3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to standing order 25 I lay upon the table my warrant nominating the following honorable members to serve as Temporary Chairmen of Committees : - Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Salmon, Mr. Wilks.
Report (No. 1) presented by Sir John Quick read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Motion (by Sir John Quick) agreed to -
That leave be given to the Committee to confer with the Printing Committee of the Senate.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House when the official report of the Navigation Conference will be available to honorable members ?
– Copies of it have not yet been received.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if the bank guarantee given in connexion with the cancelled mail contract has yet been turned into cash ?
– Not so far as I am aware.
– Have instructions been given to the representative of the Commonwealth in London to ascertain whether the money represented by the guarantee is legally recoverable?
– Instructions have been sent to our representative in London, not asking him to ascertain our legal position in this matter, but instructing him to demand pavment.
– Is it not a fact that doubt has been raised as to the legal right of the Government to recover this £25,000? Has not the Government had a legal opinion to that effect?
– No. We have raised no questions, and have no doubt about our position in the matter.
– Is a doubt entertained as to the power of the Commonwealth to recover the penalty, owing to the contention that the Government has allowed the time to be extended without consulting the sureties ?
– I ask honorable members to give notice of these questions. Apparently some of them har- bour doubts as to the legal position ; if so, is it desirable at present to discuss it in this Chamber?
– That is absurd. The guarantors will be able to take advantage of the best legal talent in the Empire, and will not overlook any possibilities of defence.
– Of course, the desirability of raising these doubts is a matter of opinion. The Government has no doubt about its legal position. I have on several occasions informed honorable members that, upon the cancellation of the contract, we instructed our representative in London to demand payment of the guarantee, and gave him the power to press for payment, if that should be necessary.
– This all helps to aggravate the bungle.
– Seeing that the Commonwealth has not suffered pecuniary loss, would it not be confiscation to enforce the payment of the guarantee?
– The guarantee was given so that the . £25,000 would be forfeitable if the principals did not carry out their part of the contract.
– Has the £2,500 which was deposited by the contractors been placed to the credit of the consolidated revenue?
– Yes; months ago.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs whether it has not previously been the rule in all cases in which elections have been upset through the fault of the returning officers to refund to the candidates their expenses up to a certain amount? If so, will it be observed in connexion with the South Australian Senate election, which has been avoided by the High Court ?
– It has been customary to vote on the Estimates compensation to candidates whose election had been avoided, not through their own default, but because of some irregularity in the conduct of the elections. I shall bring the honorable and learned member’s representation before the Minister of Home Affairs.
MINISTERS laid upon the table- the following papers : -
Report of the Meteorological Conference held in Melbourne in May, 1907.
Report on the Water Supply for the Canberra Capital Site by Mr. S. H. Weedon, Inspecting Engineer, and report by Mr. L. A. B. Wade, Chief Engineer, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
Transfer of amounts under the Audit Acts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1906-7 (dated 5th July).
Amended Public Service Regulations. - No. 66 Statutory Rules 1907, No. 70. No. 231’ Statutory Rules 1907, No. 69.
– Is it proposed to introduce early in the session a measure relating to the transfer to the Commonwealth of the control of ocean lights, beacons, and buoys ?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, in making arrangements for communication between the mainland and adjacent islands by wireless telegraphy, take into consideration the absolute necessity of connecting Papua with some . part of Queensland, before any other connexion is made? Tasmania already has telegraphic communication by means of the submarine cable.
– The whole subject of wireless telegraphic communication is under consideration, and the honorable member’s suggestion will be one of the first to receive attention.
– I wish to ask the Minister, representing the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether the Public Service Commissioner has informed him that, as the cost of living in Western Australia is greater than in the eastern States, an allowance sufficient to cover the difference should be granted to the public servants located in that State? Does the Government propose to grant the allowance recommended by the Public Service Commissioner?. If so, at what amount is the increased expenditure thus necessitated estimated ?
– The Public Service Commissioner has made a recommendation such as the honorable gentleman has referred to, and I have every reason to believe that the Treasurer will give effect to it. The extra cost will be about £7,000.
Mr. Max Hirsch
– Is the Government aware that Mr. Max Hirsch has been appointed Victorian correspondent of the British Board of Trade? If so, I wish to know whether Ministers were consulted, and approved of the appointment? In any case, had they power to object to it?
– The Government knew nothing about the appointment until the Prime Minister and myself, when in London, heard that, on the recommendation of Mr. Jeffreys, who visited Australia on behalf of the Board of Trade, a representative had been appointed for each State.
– The Victorian appointment was a very good one. Mr. Max Hirsch is a first rate man.
– The persons appointed are, I understand, to give information mainly as to the trend of trade in Australia. Something of the same kind is done in New Zealand. I understand that hitherto the Board of Trade has been supplied with this information by the ComptrollerGeneral’of Customs. I do not know what reason it had for making a change in the arrangement ; but I understand that the change was made on the recommendation of Mr. Jeffreys. I believe that the Government were not consulted in the matter.
– Was there any reason for consulting them?
– The Government should have been consulted. So far as I know, we have not power to alter any appointment made by the Board of Trade.
– When the Prime Minister returns - which I hope will be soon - he may be able to give more information about this subject. He saw Lord Elgin, or some of the officials of the Board of Trade, in regard to the matter.
– Since the Minister thinks that the Imperial Government should have consulted the Commonwealth Government in regard to the appointment of a Victorian representative of the Board of Trade, a position worth ,£100 a year, I wish to know if Ministers consulted the Imperial Government before sending Captain Collins to London as the representative of the Commonwealth ?
– Mr. Jeffreys was instructed to consult the Commonwealth Government, but did not do so.
– Attention would not have been drawn to the appointment had it not been for the fact that Mr. Max Hirsch is a free-trader, and, therefore, objectionable to the Age.
– I wish to know why the stamp printing machinery, for which provision has been made on the Estimates, has not yet been obtained?
– No decision has been arrived at as to what permanent arrangements shall be made for the printing of stamps.
-Probably the Victorian Government Printer objects to the printing “ of stamps in Adelaide.
– Very elaborate and sufficient arrangements for the printing of stamps exist in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
– Very expensive arrangements.
– I do not admit that. The stamps used in Western Australia and Tasmania are printed by the Victorian Government Printer, while those used in South Australia are printed in Adelaide. My own opinion is that if we do alter existing arrangements for the printing of stamps before we establish our own printing office - seeing that it is such an important matter, and one connected so intimately with the Treasury - the work should be under the closest supervision of the responsible Minister at the head of the Treasury, and of his officials.
– I would transfer those officers to Melbourne. I do not believe in the stamp printing of Australia being done in any State far removed from, the central Government, and from thesupervision of the Treasurer and his officers. As they have expert officials in South. Australia performing the stamp printing there, I see no reason why their services, should not be utilized here, where they would be subject to the direct supervision! of the Treasurer. That is the reason why a little difference has arisen between theDepartments in regard to this matter, which has occasioned some delay. Personally, I have no doubt whatever as to what should be done, and unless the matter is taken* completely out of the hands of the Treasurer, I shall not approve of stamp printing being undertaken in any State which is far removed from the supervisionof the Treasurer and his officers.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer if he yill be good enough tolay upon the table of the House, in time for honorable members to take some action in the matter, if they deem it necessary to do so, the cost of performing this particular work under the direction of the Commonwealth stamp printer, and its cost under thedirection of the various State “printing, offices ?
– The correspondence on the subject has been very voluminous. I shall be very glad to place the whole of it upon the Library table sothat honorable members may have an- opportunity of perusing it.
– As the matter is one of very great moment to honorable members of this House, I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, as representing thePrime Minister, upon what date the Government intend to submit their proposalsin regard to Tariff revision ?
– It is quite impossible to fix a date.
– Cannot the Minister tell me the date approximately?
– As far as my. own Department is concerned, the new Tariff has already been prepared, but, of course, it is necessary for the Cabinet to consider it. They have already dealt with about one-third of the items which it contains, and the consideration of the remainder will be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.
– Are all the reports of the Tariff Commission to hand?
– All the reports signed by the Chairman and the Protectionist members of that body are to hand, but I believe that there are still some outstanding reports.
– Is the Minister waiting for them ?
– I should like to see them before the consideration of the Tariff is completed, but if Ministers had to defer our task until those reports were available we might have to wait a long time. I shall be pleased to consider them if time permits of my doing so.
– As the responsibility in connexion with this matter appears to have been transferred from the Minister of Trade and Customs to the Treasurer, 1 desire to ask the latter whether he can indicate approximately the date upon which honorable members may expect the Tariff proposals of the Government to be submitted ?
– I really do not know. The matter belongs to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs declares that the Treasurer is responsible.
– Oh, no. During the past ‘three or four days I have been engaged, with other members of the Cabinet, from 11 a.m. till1 p.m. in considering the items contained in the proposed new Tariff. Ministers are working as hard as they can, and I believe that we are making very good progress.
– What progress have they made in the consideration of the Tariff ?
– They have already disposed of about one-third of it, and I think that in another week we shall have dealt with it in its entirety.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The matter is receiving attention in conjunction with other similar cases in connexion with a demand made by the Railway Commissioners of the several States for a higher rate of payment than that hitherto made for the conveyance of mails by railway.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he has considered the advisableness of establishing Savings Banks in connexion with, and as an adjunct to, the post offices throughout the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Yes, but no decision has as yet been arrived at in regard to the matter.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he is aware that the Ocean Mail tender advertisement, dated 7th July, 1904, and published in the Commonwealth Gazette, 9th July, 1904, signed Hugh Mahon, PostmasterGeneral, contains the following notification : - “ Separate tenders will be received as in A, B, and C, but including the following additional conditions -
Is it too late or impracticable to insert similar conditions in the specification for the proposed new mail contract?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 10th July (vide page 352), on motion by Mr. Wise -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- I desire at once to add my expression of regret to those of other honorable members that the honorable and learned member at the head of the Government is suffering from an illness which prevents his attendance in the House. It seems an appropriate occasion upon which to say “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” because whatever may be our political feelings towards the Prime Minister, there can be no doubt of the unanimity of honorable members in expressing their deep sympathy with Mr. Alfred Deakin in his illness. I seem to have fallen upon an unfortunate time for the delivery of a speech such as I proposed to address to the House, because it has already been intimated by the Acting Prime Minister that as soon as this debate concludes, he intends to move the adjournment of the House until Tuesday next.
– Under certain conditions.
