2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. LEE presented a petition from certain residents of Kempsey, praying that stringent legislation be enacted to prevent the importation of opium for smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs if he has read the cablegrams in this morning’s newspapers about the report of the French Committee on foreign and colonial relations, and if he will take steps at once to see that, before any arrangement is made by the Imperial Government in regard to the New Hebrides, the Australian Government shall be consulted.
– I have every reason to expect that the course of consulting the Australian Government in regard to any arrangement about the New Hebrides will be followed by the Imperial Government. The negotiations in regard to the appointment of the New Hebrides Land Commission have been inordinately prolonged, but inquiry has not shown that any actual progress has been made towards the launching of “that Commission, for which we have been looking so long. The proposals of the French Committee on foreign and colonial relations contain no novel element. They call attention once more to the fact that a considerable sum of money is being annually expended out of the State funds of the Republic of France for the benefit of the settlers in the New Hebrides.
– The cablegrams speak of some arrangement between the French and British Governments being imminent.
– An arrangement has been imminent for the last eighteen months, or, at any rate, since the date of the treaty, or whatever may be the proper term for the friendly agreement between Great Britain and France. One of the articles of that agreement was that an arrangement should be arrived at with regard to the New Hebrides, but I have not been able to discover, as yet, that any definite step has been taken towards completing that arrangement. The hope that it will be settled at an early date appears to be optimistic, but I am watching the proceedings very closely.
– In view of the alarming; admission made by the Prime Minister during the course of my speech last night that, to his own knowledge, there ate not sufficient gunners to man with one relief, the existing coastal defences, will the Vice-President of the Executive Council have a report prepared, without delay, for the information of this Parliament, showing (1) the number of additional gunners and artillerymen required to complete one relief for the existing armament; (2) the further number required to afford two reliefs for the quickfiring armament?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question, so that it may be answered by the preparation of a return, as I wish to give him every information on the subject.
– I understand that since this Parliament dealt with the Federal Capital matter, some important correspondence has passed between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, and I therefore ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he will have the papers laid on the table for the infor mat ion of honorable members?
– Copies of the correspondence which has taken place since the passing of the Seat of Government. Act are being prepared, and, when ready, will be laid on the table of the House.
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 281), on motion by Mr. Deakin - That Statutory Rules Nos. 12 and 23, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, laid on the table on 26th July, be printed.
– I admire the Prime Minister for one thing, the shortness of his policy speech, because it looks like business. I commend it on that account to the members of the party who sit below the gangway on the Ministerial side of the Chamber. I also applaud the remarks of the Attorney-General as to the need for getting on with the business of the session. The nine or ten months of last session were about the most useless and indolent that I have ever spent. We camefrom our homes and our businesses to transact the affairs of the country, and we did nothing. Therefore it is about time that we proceeded with business. But we, who arc members of the Opposition, have a duty to perform.
– Ten of them !
– If there were only one member of the Opposition, it would be his duty to criticise the Government and the measures brought forward by them, as it is the duty of every member of the Opposition. I was returned to this House as an opponent of the Deakin . Administrator], and,/ secondly, to oppose the aims and work of the Trades Hall, Labour, or Socialistic Party. Now that I see on the Ministerial side of the Chamber the Deakin and Labour parties linked together-
– Beautifully blended.
– Beautifully blended in an unholy alliance, I feel that I must do my duty to my constituents and to Australia by criticising the Administration, its policy, and methods.
– That is the honorable member’s business as an Oppositionist.
– I shall attempt to do my business as an Oppositionist by criticising the Government, its policy, and its methods, and the policy and methods of the party which is for the time supporting it. The honorable and learned member for Parkes last night deprecated the use of the post-mortem in politics. According to his application of the metaphor, a postmortem could be made only on the body of the leader of the Opposition, because it is he who is dead, and no good purpose could be served by criticising him in any way.
– The leader of the Opposition was a very lively corpse yesterday.
– I refer, of course, only to his political death as leader of a Government. In pathology one learns more at the post-mortem table in some months than from years of observation of living subjects in the wards of a hospital ; but there is another method equally useful for obtaining knowledge of the human constitution, and that is by vivisection. Ipropose to apply that method of examination to the new Administration. Vivisection is carried on, sometimes with an anaesthetic, and sometimes without one. Some honorable members may prefer to use the anaesthetic, as being the more humane method, while others may think that more is to be learned by conducting the operation without an anaesthetic. Every one to his taste. I am one of the more merciful kind, and will examine the Government and their policy and methods with an anaesthetic. I think that in all the States Constitution Acts it is provided that, if members take an office of profit under the Crown, they must immediately offer themselves again to their constituencies, and thus obtain the opinion of the people upon their action, and upon the new Administration which is to be formed. It was deemed necessary to omit such a provision from the Federal Constitution, and no doubt its adoption would have created many grave difficulties ; but there are times when one may question the wisdom of omitting such a provision, and I think that this is one of them. The Leader of the late Government, after his defeat, asked the representative of the Crown to send the members of this House to their constituentsto obtain the opinion of the country on the situation ; but the Governor-General deemed it desirable to allow the House to go on under the new conditions. The leader of each party had in turn attempted to carry on business and had failed. When this Parliament first met, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was at the head of an Administration, which was put out of office by the leader of the Labour Party, who, after having taken up the reins of office.
was in his turn defeated by a coalition of the Reid and Deakin parties; and that coalition was afterwards defeated by an alliance the full terras of which appear not to have been made public. The whole country stood aghast when the Prime Minister turned the marvellous political sommersault which resulted in the ejection from office of his whilom friends. In every State the feeling against the head of the Government is very strong.
– Does the honorable member say that I should have voted for a dissolution in which I did not believe?
– The Prime Minister need not have jumped the claim of the honorable member for Bland. He might have allowed our enemies, and not our friends, to turn us out of office.
– The Prime Minister asks me whether I consider he should have voted for a dissolution in which he did not believe.
– Does the Prime Minister believe in three-party Government?
– I have been very loth to believe many of trie hard things which have been said about the Prime Minister.
– And there are many like you.
– We have been forced to say those hard things.
– Exactly. They have been forced upon us.
– Poor things.
– It is very good of the honorable member for Wide Bay to offer us his sympathy. He may not realize, to the same extent that some of us do, the seriousness of the position that is created when an honorable member, who has been regarded as inspired by the highest ideals of honour, acts in such a way as to forfeit public respect, and shatter the faith that was formerly reposed in him.
– The honorable member has not answered my question.
– The answer rests with the Prime Minister himself. The position is an extremely painful one.
– I should think so, when the honorable member cannot answer a simple question.
– The Prime Minister need not have jumped the claim of the honorable member for Bland.
– Is the honorable member for Corangamite satisfied with the answer given by his leader?
– I am not satisfied with the position the Prime Minister holds today.
– The honorable member never was satisfied.
– No, I was never satisfied, because of the conditions under which the Prime Minister held office. Those conditions are now more degrading than ever they were.
– That is the opinion of the honorable member. I consider that charges that cannot be supported are still more degrading - the honorable member has not even attempted to support them.
– The charges are supported by facts. We see the Prime Minister suddenly turning his friends out of office.
– Is the’ honorable member satisfied with the Governor-General’s speech presented bv the late Government?
– I am perfectly satisfied with it, because, the ,Iate Government took the only honorable course thev could pursue.
– We left the crawling to others.
– Although during last session I was strongly opposed to a dissolution, I felt that under the conditions in which the late Government were called upon to meet Parliament, a dissolution was the only recourse. If provision had been made in the Constitution that Ministers should go back to their constituents upon their assuming office, I am perfectly sure that some of the gentlemen now occupying the Treasury benches would not have been returned to this House.
– Most of them.
– I would not say that, because some Ministers were perfectly consistent in so far as they supported the Labour Party throughout last session. We have nothing to say against them, but I think we have a right to direct the strongest criticism against the action of others. When the fate of the Watson Ministry was hanging in the balance last session the members of the Labour Party, notably the honorable member for Gwydir and the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, clamoured for a dissolution. What do we find now? The desire for a dissolution has gone. Yet the circumstances to-day are almost identical with those which obtained at the end of last session. Honorable members now sitting on this side of the House had no desire for a dissolution, but the conditions became intolerable, and they expressed their willingness to go to (he country. The members of the Labour Party immediately changed their tune, and evinced, a sudden dislike for an appeal to the people. What was the reason? Was it because there were very serious dissensions in the ranks of their party outside the House? Is it not a fact that many matters connected with the Trades Hall Party in Victoria require to be adjusted ? Do not the circumstances connected with a recent election in East Melbourne need to be thoroughly sifted, and is there not a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the members of the Trades Hall Party in relation to matters connected with the management of the Tocsin and the payment of the workers on that paper?
– Not that I know of.
– The matter may have been settled in a way, but has the whole question been thoroughly sifted?
– Yes; ‘absolutely.
– Not to the satisfaction of all parties. Turning to New South Wales, we find that .there is very considerable dissension in the ranks of labour, and that large bodies of unionists are withdrawing from the central organization. These and other matters throw considerable light upon the sudden dislike which members of the Labour Party have conceived for a dissolution. Then there is the question of stamping goods made by union labour, which will, no doubt, be discussed when the Trades Marks Bill is under consideration. I would also point to the fact that the honorable member for Yarra has had to make an emphatic protest against a charge that he was dealing with a non-union baker. The honorable member said1 that there was no truth in the statement.
– Neither is there any truth in it.
– I ram very glad to hear it, but the mere fact that the honorable member considered it necessary to deny the charge indicates that an honorable member in this House is not in a position to deal with whom he likes.
– Would the honorable member deal with a sweater?
– There is no question of sweating involved. The baker with whom I deal is kept under control by the Factories and Shops Act. The opinion of the people of Australia with regard to the Prime Minister has undergone a complete change, and instead of his standing upon the highest pinnacle of their regard, he has now sunk to the lowest depths of their contempt. He is now in office, but not in power, because he is entirely dependent upon the Labour Party - a party which he has frequently denounced. It is true that he has been just as often and as violently denounced by the Labour Party, who are now supporting a man in whom they have declared that they have no confidence. We have had read to us quotations from articles which have appeared in newspapers published in Queensland and New South Wales, and we know the opinion that is entertained in Western Australia regarding the Prime Minister. I now propose to quote from an article published in the Labour newspaper in Adelaide, the Herald. of 8th July last. In an article headed “ The Champion Betrayer,” the Prime Minister is criticised as follows : -
Mr. Deakin has betrayed in politics more friends, parties, and coalitions, than any other three men in Australia. … At all times supported by a powerful daily paper, and obedient tb its every whim, he was able to betray with impunity where others would have been crushed. . . . He inveighed against the three-party control, and took a cheap and gaudy means of betraying himself out of office; he now returns to place without power in far more humiliating terms than what some twelve months back he described as intolerable. . He now holds office on the plan of - “This is my policy, Mr. Watson; if it does not suit, I can alter it.” . . . Mr. Deakin may last this Parliament. It might be well to keep him there. After next election Mr. Watson will again take the reins, and there should be no mistake about his majority.
– “ It might be well to keep him there.” That is very kind of them.
– The three-party system, which was so strongly inveighed against by the Prime Minister as being intolerable, has now been reverted to by him, under conditions fiar more humiliating than previously. What we require for the good of Australia is a restoration of the twoparty system of Government, and the chance of bringing this about has been improved by the action of the Prime Minister and his colleagues. All those honorable members who sit on the Ministerial side of the House stand for Socialism and socialistic aims and methods, whilst those who are on this side of the Chamber are opposed to all such principles and objects.
– Anti-Socialism and State brickworks.
– With honorablemembers upon this side, it is a question of Australian liberalism, and of sound business principles. For my own part I should like to see the very earliest opportunity taken to allow the electors to decide this question by resolving the three parties in the present Parliament into two. When that question is submitted to the people, the Deakinites must be voted for as Socialists, and honorable members upon this side of the House should be regarded as straight-out opponents of Socialism. There can be no cross-bred business about the matter. The electors must be taught to view it in that way - they must either vote for one side or the other. Personally I should much prefer to see two parties in the House divided upon those lines, rather than that there should be any cross-bred members, who are neither one thing nor the other. What we require, in order to carry out the spirit of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister before the Australian Natives’ Association,) is the disappearance of the Deakin party from the Federal political horizon.
– That is what the honorable member wants, and the object for which his party has been striving.
– Nonsense; the Prime Minister knows better than that.
– I should like to know whether I am making this speech, or whether it is being delivered by some other honorable member.
– The Prime Minister ought to say what he knows, anyhow.
– Turning to the Ministry itself,I would describe it as the Australian ship of State classed A999 at Lloyds, or the lowest rating possible. This ship is laden with a non-combustible cargo above the Plimsoll mark and carries no passengers, for the reason that she is not able to command their confidence.
– What about the steerage passengers ?
– I will tell the honorable member all about them in a few minutes. Upon this occasion they have been relegated to the stoke-hole. The plans of this vessel were drawn in Western Australia, she was engineered in New South Wales, launched in Melbourne, and is bound for destruction.
– The honorable member must have occupied a long time in preparing this matter.
– No, I can assure the honorable member that I have occupied only a few days. But whatever time may have been occupied in its preparation ] have at any rate produced something, while the honorable member has not produced anything. The captain, the leader “of a great cause, has courted shipwreck, at the beginning of the voyage, by turning turtle on all his previous records, sacrificing his reputation and the cohesion of his most trusted followers. From being the most trusted of all leaders he has fallen to be the least worthy of confidence in this House, and throughout Australia even his written pledge would be treated with grave suspicion. I wish to direct special attention to the personnel of this vessel. The pilot is the honorable member for Bland. The captain is the Prime Minister, who had his certificate suspended by that pilot in April, 1904, but who has been allowed to resume under suspicion, and with a special pilot in all troublesome waters. The chief engineer is a large and important man in this ship. He is . represented by ‘ the Minister of Trade and Customs. He was appointed to that position because he is said to be a great man in subterranean waters. Next to him comes the Postmaster-General, who is declared to be a worthy second of his chief on account of his special peculiarities; he has been appointed to the vessel as comptroller of submarines. The third engineer is the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He has been engaged because of his entertaining qualities, and because it is necessary to have a comical man in such a comica crew. By virtue of his previous performances he has been named “Peritonitis.” and he has been appointed to the position of third engineer in order that he may look after the chief engineer. Being a man connected with agricultural industries he holds another appointment, in that he is supposed to groom the family mule.
– Is he working for union wages ?
– That matter has not yet been disclosed, inasmuch as the Navigation Bill has not been passed. The chief officer of this vessel is the Attorney-General, the honorable and learned member for Indi. Of him it is said that upon one occasion he nearly obtained his master’s certificate, but not quite. He was dismissed from a previous Administration under a cloud. The second mate upon the bridge is the Minister of Home Affairs. He is alleged to be able to rebuild the bridge, if necessary. The purser - the representative of the capitalistic class - is the Treasurer, an exEmperor, and a man who is never happy unless he occupies some official position. Honorable members have doubtless heard of the dirt-eating disease which obtains in Northern Queensland. Of that it is said that when once people have contracted it they can never be prevented from eating dirt. The right honorable member for Swan is a remarkable instance of a man who seemed for a time to have entirely recovered from that disease, but who has unfortunately’ suffered a serious relapse. I hold in my hand a copy of the West Australian of the 5th April of the present year. That newspaper was published just after the visit of honorable members of this House to the Western State, and just prior to the visit of the Prime Minister and the present PostmasterGeneral. Upon that occasion the Treasurer said -
No one in Australia can say that we are not drifting. We are drifting. We are looking about to see what we cun do, and no one seems to know what to do. . . . There is no doubt about this - we have been coerced by a minority which looks big, and which most people are afraid of, but which is not so big after all. It only wants to be properly tackled.
