, therefore, at the end of it, would not be much better off than he is now. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has suggested that the Treasurer should ask for three months’ supply, in order to give time for the completion of the rolls, and that then there should be an immediate appeal to our masters. The honorable member knows something about politics. He has the wisdom of Solomon in regard to political manoeuvring and tactics, and if the Prime Minister will adopt his advice, I shall sit down at once, and not say anything more until the elections are over. Surely, as a supporter, ‘ his advice should be sound and acceptable. The honorable member tells us that his object is to faithfully represent those who sent him here, and that he will not go on with the farce of the Government trying to control the House without a majority, or with a majority which is ineffective.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I cannot repeat the honorable member’s actual words, because it is some time since he spoke, and the interruption of the debate under the Standing Orders made it impossible for me to follow him at once. He declared these proceedings to be a farce.
– He said that the indignation of the Opposition is a sham.
– At any rate, his advice was sound, and was, no doubt, given with the best intentions. I am resolved to use every weapon which is fair - leaving sandbags on one side - and every method which is honorable, to bring about the restoration to the Opposition of the power which was taken from them, honorable members know how discreditably. We shall not allow a Government which has declared that it intends to throw itself across the path of labour to remain in office very long. If the Prime Minister threw himself across the path of labour, no one coming into contact with him would hurt himself very much, because there would be no corners to catch on. But I warn him that the labour coach is a very heavy one, and that the men on board earnestly desire to arrive quickly at their destination, so that if he takes any such action, it will be the end of him politically. The Labour Party are prepared to remove all obstacles from their track that they may secure good government. They understand the wishes and the needs of the. men at the bottom of the ladder, and know their sufferings, because they have been there themselves, while, at the same time, they respect the members of every other class according to their merits. We intend to do justice to all, making an exception of none, and having determined to adopt a course, we shall keep a tight rein, and drive straight ahead to our goal, having behind us, not a doubtful, but a permanent majority, so that our work may be of lasting benefit to the people of the country, and secure their respect.
– It must, I am sure, be patent to the Government
– That the intention is to waste time.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs in order in charging the honorable member for Fremantle with wasting time?
– If the Minister had accused the honorable member for Fremantle of wasting time, he would not be in order ; but I understood his remark to apply generally.
– I was about to refer to the action of the Government, and I was much surprised at the ready acquiescence of the Minister. What I was about to say was that it must be patent by this time that the Government have not that control of the business of the House which a Government should have. This is the second occasion during the term of the present Ministry upon which a count-out has occurred. Such an event always reflects discredit upon the Government. On the first occasion the Prime Minister, in his bluff and hearty style, merely chuckled and laughed, as if the matter were of no importance. He merely said that the countout was clue to a trick of the Labour Party, and that if they intended to interrupt the course of business in. that way, he would pay them back in their own coin. He assured the House, however, that such a thing would not happen again. In spite of his boast, however, another count-out has occurred, and it would appear that his followers have not sufficient respect for him to attend here and assist in keeping a House. We were told that some Ministers and their followers were absent on Wednesday evening, because they desired to attend an important social function.
– Some of the members of the Opposition were also at that social function.
– I am speaking of the Government, who are responsible for keeping a House. The country has a right to expect Ministers to give the proceedings of this House preference even over important social functions. I do not know whether the Prime Minister finds it necessary for the good of his health to attend social functions. I have never seen him at a ball.
– I could say the same thing of the honorable member.
– I have, however, seen pictures of him: arrayed in what was’ called a ball dress.
– I should like to ask you, .sir, whether this is in order ?
-The honorable member is discussing the reasons for the countout on Wednesday evening.
– He is discussing the dress of the Prime Minister.
– Order ! The question of good taste has nothing to do with order. The remarks of the honorable member may be quite contrary to good taste, but they are certainly not out of order.
– I do not wish to transgress even the rules of good taste. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister has been so much discussed, both with dress and without it, that personally he does not object to a little raillery, particularly as he is so fond of using that weapon himself.
– I do not object to that, so long as the honorable member does, not take up the public time.
– If the right honorable gentleman objects I shall not say any more.
– I should not object if the honorable member were merely occupying my time.
– When the Prime Minister finds it necessary to attend social functions, some arrangement should be made for avoiding a conflict with his duty as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. His first duty is to be here.
– Should our conduct of a week ago set honorable members off the track of public duty now?
– Three Ministers were absent on Wednesday evening, and therefore the offence of the Government was all the more serious. If the Prime Minister found it necessary to absent himself from the House because he regarded an invitation to a ball’ as equivalent to a command, he should have endeavoured to make some arrangement with trie leader of the Opposition.
– The leader of the Opposition would have been powerless on Wednesday evening.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister can say that the leader of the Opposition has ever shown any lack of generosity in his dealings with the Government.
– He voted with the Government on the night of the count-out.
– If the Prime Minister or any of his colleagues had had enough of the saving grace of common sense to inform the leader of the Opposition that they found it necessary to be absent, and had asked him to arrange to keep a House, there would have been no count-out. They ‘left the Government whip to do the best he could, and in spite of all his efforts trouble ensued. I came into the Chamber at the personal request of the honorable member for Dalley to assist in making a House; but I am not sure that my generosity was not misplaced on that occasion.
– I presume that the honorable member came in to perform his public duty.
– I am not surprised that the Treasurer should become impatient at the continuation of this debate.
– I can assure the honorable member that I am becoming very impatient.