– Very naturally a large number of honorable members who intend returning to the other States wish to get away this afternoon, in view of the fact that the debate is not likely to be a prolonged one. I can only say that as I desire to deliver a speech of a very comprehensive character - a speech dealing not only with the present position of the Government in its relation to other parties, but with the action of some of its members both here and in England, in connexion with the Imperial Conference, with other aspects of that Conference bearing on the effect which their presence in England is likely to have upon the relationship between’ Australia and Great Britain, and with other questions which are referred to in the Governer-General’s Speech, it is quite possible that I may exceed the time during which members returning to the other States this afternoon may be able to remain in the House. If that be so I shall be sorry, but I shall not feel aggrieved if they find it necessary to leave the Chamber so long as I obtain a hearing.
– But the honorable and learned member is returning to New South Wales to-night?
– No I am not. I have risen primarily to add my voice to the chorus of protest and condemnation which has gone up from every part of Australia in regard to the present condition of Commonwealth affairs. I feel quite sure that I shall have the sympathy of a large portion of this House when I say that we have never before arrived at such a serious juncture in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to the position of parties as we have reached to-day.
– I think we have heard that statement before.-
– Very likely. The truth will bear repetition. It seems to me quite obvious that we are about to enter - if not upon as explicit a contract or compact as existed during the last Parliament between the Labour Party and the Government - upon another period during which the Government will be prepared to traffic their principles and their policy in order to retain their seats on the Treasury benches. There is such a thing as demoralization, and in this House we have become accustomed to recognise, if not the right or the justification, at all events the permissibility of a body of men occupying the Treasury benches and introducing measures with which they have no sympathy whatever. I have no objection to ambition, or even to what Shakespeare calls “ vaulting ambition,” on the part of politicians, so long as its indulgence is accompanied by advantages to the country and benefit to the people. But I have a very strong objection - and I am sure that every thinking man has - to that sort of greed for place and power which induces a man to become reckless of the consequences of his conduct to the country and its institutions. I say deliberately that never before in Australian history have we had an instance in which a politician of such consummate ability as the Prime Minister - who has very magnanimously told us that he does not wish honorable members in any . way to curtail their criticism on account of his absence, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that my observations will be correctly and clearly reported in Hansard. - has used that ability to degrade responsible government and the high offices of the country, and to otherwise prejudice the community of which he is a citizen. We have had some worse politicians - many of them - but we have never had one of the Prime Minister’s abilities, who has so prostituted those gifts in order to secure permanency upon the seats of the Treasury benches. I make that statement advisedly - I make it premeditatedly. This is no sudden action on the part of the honorable and learned gentleman. With many other honorable members, I have sat in this House since 1901-
– But the honorable and learned member has not attended very regularly.
– Although I have not been able as others, perhaps, have been, to concentrate my whole attention upon the politics of this Legislature, I have certainly given them sufficient consideration as a member to be- able to make as clear an exposition of its business as other honorable members can do. And that, after all, is the real test. The question is not how continuously one occupies a seat in this House, but whether one understands the business. Notwithstanding the honorable member’s little piece of persiflage, I venture to say “that, despite my infrequent attendances, I know as much of the business of the House as do those who sit here, night after night and week after week. I repeat that I make these observations with premeditation, because, since the first meeting of the Parliament, I have sat here as a quiet, observant member - not speaking very often, but, I hope, thoroughly understanding the business. I say without hesitation that, except during the short life of the Labour Ministry, and that of the Government which was headed by the present leader of the Opposition, this House has never been under the control of a Ministry who were voicing their own opinions or introducing independent legislation. With the exception of that which was passed during those two short periods, the whole of the legislation of the Commonwealth has been dominated by the Labour Party. I am not going to make any animadversions upon that party now, because I think its members have a perfect right, from their own point of view, to shape the legislation of this Parliament - that is, if they feel justified in supporting measures which do not represent the feelings of the majority of the people. But without making, just now, any comments upon their right as democrats to further legislation which they know is not representative of the feelings of the people as a whole, I say that it is a fact - and it is one to be deplored by every one possessing democratic instincts - that the legislation introduced by Ministries, of which the leader of the present Government has been a member for five out of the six years and a half of the life of the Commonwealth, has not been such as to command his own sympathy. Like others in his Ministry, he has been completely in the hands of a party constituting a minority of this House, and representing a minority of the people of Australia.
– That is a reflection upon the Prime Minister’s honour.
– If in dealing with political questions, I think it necessary to reflect upon an honorable member’s political honour, I must do so.
-Does the honorable member think that the programme put before us by the Government can be described as a Labour programme?
– I shall deal presently with that point. I desire first of all to make an historical review of the situation. I wish to carry honorable members back for a moment to what happened in i goi. We know that Sir Edmund Barton, as Prime Minister, then met the first Parliament with the present leader of the Government as his right hand man, ‘and that the right honorable member for. Swan, and Sir George Turner, who formerly represented Balaclava, were also members of his Ministry. We know further, and this is a confirmation of the proposition I am putting before the House to-day, that this Government was broken up after many humiliations. After having some of their measures so altered as to be unrecognisable by their authors ; after having others thrown under the table, and their Estimates altered beyond recognition-
– With the assistance of the Opposition.
– If the honorable member thinks it desirable to break the continuity of my observations, I may say at once that it does not matter whether the Opposition helped, or did not help, to bring about these results. If the honorable member would give me his attention he would recognise that what I am endeavouring now to do is to illustrate the humiliating conditions under which the Barton-Deakin Governments continued to hold office. If he knows anything of English history and British statesmanship, he will be aware that the mere reduction of an Estimate in the British Parliament has been considered sufficient to justify independent statesmen resigning the position of Prime Minister. The measures of the BartonDeakin Governments were, metaphorically speaking, kicked under the table, their Estimates were materially cut down, and many of their measures were altered in principle in such a way that, as I have said, their authors could not recognise. them. But those Governments never thought of complaining of the humiliation. They never tried to live up to the British standards of political honour. They accepted all these defeats, whether at the hands of the Labour Party or of the Opposition, and for three years lived this prostituted political life. What happened at1 the end of that time? If I need a-, confirmation of the proposition I am. putting before the House, I have it in the fact that Sir George Turner,, one of the most honorable politiciansthat the people of Victoria ever had at the head of their affairs of State, there said that he had “ eaten more political dirt “ during his occupancy of a position in the Cabinet than he had ever done before. And what did the right honorable member for Swan say ? I have a very keen recollection of his making an admission that the Labour Party had had the Ministry in the palm of its hand, or under its thumb,, during the whole (period in which they had been in office. I am aware that onone occasion the right honorable gentleman> contradicted me when I attributed those words to him, and I admit that I cannot now find them in Hansard. But I have a very keen recollection, and I think other honorable members have, of his having uttered something very much like the sentiment expressed bv Sir George Turner.
– It was the late member for Wilmot, Mr. Cameron, who said that he held in the palm of his hand the Govern.ment of which the honorable member’sleader was the head.
– The honorable and learned member ought to quote exactly what I said.
– If the right honorable member for Swan did not make the statement I have attributed to him, he said something very like it. The honorable member for. Kalgoorlie only a few nights ago charged the right honorable member with having travelled all over Western Australia in the interregnum between the defeat of the first Deakin Government, and the formation of the present one, . with the object of doing his best to [prejudice the people against the Labour Party, whose dictates he had followed for nearly three years.
– And the right honorable member even went so far as to assist in the return of members to sit in opposition to himself.
– That is- so.
– I fought the election as I thought best.
– I should like to remind honorable members of the state of parties during the three years. We all remember a statement made by the honorable member for Kennedy at the close of the last Parliament to the. effect that a compact had been entered into between the Prime Minister and the Labour Party, under which the former undertook not to introduce any legislation which was not approved by the Labour Party, and offered them half the portfolios of the Government. That statement published throughout Australia has never been contradicted.
– I contradict it. It is news to me.
– It may be news to the honorable member, who, perhaps, was not taken into the counsels of his deader.
– I never heard of it. Such a proposal was never submitted to me.
– The statement made by the honorable member for Kennedy was published not only in the daily newspapers, but in the Labour newspapers throughout Australia.
– It is like many other statements that have been published concerning our party.
– It has never been contradicted. Every one will agree that during the last Parliament the attitude of the Government towards the Labour Party offered a complete confirmation of that statement. I confess I am concerned about the political morality of the Commonwealth. I know that it is usual for honorable members to twit me with endeavouring to introduce high ideals into this House; but I can only say that such statements will not deter me from trying now and then to sound the tuning-fork to what I think ought to be the moral note of our public life. If we are going to treat with ridicule the high ideals of British politics it augurs ill for the future of our own political life. I have no wish to pose as an idealist or a moralist, but I do say that no thoughtful man can glance back at the first six years’ history of the Federal Parliament without feeling somewhat ashamed of the absolute disregard of the traditions of the higher politics which it discloses.
– Is that not disloyalty to Australia?
– If it is, I shall take the consequences of my disloyalty to Australia. We have a great deal to learn, and we cannot afford to throw ridicule on high ideals in our national life. When one recollects the speech delivered two years ago at Ballarat by the honorable and learned member now at the head of the Government - the speech in which he violently attacked the Labour Party - one cannot help experiencing deep regret that one of our greatest men should have since stooped to such a compact as that to which I have already referred.
– That is what the honorable and learned member’s leader calls “ flexibility.”
M’r. BRUCE SMITH.- It is not difficult to understand that certain honorable members, like my friends opposite, who have, perhaps, benefited by the compact and this so-called flexibility, do not regard this as very serious.
– Does the honorable and learned member mean his remarks to apply personally ?
– I am not speaking of the honorable member for Maranoa. I say that it is very serious, no matter yhat benefit may have resulted to any particular section, that one of our ablest men should have adopted such means of getting the leg of mutton from the political greasy pole. I have before me a copy of the speech to which I have referred, and I ask the House to allow me to read one or two passages from it, in order that honorable members may see how far it is possible to harmonize it with the position which the honorable and learned member occupied during the last Parliament. The speech was delivered in August, 1904, or nearly three years ago.
– Ancient history !
– Honorable members appear to think that the date of the delivery of the speech alters the proposition I am placing before the House; but I do not care whether it was delivered thirteen years ago. I wonder that members of the Labour Party have not long since resented what they call the “ flexibility “ of the honorable and learned gentleman in having damned them, their, policy and their methods in August, 1904, and then entered into a compact with them within twelve months from that utterance.
– We put the good of the country before personal service.
Mr. Deakin was received with prolonged cheers. He moved “ That the time has arrived when it is imperative upon members of the general community to take steps to preserve the Commonwealth against the sectional aims and interests which tend to subordinate the public welfare to their own.”
That was a deliberate reflection on the Labour Party, who at that time took it very seriously, but who to-day are willing to regard it with laughter, because the “flexibility,” of which the honorable member for Maranoa speaks, happens to be bent in the direction of the party to which he belongs.