Upon that occasion the right honorable member was speaking of the Labour Party, and his remarks remind me irresistibly of the story in reference to the big oyster. It merely required to be “properly tackled,” and just’ as the man tackled the big oyster and it disappeared, so the right honorable member for Swan has tackled the Labour Party. Either he has taken it on board, or it has taken him. I am inclined to the latter view. Coming to the other members of this remarkable crew, I find that the bo’sun is the Minister of Defence in another place, who is a veritable Tom Bowling. The bo’sun’s mate is Senator Keating, who is taking his first voyage as a petty officer. The chief steward is the honorable member for Bourke. He is said to keep the captain well-informed as to the condition of the ship’s stores. There are other officers upon this vessel, because it is the ship of State, and one who has been specially appointed to a new post is the captain of the horse marines.
– What about the dead marines ?
– We have not yet come to the dead marines. To the position of captain of the horse marines the honorable and learned member for Corio has been appointed as a reward for past services, and because upon one occasion he slew a horse, and is said to be a great authority upon frontal attacks in the absence of the enemy. He further objects to consecrating the flag a la mode. Then we have Surgeon Salmon - I mean the honorable member for Laanecoorie. The position of chief harbourmaster is occupied by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, after safely guiding his vessel into the harbor, according to his lights, was rewarded by an offer of a seat upon the lookout - an offer which he scornfully declined, because having been trained as an engineer, he felt that he was entitled to a seat in the engineroom, and to no less. Most of the crew are alleged to be seriously disaffected and inclined to mutiny. In this connexion I specially refer to the honorable member for Bass, the honorable member for Moira, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Mernda, and the honorable member for Riverina. During the early stages of the voyage, several late members of the crew were lost overboard - some think as the result of oversight on the part of the captain, but others - and they are the more numerous- have hinted treachery on his part. This steam-ship would be of no value in the absence of stokers, and their places have been filled by the members of the Labour ‘ Party. Obviously, the vessel must have stokers and coal trimmers. They are engaged for this voyage only, to try the effect upon white men of a passage through the Red Sea in August; but rumour hath it that they have no confidence whatever in the captain, and refused to sail under him unless he put himself for the whole voyage under the eye of a good pilot, and submitted to them for approval the names of all officers and a full manifest of the cargo. Not only is this pilot to be in charge for the whole voyage, but another condition to the engagement of the Labour Party to serve in the stokehold - amongst the coal - was that thev should select the chief engineer and chief officer. This is the Ministry that asks for the confidence of the people of Australia- a Ministry that was conceived in shame, brought forth in treachery, and which lives by politically prostituting itself.
– I shall begin by answering a question which the Prime Minister repeatedly put to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and which, if I remember rightly, was whether he was to be expected to vote for a dissolution in which he did not believe. The answer is to be found in the last Ballarat speech, delivered by the honorable and learned gentleman. After castigating the leader of the Opposition for daring to say anything about a possible dissolution, he went on to say upon the occasion in question -
It seemed to me even if attention had not been directed to it in this express fashion, that none of us could have failed to realize that the dissolution upon which he has dwelt is coming very close.
Thus Ave find that the Prime Minister himself, a week or two ago, declared that a dissolution was imminent. His taunt, today, therefore is a perfectly idle one. He himself declared but a week or two since that this House was unworkable, and that a dissolution was at hand.
– That is not to say that he believes that there ought to be a dissolution. The question that he put to the honorable member for Corangamite was, whether he could have been expected to vote for that in which he did not believe.
– I admit that we have been supplied with some very subtle refinements of what the honorable and learned gentleman said, and now we have another edition. Last night we listened to a speech delivered by the AttorneyGeneral in the most grandiose tones conceivable,, in which he solemnly asked this House, in the name of the country, to attend. to the country’s business. I interjected at the time that he, of all honorable members, had no right to speak in the name of Australia at the present moment. I repeat that statement now. The Government, including the Attorney-General, have not the confidence of the country, nor of this House. They are living on sufferance - upon terms which no self-respecting Government would accept for one moment - and through their capacity for dirt-eating. Afflicted as they are with that South African disease to which the honorable member who has just resumed his seat has alluded, they are remaining in office without power, and attempting to govern a country whose highest interests thev have outraged time and again.
– Even if they are, they are no worse than were the last Ministry.
– That is a poor answer.
– The AttorneyGeneral spoke last night of this debate as an airing of personal grievances. I ha.ve not heard a personal note obtruded,, and I think that the less that honorable and learned gentleman says about personalities in the present instance, the better it will be for the Government, and for those who are supporting them. So far the debate has been an impersonal one, unless indeed one is said to be indulging in personalities when one quotes the honest opinion which one honorable member expresses respecting another. If any personalities have been introduced into this debate, they have consisted mostly of quotations of the opinions of Ministers on Ministers, and of the opinions of the people outside, whom the Government say they represent, concerning the present Administration.
– What about the concluding phrase used by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat?
– It was true.
– It was a disgrace to the House.
– The concluding phrases uttered’ by the honorable member’ for Corangamite were similar both in tone and severity to hundreds of others that are being made by newspapers all over Australia at the present moment. For instance, some five years ago, when the Federation was being launched, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Edmund Barton, accompanied by the present leader of the Government, journeyed to West Maitland to deliver a pronunciamento to the people of Australia, in which everything appertaining to a rarer atmosphere was attributed to the Federal Parliament. Sir Edmund Barton spoke of prosperity, peace, prestige, and power, and at this time the Government of which he was the leader had no stronger backer than the newspaper from which I am about to quote. I propose to read an extract not from any of the labour journals of the continent, but from the Maitland. Mercury, which at that time strongly supported the Government of which the present Prime Minister was a member, and declared them to be men of high principle, abounding in political honour. A few years have passed, and here is what that journal has to say of the present Prime Minister -
Mr. Deakin has been intrusted with a commission to form a Government. The circumstances in which he will take office are such, by his own act, as to bring Federal politics to a lower level of debasement than they have yet reached. . . He has designedly placed himself in a situation wherein he must diet to repletion on dirt.
This is not an extract from a labour journal, nor the statement of an honorable member, but a declaration by one of the most respectable journals of Australia, which supported the first Federal Government, at the time of their appeal to the country. Here is what that journal had to say at the conclusion of the leading article from which I have just quoted : -
How things will work out remains to be seen, but the man who stands out prominently to public execration is the man who will presently be Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. He will be known to fame as the man whose breach of faith and traitorous betrayal of his avowed principles have lowered Commonwealth politics into a deep of shame.
I commend these statements to the Government as the sentiments of a newspaper which was at one time a firm supporter of a Ministry to which several members of the present Administration belonged. It has no sectional aims or interests to serve, and is not seeking to aggrandize itself by abusing any other party, or by breaking up another coalition. This is what a journal that at one time gave members of the Government credit for high principle, and for possessing every attribute of political honour, with a genuine desire to advance the interests of the Commonwealth, now records, as its deliberative judgment of the present Prime Minister. What the honorable member for Corangamite has said is as nought when compared with this trenchant criticism by one of the Government’s erstwhile organs. The Attorney-General last night went on to say that the Prime Minister’s character was beyond the criticism of the leader of the Opposition. That may be so; but it is very singular that, although various charges have been launched against the leader of the Government, no honorable member seems to be disposed to rise in his defence, and least of all, those who have been interjecting most incessantly in reply to everything that has been said on this side of the House. Is it not a singular feature of the circumstances in which the Ministry at present exist, that although the Labour Party are keeping the Government in power, to use them, as they unblushingly admit, not one of them either inside or outside the Chamber has ever had a good word to say of the Prime Minister?
– We cannot get an opportunity to put in a word on his behalf, because of the action of the Opposition. It was only the other day that the leader of the Opposition said everything that was good of him.
– The only criticisms we have heard from the party that is apparently supporting the Government so cordially were offered by a member of another place in the course of a speech which he delivered at the end of last week in a Victorian town. The members of the Labour Party while in this Chamber, seem to be very cordial in their relations with the Government; but when they go forth to address the electors of Australia they are suddenly seized with a very different spasm. Here is what Senator de Largie said, when speaking on the platform of a country town -
He was not there to defend those who a few months ago we’re firm political friends of Mr. Reid, and who were now in power. But the party was quite willing to accept the assistance of any one to overthrow a bitter and inveterate foe.
I venture to say that this is the opinion of the party now sitting in the Ministerial corner regarding the Government. The Ministry are existing as a Government to be used by the Labour Party, which has not one word to say in defence of them. In these circumstances I hold that the AttorneyGeneral had better busy himself in answering such criticisms as those to which I have referred rather than in replying in tones of assumed indignation to any remarks that may be offered from the Opposition. The point of our criticism has been barbed all through with quotations from the utterances of those who are sitting in the Ministerial corner ; the greatest and severest condemnation of the Government has come from the party with whom they now profess to be so closely in league. The Attorney-General last night made a statement to which I desire to call special attention. In speaking of the reasons that had induced the Government to dislodge the late Ministry, he used this expression -
There is one bond quite adequate to reconcile greater differences than these -
He was referring to the differences between Ministers and the Labour Party, to which allusion had been made by the leader of the Opposition - it is that of putting an end to the danger of
Is that the opinion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council or of the Prime
Minister himself? Is it the opinion of the Postmaster-General, or the Treasurer, who, only a little while ago, were the most cordial supporters that the present leader of the Opposition had? The ink is hardly dry on the page which recorded the speeches made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council during his tour of the Richmond electorate, in which he professed the greatest contempt for every one who was opposed to the right honorable member for East Sydney. Is he now in this combine to preserve the State from the danger of Reidism? If the statement of the Attorney-General is true, if it contains a correct summing up of the position of affairs on the Ministerial side of the Chamber, if he has rightly outlined the bond of agreement between members there, those members must be written down as political tricksters of the first water, as Nihilists who go into and out of the house of a man with daggers hidden beneath their garments, to despatch him on the first convenient occasion.
– What is “Reidism “ ?
– Everything that is tricky.
– “ Reidism “ stands for straightforward politics.
– It stands for that, amongst other things.
– I have had only one coalition, and it stinks.
– “ Reidism “ stands to-day, as it did months ago, primarily for one thing - it is of no use to mince matters - for anti-Socialism.
– What is Socialism ?
– A question of that kind comes very properly from the Minister of Trade and Customs, because, judging by his recent speeches he of all men in this House is most ignorant of the subject.
– Perhaps the Minister thinks that Socialism means selling the trams, of which he was so strongly in favour some years ago.
– Or making a deal in harvesters.
– I was told a fortnight ago that he would do something of that sort. I wish I had seen it before ; it is a dishonest thing.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi last night appealed to us to get on with the business of the country. What is primarily the business of the country? The most important business of Australia at the present moment is the preservation of the integrity and reputation of its Government. All these things that are spoken of as programmes are trumpery in comparison with the reputation of the Commonwealth. It is because there appears to be no prospect of the improvement of the reputation of Australia from the reign and rule of the present Government that we should be justified in trying to terminate the existence of this Parliament at the earliest moment.
– Thehonorable member has not yet said what Socialism is.
– I advise my honorable friend to appeal to his leader for an answer. I will tell him in a minute what his leader thinks of Socialism. The honorable gentleman has been in a most genial mood ever since he changed his place in this Chamber. He was brimming over with geniality and good feeling for even a fortnight before the actual change took place.
– I felt that something was going on, because the honorable gentleman looked so happy.
– During a certain journey from Sydney we had the greatest difficulty in getting to our virtuous couches in the train, because of the kindly attentions of the honorable gentleman. He perambulated the corridor of the oar like a kindly spirit let loose in this mundane sphere. We see him to-day wreathed in smiles, whereas before the change of Government we could not get anything out of him but a grunt. I said at a public meeting the other day that if he remained out of office very much longer he would drop dead of apoplexy, brought about by his feeling in regard to the leader of the Opposition ; but I am , glad, for his health’s sake, that he now seems disposed to bury the past, and lives under happier conditions. What is the first business of this Parliament, if it is not to look after the credit and reputation of Australia? Are we in a fair way to maintain our reputation abroad, or to increase the small reputation which we have, by these constant changes of Government, and by keeping in office a Ministry which is absolutely without power, and is prostituting every constitutional principle by which we should be guided ? I venture to say that the Government is smashing up our credit in the London market by every act it has done since it took office. In the markets of the world they take for their standard in politics the high constitutionalism of the Mother country, and when we see what is going on here we may well fear for the reputation of Australia. If our reputation in the markets of the world goes, Government programmes will not restore it. Therefore it is our chief and primary obligation to see that the reputation of Australia is not besmirched by any Government, or by any set of parties, or politicians. The honorable and learned member for Parkes last night had something to say on this matter. He, too, urged that we should get on with the business of the country, and he pointed out - none cando it better than he when in the mood - how our reputation abroad depends on our conduct of affairs, and does not depend merely upon seasons, as some honorable members interjected that it did. A country may have the best of seasons, and be abundantly prosperous, and yet its credit may be at zero, and its reputation almost annihilated. The South American republics form a case in point. They are the most prosperous countries in the world to-day from the mere material point of view, and yet their reputation is the lowest in the markets of the world. These facts were pointed out last night by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, and he also pointed out that this Government, to whom he said he would give a steady support, has done the very thing which would contribute to the undoing of our credit and national reputation. In reply to the taunt that we are unwilling to get on with the business of the country, I say that we are considering the most important business of the country when we are concerned as to how best to maintain the reputation of this Parliament and our financial credit in the great countries of the world. The honorable and learned member for Indi, too,, seems to have been suddenly seized with a spasmodic desire to carry on parliamentary work. We all know how industriously he labours in the other relations of his life; but only afew months ago he used to enter this Chamber, and beam upon the obstructionists who were spending hour after hour in the avowed intention of preventing the transaction of business. He came here only when the opposition to the progress of business seemed to be. lagging, and set it going again with some trumpery proposal regarding the reduction of expenditure by1s. If there is one man in the House who has deliberately contributed to the obstruction of parliamentary business, he is the present Attorney-General.
– Day after day he only walks through the Chamber in order to have his name recorded, and never stays more than five minutes.
– No one did more to prevent the last Government from carrying on business than was clone by those who now sit on the other side of the Chamber, and appeal to us with mock solemnity to let business be proceeded with. The honorable and learned member appealed to the House in the name of the country, and I interjected that he had no right to make an appeal in the name of the country, because the country would repudiate this Government to-morrow if it could get its fingers on them.
– And the Labour Party as well.
– We will see about that.
– These conversations across the Chamber must not take place. It is impossible for the honorable member for Parramatta to proceed with his remarks when interjections are uttered in such a tone.
– The Prime Minister is at present absent from the Chamber, and one of the things which strikes one in connexion with this debate is the studied attitude of insult taken by the Government in regard to members on this side.
– It will not pay in the long run.
– I do not think it will. I do not think that this is the way to get on with the business of the country.
– They will find it out before long.
– Yes. Why this conspiracy of silence on the part of both the Labour Party and the Government?
– The Labour Party is tonguetied for once.
– What about the Standing Orders ?
– The question as to the Standing Orders may be waived aside when one remembers what was done by the Labour Party in regard to the adoption of the title of “ Honorable.” After the members of the party had declared that society was rotten at its base, that civilization was a lie and a cancer, the parent of almost every crime and disaster under the sun, we know with what alacrity the Labour Government rushed to the assistance of society and civilization by bringing forward the despatch which created the members of the party “honorable” for life. That, I think, remains the only achievement of their four months’ occupancy of the Treasury benches. The Prime Minister, in declaring the Government policy, used these words -
We have the same policy and the same party.
They have not the same party. The Prime Minister has, amongst other things, succeeded in knocking some of the brains out of his party. By his own traitorous act he has driven from his party some of its most brilliant members. Therefore it cannot be said that the Government party is the same as when the previous Deakin Administration was in power.
– I must draw attention to the state of the Ministerial benches. [Quorum formed.]