– The Treasurer has expressed his dissatisf action with the present state of affairs, and I quite expected that his position as a member of the present Government would prove intolerable. No one has greater respect than I have for the right honorable gentleman and the political work he has done, and in common with many other honorable members I was sorry when he listened to the seductive voice of the Prime Minister and became a member of the present Administration. He is out of touch with some of his colleagues and supporters, and if he wishes to bring to an end the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, the way is quite open to him. There are honorable members on this side of the House who are quite prepared to join hands with him in doing the work which he has at heart. The sole aim of the Ministry seems to be to placate their opponents by giving them measures in which they do not themselves believe. So long as they pursue that policy they may hang on to office; but as soon as the Prime Minister attempts to give to those who are heart and soul with him the measures they want, trouble will begin, and the Treasurer will find it impossible to remain any longer in office. Why should he wait for that time? I trust that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and the Treasurer will find some means of bringing over to this side of the House those honorable members who are totally opposed to the principles of others with whom they are now associated. In such an event there will be no repetition of what occurred on Wednesday night. I hope that, irrespective of whether a dissolution occurs or not,we shall soon see upon the Treasury bench a Government throughly representative of the people, and in a position to do some good work in the public interest.
Question - That the proceedings in Committee of Supplywhich lapsed on Wednesday last be resumed, and that the House donow resolve itself into the Committee of Supply - put. The Housedivided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 2nd November, vide page 6432) :
– I think that itwould be unfair to punish a number of honorable members by attempting to continue the sitting after the usual hour, thereby preventing them from returning to their homes in other States, as they usually do upon Friday. At the same time, I desire to intimate that we are not making that progresswith the Estimateswhich Ave ought to make, and consequently I shallhave to request honorable members to sit a little later each evening nextweek.
– Let ushave two or three all-night sittings.
– I do not desire to initiate all-night sittings, because there is nothing gained by them. They merely engender bad temper, and induce honorable members to make statements for which they are afterwards very sorry. In addition to that they tend to discredit us before the country. But although I have no desireto indulge in all-night sittings I think that I am justified in asking honorable members todevote a little extra time to a discussion of the Estimates, and consequently I suggest that Ave should sit a little later than usual eachevening nextweek.
– Until what time?
– That will depend upon the progress which we make each evening. Honorable members are aware that I am not unreasonable. If we make a fair amount of progress I do not desire to sit here until an unreasonably late hour, and there are strong reasons why I should not do so. If honorable members will assist me to make fair progress with the Estimates they may rest assured that I shall not impose upon their good nature.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).If the tactics which have been adopted today by certain members of the Opposition are to be continued, I think that the House should meet in the mornings. Certainly, the Government should adopt some measures which will enable us to transact the business of the country.
– Why did not the honorable member speak at a previous stage? Was he “gagged”?
– I did not speak previously because I had no desire to waste time.
– The honorable member is wasting time now.
– In the discussion today there was no fight for a principle involved.
– Was there any fight for a principle involved in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– I do not desire to have anything to say to the honorable member for Barrier, and I would thank him not to interrupt me. I hope that we shall get on with the business of the country, and in view of what has occurred to-day I trust that the Government will adopt a firm attitude in the future.
– I think that the Committee can get on very well without any lectures from the honorable member for New England. He has charged those who, in their representative capacity to-day, have adopted a certain attitude, with having fought for no principle. I should like to ask whether he had any principle in view when he voted to displace the previous Government? For him to lecture the Opposition, and tell the country what he is prepared to do, after the Treasurer has made a conciliatory speech, is calculated to defeat the very object which the right honorable gentleman has in view.
– I resent the statements of the honorable member for New England, and I object to his charging honorable members with having wasted time. I maintain that there has been no waste of time. The discussion which took place this morning was in the interests of the country generally. . I contend that it will exercise a very good effect in expediting the transaction of public business. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to act upon the suggestion of the honorable member for New England ?
– What suggestion is that?
– The suggestion that the right honorable gentleman must stiffen his back, “ otherwise the honorable member for New England will kick over the traces.
– I protest against the remarks of the honorable member for New England, because I do not think the Prime Minister should be told by one supporter after another that he must stiffen his back to expedite the conduct of public business. Personally, I would not allow my worst enemy to be trampled upon, and, therefore, I feel it is my duty to stand up like a Briton and defend the Prime Minister. I hope that no further threats will be made to destroy the Government if the Prime Minister does not become even more petrified, politically speaking, than he is at present. I should like the Government to invite the House to meet at 10.30 a.m. each day, so as to expedite business.
– And sit all night?
– I do not say that. All-night sittings are not conducive to the good temper of the House, or to the expedition of public business. I shall do my best to assist the Treasurer in passing the Estimates, always keeping in mind my duty as a member of the Opposition, and a representative of the people. I certainly object to such honorable members as the honorable member for New England attacking their leader.
– I desire to lay on the table of the House a copy of the proceedings of a Committee appointed by my predecessor, Senator Dawson, and a minute by him upon the proceedings of the Committee. May I be permitted to say that the document is marked “strictly confidential and unofficial,” and therefore was not laid on the table yesterday together with the report of the General Officer Commanding upon it. I have since seen Senator Dawson, and it is his desire that it should be laid on the table.
– To what does the report relate?
– It is the report ofthe Committee upon the proposed reorganization scheme.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that if any communication were received by him from the Premier of Queensland regarding the sugar bounty question, he would lay it on the table of the House. I am led to believe that such a communication has since been received, and I wish to know whether the right honorable gentleman will be good enough to lay it upon the table?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041104_reps_2_23/>.