– What has been quoted is no worse than the honorable and learned member himself has said.
– But I continue to say it ; that is the difference. The honorable member does not seem to grasp the position I am taking up.
– I hardly ever do.
– That is not my fault. I can supply a clear voice, and express myself intelligently to the honorable member in the course of my speech, but I cannot give him that commodity which is essential to his understanding of my speech.
– The honorable and learned member has none to spare.
– It is possible that the honorable member has some comrades who share his obtuseness in regard to the position I am placing before the House. I am not. complaining of the
– Did the Prime Minister not say the same about the party to which the honorable and learned member belongs, and yet that party rushed to him with open arms ?
– I am not going to argue that point with the honorable member. If we did such a thing - which I deny - we are just as much open to blame as the Labour Party are now; that is how I dispose of that point.
– The honorable and learned member-
– I must ask honorable members to cease interjecting. It is quite open to any honorable members who have not spoken to speak later on if they choose ; and that is the proper course for them to take. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, in common with other honorable members, has the right to express his opinions ; those opinions are simply his own, and must be expressed without interruption, no matter whether they be popular or unpopular.
– The honorable and learned member will clear out as soon as he has finished !
– I shall stay here as long as does the honorable member for Maranoa.
– All we want is that the honorable and learned member should stay here and “take his gruel.”
– I shall take it as a compliment if the honorable member will stay here as long as I do. The Prime Minister in his speech said -
The Liberals had stood with the support of those who had recommended that the crude and hasty notions, and the vain, visionary imaginations of those who wished to rush the people over a precipice, were the fatal enemies of the true progress of labour interests.
The Prime Minister here speaks of the objects and aims of the Labour Party as “crude,” “visionary,” and “vain,” and as calculated to rush the people of this country over a precipice; and, yet, so far as we know, on the authority of the honorable member for Kennedy, he entered into a compact with that very party to introduce no legislation of which they did not approve, during a period of three years.
The programme of the Labour Party would not come within the scope of his criticism, although it included articles which were a stumbling block to many liberals.
The Prime Minister said, speaking of the caucus and its effect on a Labour member -
He must swallow, not only the programme, but the organization. (Cheers, and dissent.) And what was more, he must swallow it whole. If, after accepting every item of the programme, a man once endeavoured to assert his individuality, endeavoured to be an independent man on other subjects, or in relation to party management, he was a heretic, banned with bell, book, and candle.
– That is not correct, anyhow.
– This is a correct report of the speech; I am not taking up the controversy now as to whether the Prime Minister is right or not. It would help me very much if honorable members would realize that I am not now speaking of the truth or justice of the honorable and learned gentleman’s remarks. I may agree, and I think I do agree with a great many of those remarks, but I am now dealing with the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister in making this compact with a party he so freely condemned twelve months before in such unmeasured terms.’
asked them to look at this organization in the light of the Constitution accepted by the members of every party and the supporters of every doctrine. Did the real majority at present obtain in Australia? He doubted if it did.
I wonder whether the Prime Minister has asked himself that question during the three years in which he has lived on the support of the Labour Party, without which he would have died - the party whose legislation he had condemned in unmeasured terms, as being injurious -to the country, and calculated to take the people over a precipice, and yet whose legislation he agreed to carry out, and no other, during a period of three years.
The present mechanism of the Labour Party threatened the independence of the whole of that party, and became dangerous to the community.
And this strikes me as the worst insult of all to a body of men, from whom he has accepted such great assistance.
How many of them were men who themselves could not obtain representative positions, for the simple reason that they had not the confidence of a sufficient number of citizens? Yet those very men presumed to usurp authority over others.
It is very difficult to understand how a man who had formed that estimate of the members of the Labour Party could, within a few months, hold out the hand of political friendship to them, and say he was perfectly willing to act as their tool in the Parliament and the country, and to carry out legislation with which he could not agree, but which was to be practically dictated to him by a small party representing about onethird of the members” of this House. This is important as throwing a light on the political character of the honorable and learned gentleman by whom this country has been practically governed for five years out of six and a half years of Federation. Speaking of the local committees, he continued -
The local committee was a splendid thing, but little local agencies, constituted of little groups of wire-pullers, swayed by personal considerations, were not the men to whom free people should trust the choice of their representatives. (Cheers, and dissent.) How did these local agencies or committees deal with representatives when the representatives were chosen? The first thing was to ask them to submit to an absolutely unnecessary indignity.
– Flat, very flat !
– It is very flat; the honorable member has read it often, and probably knows it by heart.
– Not once.
– There is another purpose served in my reading these extracts, because, after all, we have a much larger audience than the Labour Party, or even a full House. It is well that those utterances of the Prime Minister should be recorded in Hansard.
– Have they not been recorded in Hansard already?
– I do not think they have. One or two extracts from the speech may have been quoted, but the speech has not been read in the comprehensive way I propose to read it now.
It was a leading member of that party, and one of its ablest members, who told them three years ago that the party was up for sale to the highest bidder between other parties. “ Here are our votes,” it said, “ for your legislation. We don’t believe in you or your policy, but if you give us the legislation we want, we will support you.” Could a more demoralizing bargain be proposed in any public body or institution ?
Within twelve months of that utterance, the honorable and learned gentleman’ did the very thing that he was condemning. He accepted the offer of those terms, and lived for three years under the humiliating conditions which he had denounced. The same speech continues -
Did not they see that in this degradation of principle they were destroying the life of the tree of constitutional liberty, under whose shadow they had grown, and under which they must continue to live. They were turning their swords against the breasts of the country when they drew them under the pretence of pretending to defend them.
Almost every sentence in that speech in condemnation of the Labour Party and of compacts with it by other parties has been dramatically exemplified in the speaker’s own actions. The utterances of the Treasurer and of Sir George Turner, read with the remarks which I have quoted, confirm my proposition that the head of the Government has politically subordinated the interests of the country to the Labour Party for five and a half years. It will be interesting now to ascertain how the Labour Party regard the Prime Minister.
– He is a jolly fine fellow.
– That may be the opinion of honorable members here, but another voice is heard outside. I have taken sufficient interest in the Labour journalism of Australia to become a subscriber to most of the Labour journals. Whilst I have not seen evidence of the possession of much advanced, economic knowledge or political science by the writers of the articles appearing in them, I have been interested by the occasional peeps into the inner circles of the Labour councils which I have obtained. The Labour press might have been expected to recognise the relations between the Labour Party and the Prime Minister, and to pay respect to the personality of the head of the Government which was carrying out legislation at the dictation of the Party. If I could, by drawing his attention to the insulting and contemptuous language in which he is referred to by all thu Labour journals in Australia, make him thoroughly ashamed of his connexion with the Party, I should consider that I had done him a good service. I should like him to recognise how little gratitude has been shown by the Labour Party and the Labour journals for the great sacrifice which he has made in allowing the Party to dominate him at this stage of his political career. What sort of political conscience or personal pride must he have when, notwithstanding his subjection to the Labour
Party for the whole Parliament, he submits to criticism such as I shall now quote from prominent Labour members and Labour journals? The first quotation will be. from a speech by the leader of the Labour Party in the Victorian State Parliament with regard to the Prime Minister’s “deep-water” London utterance, which gave the Labour Party so much offence. It is a clue to the political character of the Prime Minister that, after he had accepted the friendship and support of the Labour Party for three years, and when he found himself in the company of a number of gentlemen interested in investments in Australia, and possibly thought that no reporter was near to record his remarks, he should have opened his heart and told his auditors what he really believed to be the effect of Labour legislation upon the best interests of Australia.
– This is about the worst thing that could be said of the Prime Minister in his absence.
– He has publicly explained that speech.
– I intend to read the explanation, together with what the Labour journals have published, and what he himself has said about it. The circumstance should cause reflection in the minds of Labour representatives. The remarks which I am about to quote were published in a Labour newspaper.
– The Labour press is not the Labour Party.
– If the honorable member will declare that he thinks nothing of what appears in the Labour press, I shall be glad to hear that statement. The people who support the Labour newspapers are those who vote for Labour candidates.
– The honorable and learned member has just told us that he is a subscriber to the Labour press.
– I subscribe to it, not to obtain political guidance, but for the sake of information which may be useful to me in this House. Those who seem least disposed to listen to what is published in the Labour journals are the Labour members.
– The Labour journals are not the official organs df the Labour Party.
– Yes, they are.
– I now challenge honorable members to show that any
Labour representative has protested in any way against the publication in the Labour journals of remarks insulting to the Prime Minister.
– I did so when addressing the electors in Tasmania.
– The honorable gentleman should have written to one of the Labour journals, protesting against the abuse of the honorable and learned gentleman with whom the Labour Party had made such a compact. No such protest has been made in this Chamber or published in a Labour journal. The leader of the Government went to Ballarat, and his speech there, read in the light of what happened subsequently,was an insult to the Labour Party. Then he made a compact with them, and since that compact he has been continually insulted by the Labour journals, without any member of the Labour Party having the magnanimity to defend him.
– Members of the Labour Party have not insulted him.
– This is what Mr. Prendergast, the leader of the Victorian Labour Party, is reported in the Labour journal to have said about the “ deep water “ speech -
Mr. Deakin had said in London that the Labour Party was not going to make any headway in Australia. Well, that was a particularly ungrateful kind of remark. It was an instance of the dog, when being fed, turning round and biting the hand that was feeding it. That gentleman had been kept in power by the Labour Party, and his Government could not live in the future unless it received the support of the Labour Party. They could not expect Mr. Deakin to be truthful -that was too much to expect from the Liberal Party - but they expected that he should be grateful. (Applause.) If he did not, he could be. pitched out on the top of his head. (Laughter and applause.)
No doubt the laughter and applause came from Labour constituents.
– In what newspaper was that report published ?
– In the Victorian Call. If I could not have given the honorable member my authority, he would, no doubt, have thought that I was quoting from the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– The Call is the official Labour newspaper.
– Of the State Labour Party.
– Of the Labour movement in Victoria.
– At the back of the Labour journals are published week by week the ‘Federal, the State, and the municipal programmes of the Labour Party.
– The honorable and learned’ member has read them.
– I must admit that I have. I know them by heart. For honorable members occupying seats in the Ministerial corner to endeavour to draw a distinction between State and Federal Labour politics is truly ridiculous, because the only difference between them is that in the State Labour programme my honorable friends limit themselves to those measures which it is possible to obtain by State legislative action, whereas in the Federal programme they confine themselves to the measures which it is possible to secure by the exercise of Federal legislative functions. I quite see the humour of the situation. The whole political life of this country has become a humorous panorama. After twenty-five years’ experience , of Australian political life, I have arrived at that stage when I have ceased to look at it with any degree of pain. I am sorry. but to me the position has become humorous because I recognise that we are merely flies upon the wheel, and that we can only look on sometimes with pity, and sometimes with regret. But I do see the humour of it all. The position throws a very interesting light upon human nature - certainly upon the human nature of the Labour Party and of the leader of the Government.