– I promise Ministers that they will gain nothing by this contemptuous and insulting treatment. Not only is the Ministerial party not the same as it was previously, but I venture to say that the Prime Minister himself looms up upon the political horizon of Australia very differently from what he did twelve months ago. The same thing has happened to the Prime Minister to-day that occurred to another illustrious man who is no longer in this House. The Prime Minister has scintillated all over the political sky for years past, and has been careful to detach himself from anything that would involve him in obloquy. The parallel between himself and his erstwhile leader is complete. The first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, when in New South Wales, could never be induced to enter the hurly burly of politics. He devoted his attention almost entirely to addressing academic societies on the subject of Federation. The Prime Minister has done the same thing in Victoria. He has shouldered none of the harder responsibilities of office, and has practically occupied the position of a propagandist. Now, however, we have got him down here with the responsibilities of office upon him, and I venture to say that in his case, as in the other to which I have just referred, the people of Australia me beginning to find that the feet of their god are of clay. We have an exhibition of the material side of his make-up in the tactics which he is pursuing at this moment. The Deakin party is not the same by a long way. The Prime Minister went on to 9 -
Parliament is to be afforded, as it has demanded, another opportunity of fulfilling the purpose for which it was elected.
Since that statement was made we have been told by the Attorney-General and others that there was no demand for a practical programme, that only one idea animated honorable members sitting on the Government side of the Chamber, namely to dispossess of office the right honorable member for East Sydney. The pursuit of a vendetta against that right honorable gentleman is the declared aim and purpose of both sections of the members sitting opposite. They have demanded nothing but the expulsion of one man from office. Why ? Not because of anything he has said in condemnation of Socialism. That cannot be the reason, because every utterance of the right honorable member could be more than matched for severity of language, contumely, and obloquy by the adverse criticisms which have been passed upon Socialism by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, also,’ has far surpassed in his condemnation of Socialism any expressions ever used by the leader of the Opposition even in his wildest flights. He said -
The socialist has discovered that it is cheaper to steal cattle and sheep than to breed them.
Here is a plain declaration that honorable members sitting in the Government corner benches represent a policy of thieving.
– He does not think that now.
– I believe he does. I believe that his deliberate opinion is the same to-day as when he made that vituperative speech.
– I am always consistent.
– I wonder what is in the minds of honorable members opposite. The members of the Labour Party say that they are using the Government, and I suppose the Government think that they are using the Labour Party.
– They are both satisfied.
– And neither of them have said anything of the kind.
– Bound together by no common tie, with mutual antagonism separating them “ as far as the East is from the West,” they yet sit cheek by jowl in a conspiracy of silence. There has never been a more humiliating spectacle. The Government has no right on the Treasury benches. It does not possess the confidence of the House or the country. All parties and all leagues condemn the Prime Minister - not one has spoken in his favour. He is kept in office in order that use may be made of him. The delegates at the Inter- State Labour Conference had no word to say of the Prime Minister except in condemnation. How could they have expressed confidence in a man who in a short twelvemonth has made a complete circuit of the political heavens, who has been the main instrument in turning out three Governments, and who has essayed to carry on a fourth Government under conditions which he has already declared to be intolerable? He told honorable members immediately after the last general elections that this was an impossible Parliament. What has made it possible to-day ? He was driven from office, disgusted and angry, by his present allies. What has since improved the prospects of going on with the business of the country? He is trying to operate a Parliament which, upon all the platforms of the country, he has declared to be unworkable. He has objected to the three-party system of Government, and yet he has taken steps to accentuate the revival of conditions which he has condemned. He has denounced the caucus in unmeasured terms, and yet he now submits his policy for its approval. He takes his political bread to be passed through the caucus mould. Everything that was wrong twelve months ago appears right to-day. I venture to say that the honorable and learned member, on his own showing, has violated every sound principle of constitutional procedure. He has done his best to establish the principle of minority rule throughout the length and breadth of Australia. He can exist only by maintaining an attitude of abject servility. He is eating the political leek every day of his life. He has been at this game a long time - he says so himself. In the speech which he delivered some time ago he spoke of having made repeated efforts to enter into an alliance with the Labour Party. He said that he wanted them to be the left wing of his party. He has always been intriguing with the honorable member for Bland. Therefore, what he is doing now merely represents a reversion to the political type which is becoming fixed in his own personality and political notions. He is going back to the position in which he formerly stood. This is no new phase of his character. He adopted reformative methods for a few months, but the principle which operates all through nature, and tends to make everything revert to its type, is operating in this instance, and he is now back again, trying to bring himself into closer alliance with the caucus party. The Labour Party are not going to enter into any alliance. They dare not - their masters have said they must not, and the masters in their case are supreme. It has been declared that at the end of this Parliament all relations between the Prime Minister and the Labour Party must cease. If I had been in the place of the Prime Minister I should have handed my resignation to the Governor-General the moment that declaration was made. Any man with ordinary self-respect would decline to be used as the Labour Party propose to use the Prime Minister.
– The whip of the Labour Party said that the Prime Minister would be opposed at the next election.
– If the Prime Minister is to be opposed by a Labour candidate at the next election, it would be fitting that the selection of the Labour Party should fall upon Mr. Mann, who, now that he is out of the pay and control of the Labour Party in Australia, is turning round and denouncing them as dead slow people, in whom he can see no virtue. He has also taken to advocating physical violence in place of more reasonable methods. It is very strange that this apostle of physical violence should have been unanimously invited to take a seat beside the president at the Inter-State Labour Conference, at which a majority of the members of the Labour Party were present. Consequently it would seem that Mr. Tom Mann was just the proper person to send to Ballarat, because he would have ho scruples whatever in denouncing either the part, with which he has been associated so intimately. or the present Prime Minister. Indeed, he would be a fit and worthy opponent to try conclusions with the latter at the next election. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat appealed to .the Labour Party, almost pathetically, to relax their methods of operation. He said, in effect. “ Make your control mors reasonable. It is perfectly true that I was prepared to ally myself with your Party, and that I have often suggested an honorable alliance. At such times, however, I have always said, ‘ Make your machine such that those who stand by you shall be treated in every respect upon an equal footing with those who subscribe to the Labour platform.” The honorable and learned member obtained an answer to his “proposal from the recent InterState Labour Conference. That body declared, first, that it would not permit any alliance to be made with the honorable and learned gentleman. It then went on to say that instead of making its methods of control more reasonable and lax, it would tighten its control over honorable members of the Labour Party. One of the first things which it did .was to declare that whenever a Labour Government came into power, its members should be elected by the caucus. What is the difference in principle between the caucus selecting the members, to operate a platform, and the caucus selecting the platform, and telling honorable members outside what they must do in regard to it? That is precisely what has happened in this case. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat submitted his programme to the Labour caucus. That body said, .in effect, “ Yes, go on with it, but remember that our alliance is only for a term of twelve months. If it seems to be in the interests of Labour at the next election, we must fight you. We cannot treat you on terms of equality.” Yet the Prime’ Minister is now facing the very position of affairs which he so trenchantly denounced. I predict that after his helping the Labour Party in every possible way, its members will turn round and rend him.
– The honorable member was the leader of the Labour Party once.
– May I remind the honorable member that I was never the leader of the Labour Party in the modern acceptation of the term.
– I thought that the honorable member took the chair at meetings of that party in modern times, because I am referring to only a few years ago.
– It was many years ago. The facts are that I was asked bv honorable members in the New South Wales Parliament to lead the party many years ago. I did so. There were only two planks embodied in our platform, both of which are the law of the land to-day. It was only when the honorable member for Bland and others came to us. and wished to impose caucus conditions upon us, that we rebelled.
– Was not that when the honorable member was taken into the Reid Government?
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is repeating a slander which I have rebutted time and again. May I tell him, once and for ever, that I had severed my connexion with the party for some time before I accepted office, that I had been denounced as a bogus member of it, that the electors ha”d been warned to beware of me, and that a dozen members of the Labour Party had chased me through my electorate months before.
– The honorable member understood the position all right.
– Yes. I understand it to-day, and if the honorable member represents the type of man who is to bring salvation to the labourers of this country, I say, God help them.
– That is a very high testimonial, and I thank the honorable member for it.
– Last night the honorable member for Bland made a short speech to which I wish to make one or two references. He justified his temporary alliance with the present Government bv declaring that there was an exact parallel between the position which the Reid Government in New South Wales occupied some years ago in relation to the late leader of the Opposition, and the support which the Labour Party is at present affording the Prime Minister. I wish to say that there is no parallel between the two’ positions. The present Government, possesses only about half the numerical strength of the Labour Party, whereas the Reid Government in New South Wales were three times as strong as that party. They had no option but to support us. Their only alternative was to support the late Sir George Dibbs and the present Minister of Trade and Customs, who had declared upon the public platform that he would repeal the Payment of Members Act-
– I never did so.
– The honorable gentleman was a member of the Government, whose chief made that pronouncement publicly at Penrith. *
– It never attached to me.
– I do not know what relevancy the honorable member’s statement has to the debate in progress.
– I am merely referring to a parallel which the honorable member for Bland instituted last night.
– I am referring to the honorable member’s statement regarding the proposed repeal of the Payment of Members Act in New South Wales.
– I am merely pointing out that at that time the Labour Party had no option but to support the Government led by the right honorable member for East Sydney. Their only alternative was to turn him out of office, and to put in a gentleman whose name at that time stood for all that spelt Conservatism, including the repeal of payment of members. That matter has to be remembered in connexion with the action of the present Minister of Trade and Customs. Great democrat that he is, he is now sitting with the Labour Party cheek by jowl, and he believes in State Socialism. He alleges that he has always been a democrat. My experience of him is that he suddenly became a democrat when he saw a chance of dispossessing the right honorable member for East Sydney in New South Wales. Before he was permitted to dispossess the present leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Hume had to submit his programme to the Labour caucus. He set out in writing, and forwarded to the secretary of the Labour Party in New South Wales, a communicationin which he offered to undertake certain things if that party would assist him to dispossess the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– I never did anything of the kind.
– Did not the Minister write a letter to Mr. Arthur Griffith?
– I may have written a letter, but the honorable member is misstating facts.
– I am stating facts. It is upon record, in the public prints of Sydney, that the honorable member was written to by the secretary of the Labour Party, who submitted for his consideration a certain programme, and who said, in effect, “ Will you carry these things out if we displace the Reid Government “? To all of those requests, a categorical “ Yes “ was given. These are the terms upon which the honorable member became Premier of New South Wales.
– That statement is sufficiently true to misinform honorable members of what actually did take place. A letter was written, and a reply given, which was not such as the honorable member has stated.
– I can assure honorable members that the facts are as I have asserted. My statement can be proved by reference to the public prints of Sydney, and to the Hansard of New South Wales. I. say, therefore, that the present Government is following the precedent which was laid down by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I do not quarrel with the honorable member. I think that he stands upon velvet over this business. Last night one could not help noticing his chuckle. His face was wreathed in smiles at every reference which was made to his two colleagues. Every barbed arrow which was shot at them caused his countenance to be suffused with smiles. Last night was a positive triumph for him, and I congratulate him upon his most astute course of action. Now, for what purpose has all this been done? Why has this lightning change been made, and why have these conflicting elements converged in the present Government? With his usual bluntness; the honorable gentleman last night declared that protection had been in danger, but was not so now.
– The honorable member is quite right - it is not in danger now.
– I venture to say that the policy of protection will not be altered.
– We do not want any more “ Willis “ episodes here; the thing the Minister has done is disgraceful and dishonest.
– The honorable member is a vile slanderer.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs withdraw that remark. Upon the other hand I must say that the conduct of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is very provoking.
– I withdraw, sir. There is not the slightest justification for the honorable member’s insinuations.
– I do not value the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs one bit. I called him dishonest before, and I say that he is dishonest now.
– Will the honorable and learned member withdraw that statement ? He must know that he ought not to have made it.
– I withdraw it.
– Did the Minister of Trade and Customs withdraw his remark?
– I did.
– A great many quotations have been made from various labour journals in the Commonwealth which I can only describe as a mass of journalistic filth. The single reason for quoting them has been to show that after all the efforts of the Prime Minister to resurrect responsible government, and to abolish the three parties which exist in this House, the Ministry have had to mount a pedestal erected upon amound of journalistic filth. It is set on that pedestal, and the only cement that can hold it together is that to which I have just alluded. It is for this reason alone that these statements are being quoted to the. House. We quote them, not because we subscribe to them, for they are altogether too strong; but to show the vomit that the Government will eat in order to retain their present position of power and irresponsibility. We are told that all this is being done in the interests of protection. I make this prediction, and make it with the greatest confidence, that whatever further protection is possible under the present Administration was possible under the late Ministry, and that whatever form of protection was not possible under the late coalition conditions is not possible in the present situation. The protectionistsof Australia who support the Government in the delusive belief that further protection is now possible, will find that my statement is correct. It must be so for very sufficient reasons. First of all, the electors themselves at the last general election declared against any further tinkering with the Tariff, and fiscal peace was the basis on which this Parliament was elected. Then we know that the Inter-State Labour Conference has emphasized that verdict of the electors, and has declared that the fiscal question must not be raised in the Parliament of Australia. The Prime Minister said to the Labour Party “ Put protection in your programme if you want our support.” The answer given to him clearly and unmistakably is “No protection, but a fiscal referendum.” And until a referendum is taken, no action of any kind having relation to fiscal matters is to be permitted in this House. That is the mandate of the masters of the Government; so that whatever action may have been supposed to be in the interests of protection is no longer so. It has been decreed impossible by the masters of the Ministry outside. If the Prime Minister had any selfrespect - and I venture to say that he has not much left - he would not tolerate such a position of affairs. I do not wonder at the honorable and learned gentleman evincing irritability and nervousness. If ever a man was in a political mess he certainly is, as he will discover before he has proceeded much further under the conditions on which he holds office. The whip will be applied to him constantly from the Ministerial corner. If he were driven from office angry and disgusted before, he will find himself whipped with scorpions next time, because he can- no longer expect to rush into the arms of others in order to free himself from the control of the Labour Party. The next appeal open to him can be only to the electors, and the sooner it is made the better for the country. I should like to make a brief reference to the motives which prompted the famousBallarat speech, which led to the undoing of political parties in this House. The Prime Minister tells us himself that people all over Australia were writing to him. That is a very remarkable reason’ to be offered by a Prime Minister for the upsetting of parties in this House by his own deliberative act. He does not tell us who his correspondents were, but contents himself with a statement that they were interested in protection. The Treasurer gives us the remainder, and, I venture to say, the more substantial part of the reason which animated the making of that speech. The right honorable gentleman said -
No one can believe that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat could take the platform in Victoria, with the great protectionist journal hammering at him, and refrain from saying something on the subject of protection. He could not do it.
In other words, he had to deal with the question, because the Age told him to do so. It appears, therefore, that the members of the present Administration have once more become fierce protectionists because the Age is hammering at them, and says that they must take up that attitude. We are told by the right honorable member for Swan that they could not do anything else.
– There was a reservation to the statement which the honorable member has quoted.
– Nothing of the kind. It was an unqualified statement.
– I was referring to the last election.
– The right honorable member said that, with the great protectionist journal hammering at him, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat could do nothing but speak of protection. That being so, we have the Labour caucus on the one side, and the Age on the other, pumping their views of Government into these honorable members, who occupy the Treasury bench. We see them the puppets of the caucus on the one side, and those of the Age on the other.
– The honorable member ought to quote my speech from Hansard.
– The quotation [ have just read is taken from Hansard.
– But it does not comprise all that I said on the subject.
– I challenge the right honorable gentleman to show me anything in the context to qualify the statement I have read. May I remind honorable members that this zeal for protection is of very recent occurrence. No “mention was made of protection in the Prime Minister’s speech at She opening of this Parliament. The subject, on that occasion, was quietly and carefully excluded from the Government programme. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat and his party went to the country at the last election, backed by the Age, with a declaration that the fiscal issue must be sunk, not for once but for the next two Parliaments, and that statement was quoted by the Prime Minister himself in a recent debate in this House.
– Hear, hear. I was asked (o agree to that as the basis of the coalition. I was asked to agree that fiscal peace should extend over the life of two Parliaments, but would not consent to the proposal, because I did not think we could bind the people.
– Here is a quotation from the Age, which was read in this House -
Mr. Deakin is bound to,insist upon a fiscal peace agreement which will cover not only the life of the present, but that of the next Parliament, practically a binding contract that, except in regard to preferential trade, the Tariff shall remain unaltered for the next five years.
This was the interpretation of the ‘intentions of the Deakin Government at the last general election. There was to be fiscal peace in Australia for five years. The Minister of Trade and Customs who has once more become a rampant, raging protectionist, then said that ten years was a sufficiently short period to fix for the existence of the fiscal peace - it should continue until the expiration of the Braddon blot. That was the suggestion which he made at Albury, but after the matter had been discussed in Cabinet, and when ^ Ministers came to make their political pronouncement to the people of Australia - they, as a Cabinet, said that the fiscal question should rest for at least the next five years. Now we are told that it is a burning question.
– The National League at Ballarat inserted in its programme at the suggestion of the present Prime Minister a provision for fiscal peace for a considerable period. That was only a few months ago.
– Quite so. In spite of this solemn undertaking to the people of Australia - and this is one of the gravest charges I have against the honorable member - in spite of the formation of a coalition in this House upon that understanding which was put in black and white, the Prime Minister tells us that within three months he agreed to a course which the present leader of the Opposition thought would not ‘re-open the fiscal question, but which he was positive would have that effect. If that is not treacherous conduct both to the people and to the coalition, I should like to know what is the meaning of the word “ treachery.” The Prime Minister told us in this House in reply to a statement that I made that he knew when the Tariff Commission was appointed that it would reopen the fiscal question. And that wis’ within three months of the making of the solemn compact with the leader of the Opposition that the fiscal issue should be sunk during the life of the present Parliament. We are told, in the programme that has just been issued by the Government, that it is hoped that the Commission will make reports to the House during this session, and that when they are received thev will be immediately dealt with. So far as the Opposition are concerned, it will be its endeavour to keep the solemn compact that was made with the country. It occurs to me that there is no escape from it - that the keeping of that compact with the country will prevent the honorable and learned member from doing anything of the kind that he suggested in his speech of a day or two ago.
– He has not the remotest intention of doing it. He knows that it is impossible. The report of the Commission will not be presented to Parliament for twelve months at the earliest.
– When the Prime Minister spoke at Ballarat on a recent occasion, he declared himself a Socialist, but the fact seems to have been overlooked by honorable members.
– If he declared himself a Socialist, there may be an alliance.
– This is not my own statement, but that of a prominent member of the Labour Socialist Party. As honorable members will recollect six months before the last Ballarat speech was made the Prime Minister delivered another one in his constituency in which he condemned Socialism, and he joined in the formation of a league with the avowed object of destroying Socialism, declaring that it would bring the country into social slavery. In his last speech at Ballarat, however, he made a different statement, as will be seen from the following quotation from one of the railway journals in New South Wales, conducted by Mr. Arthur Griffith, a prominent member of the Labour Party in that State-
It is almost as difficult to nail down Alfred Deakin to a positive definition of his political attitude as it is- somebody else.
– Why not read it all ?
– Very well. The reference is to the leader of the Opposition. It is well-known that Mr. Griffith is a great friend of the leader of the Opposition -
But at Ballarat he was unusually explicit. When analyzed, Deakin’s position towards State Socialism is that of the Labour Party, plus a little ornamental lace and frilling round the edges, as the following comparison will show : -
Then, in parallel columns, a comparison is made -
Mr. Deakin at Ballarat.
I think it necessary, if no other means be avail able, to favour the nationalization by the Commonwealth of those forms of industry which become weapons of abuse and oppression.
The nationalization of monopolies.
The writer of this article rightly says that the Prime Minister’s position towards Socialism is the same as that of the Labour Party plus a little frill. He then goes on to make another comparison -
Ms. Deakin at’ Ballarat.
To summarize my position with regard to Social ism, I say that in each instance every socialistic proposal must be dealt with as a plain business proposition.
That is exactly what the honorable member for Bland now says. Step by step they are to look for the plums as they ripen - here a little, there alittle, and eventually to reach the Socialistic goal. In other words, he proposes, in the terms of the objective of the Labour Party -
The gradual extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and the municipality.
Mr. Deakin also said on the occasion in question -
In my eyes, State Socialism is a remedy only to be applied with caution.
That is a mere echo of what the honorable member for Bland is constantly saying on the platforms of the country. So here we have an interpretation by a man who knows all about the business, who knows what are the aims and objects of the Labour Party, and is an avowed social democrat of the first water, and he says that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is one too, plus a little frill. This is the fundamental reason why the opposition to the right honorable member for East Sydney was engineered. This is probably what the Attorney-General meant when he said that the combination on the Ministerial side of the Chamber was against Reidism. Why? Because the members of the Government have taken Socialism to their bosoms. I do not say it; a prominent labour man andSocialist has said it.
– Is he the gentleman with whom the honorable member refused to debate the question?
– Yes ; because, amongst other reasons, he insulted me, to begin with. He wished to debate the question with me only because he declared that we were an anti-suicide party, and could not be dragged to the country. Where are the anti-suicides now?
– Not in office.
– They are all anti-suicides now. They are all on the political lifebuoy.
– When the Prime Minister delivered his socialistic speech at Ballarat, his challenge to the Socialists to define their position was only frill, or ornamental lace. He defined the position accurately himself, in language almost identical with that which has been used by the leader of the Labour Party, who could wish for no more accurate description of their methods of procedure. This is the fundamental reason why the Reid-Deakin coalition was dissolved, and the present Government took office.
– Is the right honorable member for Swan in this? He surely cannot be.
- His leader is in it, and I believe that he is loyal to his leader. He has always been a faithful follower of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and it seems that he is going to follow him into Socialism. At any rate, these are the unmistakable declarations of his leader in regard to Socialism. Let honorable members opposite, and particularly those who a month or two ago so fiercely denounced the Socialism of the Labour Party, understand that their leader has declared for straight-out Socialism, although he says that it must be gradually andcautiously applied. In each instance, he says, every socialistic proposal must be dealt with as a plain business proposition. That is what the Labour Party say. and is what the honorable member for Bland says on every occasion. I say that it is impossible to so treat them. You cannot detach this and that proposal from their propaganda, and examine it as a separate business concern. Their proposals are so inter-related that you cannot deal with one without dealing with all. It would be better for a man to take the plunge, and declare himself an out-and-out Socialist at once than for him to tinker with Socialism in this cautious, timid way. Honorable members will recollect that, when dealing with the Tariff, the duties were found to be intimately related to each other, and that we could not consider a proposal to tax an article like sugar without considering its effect upon those interested in articles like jam, biscuits, condensed milk, and other commodities of which sugar is a component part. So it is with Socialism. You cannot put one industry under the aegis of Government control without affecting other industries, and you have no right to give preferential treatment to certain industries, and to give better terms to those employed in such industries, than can be obtained by those employed in the non-favoured industries. Such a thing would not be fair to the workers outside who would have to pay the piper. Where would be the justice of saying to the miners, “You must pay more taxation, in order thatmen employed in other industries may be given higher wages and better conditions than you enjoy”? They would have it that the proposals ofthe Socialists are wrong when put in their proper light, and could not be carried into effect without grave injustice, and the perpetration of the worst forms of class prejudice. The pinch will be felt by those who now call loudest for Socialism when some particular industry is taken over by the State. Suppose that to-morrow the mining industry was taken over.
– If that happened, coal would not be given away as it is being given away now.
– In that case the mines would not be getting the foreign trade which they are now getting only by these competitive prices.
– That is absolutely incorrect, and the honorable member knows it.
– I do not know it.
– Then the honorable member knows nothing of the coal trade.
– I suppose I have hewn as much coal as the honorable member has hewn, but I am prepared to admit that he knows more about coal than I do. The main point I wish to make is that if the coal industry of Australia were nationalized, the Government would close up half the coal mines in New South Wales. Some of our mines are now not paying at all, and others, again, are giving only two or three days’ work a week. The first thing the Government would do would be to employ people where the coal could be most cheaply and easily obtained, and half the mines in the honorable member’s district would be closed and the miners turned adrift, because no other employment is proposed. The gradual application of socialistic proposals will eventually destroy the socialistic propaganda, because the pinch will be so severe that socialistic principles will be repudiated when they begin to operate fully. The honorable member for Bland recognised this in the last speech that he made at the Protestant Hall, Sydney. To the accompaniment of the howls of the audience, he wanted to know where were my tears for the poor man who had been dispossessed by the tobacco combine. The audience howled when that question was asked; but they did not see that the leader of the Labour Party was giving away his whole case. A Government combine would dispossess more labour than a private combine would dispossess. The private combine would dispossess only to obtain larger profits, while the Government combine would turn men away to find more work and better wages for those who remained in their employment. Is it fair to the great mass of people outside that they should have to shoulder the cost and responsibility of maintaining in employment a favoured few lucky enough to be connected with industries taken over by the Government? Socialism is like protection in this particular, that if applied at all it must be applied all round, as otherwise it is grossly inequitable and unjust. Why, the Inter-State Labour Conference, with this statement of the Prime Minister before it, did not agree to an alliance between the Labour Party and the Government, and would not allow the members of the party to sit right behind the Government, and go to the country with them, I cannot understand. The programmes of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour Party are identical, but for the lace and frill of the former. I said when the late coalition was formed, and events have justified my remark, that the supreme test of the bona fides of the man who made it was that he should be in it. His excuse was that he could help the coalition better by sitting behind it than by being a member of the Government. May I remind the House of the close parallel between the action of the Prime Minister in this connexion and that of an intimate friend of his in New South Wales, Mr. Wise, who, when the Reid Government was formed there some years ago, refused to join it for exactly the reason given by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat for not joining the late ReidMcLean Administration ?
– But he stood godfather to it.
– Yes. Before its members had been re-elected, and could appear in the House, he did its work for it He told Mr. Reid. “Although I cannot join your Government, I will sit right behind you, and in that way will be able to do more for the Government than if I were a member of it.” Yet within a few months he had drifted on to the cross-benches, and had become the continued and bitter anta gonist of the man whom he had sworn to defend and help, and eventually put himself out of Parliament by that attitude of hostility. Only one thing is necessary to complete the parallel, and it remains to be seen whether that thing will happen at the next elections.
– The country decided between Mr. Wise and myself, and it will decide between the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and myself.
– The important point is that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat could have taken only one step to show his sincerity in regard to the coalition. He worked in order to bring about a coalition. That was the crucial point. He asked for a coalition - in fact, almost begged for it.
– He did not let me know that he was not going to join until we had practically completed our agreement. The leadership was left over.
– When the facts are investigated, they will show that all the credit and honour are on the side of my right honorable friend. The plain fact of the matter is that he absolutely trusted the Prime Minister, and that the Prime Minister did not absolutely trust him.
– He might have told me so; he need not have kept me in the dark all the time.
– Whilst the Prime Minister was playing with my right honorable friend, and making him believe that he was an honest, strong and unswerving supporter, he was conspiring with other people to his undoing. He stands discredited before the country; his own action has stamped him as a faithless political weakling.
– There is no evidence of that.
– There is abundant evidence of it.
– I knew three weeks before what one of the closest confidants of the Prime Minister was going to do, but I did not know what course the Prime Minister himself intended to take.
– There is a wellknown phrase, which with the alteration of one word seems to me to fit the situation, “To the victors, the spoils.” I would vary that by saying “To the tricksters the spoils.”
– That applies all round.
– To the wreckers the spoils.
– It will always stand to the discredit of the present Government that they performed one of the most appalling political somersaults on record. I do not propose to traverse the statement of the Prime Minister, but I wish to say a few words on the subject of electoral reform. Only the vaguest possible reference was made in the statement of the Prime Minister to that very important matter. We are told that the statistics on which our present system of representation are based are fourteen years old, and one need only mention that fact in order to show the urgency for an alteration of the basis of representation. The honorable member for Bland attempted to justify the action of those honorable members who, in the last Parliament supported the gerrymandering of the electorates. He said that the drought had disturbed the ordinary population conditions, and that the time at which the first proposal for a redistribution of seats was made was not opportune. When the honorable member was told that the drought had now broken up, he denied it, and when challenged on the subject, pointed to one small district in which the drought, if it did not still exist, had only just broken up. The fact is that in all the large States, even in the most plentiful year, there is some spot devoid of rain. There is always a barren droughty spot somewhere, and if we are going to wait until every district in a State is smiling withfertility, we shall never have a redistribution of seats. With all his evasion and all the avoidance of the real point at issue, the honorable member for Bland has said nothing as to what he wishes the Government to do. This matter is more vital to the members of the Labour Party than to any others in this House.
– Then why need the honorable member display so much anxiety ?
– I should not care how it might affect the honorable member, if it did not also affect me. I am suffering as the result of his perfidy.
– How ? The honorable member did not lose office.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has no other idea in connexion with politics than how to obtain place and pay. Office is not everything. If the honorable member took office, he would find that it was not quite the bed of roses that he apparently supposes it to be. It is not a matter of office, but a question of fair and square dealing towards the electors of Australia. We have been in existence as a Parliament for nearly five years, and we have not yet done anything to fully enfranchise the people of Australia. The returns show that an outrageously large number of electors are disfranchised, and that we are violating one of the fundamental principles of our Constitution. I have been taunted with having been at one time the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales. The first plank in the platform of that party at the period indicated was “one vote one value,” and after the lapse of fifteen years, I am standing at this table defending that principle which is opposed by the very men who ought to be its warmest champions. It is not being opposed actively or outwardly, but in the most insidious form - by the process of evasion.
– That is terrible.
– The honorable member may laugh. He is in a safe position - he has to stick to the caucus, to which any political sin does not come amiss. That is one of my objections to the caucus. I have seen things done under the aegis of the caucus rule which have worked the greatest injury to the people of Australia, and which would not have been possible if members had been able to exercise their independent judgment. If it were not for thecaucus, many honorable members who belong to the Labour Party would rage against the present inequalities of representation. But they shelter themselves behind the caucus. They are solid in this political crime, and being safe, they can smile. It is something to smile at, particularly for a member of the Labour Party, when in one electorate represented by a labour member two electors are entitled to only the same representation that is given to one elector in another.
– I am in favour of the proposed redistribution of New South. Wales electorates. The last proposal is a. good one, but the former one was bad - the Barrier is all right now.
– Why is not the honorable member taking some steps to insist upon that scheme being carried out?
– I cannot speak until the honorable member has finished.
– The honorable member cannot speak until the caucus has finished.
– That is not a caucus matter.
– The more shame to the members of the Labour Party.
– It is clear that the Government intend to put off this matter as long as possible.
– Probably until next ses sion.