– What the honorable and learned member has been reading merely expresses the views entertained by one of the State Labour members.
– I have already said so. The honorable member was unfortunate enough to enter the Chamber during the middle of my speech. I cannot go back with him now, but I shall be glad to do so on some other occasion. Mr. Prendergast continued -
Mr. Deakin had imported a Munchausenlike fudge into the matter when referring to the Labour Party. But there would be a sudden awakening one of these days, and Mr. Deakin would disappear.
That is the opinion expressed by the leader of the Labour Party in Victoria. I propose now to quote from the Queensland Worker, which is undoubtedly the ablest Labour journal in Australia.
– The Sydney Worker is the ablest Labour organ.
– I do not think that it can be compared with the Queensland Worker, and I dare sa.y that I have read both journals more frequently than has the honorable member. The Queensland Worker “publishes an article, which is headed “Alfred the Little.” It reads-
Spineless Deakin, the Commonwealth Premier, orating at a capitalist banquet in London, declared that the Labour Party of Australia was in very deep water, and predicted a great majority of Ministerialists over Labourites in the coming New South Wales elections.
Commenting upon that statement, Labour Leader Prendergast of Victoria said -
Three years ago Mr. Deakin, al Ballarat, vigorously denounced the Labour Party, but when he required the help of the party in 1905 to climb to office he turned on what he had said, or explained it away. Mr. Deakin hardlv knows his own mind. What he is reported to have said in London is just what the Labour Party might expect from the so-called Liberal Party.
Then the Queensland Worker goes on to say -
Beyond all doubt, Deakin as a public man is the greatest time-serving billet-hunter that Australia possesses. . . . To-day he will humbly kow-tow to the fat-man to help him to office, to-morrow he will follow Labour, and abjectly beg for its support. Amongst his fat friends at a London champagne guzzle, Alfred the Little’s statements about the Australian Labour Party show him to be as shallow and unreliable as ever. Deakin has never been the friend of the workers, but one of their wOTst enemies. He is Premier of Australia by the grace of Labour. He would do well to go slow.
The same newspaper at a later date said -
One can easily agree with the Review of Reviews that “ Mr. Deakin has all the charm of culture, in education, and bearing.” Yet Alfred is but a weakling - an elegantly polished piece of futility. A streak of the savage would have saved him. ‘ We never hear Deakin without thinking what a pity it is there isn’t more man and less manner. A very different person to Alfred Deakin is Thomas Bent, Victoria’s other representative at the Imperial Conference in London. Deakin is an overwrought work of art; Bent a rude, crude splash of primitiveness. If only they could have had a little of each other, something might have been made of both. Deakin might have more of power and less of prettiness; Bent might have been a force and not a farce.
I wish to say to honorable members that this is not pleasant reading to me, because it is personal and offensive. But it is for those very qualities that I read it, because I desire to show the absolute and contemptuous ingratitude of the Labour
Party to the leader of the Government, and, because I wish to illustrate the weakness of the Prime Minister in not exercising independence, and throwing aside the proferred hand of people who can speak of him in that disreputable and insulting way.
– Is the Labour Party under any obligation to the Prime Minister?
– I think it is. If ray proposition be a correct one, the Labour Party owes the whole of the legislation enacted during the past three years, with which it has been so sympathetic, to the compact which was entered into with the leader of the Government.
– Does that constitute an obligation upon the part of the Labour Party ?
– I think that it does. The Labour Party are in a minority themselves, they have not sufficient feathers to fly with so far as legislative action is concerned, until they can find a man who is prepared to convert their minority into a majority, and who can be used as is the proverbial animal to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. If the Labour Party believe that the legislation of the past three years is for the benefit of the whole people, they are under an obligation to the Prime Minister for having introduced it, and for securing its passage through the House. I come now to the Call newspaper, because I desire to show what is its opinion of the right honorable gentleman. This is what that Victorian journal, referring to the Conference, says about him -
Prime Minister Deakin is still talking, talking, talking. Even the Age has at length come to the conclusion that its protege’s utterances cannot be taken seriously. He talks and talks and talks, but nobody ever knows what he wants or even the direction in which his advocacy is leading.
Again it says -
It must be the fun of the world to be alive and in Europe at the present time. There is a Prime Minister on sufferance, a “ born leader of men,” representing little more than one-fourth of his co-Commonwealthers, undertaking on behalf of five-year-old Australia, with four million inhabitants and no tariff policy of her own, to prescribe a fiscal policy for Great Britain, with forty million inhabitants, a definite trade policy, and a history older than the Father of History. Funny, is it not? Funnier still, the Age and the old Protection crowd that yelped themselves hoarse at the “ impudent interference “ of Labour Member Ramsay Macdonald when he expressed his views on the Australian political situation, are quite delighted at Deakin’s interference in British politics.
Here is another article from the same newspaper. It is headed “ Deep Waters,” and it reads -
Last week the Argus published the London Times report of Prime Minister Deakin’s “ Deep waters” speech, along with the “explanation” of it by Deakin’s friend, Hain, who presided over the meeting at which it was delivered. The “ explanation “ by Hain is an absolute failure, and all Australia is waiting for Deakin’s “ explanation.” For such a flattered orator, Alfred Deakin is about the most ambiguous speaker on record. Nearly every one of his important utterances has to be “ explained “ ; then the “ explanation “ has to be further elucidated, and the further the process goes on the more deeply the meaning is hidden. The orator begins in rainbows, and ends in fog. But fog will not do on, the present occasion.
I hope that I shall not be held answerable for the offensive humour contained in these paragraphs. The article continues -
The “ deep-waters “ speech, as reported, contains a clear implication that, in Deakin’s opinion, investors would have reason to keep clear of Australia if the Labour Party were in power. What should be demanded by all labourites is a straightout, unmistakable declaration from the Prime Minister that, in his opinion, legitimate investments would be quite safe, even if there were a Labour Government in every State and in the Federal Parliament.
I now propose to quote from another labour journal - rather a weakling, I admitcalled the South Australian Herald.
– Does the honorable and learned member do anything besides read labour newspapers?
– Yes; sometimes I read the speeches delivered by the Minister - that is when I am in need of some’ lowering influence. In the South Australian Herald of 25th May last, an article appeared under the heading “ Labour and Mr. Deakin.” It reads -
The Prime Minister has seen fit, before leaving London, to speak falsely about labour in Australia, and to deliberately imply dishonesty. Criticism is not of much use. The utterance was a timely one. It will, if anything were wanting, prove to the few remaining Labourites who thought him worthy of consideration his utter insincerity and unreliability. According to him, the Party has “had its growth and maturity,” and is on the down grade. According to him, investors need not fear to invest their money, because Labour has not, and never can, obtain control. The silly and palpable lies of the first part could be overlooked, though why he should attempt with them to deceive the Britishers is not known; but the latter is a foul slander that would disgrace the meanest of crawling things.
We can imagine the man of many bad words and few good deeds, surrounded by the commercialists of England, filled with a sumptuous repast at a wealthy man’s hotel, and unaware of the presence of a reporter, speaking what he fondly hoped would be a secret to the few present. The cabled news of his falsehoods and slander caused consternation here, even among those accustomed to use those weapons against Labour. That is cabled b’ack to England, and forthwith the chairman of the hotel gathering attempts an explanation. But the cloven hoof cannot be hidden. The so-called explanation in large print confirms the first news, and confirms many in’ their knowledge of Mr. Deakin’s utter worthlessness in politics.
He asserts that Labour cannot stand alone. Neither can the Deakinites. His party is the smallest in the Lower House, and insignificant in the Senate. How strange that while charging the Labour Party with dishonesty he should be striving might and main to form a coalition with it, and is content to remain in power with its assistance. Fortunately for this country his speech has provided what may have been wanting to effectively prevent any coalition. In that respect it is not without good results.
– This must be the collection of a life-time.
– I have quoted statements published only within the last three months.
– The first quotation was a much older one.
– That was an extract from the Prime Minister’s Ballarat speech, and was not taken from a labour journal. The quotations from the labour newspapers were published in April, May, and June.
– This is a good advertisement for them.
– Then the honorable member, if he is a shareholder in a labour newspaper company, will rejoice. In the South Australian Herald of 22nd June last, there appeared, under the heading of “Be loyal to Australia,” the following statements: -
In the matter of loyalty to Australia and newspapers, Mr. Deakin stands in one of his customary untenable positions, and reveals once again his utter unreliability. At a London public house he maligned the Labour Party of Australia. On arrival here he attempted to escape the consequences. There was a partial denial, a partial admission, a partial excuse, and a partial apology. In chief he relied upon some such words as “ I did not comment, but in each case referred the guests to what the papers and cables were saying.” He knew full well that the press was grossly misrepresenting. He was aware that that had been their dirty work from the advent of Labour. He, none better, understood that in such connexion their cruellest wrongs to Australia had been perpetrated.
He, locally, when currying favour with Labour, had complained that around what the press was pleased to term Labour legislation they had fashioned some of the foulest filth that made Australia detested in other parts of the world. And yet. knowing all this, he referred his hearers to the press and cables. Where was his loyalty to Australia? Why did he not at that time tell the truth, and so clear up much of the evil occasioned by cables? He did not, and so adds to his reputation of words, words, and more words, but actions never. It is much to be feared that Mr. Deakin’s loyalty is only of the lip variety, and to be used only in picked places.
Then again -
Mr. Deakin has attempted an excuse for his contemptible misrepresentation of the Labour Party when in London. The excuse or apology is what might be expected from the Prime Minister.
Mr. Deakin is reported at the Imperial Conference as “ wanting acts, not words.” The talkative Alfred should show an example. His whole political life has been one of words; that is, when he has not been engaged in either forming or breaking coalitions to the order of the Age.
Australian papers are teeming with the talk of Alfred Deakin at the Imperial Conference. According to the local aids of the wealthy, Mr. Deakin is the only man at the gathering. But the whole hollow farce is at once disclosed when reading the papers of other parts. Each country’s papers are booming their own man as the solitary individual of importance.
I come now to a quotation from what has been described by the honorable member for Darwin as the ablest of all the labour newspapers - the New South Wales Worker. It will be seen from the quotations I have made that all the labour journals have joined in insulting the honorable and learned gentleman at the head of the Government.