– All I can say is that the opposition which is being directed to the redistribution of the electorates is of the most scandalous character. By methods of evasion and postponement honorable members opposite are denying common justice to the electors of Australia. It would be far better for them to be manly and open, and to say exactly what they mean, namely, that the present inequalities of representation suit their purposes, and that they care nothing about political principles. The Government say that the question of determining the number of representatives for each State can be dealt with only by means of a Bill. Whoever suggested any other process ? In the present case, the Bill proposed to be introduced by the Government will merely declare what the Constitution has already declared. There is no necessity for that, and the sole object of the Government appears to be to shelve the matter. If the scheme of redistribution, which was recently proposed, had been adopted by the Executive, would it not have been placed before the House, and would not Parliament have had the fullest control over what was proposed? What difference can be made by the introduction of a Bill ? Honorable members appear to have some hazy notion that the late Executive intended to violate the prime principles of parliamentary government. As a matter of fact, the late Government proposed to do exactly what is intended by the new Administration, except that the Deakin Government contemplate cutting the original proposal in two, instead of submitting it intact. This is intended to delay the settlement of the question, and that will undoubtedly be the result. This matter, affects not. New South W ales alone, because the case of New South Wales to-day. may be that of any other State in thenear future. If a gold-field were discovered, say, in Victoria, the tables might be turned within twelve months by a sudden influx of population. Therefore, one is driven to seek for a reason for the evasion of the issue. The Prime Minister blows a cloud of words upon every project he brings before the House. As sure as he wraps up anything in a cloud of words, so surely is he seeking an opportunity to alight on either side of the hedge, as the occussion may seem to demand. It is impossible to obtain a definite statement from him. There is nothing definite about his programme. He puts things forward in a misty, hazy way, blows upon them a cloud of beautiful words, and leaves honorable members to search in vain for an accu- rate statement of his intentions. He has refused to give them even the slightest pretence of an explanation. I repeat that our present electoral arrangements completely vitiate the representative principle upon which not only our Constitution, but our whole parliamentary system is supposed to rest. Where one electorate possesses double the voting power of another, we have in existence the worst features of plural voting and class representation. I marvel that honorable members occupying seats below the gangway do not instantly put an end to this anomalous state of affairs. A democratic franchise, such as we are supposed to enjoy, is a farce, if it is to be crippled in its mode of expression, and I say that we might as well have the worst form of class representation operating in our electoral system as allow the present distribution of seats to remain upon the statute-book of the country. I should be glad - even now - if the Government would state clearly their intentions with regard to the scheme for redistributing the divisions for the election of’ members of this House, and the decision of the Executive, so far as State representation is concerned. Having regard to the vagueness with which reference is made to this matter in the policy speech of the Prime Minister, I fear that the Government intend to -
Promise, pause, prepare, postpone, And end by letting things alone.
I wish to say a word or two in reference to the question of population. Last evening the honorable and learned member for Parkes made a most useful contribution to this aspect of the matter, and I desire to say a word or two upon the same subject. For some time past the Prime Minister has been vaguely talking about the desirability of attracting settlers to Australia. He has been speaking in that fashion for three years, but he has never submitted a single proposition inthe way of materializing his ideas.
– That is not quite correct.
– I think that it is.
– He wrote to every State Government upon the matter.
– What does that action amount to?
– Surely it is getting upon the road.
– I am afraid that the States Governments entertain something nearly akin to contempt for the Commonwealth Government.
– I am speaking of years ago.
– I am talking of our parliamentary procedure since the inception of Federation. Every State” Administration in Australia has been converted into something akin to our enemy. Instead of the Commonwealth Government endeavouring to work cordially with the States Governments, they so act that the latter seek at every turn to protect themselves from what they regard as the sinister influence of the supreme Government of Australia. When, therefore, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat writes a letter to the States Governments dealing with this matter, he might just as well save his time, because they will take no more notice of his communication - and will not do so for some time to come - than if it had been written by “ the man in the street.”
– The Commonwealth Government cannot do anything in the direction of encouraging population without the co-operation of the States.
– Then, in submitting this proposal to the House, is the Prime Minister merely playing a pretty piece of foolery? If the honorable member’s statement is correct, it must be so.
– That does not follow.
– The honorable member says that the Commonwealth can do nothing in the matter.
– Not without the cooperation of the States, and the Prime Minister is endeavouring to secure that co-operation.
– I am pointing out that he is not likely to get that cooperation, having regard to the present composition of the Government, and their attitude towards the various States of the Union.
– What State?
– I am speaking on behalf of New South Wales - a thing which the honorable member has not done in my hearing up to the present.
– I protested against thehonorable member’s calumnies once.
– How are we to attract population to Australia? That is a problem which we ought to face, but it cannot be solved by writing letters no matter how great their literary excellence may be. Neither can it be solved by making pretty speeches throughout Australia, nor by indulging in generalities, but only by seeking to overcome difficulties in every way that may be open to us. What are those difficulties? The Prime Minister is constantly pointing to Canada, whose example he declares we ought to imitate. How can we imitate it? In the first place, we are selling our lands to immigrants in Australia at the highest figure we can procure, whereas, in Canada, the Government give settlers the land. We exact the uttermost farthing from them. Not only that, but immigrants who come to Australia to acquire land have first to find it, and that appears to be a most difficult thing at the present moment.
– The Commonwealth possesses no land.
– The right honorable member for Swan has entirely missed my point. Whilst the Government are prating all over the country about the desirability of attracting immigrants to Australia, and submitting vague proposals for the encouragement of population, I am showing how we might .imitate ‘the example of Canada with advantage. That country puts the immigrant upon his plot of land.
- Mr. Willis will do the same thing in New South Wales.
– I do not know why the honorable member persists in “ poking “ Mr. Willis at honorable members on this side of the Chamber. Mr. Willis never belonged to our party, but only to the party which the honorable member supported.
– He operated while the honorable member’s party was in power.
– The only party to which Mr. Willis ever belonged was that with which the honorable member is identified.
– I do not think that the question of the party to which Mr. Willis belonged has any relevance to the question under discussion.
– I say that our methods of land settlement ‘in Australia practically amount to a lottery gamble, whilst in Canada they represent a free gift. The immigrant who comes to Australia has to go further afield for his home and his land than does the immigrant to Canada, in addition to which he has to incur - after his arrival here - great risk as to whether he can get any land at all upon which to make a home. After he has traversed thou- sands of miles of ocean, bringing with him his little available capital - and no man in Australia can settle upon the land unless he possesses capital - there are various handicaps which he has to face. In the first place, we must recollect in connexion with all our Parliamentary .proposals that the exports of Australia to the markets of the world represent the very life-blood of this Continent, and ‘ will do so for generations to come. What we need to do is to ascertain the handicaps which we have to face in regard to our exportable produce. What are those difficulties? First of all we are very much further removed from a profitable market than are the producers of Canada. Our wheat-growers have to face a handicap of 5d. or 6d. per bushel as against the wheat-growers of that country, owing to the increased distance which separates them from the markets of the world. That is an initial difficulty which must be overcome. In the case of wheat, I repeat that it represents a disadvantage of 5d. or 6d. per bushel. Of course, it must be said in our favour that we produce a better class of wheat than does Canada ; although I doubt whether our advantage in that respect is sufficient to overcome the discrepancy between the two rates of export freight.
– The seasons in Canada, too, are steadier.
– As tHe right honorable member suggests, the seasons in Canada, upon the whole, are much steadier than they are in Australia.
– In Canada the producers suffer as much from cold as we do from heat.
– I should say that they suffer more. Whilst” upon the whole we enjoy a much sunnier climate than does Canada, we have less growing hours of light during the summer months. There they have sixteen or seventeen hours of daylight in midsummer, whilst we have only thirteen hours. When settlers come to Australia their difficulties consist, first of all, in obtaining land, and afterwards when they have been lucky enough to settle upon the soil here, in getting their produce to the markets of the world. These are the problems which the Prime Minister should set himself seriously to face. I am afraid that he will not find a solution of them merely by writing letters to the Premiers of the States, and he cer tainly will not by putting the word “ population “ in the Ministerial programme. A better plan to attract population would toe to abolish every obstacle that can be removed to the flow of immigration to Australia. I would suggest very respectfully to those who imagine that the Government is going to solve the problem affecting immigration to Australia that the one thing that has brought disaster to our financial reputation abroad, that has lowered” our reputation throughout the whole world and done more to prevent immigration to our shores than has anything else, has been the bungling administration of the Government that is once again in power.
– Does the honorable member really believe that?
– I do. The six hatters administrative scandal did more to damage the reputation of Australia than did anything else.
– The lies that were told about it did.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but even from the point of view of my honorable friend, who is so heartily in accord with the legislation in question, swift and condign punishment should have been visited upon the Administration which led to the six hatters bungle.
– The Government did quite right.
– Then all I have to say is that in doing quite right from the honorable member’s point of view they did quite wrong from the’ stand-point of the rest of the people of Australia. A more bungling piece of administration has never been experienced in Australia than that which led to the scandal of the six hatters. Any man with the slightest desire to avoid that scandal could have done so. The Minister charged with the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act knew that the men in question were coming to Australia. He had an opportunity to make a full investigation days before thev arrived here, but, instead of doing so, he remained in his office, taking no notice of what he knew, but rather courting the trouble, thinking no doubt that it would bring him some momentary popularity. To that administrative bungle must be attributed the besmirching of the reputation of Australia in the eyes of the whole world. I am not touching the question of legislation ; I am dealing simply with the matter of administration. Those who were responsible for the six hatters incident are in office again.
– Did the Government of the day really know that those men were being brought here under contract?
– They knew, I presume, or ought to have known, when the men landed at the first port of call in Australia. There was an abundance of time to have settled all the difficulties before they arrived in Melbourne. When a Minister remains in his office, and courts these incidents in the hope, as I have said, of playing an heroic part, and acquiring some momentary popularity, we must be prepared to pay the price for such folly in the eyes of the world.
– Is it not the duty of a man bringing workmen to Australia under contract to approach the Department?
– Whose duty is it to see that the laws are observed? Is it the duty of the man outside, who is seeking to evade them, or that of the man who is responsible Tor their administration - the man who is paid a high salary, and given power and prestige to administer them ? I would remind honorable members of something more. There is a vital difference between the position of the immigrant to Canada and the immigrant to Australia. The latter must be prepared henceforth, not only for a double land tax - a State land tax, and a Federal one - but for a progressive one into the bargain. That is the latest edict of the caucus. He must also be prepared later on to have the very land that he has purchased taken from him by the Government. That is the latest decision of the Socialist Party. I am not going to traverse the merits of that decision ; I merely point out at this stage the difference between the position of the two immigrants.
– Does the honorable member believe in a progressive land tax?
– That is an idle Question when addressed to me at present. It becomes much more important when addressed to the Prime Minister. The question that concerns the honorable member is whether the Government is going to advocate a progressive land tax in accordance with the determination of the party to which he belongs.
– The honorable member might make a few remarks on the point.
– I am merely pointing out that for the future the immigrant to Australia will have to face, not only a double land tax, but a progressive one, with a promise of land nationalization later on.
– -The honorable member used to believe in land nationalization.
– I used to believe in a good many things.
– The honorable member is gradually shedding them.
– I do not care for anything the honorable member may have to say about what I used to do. I believe in following my best judgment, wherever it may lead me, and I shall not allow even the caucus to interfere with that judgment.
– Even that used to occur to a slight extent, at one time, in the case of the honorable member.
– As the honorable member for Bland has addressed so many questions to me,, I should like to know whether he is in favour of a double progressive land tax? Will he say that he personally is in favour of such a tax?
– I shall answer the honorable member when I am on my feet.
– Meantime I point out the difference between immigration to Australia and to Canada. In the case of the immigrant -to Canada, land is given to him ; he is conducted to his plot, established upon it, and every help given him to develop it and to make himself a comfortable home.
– That ls Socialism.
– If it is, I am afraid’ that it is Socialism of a very different character from that which the honorable member favours. If he will agree with Socialism of that kind we shall be with him all the time. I am showing, however, that it is. not Socialism. In Canada a man is given every encouragement to own land, and to cultivate it. The best is done for him by the Government, not with a view to assist a mass of men to socialize their production, but to stimulate him in his individual efforts to better himself. An immigrant to Australia, however, has to go further for his land, with the risk of not getting it when he comes here; he has to pay through the nose for it to the uttermost farthing that we can wring from him, and, when he has done that, he has to face, not only the increased difficulties of expor- tation, but the possibility of a double progressive land tax, and the fact that the land may be taken from him.
– On the reduced value brought about by that progressive taxation.
– Undoubtedly. There is land taxation and land taxation.
– Hear, hear.
– The secretary of the honorable member’s party declared the other day that he was in favour of a land tax. But of what description? A land tax to socialize the wealth of the community ; prohibitive protection to begin with, and then, to make up the revenue, a progressive land tax,and not merely with a view to its substitution for other taxation, but plus other taxation, with the object of buying the wealth of the country. In other words, the land tax favoured by the Labour Party is a proposal to make the people buy themselves out. The honorable member for Bland knows that that is so, and I challenge him to deny it. It is these initial difficulties that we have to face in dealing with the question of population. How is our reputation abroad to be revived ? How is our credit to be put upon a proper basis ? Not by this Government, which has already besmirched it ; not by this Government, which had already destroyed it. Why have not the debts of the States been taken over before now? Simply because of a want of confidence on the part of the States that has been begotten of the administration of the very Ministers now in office. We could not induce the States at the present moment to transfer their debts to the Commonwealth, no matter what advantages we offered them. They do not believe that their finances would be better administered by the Federal Government as it now exists, and the first duty we have to discharge is that of reviving the credit of the Federal administration. When we do that we shall get from the States all that we can take by appealing to the people, who may then trust the Federal Government to administer their affairs in a more advantageous way than is now being done by the States Governments. The Government now in office is really that which created the administrative bungle of the six hatters. It is the same Government that perpetrated the Petri ana scandal.
– That is ancient history.
– Yes; but it is the same Government-
– Talk about assisting the credit of the country by spreading such yarns abroad !
– It is the same party, with the same policy.
– The honorable member said just now that it was not the same party.
– I was then speaking of the personnel of the Government. I certainly did say that the Prime Minister by his own action had knocked some of the brains out of his former Government.
– The honorable mem. bers in question supported the legislation to which the honorable member refers.
– I am speaking, not of the legislative aspect of the question, but’ of the scandalous administration which made the incident of the six hatters possible. I repeat that the same Government are in office, administering the same law, and that they are no doubt prepared to do the same thing again at the first opportunity. This Government comes upon the scene also with its hands laden with further material blessings for the people. We hear of rural bounties and many other things which mean excessive expenditure and, according to the last return furnished by the ex-Treasurer, if our fair obligations were being met to-day, we should be already right up to the limit of our spending power. Instead of lauding themselves up as an allbountiful Government, and proposing to make themselves the almoners of Commonwealth benefits, the first thing Ministers should do is to set about squaring the financial ledger. Let them be financially just before they are financially generous. If they take that course there will be very little left with which to deal out further material considerations to the people of Australia. I do not know that I shall pursue this matter further. This question of attracting population is a most important one, but I repeat that there will have to be some drastic changes in Australia before we can offer to intending immigrants the advantages which are offered to them by people in other parts of the world.
– We should feed and clothe the people we have here first.
– They would be better clothed and fed if we had more people.
– We should have more people if we had more land available.
– The honorable member for Bland is quite right; I have just been pointing that out. But all that will not be altered merely by the insertion of the one word “population” in a Ministerial statement. What are the Government going to do about it? The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has been repeating this shibboleth of population for three years, and ‘we axe to-day no further than we were when the honorable and learned gentleman first began to talk about it. The question has still to be faced. I venture to say, echoing the words used by the honorable and learned member for Parkes last night, that the best way to attract population to Australia is to rehabilitate our position and credit on the other side of the world. In that way we should attract not only people, but people who have the requisite capital to enable them to find useful occupations when they come here, and to do all those things which in time we hope will build up a prosperous rural population in Australia. I say the present Government is not the Government to do that kind of thing. It is not the Government to face this problem. The leader of the Government has been tinkering with this question for three years, and we, have vet to begin to deal with the matter. I do not believe that the present Government will solve this or any other important problem pressing for solution in Australian politics at the present moment. A Government, founded as this Government is. founded, in intrigue, and which can maintain, itself in office only by prostituting every principle of parliamentary and responsible government, can, by its action, do nothing but further vitiate the springs of our industrial prosperity and bring misery, if not absolute destitution, on the people of Australia.
– I do not propose to follow the example set so regularly by speakers on the other side. The members of the party to which I belong have never resorted to this practice of washing dirty linen in the addresses which they have felt called upon to deliver in this Chamber. Such an exhibition, as we have had in this debate, of dirty linen displayed by political washerwomen to the public of the Commonwealth, has not, I think, been exampled in the history of this or any of the State Legislatures. There is really nothing worthy of a reply in any of the addresses which have been delivered by honor able members on the other side. I congratulate the honorable member for Parramatta on his initial effort as deputy leader of the Opposition, inasmuch as the honorable member has at least proved that he is a worthy echo of the leader whom he so tenaciously follows. In the ferocity of his attack upon the Government of the day the honorable gentleman has forgotten that there is such a thing as public honour and public reputation at stake in the debate which is going on. He even excels his leader in the venom of the attack which he makes upon the Government. To us it is amusing to see these gentlemen exhibit the material of which they are made. These general washing-days, selected by washerwomen politicians in this Chamber, would appear to be necessary in order that the people may be, instructed as to the character of the men who have had the control of their destinies in this Parliament. Why does the honorable member for Parramatta - a patriot, no doubt - occupy the position of deputy leader of the Opposition ? Because it was vacated by his predecessor as soon as there appeared to be no immediate opportunity to scale the Treasury bench. In the same way, that honorable gentleman’s predecessor, Sir William McMillan, when be discovered that there was no possibility of his attaining leadership in this House, also vacated the position. Each one would appear to patriotically assume the position prepared to devote his time and service to the country, but as each has seen his chance of power diminish he .has vacated the position, and has left this Parliament and country to the destiny which awaits them at the hands of the notorious Labour Party. During the recess, Sir William McMillan and other representatives of honorable members on the other side have been preaching to the people on their lack of patriotism as electors. They have told them that if the electors would only vote aright they could put an end to the Socialistic regime at once. But where are the gentlemen who have lectured the people on their failure to exercise the franchise? Immediately they find that the object of their ambition is not within reach they fail to attend in this Chamber, and in some instances refuse even to occupy a seat in it. They prefer to wait until the time is ripe for them to secure some of the plums to which reference has been made to-day. These honorable members, who chide the people for their want of patriotism, consider it a great sacrifice to be present in this Chamber, whilst honorable members are addressing themselves to various political questions. That their attendance is spasmodic, and very infrequent, mav be discovered from a little difference, which occurred during the recess, between the honorable and learned member for Parkes and the present leader of the Opposition. Those honorable gentlemen displayed to the public how attentive they were to their public duties, and how often they attended here to watch over the great interests of the people.
– I did not refer to my attendance.
– The honorable and learned member was not responsible for the reference, and I do not think it was to the credit of his leader to adopt the attitude which he did in regard to one who has stuck loyally to him in the past. It naturally grates upon a man who expects from his camp followers, not the loyalty of men who reason together, and work with one mind for a given object, but the loyalty demanded by a despot, to find that one of his followers has an opinion of his own which he is mot afraid to express. The caucus party knows no such despotism as is practised by the king of the late Administration. I agree that it is about time that we got on with the business of the country. Those who are responsible for the delay in attending to public affairs are the plotters who now sit on the Opposition benches, and who have voted for principles which they have denounced in order to secure the downfall of Governments. During the past twelve months, they have disembowelled this Parliament, making it useless for practical work. It was they who brought about the defeat of the Deakin Government, and when the time came, they plotted for the defeat of the Labour Government.
– We voted with the honorable member against the Deakin Government.
– The honorable and learned member’s association with our party did not .give lustre to it. The leader of the Opposition was plotting still more deeply during the recess to bring about the downfall of his allies. He has blamed the honorable and learned member for Ballarat for deserting him. I commend the honorable and learned member for the foresight which enabled him to see that he was being led with a haller to political execution.
While he did not understand the designs of that cunning gentleman who is now leader of the Opposition, he trusted him; but when he saw the writing on the wall, and heard his proposals for an antisocialistic campaign, he knew where he was being led. I cannot compliment either the leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister in any wholesale way, but I think that the latter is to be congratulated for the foresight which enabled him to escape from the doom which awaited him. He was being conducted towards a precipice, and had he gone a little further, would have been flung over by the leader of the Opposition. There is enough matter in the present state of affairs to justify me in speaking for hours.
– In that case, we should have a House to hear the honorable member. [Quorum formed.]
– If I were to follow the example of the leader of the Oppostion, and some of his party, I would discuss at interminable length subjects which to my mind have no application to the present position. I have no desire, however, to follow that example, because I think it a bad one, and I feel that the people have a right to require that we shall now give attention to public business. Therefore, by way of concluding my few remarks, I say that we, the Labour Party - at any rate I speak for myself, as one of the party - feel that we have no part in the quarrel between the two parties who sit on the Treasury and Opposition benches.
– As this is an important party announcement, I think the House should be present to hear it. [Quorum formed.]
– These tactics, I suppose are what we may expect from this very loyal Opposition. Last session, however, although I was most strongly opposed to the right honorable member for East Sydney, when he was called away on public business to attend at some public meeting I undertook to see that there would not be a count-out in his absence, and others entered into that undertaking far more frequently, at the invitation of the then Prime Minister. The conduct which we are now witnessing is the return that we are getting for our consideration. We find honorable members opposite, who profess to be anxious to proceed with the business of the country, rising in their places and wasting time by calling attention to the state ‘of the House. The honorable member for
Parramatta, in the course of his declamatory speech, made his position quite clear. His utterance amounted to a revelation to this House and the country, and I compliment the honorable member upon having at last appeared before the country in such a way that no mistake can be made as to his intentions and desires. Before he had any idea of aspiring to the position of deputy leader of the Opposition, he often claimed that he was as good as a Labour representative; that he had not forsaken his old principles ; and that he stood practically in the same position as when he was leader of the New South Wales Labour Party.
– The honorable member does not represent labour at all. I should be sorry to think that he did.
– I hope that I shall never occupy the same position as the honorable member, that I shall never turn turtle and appear before the country as the enemy of the men I previously professed to serve. I should not like to suggest that the honorable member is impelled by any ignoble motive, but, at any rate, I have no desire to emulate his example. It will be of no use for the honorable member to again tell the people of New South Wales that he is as good as a Labour representative. The Labour Party can claim that, whether on the Government benches, in opposition, or on the crossbenches, they have at all times done credit to themselves, and have retained the respect of the public. No matter what may be said against our principles, it must be admitted that we have given the closest attention to our duties, and have endeavoured to push on the business of the country. When the Watson Government were in office they knew the value of their powers, and exercised them as far as possible in the public interest. The moment they found that they could no longer occupy office with, honour, they resigned their seats. We are now supporting a Government with a programme - not a blank sheet of paper, such as that which the leader of the Opposition presented honorable members. The intentions of the Government have been made quite plain, and we are . anxious to proceed to work. The leader of the Opposition admitted that we had defeated his attempt to bring our party to political destruction, that we had seen the danger of allowing him to persevere in the course which he had mapped out for himself. I believe that the public will agree that we have saved the country from disaster, and that we have relieved the Parliament from a false position. We had to make our choice between two evils, and we have concluded that, for a time, at any rate, it will be to our interest, and to that of the public, to support the present Ministry. The honorable member for Parramatta had nothing to say in denunciation of the Labour Party; but his criticism was directed entirely against the occupants of the Treasury benches. Such is politics. Office ! office ! office ! is the cry of the members of the older .parties to whom principles are of no account. I do not intend to detain the House any further, because I think that we should proceed with the work that lies before us without any delay. I would urge honorable members, in the public interest, and for the sake of their own political reputations, to at once cease fighting and snarling at one another, and settle down to business.
– I do not know that I ever rose to address the House with greater reluctance than I feel upon the present occasion. It seems to me that we have reached a very sad state of affairs indeed, and I am sure that the electors of the Commonwealth now view the way in which public business is being mismanaged in this House with the greatest consternation. For some time I have felt a desire to embrace ‘the earliest opportunity of bringing prominently under its notice the question of party, government, with a view to obtaining a decision upon it. It seems to me that the events which have transpired during the past few weeks have emphasized the necessity of taking some such action at the earliest possible date, in order that we may discharge our duty to our constituents, and carry on the business of the nation with more ability than we have hitherto been able to display, owing to the conflict between parties in this House. I am sorry that) the feelings of grief which I experience have been occasioned very largely by a politician for whom I have always entertained the sincerest admiration and respect. I refer to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I recognise that, constituted as the House is under the existing system of party government, evils will crop up from time to time. I am quite prepared to admit that, under that system, we must be sometimes confronted with moles such as those whose under- ground operations have played such a large part in the recent change of Administration. I do not blame the Minister of Trade and Customs in the smallest degree. He seems to have come in for a large share of vituperation during the present debate, but to my mind he occupies a position which, cannot be. challenged. From the very first he set himself up as an open and declared opponent of the coalition Government upon the ground that he sympathized with the Labour Party. He stood upon his principles, and was content to wait until that party were once more in the ascendant. Consequently, I cannot urge anything against the honorable member for Hume, nor can I say much against some other honorable members who took such a prominent part in bringing about the recent change of Government. The same sort of forces are always at work, especially amongst political mediocrities, who take advantage of every opportunity to make it impossible to carry on the affairs of government unless they have some share in the emoluments and honour which pertain to the occupancy of the Treasury benches. -But in the case pf a gentleman like the Prime Minister, who stands head and shoulders above so many honorable members upon the opposite side of the chamber, who voluntarily’ subscribed to the terms agreed upon by the coalition Government,” and who invited the rest of us to share in the responsibility of creating that Government
– He took us all in.
– He did. That is the feeling which I experience in addressing the House. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat took a prominent part in framing the agreement under which the coalition Government was called into being. He refused to accept office in that Ministry - a decision which I could not understand at the time, but upon which recent events seem to have cast some light. I say that we have arrived at a stage in the history of Australia when we are compelled to consider whether the system of party government is the best that we can adopt. It seems to me that if we can effect a coalition between two parties there is no reason why we should not effect a coalition between three, four, or five parties. Honorable members would then have the power of nominating the administrator of each Department of the State, and of giving the position to the man by whom its affairs would be best administered. We should thus get rid of the terrible party struggle which has absorbed so many months in every preceding session, and which is bringing Federation into public contempt. The action of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat constitutes really one of the saddest experiences in my brief political life. I did think that he would be loyal to the compact made with the right honorable member for East Sydney, in the arrangement of the terms of which he took so prominent a part. I think that I was the first to advocate, in this House, the formation of that coalition Government. At one time, indeed,_ I went so far as to express my willingness to sacrifice one or two of my political principles in order to bring it about. Eighteen months ago I thought that Ave had reached a condition of affairs when it was’ necessary, as the Duke of Wellington remarked upon a memorable occasion, “ to carry on the Queen’s Government.” It seemed to me then - as it seemed to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat - that the state of political affairs was such that it was impossible for any party to carry on the business of the country, in the absence of some agreement with either one of the other parties. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat invited the formation of the late coalition Ministry, and led myself and others into supporting him in creating it. A definite understanding was arrived at between two considerable parties in this House to work in unison for the principles which they had in common; and to make subsidiary those principles in regard’ to which they disagreed. In the whole course of political history nothing could have been clearer, more concise, or more easily understandable than that agreement. I regret that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat did not accept office in the Ministry. At the time - I do not think that I am disclosing any secrets of party organization - I think that the party to which I belong and the right honorable member fbr East Sydney himself would have been quite content if the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had been made Prime Minister, assuming that arrangement to have been an indispensable condition of his joining the coalition. For reasons I cannot analyze, he saw fit to decline the position. He thought it would be better for him to remain outside. I believe he said that he would not like to stand on the other side of the House as a member of that Administration, and see opposed to him’ some of those gentlemen with whom he had worked in close political connexion for some years. Now, what is the result? By his own action he has placed himself in opposition to gentlemen with whom he had worked for very many years, and whom he induced to enter the coalition Ministry. He has forced me to stand opposite to him and to bitterly criticise him as I must do. That is nothing to the honorable and learned member ; but it is something to me that, after I had entered into this compact, after I had agreed to sink some of my political principles for the good of the country, I am forced now to make what I consider the first personal attack I have ever made upon any man. It is something to me that his action has forced me into that position. When I met my constituents a few months ago to ask them to indorse the action I had taken, I pointed out how necessary it was to get stable government, how necessary it was to have enough support in the House to carry out whatever proposals were required to complete the establishment of this Federation. When I pointed out that nothing could have been done without the sinking of some principles on my part, and without the sinking of some principles on the part of others ; when I further pointed out that in all this we had the loyal support of one of the ablest politicians here, in the person of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, some man in that audience asked : “ How do you know that you have got him?” I answered straight out. because I honestly believed what I said, “ We know that we have got him, because we have his written promise. He is a man of unimpeachable political integrity, and we know that we can altogether rely upon him.”
– I might have said the same thing a thousand times.
– Yes j this view was honestly held and expressed by me. I can hardly express to the House the feeling had upon reading the Ballarat speech, which was delivered on the 26th June last. Various honorable members have sought to explain away that speech ; its author has sought, to explain it awa’y ; but no amount of explanation- will ever explain away the fact that in that speech for the first time the honorable and learned gentleman declared his explicit intention of breaking up the coalition, in the formation of which he took so prominent ‘a part. No amount of explanation will ever get rid of the fact that 99 per cent, of the people of the Commonwealth, upon- reading the report of that speech next morning, like myself, came to the conclusion at once, “the fat is in the fire,” or “ it is Reid’s notice to quit,” or “it is the end of the coalition Government,” or “it is an effort to bring back a protectionist Government.” In all directions, no matter how the feeling was expressed, it was stated most definitely and explicitly that this act of the honorable and learned gentleman was an act of political treachery by which the coalition had been ruined. I cannot understand the honorable and learned gentleman. Look at the speech as you will, view it with all the explanation which he and others have been able to give, the fact remains that the intention was clear and definite, that he. was determined to wreck the coalition Government which he had helped to form. I cannot find for myself, nor have I had offered to me, any sufficient excuse for this action on the part of the honorable and learned gentleman, whose integrity, as I say, through a long course of political history, has made him one of the most admired men in our midst. When the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking this morning, I asked, “ What is Reidism ‘ anyway ?” because it is said that this action was taken to preserve the country from what is called “ Reidism.” My honorable friend sought to give me an answer; but the answer I wish to get is from those who advance the statement as a sufficient reason for the conduct of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. What is “Reidism?” I ask. I can see nothing at all in the expression, because as far as I am able to understand, the right honorable member for East Sydney loyally abided by the terms of the agreement, and was prepared to go on with the Business of the country, carefully and, I think, skilfully adopting, with good reason, I believe, what might be called non-contentious measures, so as to pave the way for a subsequent appeal to the electors of the Commonwealth to decide how its future government was to be carried on. If “ Reidism “ means anything at all, surely it would mean, as some persons have implied, that there was to be an effort to sneak in free-trade under the domination of the right honorable and learned gentleman While he was at the head of a coalition Ministry. The only possible ground there could be for such a belief - and it is of the flimsiest nature - was the fact that the more immediate and more numerous body of his supporters were representatives of New South Wales, who were mostly free-traders by conviction. But I can assure the House that the organizations which were initiated in New South Wales in support of the principles which the coalition was formed to carry out, ha’d not the slightest reference to the question of free-trade. I studiously declined to take part in any free-trade meetings in New South Wales after the coalition party was formed. On several occasions when I was invited to attend or address meetings in the interests of freetrade, I declined to go. I said, “ I have loyally adopted the principle that we are to abide by the terms of the fiscal peace until such time as we can go to the country again, and get some other mandate.” This principle of fiscal peace was never one which I adopted. At the last election I came out definitely again as a revenue tariffist, who was determined, if the opportunity arose, to endeavour to get the Tariff amended in certain directions in the interests of providing a larger revenue, and of giving freer play and fairer opportunity to our great primary industries. These were my determined convictions, and I made concessions in agreeing to the combination for specific purposes - purposes which at the time I believed to be most invaluable to the welfare of the Commonwealth. At the last election, I was fought by an opponent who placarded the constituency with the cry of “ fiscal peace “ in blue ink on a white ground, and whose funds were provided by the honorable member for Hume and his party, who wished to knock me out on my fiscal belief. How is it that today I am met with a revival of the fiscal controversy from the very men, at any rate from some of them, who were instrumental in trying to knock me out of my constituency and who subscribed money to pay the expenses of my opponent - who tried to get him returned on no other ground than that of the desirableness of maintaining fiscal peace. As I said, I did not stand at that time for fiscal peace. I was returned for fiscal war, and was prepared for war if it arose. But I have often had occasion to remark that consistency to principle is a matter of com paring the magnitude or relative value of one principle with another. It was” of no use carrying on fiscal war when no good could be derived from the warfare. There was other work to be done ; there were other principles which divided this House. The great machinery measures necessary to the complex tion of Federation had to be attended to, and, as I said before, I was one of the first to suggest the idea of a coalition Ministry, which would enable us to pass those measures, many of .which are of a noncontentious and non-party nature, and could have been more thoroughly considered and determined in a House where we had fiscal peace for a few years, than in a House where fiscal feeling was rampant. I agreed to fiscal peace when I saw there was no other alternative; and now supporters of the right honorable member for East Sydney are accused of endeavouring to introduce free-trade principles under the cover of the late alliance. I ask the people who make that charge in this House, as well as outside, what evidence they have. I am in the counsels of the party, and I know very well that no action was there taken. We never thought of such a thing for a moment.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council is on the Sydney committee of the Anti-socialistic League at the present moment.