– We are all sorry.
– The New South Wales Worker, on 30th May last, published the following: -
To a select coterie of capitalists, the Premier is supposed to have said that the Labour Party was “ in deep water,” that it had reached the zenith of its power, and that gentlemen on boodling bent need not be afraid to apply their schemes to Australia. Mr. Deakin’s alleged forecast of the pending New South Wales election with its assured “ majority “ for the Carruthers clique, and other statements said to have been made, all looked like a cringing attitude towards the man with the money-bag. But a day or two afterwards came elaborate explanations, many of them merely extensive embroideries of the obvious. The explanations were made by Mr. Richard Hain, who was chairman of the precious gathering. Mr. Hain is the Prime Minister’s political secretary, and is a city man in Melbourne who seeks capital for Australia. Nothing was easier for him than to get his old friend Alfred to say something to still the fluttering heart of capital as to the dreadful Australian Labour Party.
Something was said. That is clear ; but Mr. Deakin or somebody else seems to have taken fright as to what has appeared in the London and Australian press. In any case the explanations seem to protest too much. .Mr. Hain in defence is not a great deal more reassuring than
Mr. Deakin in denunciation, and we may look forward to a mile of verbiage from the PrimeMinister, not as to what he said, but what hemeant. And Deakinesque explanations usually bury their ideas in a wealth of words. Theaffable Mr. Deakin has said hard things of the People’s Party before, and when confronted with them wriggled out by hurling foamingphrases at those awful organizations, the Leagues, of Labour. Mr. Deakin can say what he likes, about the Labour Party, but the Worker trusts, he will stick to what he said - whatever it was.
Meanwhile this journal rises to protest against Alfred Deakin or anybody else crawling to capitalists and assuring them that there is no danger to be feared from labour because it cannot reach, permanent political power. The suggestion contained in these post-prandial utterances looksmighty like an implication that Labour-in-politics in Australia is not honest, and would not do the fair and square thing to the varied interests of the Commonwealth capitalistic and otherwise. Labour is the only party in Australia with honesty enough to proclaim ils programme fromthe house-tops.
For shifty Liberals it has too much honesty; for unprincipled boodlers no mercy.’ Labouronly wants a true statement of its case from, Mr. Deakin. In the role of apologist or explainer he is ‘pitiful, weak, wholly unnecessary,, and grossly unfair.
– The Prime Minister is not the only man who at times saystoo much.
– I . have heard at times some friendly sympathetic comments on speeches made by the honorable member, in which he tells us of the “ baldheaded eagle.” Here is another quotation* from the New South Wales Worker -
Deakin’s “explanation” at Perth (W.A.) regarding his alleged attack in London on the Commonwealth and State Labour Parties seems, to amount to something like this : “ Well, I can’t say that I attacked them, nor yet again that I didn’t attack them. The point is, what does the word ‘ attack ‘ mean ? What do you understand by ‘attack,’ or what might you understand if you were not you, but somebody else? What, again, might, could, would, or should I understand bv the word attack? Solemn point ! Or, after all, is it solemn. ‘ A little nonsense now and then,’ you know, * is relished” by the wisest men,’ as Mark Twain says - or is: it Confucius? But then what is nonsense? And” what is solemnity? May not nonsense be solemn nonsense -
The article concludes with some very abusive remarks. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald f for whom I have a good deal of respect, has also criticised the attitude of the Prime Minister. I did not” meet that gentleman on the occasion of his visit to Australia, but he proved such a staunch freetrader, and took such a level-headed view of several questions upon which the Labour Party in Australia are quite astray, that
I felt he was, at all events, a man of larger calibre than are many of the Labour Party here.
– And of larger calibre than are many honorable members who are not members of the Labour Party.
– It may be ; the tu quo que argument does not affect me. I am sure, however, that the Habour Party were impressed with Mr. Macdonald. They induced him to deliver a number of addresses which attracted large audiences ; and he was generally regarded as a capable man. He is of course a choice from 45,000,000, while we are only the choice from 4,000,000. Mr. Macdonald took a careful bird’s eye view of our community and its politicians, and I have here an extract from a newspaper showing very briefly how he regards the attitude of the Prime Minister -
Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., who recently visited Australia and said some hard and true things about the undignified position of Mr. Alfred Deakin, as of one clinging to office without power, contributes a little book called Labour and the Empire to Mr. George Allen’s “ Labour Ideals Series.” He repeats his adverse criticism of Mr. Deakin’s “Lip-service to Imperial Preference,” a service which only meant - to use words quoted by Mr. Macdonald - “ a preference of sham and delusions, embedded in humbug, so far as Great Britain was concerned.”
Even some honorable members of this House have- said one or two things about Mr. Deakin that are certainly not complimentary. For instance, I find that a Mr. Fisher, deputy-leader of the Labour Party, is reported to have said a day or two ago that he regards the Prime Minister’s explanation as -
Certainly much better than the first account. “ The implication from the remarks of Mr. Deakin as at first reported,” he says, “was that the Labour Party was not honest, for he seemed to have inferred that if the Labour Party attained power it would not treat every interest with justice and equity. Had he said what he was reported to have said he would have said what he knew was not true, and what he ought not to have said.”
– Quite right.
– The honorable member stated that if the Prime Minister said what he was reported to have said he made a statement that’ was not only untrue, but was one that he knew to be untrue. If honorable members have read the Times report-
– The Prime Minister denies its accuracy.
– The labour journals say that he attempted to deny it by explaining it.
– He absolutely denies the accuracy of the report. We are told that there was no reporter present when he made the speech in question, and that the report was supplied.
– It seems that a reporter was present, but that he ought not to have been there.
– The honorable member for South Sydney is in error.
– The Prime Minister’s explanation is that there was no professional reporter present.
– As a wellinformed man, the honorable member knows that the Times, which after all is a household word throughout Europe-
– Everyone knows that.
– I am not speaking just now of the question of preference. The honorable member knows that the Times reports can be absolutely relied on.
– I have known even the ‘ Sydney Morning Herald to make erroneous statements.
– The honorable member is aware that the Times exercises much care in compiling the news which it puts before its readers, and unless the Prime Minister were prepared to say that this report is a tissue of falsehoods - that he never made anything like the statement attributed to him - I should accept it.
– He says that it is not an accurate report, that whole slabs of his speech were omitted, and that when taken out of the .context,, the words reported convey a wrong impression.
– Does it matter what he said ?
– It is of no importance.
– It is highly important. The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that he considers the statement untrue, and. that the Prime Minister knew it to be untrue.
– I say that he was in possession of facts that were contrary to the statement which he is said to have made.
– Quite so.
– When the Prime Minister says deliberately that a report is incorrect, I accept his denial.
– If he had denied some specific statement, I should feel disposed to accept that denial, but it is not sufficient to say a speech in which he practically assured his hearers that the Labour Party in Australia was on the decline, and that therefore the capitalists of England need not fear to make investments here, was not properly reported, or that some part of it was omitted. At all events, I am prepared to agree with the newspapers which have described the Prime Minister’s explanation as a futile one. I shall say no more on this point. I am sorry that in making these quotations I have excited so much warmth, and at the same time so much jocularity among members of the Labour Party. I wish now to turn to the Governor-General’s Speech. In the first paragraph there is revealed a very serious aspect of the political situation. We are told that -
During the recess two very influential Conferences were held in London, atwhich the Commonwealth was represented.
I say at the outset that it is not true that the Commonwealth was represented. When ther we take the question of preference or the Naval Agreement or even the second proposition put before the Conference with regard to a small ad valorem duty for the purpose of Imperial development, I say that in relation to not one of these matters did the Prime Minister have the authority of this House to represent his opinions as those of the people of Australia. I remember the Prime Minister reading certain resolutions in the House, and I anticipated that, before he went to England, he would have adopted the proper course of submitting them to honorable members for their indorsement as representing Australian public opinion. There was a long list of wordy resolutions in regard to a number of subjects; and there is no doubt that what I have indicated was the proper course for a Prime Minister to take in order to justify himself in representing to the people of England that they embodied the opinions of the people of Australia. But the Prime Minister, no doubt, anticipated that the submission of these resolutions would lead to a lengthy debate; and in order to avoid that difficulty, he took the resolutions to England, with the difficulty attached that he had no justification for saying that they were resolu- tions which expressed the feelings and wishes of the people of Australia. This is what happened. In the course of the Prime Minister’s speech on that occasion, I asked him whether he intended to put all those proposals forward as representing the public opinion in Australia, or as representing merely the opinion of the Government. To that the Prime Minister replied, as reported in Hansard,
They represent the opinion of the Ministry, and, I believe, that of a majority of the people of Australia.
The Prime Minister thus admitted to me that these were resolutions of the Ministry, but that, incidentally, he believed a majority of the people of Australia approved of them. When the Prime Minister got to England he was at once waited on by the inevitable interviewer or interviewers - for I have no doubt the plural number best conveys the truth. He was seen bv representatives of the Morning Post, on10th April, shortly after his arrival, and this is what he is represented to have said -
Mr. Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth, was interviewed at the Hotel Cecil yesterday regarding some of the more important questions to be introduced at the Colonial Conference which opens on Monday next. Mr. Deakin would not commit himself on the subject of Preference or on the particular results to be looked for from the Conference. “I do not propose,” he declared, “ to discuss Preference except in the Conference. I have tabled resolutions which show the position of Australia. I could enlarge on them, but the Conference is the proper place to do it. These resolutions on Preference represent the views of Australia. They were submitted to the Government of the Commonwealth some months ago, when they were communicated to Lord Elgin. Since then they have been read by me one by one to Parliament, and explained, so far as they needed explanation, and enlarged upon by me. They were accepted practically without challenge by Parliament. They therefore have the sanction of a Parliament as well as of Government authorship.”
– That is not a true statement; it was distinctly understood we reserved our right of criticism in regard to the resolutions.
– I agree with the leader of the Opposition that the reported interview is not a true statement. The Prime Minister ought to have let the people of Great Britain understand that these were resolutions of the Ministry, and that they had not been submitted either to Parliament or to the country for approval.. Then, added to that, we had the extraordinary position which the Prime Minister occupied with regard to the subject of preference. In 1902, when the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, went to England on a similar errand, it was most expressly stated in the House at the time that he did not go with any distinct mis- sion to commit Australia to any .particular policy. In England, Sir Edmund Barton joined in a resolution - the 1902 resolution - which I say has been the source of all the misunderstanding between British statesmen and Australia as to Australian public feeling on the question of preference. Sir Edmund Barton represented to the Conference that the Australian people wanted, and were eager for, same sort of preference, and subsequently sent a cable, in which he made a similar representation. Sir John See, the Premier of New South Wales, as a protectionist, of course, and the present Prime Minister also, sent long cablegrams to England, stating that the Australian people wanted preference. And yet, how did those gentlemen act? After Sir Edmund Barton came back to Australia from that Conference, in which he had affirmed the desire of the Australian people for preference, he had not the courage to introduce a resolution to this House ; and never from that day up to the day he left this House for the Bench, did he give honorable members art opportunity of saying whether they were prepared to confirm his representation. The present Prime Minister succeeded Sir Edmund Barton as head of the Government for a considerable time, and, although he had confirmed the opinion expressed by his predecessor, he never had the courage to introduce a resolution, until he was out of office and sat in the corner behind the Reid Government.