– And many other protectionists were working with us up to a point. There came a time, though very late in the day, when it was seen that scheming, underground engineering, and mole burrowing was going on. About two months ago a meeting was held, with a view to opposing the Labour Party by a coalition of the other two parties, in my constituency of South Sydney, and just at the last moment I received” from many men, who were, notable protectionists in the district, a refusal to attend the meeting, because they thought the question of parties was not vet decided. It is quite evident now that, so far from the free-traders trying to do anything of the kind suggested, it was the opposite fiscal party who were undermining the agreement which had been arrived at, and were promising all sorts of new things if only the protectionists held back from the combination. Can honorable members who say there was any sort of treachery on the part of the free-traders point to a single fact or incident to support the charge? As one who is in the counsels of the party, I, for one, refused to have anything to do with the fiscal issue. I declined to have anything to do, even with the old Free-trade Association of New South Wales. When I was spoken to by the secretary of that association with reference to the continuation of its organization, I said to him - “ We are bound as honorable men to take no measures to uphold or disseminate the principles of free-trade ; we must, as honorable men, representing constituencies of the Commonwealth, refuse to add to our strength or interfere in any way with the fiscal truce.” Then there came that bombshell of the Ballarat speech. I know that the Prime Minister has explained that he meant nothing by that speech. It is difficult sometimes to find out from the words of politicians exactly what they mean, but it” is certain, as I said before, that ninety-nine out of every hundred of the people of the Commonwealth had no doubt whatever what the speech meant. To view that utterance in its least objectionable light, it was an effort to damn the movement with faint praise. There was a manifestation of this spirit on the part of the honorable and learned member - that he was “ willing to wound and yet afraid to strike.” Put what complexion we like upon the speech, the fact remains that it was, as stated by the Melbourne Age, a definite “notice to quit “ - a notice to quit which, I believe, the Age had more influence in bringing about than, perhaps, any other power in the community. During the whole period of this amalgamation of parties, there had been a struggle, unknown to me and unseen by many, between the Government as it existed - composed partly of friends of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and partly of his old political enemies - and a combination of those who remained outside hoping for some turn of affairs to bring them back into office with the members of the Labour Party. There had been a constant struggle going on, “pull devil pull baker,” - a neverending contention as to which way the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was to be pulled, and finally the devil got the best of it. That may be one of the indents of party politics, but to my mind it is the last straw - it is the element that condemns the whole system. I have been told in all directions that if we initiate a system by which each Min- ister of the Crown shall be individually and separately responsible to this House, we shall create all sorts of difficulties and evils of which we do not now dream’. But I say there cannot be suggested or imagined a bigger difficulty than has been created by the treachery .of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I regret to have to say this, because, as I have remarked before, I regarded the honorable and learned member as one of the most admirable men in our political life - as one of the most gifted and best qualified members of this House. But the sad fact remains that he, who- is a supporter, I believe, of the system of party government, has given to that system its “knock-out” blow; and it will take him many years to get over the effect on his personal reputation of that Ballarat speech, that significant instance of political treachery. The right honorable member for Swan, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and a number of other honorable members now on the Government side of the House, were glad to get rid of the trouble created by the domination of the Labour Party, and we need not go beyond their public utterances for confirmation of. that fact. The right honorable member for Swan even went so far as to lift the curtain which is supposed to be religiously closed over the proceedings of Cabinet Ministers, and let out the fact that he frequently felt the evil of the domination to which I have referred to be so great that in his opinion no man ought to be called upon to bear it.
– I do not think I said that, or that I ever betrayed Cabinet secrets.
– I am not sure of the right honorable member’s exact words, but I unhesitatingly affirm-
– I was not a prisoner; I could have left the Cabinet.
– The right honorable member will admit that he expressed himself as being glad to get rid of the trammels of office under such conditions.
– The honorable member is not giving a fair construction of my words.
– I say, also, that honorable members, who now occupy seats on the Ministerial benches, have publicly and privately expressed themselves as being glad to get rid of ian incubus - glad to give up a position which was intolerable - and to welcome a strong Government which could deal with the great questions which still remained for settlement. Within a few days, we have seen a whole troop of those men going back to their “vomit.”. The expression is not what one would call-
– It is classical, and, further, it is scriptural, though perhaps it is not a pleasant phrase, but it is the only term I can find that absolutely expresses the position of men, who could, within a few months, for no earthly reason that I have been able to find, except their desire for the honours and emoluments of office, take up their present position.
– They ought not to be treated with contempt.
-“ Vomit “ is a term used to express that physiological action which takes place when we cannot digest something - when something we take is nauseating, irritating, or poisonous - which must go when one’s gorge rises. This is a fair analogy of what took place when honorable members opposite threw off the Labour Party and joined the coalition. There was a fair, legitimate, open, loyal undertaking carried out by honorable members on this side with absolute adhesion to principle - not only to the letter, but to the spirit of the undertaking. But honorable members opposite have given it up for no reason that I have heard of that is at all satisfactory. The last reason I heard was from the Treasurer - that “ we were not going to put up with being imposed upon.”
– What I said was that we were not going to be “ treated with contempt.”
– How was any honorable member opposite treated with contempt, either by the right honorable member for East Sydney, or by any member of his party? The only contempt I can imagine was the feeling generated in the minds of honorable members at finding themselves left out of power. The Prime Minister did not wish to take any part in the coalition Government from the dislike of seeing opposite to him some of those men who had worked with him in the past. But he has now come back into power, and he sees opposite to him not only some of those men with whom he previously worked, but, in the person of the late Treasurer, the late Minister of
Trade and Customs, and the late Minister of Defence, he sees three of his principal supporters - three of his principal coadjutors. They are bound as honest and loyal men - men of their word - who had entered into an agreement, to say that they cannot possibly understand the action of the Prime Minister. Like a certain theological virtue, it “passes all understanding.” No adequate explanation has yet been given. It is one of those political mysteries, like that of “The Man with the Iron Mask,” which remain mysterious for years and years before they are explained. When I think of the circumstances, my feelings induce me to go nearer than I have ever been in my life to making a personal attack upon any man in politics. The Prime Minister has fallen from my esteem. He has delivered a blow against the institutions of our country, from which it will take them a long time to recover. He has departed from the principles of constitutional government for which he and others made such a gallant fight but a few months ago. Only last year he said that the then position was intolerable, and that there would have to be an amalgamation of two parties out of the three. He tried to amalgamate with the Labour Party, on terms which would be honorable and acceptable to himself. He failed in that. Then he made proposals to the present Opposition party. These proposals were finally adopted. They have been abided by loyally by members on this side of the House. They have been scandalously set aside by the Prime Minister. I say, again and again, that we have had no such explanation - no excuse - for his action, as would rehabilitate that honorablegentleman in the reputation which he once enjoyed. , We have had no excuse, no explanation that is adequate to the circumstances. I regret to have seen the honorable and learned gentleman in such a position. An appeal has been made to us by the Attorney-General, who tells us that we have to do the work of men. We have had the work of men to do all along, and that work, I am sorry to say, has not been done. Much of it remains to be done. I will respond to that invitation to join with others to get the work of the country discharged. I will assist the Government or any Government, as far as I can, and as far as their proposals agree with my principles, to get that work done in as short a time as possible, consistently with doing it well. I will not oppose their measures simply because I have a very strong opinion as to the way in which they came into office - that they were conceived in political treachery, that they were brought into office by an act of political shame, which is not to be compared with anything in the history of this country. I am prepared to assist” them to carry out the work of the country, but the fact remains that the country cannot but entertain feelings of sincere grief that a man of such great reputation, whose political integrity was at least- equal to that of any other politician in the Commonwealth, should have descended, for reasons which no man can understand, to an act of political treachery, by which a Government which might have done good work for the country was destroyed. I do not altogether agree with the action taken bv my right honorable leader in meeting this Parliament with the determination, after hearing the declaration of the present Prime Minister, to bring about a dissolution of the House, and to make an appeal to the country. The right honorable member was guilty of what I consider - despite his great qualifications in political affairs - to be a tactical blunder. I think that the proper course for him to pursue was to go on with the work of the country, despite the fact that he had received such a staggering blow from his foremost supporter. There was no reason- for stopping the work of government. The issue has shown, I think, that the view I then took was correct. I think it would have been wiser on the part of the right honorable member if he had forced the present Prime Minister to complete the action which he had taken, by committing an open act of treachery in this House. It would have been better for the country if the right honorable member had brought forward the whole of the measures which he had intended to introduce, and which, in greater or less degree, are the measures which the present Government intend to propose. In fact, they have promised to bring them in. The right honorable member, would have been better advised if he had proceeded with those measures, leaving the present Prime Minister to complete, openly if he intended to do so, his act of political treachery.
– Matters of personal honour are best decided by the men most affected.
– That is not the way in which national questions must be considered. There is too much of settling these matters in the way which best suits leading politicians personally.
– Surely a man is entitled to decide as to what is in conformity with his own honour !
– But if a man puts himself in the position of leading a great party in this country - of leading this House - he has to consider before himself the Commonwealth and the people whom he represents.
– Have I not done that ?
– It would have been better for the right honorable member to go on with the business of the country, leaving honorable members opposite to decide what action they were going to take under the circumstances. The position of the right honorable member would have been stronger from the first if he had done that. I saw, with what little prescience I have, that it was almost impossible for the Governor-General to grant the right honorable member a dissolution under the circumstances. The supporters of the present Government were enabled to put the matter in such a way that it seemed to me that from constitutional precedents, it would be utterly impossible for His Excellency to dissolve Parliament. The then Opposition were able to show that they were prepared to go on with the business of the country. Consequently*, the right honorable member put himself in the wrong from that time on.
– Losing office is not putting one’s self in the wrong, necessarily.
– Losing office does not cover the whole ground. There was the matter of carrying on the business of the country. The fact remains that we have not in this country septennial Parliaments. This is a triennial Parliament, and it seems to me to be improbable that for some time to come we shall be able to abolish the three parties that we now have. There might be individual changes, but all that could happen as the result of the expense and trouble of a general election would be the return of seventyrive gentlemen more or less evenly divided into three parties, so that the balance of power would rest with no one of them. Thus I think that nothing was to be gained by attempting to shirk the responsibility of going oni with the business of the country, although I can well understand the action of the late Prime Minister, in view of the treatment hereceived. From that time onward there has been a struggle between Box and Cox. That has been our difficulty in this Parliament. In my young days a famous farce, entitled “ Box and Cox,” was very popular. It dealt with the troubles of a landlady who had but one bed on which one lodger slept by day, and another by night. On one occasion the two lodgers camehome at the same time, and then the landlady’s difficulties commenced. The difficulty of this Parliament has been its inability to simultaneously put the right honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat into the same political bed together. If we could have done that, many of our difficulties would have been solved, and probably the political treachery of which we are now complaining would not have transpired. The position in regard’ to these two great leaders reminds me of the line in Pope’s Prologue to the Satires -
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne.
A cablegram published to-day is also apposite, for it tells us that the Sultan of Turkey fears that an attempt has been made by his brother to bring about his assassination by means of a bomb. Our difficulty is that we cannot put the two honorable gentlemen to whom I have referred in the one political bed at the same time; and until we solve that problem we shall be always in danger of frequent Ministerial crises. We shall be always in danger of a stop being put to the work of governing this country, and shall be exposed to all the difficulties and scandals arising from party intriguing for possession of the Treasury benches. I hope, therefore, that at a very early date we shall solve the question of how the Executive of this country is to be selected and dominated by the will of the House, each member of the Ministry being made individually responsible to that will. That, to my mind, is the only solution of the difficulties with which we are confronted. It is the only way in which we shall reestablish the belief of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament. There is no doubt that the people are inclining to the view that Federation has not been a success; that the Parliament is not what it ought to be ; that we have not reached that rarer atmosphere and higher plane which was predicted ; and that we have, in fact, adopted all the evil practices that have been the main source of trouble in the Legislatures of the States. The feeling of the public is that we have not placed ourselves beyond these evils, although under our Constitution, if we choose to exercise it, we have full power to do so. This is one of the points which have been brought out prominently by the present situation ; but nothing can overshadow the fact that an honorable and proper undertaking entered into by honorable men has been broken and broken so disgracefully that I do not think honorable members opposite will be allowed for manyyears to forget it.
– I would suggest to the Government that the debate might, at this stage, be adjourned in accordance with the usual custom 011 Fridays.
– Are there any other honorable members of the Opposition who wish to speak?
– There are; otherwise, I should not have asked for the adjournment.
– I think we have reached a stage at which I may fairly ask the leader of the Opposition whether he is prepared to say that this debate will be closed without doubt on the next clay of sitting.
– I can only say that there is not the slightest desire on our part to prolong the debate one moment beyond the time necessary to allow the legitimate remarks of honorable members to be heard. I cannot apply the gag to honorable members on this side of the House. We have not even the caucus, but without consulting some of my honorable friend’s, many of whom are absent, I cannot give the Prime Minister the assurance for which he asks.
– I thought that perhaps the right honorable member had consulted his colleagues.
– No. If I knew how many honorable members of the Opposition wished to speak, I might be able to give the assurance which the. Prime Minister seeks, but I can at all events, say that there is not the slightest desire on our part to go beyond a fair discussion of public matters such as has taken place on previous occasions of a similar character.
– I do not see my way to oppose the request of the honorable member for Macquarie, although I should have been glad, if possible, to see the debate concluded to-day.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sydney Smith) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin, for Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act for the Encouragement of Manufactures inthe Commonwealth.
That Sir William Lyne do prepare and bring in the Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That, under standing order No. 214a, the proceedings on the Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of British New Guinea as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and for the Government thereof,” which were interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament on Thursday, the 15th day of December, 1904, be resumed at the stage then reached in connexion with the said Bill, and that the further consideration in Committee of the whole House of the amendments made by the Senate in the Bill be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
– I wish to know whether the amendment which I moved in this Bill when it was considered in Committee on a previous occasion, will betaken into consideration, if this motion be carried ?
– I think that amendment was disposed of.
– No; I talked the Bill out.
– That was later. The proceedings will be resumed at the stage, whatever it was, that was reached when they were interrupted by the prorogation.
– I think it would be wise to leave this matter over until next week. We are here initiating a new principle. The standing order governing this matter was brought down and agreed to somewhat hurriedly last year, and rightly or wrongly, I am of opinion that the motion now made is in conflict with section 56 of the Constitution. That is not merely my opinion; but it is held also by a number of legal members of the House. There is more involved than conformity with a standing order of the House.