– And he then took three hours to explain it.
– I do not know that that altogether touches the matter with which I am dealing. When the present Prime Minister did submit a resolution it was, as I say, as a private member, and it was a. miserable, weak, milk and water motion that any free-trader might have indorsed. It was so vague that 1, as a strong free-trader, could have voted for it ; because it merely expresses good-will, and a desire to do anything consistent with our interests which would benefit the mother country. Does’ this not show the insincerity of the whole scheme? The present Prime Minister knew that his predecessor had not had the courage, and that he had not the courage, to submit a resolution before, and when he did submit one it was in such a form’ as to convey no definite principle. Why did the Prime Minister not submit the Conference resolutions to us before going to England? As I say, the honorable and learned gentleman misled the people of England when he tried to convince them that Australia is in favour of preference. To this day there are hundreds and thousands of people in the British Isles who are under the impression that we are impudent enough, while maintaining our Tariff at 25 and 30 per. cent, against the old country, to ask them to impose duties on the food from foreign countries - they believe that Australia, in its corporate capacity, has impudently asked them to take so suicidal a step. The Prime Minister has done the Australian people a great injustice, and it behoves every honorable member, ora some suitable occasion to inform the British people that, as some of the English Ministers seem to know, there is a large body of free-traders, and even of protectionists, in this country, wise enough to see that it would be impossible to have preference under our present conditions. We ought not to ‘forget that onseveral occasions the Prime Minister was asked bv the leader of the Opposition and others, “ Are you prepared to carry out your expressed desire to do our duty to England, and give her a preference by reducing the Tariff?” And I can remember, as if it were yesterday, the Prime Minister standing in his place’ and replying, “ No, I am not prepared to reduce the duties to England.” In accordance with his rabid protectionist views, the Prime Minister was perfectly prepared to raise the duties against Germany. France, and the United States, and so give a further sop to the people of his own State, whilst leaving England under the present Tariff. Then in the preference scheme he submitted for New Zealand, he actually gave that Colony an advantage over the mother country, instead of showing a preference to Great Britain, with which he now professes to be on. such friendly terms. I should like to draw the attention of honorable members to the second paragraph of His Excellency’s speech : -
The Imperial Conference was attended by delegates from all the self-governing Dominions of the Empire, who were received with the greatest cordiality by the King, the Government, and the people of the mother country. Most important matters were debated, and resolutions relating to some of them unanimously ‘approved. The meeting will promote a much better understanding and more intimate relations between Great Britain and all the over-sea Dominions. A full report of the proceedings will shortly be laid before you.
My first comment is that it is extraordinary that the Government, who have in their possession at the present moment an official report of what took place at the Conference, should deliberately - I say deliberately because the report has been asked for - withhold from this House a record in which we could have seen exactly what our delegates said, and what the British Ministers said in answer to them, and used the information as material for this debate.
– The report will be laid on the table the moment the debate is over, I warrant.
– That would be rather late, because it seems to me as if the honorable gentleman who represents the Prime Minister does not altogether like us to see what he said. I am going to show, however, that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when at Home, said some very offensive things to the British people. Instead of going there in the spirit in, which statesmen like Sir Wilfrid Laurier <lid, he went there in a bumptious, aggressive way, and adopted a sort of teachyourgrandmother air towards the British public. The honorable gentleman evidently imagined that his limited experience in a population of 4,000,000 people - who could be put into the suburbs of London - was sufficient to enable him to dictate to 45,000,000 people as to how they should manage their huge shipping and commercial interests in dealing with the world. I use the work) “ huge,” because the proportions of these two great interests are absolutely beyond the capacity of the honorable gentlemen who went there to try to induce them to make this stupendous change. It is very important that we should know first of all, in what capacity these gentlemen went Home. I shall’ read to the House in a moment a short utterance of Sir. Wilfrid Laurier, which stands out in marked contrast, as the utterance of a statesman, with the attitude taken up by these two aggressive gentlemen who imagined that the British people had never heard the views which they presented, and appeared to think that all they had to do was to open their mouths when the whole of the British people would say, “ We must at once change our freetrade policy, and alter the direction of our great shipping interests,” which represent more than .50 per cent, of the world’s shipping. We know that the resolutions of the Conference were not to have a binding effect : but the gathering was looked to as possibly an initial step towards some tegular means of assembling the represen tatives of. all the outlying parts of the Empire. I take it that the primary purpose of the Conference - which the majority, for very good reasons, refused to call a Council - was that the representatives of the different parts df the Empire and the mother country should meet and discuss the possibility of common purposes between those different parts, recognising, as all statesmen did, that the fundamental principle of the Empire’s future existence is the absolute freedom and autonomy of the component parts. The suggestions of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald were received in this country with scorn, and yet, when we send Home to t,he Councils of the Empire two men, ambassadorially inexperienced, they, having resorted to all sorts of ad caplandum tactics, and tried to sow discord between the two parties in British political life, complained of their want of success in persuading the greatest nation in the world to change its fiscal policy. The Conference was of greater moment than some persons here imagine. One might have thought, from the reports in the Australian newspapers, that the Prime Minister was a sort of Gulliver in England, and that the statesmen of Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere were mere Lilliputians, who ran about between his legs, and sought in his pockets for pearls of political wisdom. His speeches were published in our newspapers at a length disproportionate to the reports of the other speeches. The proportion observed in the British newspapers was very different.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has been reading the Chronicle reports. What about the Daily Telegraph? That is a middle-class London journal, with a very large circulation.
– I refer to reports in the Times, the Morning Post, the Daily Telegraph, the Chronicle, and other leading English newspapers. The English newspapers paid attention to the speeches of Mr. Asquith, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Lloyd Jones, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whose utterances were published in Australia in a very reduced, condensed form, while many columns were given to the remarks of this Australian Gulliver, whom unsophisticated Australians believed had swept the board in dealing with British statesmen. The effect of these reports upon the average Australian must have been to give him an erroneous impression of the proceedings of the Conference.
– Very little harm was done.
– I think that a great deal of harm was done in promoting the idea that this Prime Minister, whose political character I have endeavoured to dissect, is a man of such magnificent intellect that he could upset or override the conclusions of all the great statesmen of the Empire. I contend -that he is not an ideal to set up for the worship of the Australian (people.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that Australia suffered by her representation at the Conference?
– Australia has suffered very much. I shall show, by quotations from English newspapers, that the people of the mother country think that the relations between India, England, and Australia have been strained by the aggressive attitude of our representatives. Let me now read a very interesting paragraph from the speech made by the Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell -Bannerman in opening the Conference. He said -
I should like to observe at this point - and there is sometimes apparently in the minds of men a mistake on this subject - that this is not a conference between the Premiers and the Colonial Secretary, but between the Premiers and members of the Government, under the presidency of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, which is a very different matter. I hope that an agreement may be arrived at as to many of these points, and if in regard to others you are compelled to differ amongst yourselves, or to differ from us, you will agree to differ not merely in a perfectly friendly way (so much may be assumed), but with mutual respect for the grounds and motives on which differences of opinion may be founded.
Quoting Mr. Chamberlain’s utterance on a former occasion, he continued -
The link which unites us, almost invisible as it is, sentimental in its character, is one which we would gladly strengthen ; but, at the same time, it has proved itself to be so strong that certainly we would not wish to substitute for it a chain which might be galling in its incidence. You, in common with us, are representatives of self-governing communities. We have no power here in this room, as you know, to arrive at any binding decisions. His Majesty’s Government cannot go behind the declared opinions of this country, and of our Parliament. “ No more can you go behind the opinions and wishes of your communities and Parliaments ; but, subject to this governing limitation, there remain, as I have said, and as I firmly believe, many matters of great moment in which there is room for arrangement and advance.
One cannot say that the head of the Government had not early notice of the attitude British statesmen intended to adopt in regard to the matters which were to come before the Conference.
– The attitude of the British Government was very unsympathetic.
– The honorable member seems to hold distorted views on this question. It is absurd to speak of the British Government as unsympathetic,, merely because, after the free-trade viewsof the people of England had been accentuated by its return at the head of a huge free-trade majority, it was not prepared logo back on principles which had had ac ceptance for fifty years. The honorable member speaks of want of sympathy on the part of a people numbering 45,000,000, with a huge shipping organization, and art immense trade with all parts of the world, towards the views of a Prime Minister representing some ,4,000,000 people, whohad already declared that he would not even reduce duties imposed on English products, although he desired the mother country to partly close its ports to all but Colonial products.
– The Prime Minister has not said that he would not reduce duties in favour of English products.
– He has said so on two occasions. He stated that he was willing to increase the duties on products coming from other countries, which simply meant that he was willing to play still more into the hands of those concerning whom the Minister of Trade and Customs is so solicitous.
– The present British Government is entirely unsympathetic towardsthe holding of Imperial Conferences.
– It is seldom that the Australian people in a corporate capacity communicate with the people of the Mother country, and the holding of Imperial Conferences every few years make* occasions when the eyes of Europe and America are centred upon us to ascertain the attitude of the Colonies towards the Mother country. A Colonial Empire is a great experiment. As Mr. Balfour said at the great banquet given to the representatives in the Albert Hall, where 1,000 people sat down to dinner, there has never been in the history of the world a great Colonial” Empire such as ours. He instanced the Roman Empire, which he said was held together, so long as it existed, which wasnot long, by force of despotic dominion. He pointed out that these Conferences arefollowed with interest by the people of the whole world, because they wish to see how this great Empire experiment is going to eventuate. He stated, as Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, the Right Honorable Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and other prominent statesmen have done, that the principle upon which the British Empire rests is the absolute and unfettered freedom of all its parts. It is strange to hear of the unsympathetic attitude of 45,000,000 of people towards 4,000,000, who have even shut their, doors against the admission of British manufacturers and emigrants. When the Premier of New South Wales begged the Prime Minister of Australia to grant certificates of exemption to working men desiring to come to Australia as farm labourers, the latter replied, “ I must first see the contract.”
– Quite right.
– It is quite right from the honorable member’s point of view, but I am speaking from the point of view of the man who has regard to the interests of the Empire, and who knows that Australia, instead of being the hub of the universe, is only a small part of that Empire. If there is an honest and genuine desire to consolidate the Empire, we must be prepared to put Britishers, who are our own flesh and blood, fellow-subjects, and fellowcitizens, on something like our own level, and must not talk of the want of sympathy of 45,000,000, because, when we shut out their productions by means of duties of 25 and 30 per cent., they will not consent to tax their food supplies for our special benefit. I have commented upon the extraordinary conduct of our first and second Prime Ministers in cabling to England on several occasions to the effect that Australia is practically unanimous in its desire for preferential trade. Honorable members who read English newspapers will recollect that there has already been a controversy between Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Rosebery on this very point. Mr. Chamberlain repeatedly declared that Australia was begging the mother country to extend a preference to her. Lord Rosebery, who knew Australian feeling better, replied that this country had never begged for a preference, that, as a matter of fact, Great Britain had never had an authoritative request from the Australian people for preferential treatment. I have had the honour of corresponding with Mr. Chamberlain upon this subject. In a lengthy letter which he wrote, he stated that the English people would certainly expect to see Australian duties reduced as against England even if some of the existing duties had to be retained, or increased, as against other countries.
– Did he mean that the English people would expect to see them reduced after they had been specially raised to permit of .that being done?
– I do not think that he did. I now propose to put before the House evidence in support of my proposition that neither the first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, nor the present occupant of that exalted office, ever really believed that Australia was in favour of preferential trade. Had they done so they would certainly have submitted a motion containing some definite principle and character to this House for its confirmation. Let us look at some of the persons in Australia who may be regarded as authorities upon this matter. I suppose that the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures may be so regarded. Mr. Joshua is a man of considerable knowledge, and this is what he says in his presidential address -
If, as their opponents stated, preferential trade was incompatible with protection, then they were not preferential traders. Mr. Chamberlain had, however, stated that preferential trade was not incompatible wilh protection. If preferential trade had received its death-blow at the hands of the British Government, Australia would regret it, but he did not think it would cause many of its four million inhabitants to pass sleepless nights. He thought he represented the Chamber in saying that if Australian manufacturers were given the Canadian protective Tariff they would be disposed to give similar preference to that which Canada had given. With the present Australian Tariff, however, which was neither one thing nor the other, they could do nothing. In Mr. Deakin they had an able representative in England, although it might be thought that Mr. Deakin was a shade too enthusiastic, and that he slightly over-stated the position if he led English people to believe that Australians were thirsting and hungering for preferential trade. He hoped, however, that neither Mr. Deakin nor any other representative of Australia in England would endeavour to dictate to the old country what its policy should be. The logical sequence of Australians attempting to settle the fiscal question in England would be for the. British people to try to take a hand in the Tariff affairs of the Commonwealth. That would be as bitterly resented here as it was in America 140 years ago.
One could hardly have a better authority upon the subject than the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Then honorable members will recollect that an attempt was made to promote a large meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall in favour of preferential trade, but that the whole movement ended in a fiasco. There were two or three other meetings held in Australia, which resulted in an expression of opinion in favour of preferential trade, but in every instance the audience was made up entirely of manufacturers, who stipulated as a condition of any preference, that existing duties against English goods should be retained, and that they should be increased against Germany and the United States. So that even in the Prime Minister’s own State there has never been an authoritative expression in favour of preference. Mr. Prendergast, the leader of the Labour Party in Victoria - the State which is most favorable to protection - said -
To-day the people were the creatures of those who were pleading preferential trade. The same people led them into the Boer war. Of all the resolutions submitted in favour of preferential trade, not one was designed for the benefit of the people.
Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, while on a visit to Australia, said -
Australia’s proposed margin of preference to the motherland was intended to be a disappearing margin….. When the Colonies were asked what they meant by Imperial preference we found that they meant nothing whatever. It was merely a cry used for party purposes.
Mr. Winston Churchill evidently knows something of this subject, because, at the annual dinner which was recently given by members of the Cobden Club, he was thus reported -
Asserting that no offer had been made at the Imperial Conference “ except an offer to take anything we can give,” Mr. Churchill declared that the Conference had produced absolutely no effect upon the free-trade forces of the country, or the organization of the Liberal and Radical Parties. But he said it had produced a profound effect upon the Conservative Party, which was now homogeneous and solid. He agreed wilh the Protectionist Party that the Imperial preference movement did not derive its force from a desire to unify the Empire. If not supported by the driving power of selfish vested interests, the movement would possess no life, stability, or strength.
– Has the honorable and learned member read what was said by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman ?
– Yes. In his speech at Manchester, Sir Henry CampbellBannerman remarked -
If a poll were taken of the Colonies tomorrow, he was certain that only a very small number of voters would favour forcing, even by the gentle art of persuasion, upon the motherland a change of fundamental policy in their supposed interest. The Prime Minister then proceeded to contend that it was necessary to resist the efforts of those calling the Colonies to help them destroy the principle cf free imports and free industries.
I say, therefore, that, whether we look at the facts, which are familiar to all of us,in regard to what has been done in this country, or to the opinions expressed by those whom we would naturally expect to be most emphatic upon this question, we find that the same indifference is manifest. I am quite sure that the majority of people - and I include even protectionists - agree with Mr. Joshua that it is quite impossible to offer anything to England in the nature 01 a preference so long as we are determined to impose high duties upon British goods in order to foster our. own industries. At this stage I should like to say a word or two for myself in regard to preference, because, although it is in the nature of a post mortem, I think we should recognise the impracticability of the proposal. We have been told over and over again that the existence of a sort of fiscal arrangement between Australia and England would strengthen the ties which bind us together. “ Strengthen the bonds,” I think is the stereotyped phrase we hear so often from the lips of certain politicians. My belief is that we do not want any bonds at all. All the statesmen to whom I have referred have repeatedly said - and I think the assertion commends itself to every thinking man - that the basic principle of our Empire - if it is to prove a successful experiment - must be !the unconditional autonomy of the parts which compose it. To urge that the mere imposition of a mutual Tariff between this country and England, whose conditions are in no way identical from a commercial or industrial stand-point, will bind us more closely together than we are bound by blood and sentiment is a fallacy. I remember that, at a meeting of the British Empire League in London, when there was some proposal that that body should take up the question of preferential trade, the Duke of Devonshire declared that he was rot only opposed to it upon the ground that it might separate the forces of the League, but because he believed that the moment they attempted to impose upon the Colonies some restriction upon their liberty in regard to Tariff legislation, and the moment that they attempted to impose similar restrictions upon the liberty of the English people, they would be creating friction. At the present time there is a magnificent elasticity by which each goes its own way, and vet preserves that friendship and sense of blood relationship which exists between every member of the Anglo-Saxon race. It has been said from time to time by Mr. Chamberlain, by the London Times, which has taken up the cry of preferential trade in a very vehement way, and by such politicians as the Minister of Trade and Customs and our own Prime Minister, that there is a fear of disintegration on the part of the Empire. I hold in my hand a quotation upon that subiect from a speech by Mr. Balfour, which I should like to read, because, coming from a statesman of his eminence, it will carry much greater weight than would any utterance of my own. Moreover, he cannot be suspected of having been influenced by any ulterior motive. In the course of a speech delivered at the Albert Hall, on the occasion of a dinner given by the 1900 Club to the representatives of the Colonies, he said -
Mere treaties or the substance of treaties framed in order that a common end may be obtained by independent communities, are useful things, but they are not the bonds which are going to unite us for all time to our children beyond the seas. Again, I have heard the British Empire compared to a commercial corporation, a partnership, but here also I think the parallel is poverty-stricken, and falls far below the reality at which we should aim. We are not partners in a commercial concern, in which each partner has to consider nicely whether he gets his proper share of the common profits of the firm, and in which each is prepared to transfer himself and his capital to some other firm if he thinks he can get better terms. That is not the way in which any member ofour Empire should look upon the great body of which he is a member. That is not the mode in which he should represent his relationship either to the mother country or to the other Colonies. The true parallel is not that of an
Alliance or a partnership. It is that of a family bond. We have to feel that the bonds that unite us - in almost all cases the bonds of blood, and in all cases, without exception, bonds of common institutions and common love of freedom - carry with them, and must carry with them more and more, feelings of obligation and of mutual service, which cannot be put down in black and white, which cannot be added up by any arithmetical process, but which bind us together as members of a united family are bound together, pleased when they give to each other some service which differentiates them as a family from the rest of the world, and anxious to do that service without too close calculation of what they are to . get by it. A family be tween whom there may be, and must be, business relations, but with whom, though business be business, it is yet something more. That is the ideal we have to look to.
I say that that is a splendid declaration of the true bonds of friendship, union, and love between the Empire and its component parts. Who would think, for instance, of mixing up. with such fine sentiments as are contained in Scott’s poem -
Breathes there a man with soul so dead, or with Moore’s Sweet Vale of Avoca, an invoice of goods, or a statement concerning Customs duties collected in various parts of the Empire. One is a matter of sentiment, the other a question of business. One is an expression of emotion, and the other a matter of pure arithmetical calculation.
– Nothing will endure which is built upon bargaining.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. It is sordid and business-like; the element of self obtrudes. We must thrust aside all these considerations, and trust to the broader, finer sentiments of human nature to bind us as a race. The man who, when no such danger exists, charges the Australian and British people with imminent disintegration because they are not permitted to enter into a sordid bargain of mutual duties is an enemy to the Empire. If any doubt should exist in the minds of the British as to the existence amongst the Australian people of a love of country, of sentiment, and of Empire, they have only to recall what occurred at the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa. It was then that the people of Australia rose as one man to help the mother country, not because any sordid interest of their own was at stake, but simply because they saw her unselfishly stepping forward to vindicate the liberties of the British people wherever they might be. When we reflect that Great Britain spent£250,000,000, not in defending her own taxpayers or her own territory, but merely to vindicate the rights of her people in South Africa, every citizen of the Empire must recognise that he is under an abiding obligation to her. The man who seeks to substitute for that sentimental bond one of a sordid business character is an enemy to the true Empire spirit, and to all that is best in our human nature. I should like to point out the difference between the attitude of the representatives of Australia and those of Canada and Cape Colony. Everybody knows that Canada did not seek to make a bargain with England ; but Mr. Deakin, when in England, made the statement, among others, that we sought “concessions for concessions.” That is the sentiment of a grocer or a butcher - the sentiment of a man who is striking a commercial or industrial bargain. What did Canada do? I shall show, by quoting from a speech made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the attitude which he took up. Sir Wilfrid said, in effect, “We do not ask England to do anything for us. We recognise that she must have regard to her own position. She has her own local circumstances, her shipping, her trade, her commerce, to consider, and she is a country based upon certain economic conditions which we recognise it is very difficult to disturb. But we have given her a preference because we think it benefits us to do so. We think, also, that it is a benefit to England, but we do not come here to ask for anything in return. We are perfectly willing to re-indorse the resolution of the last Conference.”