It might be so narrowly interpreted, as subsequently to be found injurious, in connexion with questions which might crop up under the Constitution, and on the other hand, we must guard our rights, and todo so it may be wise to interpret the Constitution in the broadest possible way. Another point should be mentioned, and that is that, since the Bill was introduced and passed by this House, additional information has come to hand in the last report from New Guinea, and in a paper laid on the table some time ago dealing with questions to which I referred when the Estimates for New Guinea were going through. This is the only motion on which we can have a general discussion of the various matters dealt with in the Bill. I believe it is well known that wherever an attempt has been made to take up a lapsed Bill under such a standing order as we adopted last year, the proposal has led to a longer discussion than would have been involved in a re-introduction of the measure. In this particular instance I think we should have an opportunity to discuss the motion, and personally I should very much like to do so. It is too late to enter upon such a discussion to-day, and if I do not do so I shall have lost my opportunity until the Estimates come on, when perhaps the same attention may not be given to the remarks which honorable members have to make. Other honorable members may desire to say something on the motion, and in the circumstances I suggest to the Prime Minister that it would be wise to postpone it until next week.
– If the Prime Minister accepts the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy, I have no desire to speak at this stage.
– If the Prime Minister replies that will close the debate; but if the honorable and learned member thinks it necessary to continue the debate on another day, it is competent for him to move that it be adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Conroy) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). -I think honorable members are aware that my desire in moving the motion is that when we dispose of the motion for the printing of papers laid on the table, we shall be able to proceed with business.
– I understand that.
– I am not proposing that we should do anything in regard to this Bill to-day.
– It is only on this motion that we can have a discussion.
– What discussion?
– A general discussion upon the Bill. A number of honorable members were absent from the Chamber when the Bill was finally passed here, and in ordinary circumstances it would not have been passed in the way itwas.
– I have done my best in pushing on these matters for consideration, and wish to have some business ready to go on with immediately.
– Could not this motion be left over until next week.
– I will ask honorable members to be ready to deal with the motion on Tuesday.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to commerce with other countries.
That Sir William Lyne do prepare and bring in the Bill.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Valuation of Imported Harvesters. Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the House to a very serious thing which has taken place in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department. The facts of the case are briefly these : The Minister of Trade and Customs, of his own volition, has raised the valuation of imported harvesters required by the farmers of Australia from something like£38 -
– No ;£30 odd.
– Up to £65.
– The Minister has not raised it ; he is only taking the correct valuation.
– There is a proper remedy for that. If the Minister has any idea that imports are being undervalued, why does he not put into force section 235 of the Commonwealth Customs Act, under which it is provided that whoever wilfully makes any false statement shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and shall be liable to imprisonment with hard labour for any period not exceeding four years. My complaint is that the Minister of Trade and Customs, without seeking the advice of Parliament, and without endeavouring in any way to deal with those who are supposed to have undervalued imports, and merely because it pleases him to say that there has been undervaluation, whether that is correct or not - and evidently the honorable gentleman does not believe that it is, or he would have enforced the section of the Commonwealth Customs Act to which I have referred - haspractically said that, in future, the duty on imported harvesters is to be raised from 12½ per cent. to over 25 per cent. This is a matter about which Parliament should be extremely careful. It is we, in Parliament assembled, who fix the Customs duties, and not Ministers. I do not propose to suggest now the opportunities which this would afford for fraud, but it is clear that ifwe are to permit this kind of thing, and allow Ministers to be the persons to determine the Customs duties to be imposed, they may, in the same way, raise the duty upon any article from 25 per cent. to 125 per cent., and actually bring about prohibition of its importation. I shall not here debate the question whether protection is a wise policy or not, but I say that it is an infringement of the rights of Parliament for a Minister to take it upon himself to deal with Customs matters in the manner complained of. Let me put the matter from another point of view. Suppose another Minister of Trade and Customs comes into power, and declares that the valuation of these harvesters shall be not £65, but£25, surely protectionists would consider that they had some grounds for objecting to such a thing? It willbe the most serious thing which has happened in this community if we permit the Minister of Trade and Customs for the time being to determine what Customs duties shall be imposed. If the Minister really believes that there has been undervaluation of imports, let him enforce the Customs Act. We have made provision for that, as I have explained, and, moreover, under section 240, three times the value of the goods can be claimed from those who have undervalued imports. Surely there is a sufficient duty imposed on harvesters, which are used solely by the farmers? They ought not to be the only class singled out for a special impost in the interests of any manufacturer. What has become of the Labour Party? Are they not going to see that justice is done to the farmer?
– We have already been swindled by the importers of these harvesters.
– I am not dealing with that point. It may be that honorable members opposite will, later on, say, “We will make the manufacture of harvesters a Government Department.” The point I am dealing with is that at the present time the Minister of Trade and Customs has it in his power to increase the taxation on the farmers by raising the duty on harvesters, and Parliament alone should Have that power. What renders the question all the more serious, to my mind, is that last Monday week I was informed that one of the companies manufacturing harvesters in Victoria, had, with another firm, succeeded - the words were very plain - in getting at the Minister of Trade and Customs, and had him on their side. It was meant that the Minister is acting on. behalf of those people.
– Who said that they had got at me?
– It was said that the McKay Harvester Company had got at the Minister, and that he is working with them, and that therefore the rate of duty on imported harvesters would be increased beyond* the rate sanctioned by Parliament. I took it upon myself, at the time, to absolutely deny the statement, because I did not understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs could have done what he was said to have done. The information, however, turns out to lie correct, because the rate is to be raised.
– Who was the honorable and learned member’s informant ?
– The honorable member may suppose that he does not want to come into the transaction, and I would not have mentioned the matter at all but for what has since transpired.
– The honorable and learned member has dragged in the name of a manufacturing firm.
– Perhaps I should not have done that. I should have said a “ certain combination.” At the time I said that the Minister of Trade and Customs could not alter the rale fixed by Parliament, and honorable members can therefore understand how great was my anger when I learned this morning that the rate is to be altered. The effect of the action of the Minister will be to raise the duties on imported harvesters from 12 *</inline> to over 25 per cent. We cannot be.too careful about things of this ‘kind. If the Minister of Trade and Customs thinks that there is a fraud, let him deal with the matter under the Act, but do not let it be spread through the country that the Minister will twist the law in favour of certain firms. Do not let it be said that the man to go to if you want things is the Minister of Trade and Customs. We had a lot of that kind of thing in New South Wales before the scandal became public. It was said that the man to go to if you wanted things done was
– What was the increase?
– The valuation was nearly doubled. I remember the time when harvesters cost from £110 to ,£120 each, but they have gradually gone down in price, and many farmers are hoping that they will go down still more, as the various parts are manufactured in larger quantities, until, instead of costing about £$0 each retail, they can be bought for about ^50 each. The Minister ought not to have power to interfere with the rate of duty behind the back of Parliament. No doubt the protectionists look upon his present action with favour, because they wish to see the rates of duty raised, but what would they say if a Minister were in power who was a strong free-trader, and he ^lowered certain rates? If what has been “done can be done during the sittings of Parliament it can be done when Parliament is not sitting, and during the six or seven months of a recess there would be opportunities for fraud which might make our standard still lower than it is at present. If the Minister of Trade and Customs knows anything against these importers, let him prosecute them. I have read the sections under which they may be prosecuted. That is the way to deal with them. If they are punished in that way, it cannot be suggested that the Minister is using his power to the advantage of any particular manufacturer or body of manufacturers. I hope that the Prime Min- ister will take every care that this matter shall not be allowed’ to go further. We must remember that since the Minister of Trade and Customs was Premier of New South Wales very nasty things have come out about his then Secretary for Lands, Mr. Hassall, who had to leave the State because of the fraud and corruption that went on. The door was at first left open for small things, and the fraud and corruption has been continued by men who were supporters of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I do not wish to leave the door open for fraud1 in connexion with the Commonwealth Administration. It is for Parliament to see that it is closed. We should not allow the Government this power which they have taken.
– I am glad that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has called attention to this matter. Had he not done so I should have done so myself. I think it a monstrous injustice that the rate of duty on harvesters should be nearly doubled, and I should like to know what the constituents of the honorable member for Hume and the farmers of Australia think of this action of his to increase the price of harvesters. It means a further handicap on those engaged in one 6f the chief primary industries of the Commonwealth. And who is to get the benefit of this increase in price? Not the country, and certainly not the users of harvesters, whose industry is thus further handicapped. Has not the Minister done what is complained of to divert public money into private pockets ? Action of this kind should be opposed tooth and nail by all who have the interests of honest government at heart. There are some ugly rumours in circulation.
– Be courageous enough to state them.
– I will state what the rumours are. Of course, I do not pay attention to rumours myself, but it is common talk that people outside want to know whether there is any suspicion of pecuniary interest behind this ‘action.
– That is a cowardly; thing to say
– I do not say it; I am merely stating-
– I cannot allow, even by such vague words as the honorable member has employed, any suggestion to be made impugning the honesty or honour of any member of the House. I must ask the honorable member to avoid doing ,[nar I think that he ought, for his own sake, to withdraw the suggestion which he has just made.
– I think you? have misunderstood me, Mr. Speaker. I did not myself impute dishonesty, and only called attention to the fact that certain things were being said.
– I pointed out yesterday, in another connexion, that I cannot allow honorable members to repeat as having been said by some other person that which they may not say themselves. If I did allow it, an honorable member might take advantage of the fact to say almost anything, by imputing it to a third person, who might not even be in existence.
– I have no desire to impute motives, and I do not wish to be understood to impute dishonesty. At the same time, I think, it is very serious that such action should be taken as to give colour to the statements which have been made outside. Apart from this, we have evidence before us from the Minister’s own statements that there is likely to be a resumption of that system of persecution of importers which characterized the regime of a previous Ministry, and I hope that we shall not hear any more of the same kind of thing under the regime of the present Government. Every time an attempt is made by a Minister to go behind the back of Parliament and raise the duties upon imported goods I shall protest to the very utmost of my power. I warn the Minister of Customs that every attempt of this kind on his part will be closely watched, and I think there are enough honorable members on this side of the House who have sufficient regard for just administration, to join me in giving the Minister a very warm time whenever he abuses the powers of office, and nullifies parliamentary legislation by administrative action which results in increasing the duties on imports.
– I protest against the method which has been adopted of raising revenue without the authority of Parliament. If in the opinion of Parliament, a duty of 100 per cent, should be imposed, let it be imposed.
– Would the honorable member allow the Commonwealth to be robbed?
– If the Commonwealth is being robbed, the Minister has a perfectly clear course open to him - let him bring the offenders before the Court ana have them punished. He has no right, on any pretext, to increase the duty upon the machines in question. If the importers of such machines are defrauding the Customs they should be brought before the Court and, upon being found guilty, should be punished. Some reference was made by the Prime Minister to the duty upon harvesters, and I presume that the Minister’s action is part of the game that is to be played under the present Administration. We have heard from some honorable members that the imposition of duties cheapens the cost of articles to the consumer, and it has been represented to us that the local manufacturers are philanthropists. If the manufacturers desire to sell their harvesters at a cheaper rate, and to thus help the farmers, they can do so without the aid of any duty. Statements’ such as those to which I refer, like many others, are usually made with the tongue in the cheek. The local manufacturers want to have high duties imposed in order that they may rob the community.
– Is the reference to robbery parliamentary?
– Yes, it is. When a manufacturer endeavours by unfair means to obtain excessive prices for his goods, whether he acts under the law or otherwise, he is a robber. No law can make moral that which is immoral. The sole object ‘Of the local manufacturers is to raise the price of their machines. I should say that Mr. McKay is well paid for his machines. He has complained that his business has fallen off, and I would ask how that decline has been brought about. Mr. McKay knows, and others are also well aware of the facts. The reason is that, during recent dry seasons, the farmers believed that their crops would be short, and cancelled their orders for machines. Mr. McKay claims that he is competing against the harvester combine. But he is in the combine which has as its object the robbery of the public, and no consideration should be shown to him. If he were fighting the combine, and standing up honestly with a view to supplying the farmers with machines at fair prices, we might be inclined to listen to his pleadings ; but under no circumstances should the Minister of Trade and Customs be allowed to adopt the course he has followed in this case. The Minister has no power behind him, so far as the members of his own party are concerned ; but he is depending upon the support of the group of honorable members who have practically placed the Ministry in power. He is at the beck and call of the Labour Party, which should prevent him from persisting in his present course of action. If the importers have done any wrong, they should be brought before .the Court and be afforded an opportunity to defend themselves. The Minister has complained of imputations that have been made against him, but I would point out that he is making imputations against the importers - he is charging them with defrauding the Customs. Why does he not give them an opportunity to defend themselves? I enter my strongest protest against the Minister of Customs being allowed to do what he has done, and I submit that the House should not permit the matter to pass without visiting upon him the strongest condemnation.
– I desire to enter my protest against any honorable member in this House’ accusing a manufacturer of being a robber.
– The manufacturers want the duties increased, so that thev may be the better enabled to rob the public.
– The manufacturer who has been charged with robbery has no opportunity of appearing in this House’ and defending his character, and I do not think it is becoming on the part of honorable members, under such conditions, to make serious accusations. I protest against such language being placed upon record in the pages of Hansard.
– I am exceedingly sorry that I have been obliged to listen to some of the remarks which have fallen from members of the Opposition in bringing this matter before the House. I recognise that the case with which the Minister has dealt is one that calls for some action. We may differ as to the method which should be followed by him, but I feel sure that he has acted in perfect good faith.
– What, by punishing the farmer ?
– By punishing the importer.
– I strongly deprecate the action of those honorable members who have made insinuations against the Minister.
– Does the honorable member contend that the Minister had a right to act as he has done?
– I say that action such as that taken has been habitually resorted to by Ministersin charge of his Department. The only unusual feature in this case is the insinuation which has been made against the Minister.
– I am rather glad that this matter has assumed a definite shape. Apparently, during the early part of to-day’s debate, certain insinuations were made.
– Not insinuations ; they were direct charges.
– I did not know the cause of those charges, but I found out afterwards. I took the trouble to go down and look at the papers in connexion with this case, and I am in a position to inform honorable members that the whole matter was brought up to a certain point by my predecessor. The papers were submitted to me on the 21st inst., with a recommendation from the Comptroller-General of Customs, who knew the whole circumstances, that certain action should be taken, and I followed the course suggested. I had no hesitation in acting on the recommendation of the Comptroller-General in a matter of this kind, because he was fully acquainted with the facts. I merely wrote the word “ approved “ on his recommendation. That is the whole of the case. As to the insinuations that have been made, I need only say that I do not know the local manufacturers of harvesters, andI think that it is very hard, and very unfair, that I should be made the object of such unjustifiable criticism. I would point out that, under section 151 of the Customs Duties Act, the Minister is clothed with special power to deal with matters of this kind. If the honorable and learned member for Werriwa had referred to another matter upon which I was questioned on Wednesday, namely, the f.o.b. values of American and Canadian goods, including all kinds of machinery, he would have dealt with a subject of some importance. The matter now under consideration is one of comparatively small importance, but the other question is one involving; a loss to the Customs of£30,000 to£40,000 per annum. When the honorable member talks about prosecuting these men, I would point out to him thatit is a very difficult thing to deal with matters which have taken place in the United States of America and Canada.
– The men who are chiefly concerned are resident in Australia.
– I should like to be able to deal with this matter more in detail, because a very unfair charge has been made against me, especially in view of the fact that I am practically carrying out the intention of the late Ministry.
– That is not so.
– The papers relating toit are very voluminous. The Comptroller-General made the recommendation, and I accepted it.
– Will the Minister lay the papers upon thelibrary table?
– I have not the slightest objection to do that The honorable and learned member will then see the minute which I wrote in regard to the question. The time for the departure of the Inter-State express trains has very nearly arrived, otherwise I should have dealt with the matter at greater length.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 July 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050728_reps_2_25/>.