– Canada contributes nothing to the upkeep of the British Navy.
– I am aware of that. I am not dealing at present with the question of naval defence.
– The honorable and learned member says that Canada granted Great Britain a preference because she recognised that it was helpful to herself.
– I said that Sir Wilfrid Laurier declared, va effect, “ We grant Great Britain a preference because it suits us. We believe it will benefit England, but we are not here to try to force our views upon the British people. We leave the question entirely to their decision. We have not come here to take part in British politics, to stir up any fiscal trouble between the opposing parties. We have come merely to ask that, among other things, England will take into consideration, in the circumstances of her present history, the question of whether or not it would suit her to grant us a preference.” Canada did not come forward with the cry, “ Concessions for concessions.” She granted a preference to England, leaving her to take what faction she might think fit.
– Because it suited her.
– Why have we not done the same? Cape Colony took up a similar attitude, and we know that New Zealand also granted a preference without demanding any return. But the gentlemen at the helm in Australia are far more business-like than are those of these Colonies. They talked about their generosity and the want of sympathy for Australia shown by the people of Great Britain, but they had not even the magnanimity to follow the example of Canada, Cape Colony and New Zealand. They gave expression to the sordid sentiment, “ concessions for concessions.” With a proposed duty of 30 per cent, against British goods, they said to the British Government, “ Place a duty, on your foodstuffs. You have a manufacturing population made up of millions and millions of poor people, who are dependent upon every copper they can save for the purchase of their food supplies. We want you to tax all these people, and to let our goods in free. If you ask us what we are doing for you, we say at once we are blocking the entry of your products into Australia by the imposition of a duty of 30 per cent, which we do not propose to reduce.” This attitude was a contemptible one. Had such an incident occurred between two individuals, we should have said of the one that he was careful of his own interests, and of the other that he was ungrateful and inconsiderate. I have no hesitation in saying that the attitude taken up without any authority by these honorable gentlemen in their dealings with Great Britain was a mean and thoughtless one. It must have caused the manufacturing classes of England to think that we are ourselves an ungenerous people, seeking to force them to pay more for their foodstuffs in order to benefit ourselves. I should not object to a referendum on the subject. I know what would be the reply of the people if they understood the question.
– Oh !
– The honorable member knows that I am not afraid of the truth. I have no hesitation in saying what I think ; although it may be a novelty for some honorable members to do anything of the kind. I have never hesitated in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth to express my honest convictions, and, notwithstanding, I have had the pleasure of being returned at the last two elections by the largest majority secured by any candidate in Australia. I repeat that the average man does not understand the true meaning of preferential trade. The man in the street has no idea of its meaning, and even intelligent people would naturally ask, when the question of preference was put to them, “ What is your brand of preference? Do you desire a preference in respect of foodstuffs or of manufactures? Do you seek to grant a preference by a reduction or by an increase of duties ‘ ‘ ? There are as many brands of preference as there are of Worcester sauce. That being so, how can the people be expected to readily understand the question?
In our own Colonies there is being created, under a system of protection, an enormous number of vested manufacturing interests. . . . If you can, by some arrangement with the Colonies, prevent that tendency in respect of them - if you can prevent new manufacturing vested interests being created - if you can keep open for all time an open market, or a market approaching to an open market, for British manufactured goods, do you not think you might be doing something as a contribution to free-trade principles and benefit to the Empire.
If that statement were read to a protectionist manufacturer in Australia he would ridicule it. Mr. Balfour was under the impression that if England would only do something in that direction Australia would be prepared to forsake the development of her manufacturing interests and open her ports to British manufactures. I can understand such an unsophisticated view as that coming from a man who expected mutual preferential trade; but if we had replied to Mr. Balfour, “ Your idea of stopping the growth of Australian industries, and of opening the ports of Australia is absurd, and the people of Australia will not listen to you,” I am sure he would have taken up a very different attitude. As a matter of fact, British statesmen - with the exception of those in high office, who are able to have reports condensed for
Mr. Deakin quoted statistics to show that Great Britain’s trade with Australia was falling off.
I have no doubt that it is, and that it will be reduced to a much greater extent. We must not forget that, with the exception of the usual revenue items, the people of New South Wales, prior to 1902, were able to obtain free imports from England. But with the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff, the whole’ of the imports into New South Wales, were subjected to duties ranging from 25 per cent, in some cases, to 70 per cent, in others, and in the case of some classes of boots, up to 180 per cent. Is it matter for surprise that Australia’s imports from Great Britain should have been reduced when a Tariff like that is imposed upon a people comprising nearly half the population of the whole Continent? If they had not fallen off, we could not have said much for the success of our protective Tariff. The purpose of the Tariff at present in force is not merely to obtain revenue, but to further the growth and development of our industries. As those industries develop, our trade with Great Britain must fall off. That is so obvious that it might well be described as transparent, yet the Prime Minister advanced it when attending the Conference as an argument in favour of preferential trade. Then he went on to complain of Germany’s fiscal treatment of Australia’s meat. I should not be surprised if any day Germany were to impose prohibitive duties on Australian meat if Germany could produce enough for herself. These honorable gentlemen, who went to England, actually asked the British people to differentiate between the fiscal treatment- of Germany and that of Australia. Every sensible man recognises that probably the first impulse on the part of the German people, in such an event, would be to say to England, “ If you are going to differentiate between us and Australia, we will put duties on Australian products.” One of the first steps would, probably, be an import duty on wool, which would be in favour of Argentine, and then we should have the squatters of Australia pointing out that one of the natural consequences of inducing the British people to differentiate between Australia and Germany was that Germany differentiated between Australia and other woolproducing countries. Thus in disentangling one economic knot, we should probably tie another. The Prime Minister complained of the advantage Denmark had by reason of the low railway rates iri England. That is a fine sort of contention, seeing that Denmark, in relation to England, is only practically across a ferry. The fact that Denmark gets an advantage over Australia in railway rates, is put forward as a reason for preventing the people of England from purchasing cheaper Danish butter, and compelling them to buy Australian butter at a higher price. That appears to be the quintessence of selfishness - to benefit our farmers at the expense of the working men of Great Britain.
– The bulk of the working class of England reject preference.
– That is so. We all know how some two years ago the working classes of England sent out a protest against any policy which would have the effect of raising the price of their food. I dope the Prime Minister took note of the fact that the “ cheap railway rates “ in Great Britain are the result of private enterprise. When the Prime Minister brings forward socialistic proposals to do away with private enterprise and establish* State industries, I hope he will recollect that, notwithstanding the fact that the whole of the railways of England are conducted by private enterprise, there are rates so cheap as to prevent Australia from competing with Denmark in the butter market. The Prime Minister complained that Australia cannot find a market on the Continent ; indeed, the whole speech of the Prime Minister was a long whine, just as though Australia were suffering some great disadvantage as com pared with other countries. Although Australia blocks other peoples’ imports, the Prime Minister complains because other people block those of Australia ! If honorable members could see those speeches, which have not yet been disclosed to us, and had read some of the representations made by the Minister of Trade and Customs and by the Prime Minister himself, they would find a good deal more to comment on during this debate. The Prime Minister went on to say with regard to Australia - in the spirit of the pauper -
Without preference it was doubtful whether Australia could maintain her position in British markets.
I am not surprised that Australia should not maintain a position in British markets, when it is considered that England has all her manufactures at hand ; and it is absurd to suppose that Australia could send manufactured articles there with any success. But the Prime Minister would like to see a heavy duty placed by England on German manufactures, the result of which would be that the English .people could not avail themselves of those manufactures, but would Le compelled to take those of Aus tralia. I could go through sentence after sentence of this speech, because it affords splendid matter for comment. From beginning to end it is one long moan - a miserable appeal to the British people to have pity on Australia, and to close their ports against foreign imports in order to help us, just as though we were some poverty-stricken nation which could not help itself. Then the Prime Minister made this representation, against which I protest -
An appeal to resist preference had been rejected by a majority of three to one at recent Australian elections.
The leader of the Opposition has made one or two admissions with regard to the effect of the last general election; and I- desire to say that I do not fall into line with him or agree with his diagnosis of that election. The Commonwealth election did not turn on “free-trade or protection, or on preference, but it turned on the issue which the leader of the Opposition had so eloquently and forcibly put before the people, namely Socialism versus anti-Socialism. The right honorable gentleman made that the issue, and it was the issue, and I refuse to take the last election as giving any indication of the feeling of the Australian people, either with regard to free-trade or preference. Therefore, I maintain to-day, as I have maintained before, that so far the Australian people have not expressed themselves in favour of preference, nor definitely, as regards this particular Parliament, on the subject of free-trade or preference.
– The issues were very, mixed at the (general election.
– That is so. I know members of my own party who were willing to support protectionists so long as the latter were anti-Socialists, and members of other parties were perfectly prepared to support free-traders on the same condition.
– The Treasurer did that in Western Australia.
– That is only one more instance. It will be seen, therefore, that the statement of the Prime Minister, which I have quoted, is a misrepresentation against which we ought to protest. The Prime Minister went om to say -
An adequate reciprocity from Great Britain would be received with great favour in Australia.
There is no authority for that statement. It is all the. more to be regretted, that we have not had placed before us some more authoritative report of the Conference, in order that we might see what was said on behalf of the people of Australia. Then there was this miserable appeal made to England, an appeal with which no honorable members, or if any, very few, will have any sympathy -
No other country enjoyed such opportunities for assisting its dominions as Great Britain.
Do we want Great Britain to assist us? Great Britain has assisted, and does assist us, in many ways. She has given us this enormous territory, as large as Europe, the United States, or Canada, and we are a community only large enough to fill twothirds of London. Then Great Britain has lent us nearly £250,000,000 to construct railways and other public works: she has given us, the protection of her navy ; and she spent £250,000,000 on the Boer war, which was quite as much for the establishment of Australian independence as of the independence of South Africa. Whichever way we turn we find that Great Britain has put us under everlasting obligations. The people of Great Britain, apart from the wealthier classes, are less able to bear taxation than we are, and yet Great Britain spends nearly £80,000,000 on her army and navy, to which expenditure we contribute one-twentieth part of our per capita proportion. One would think that if Australia were in a liberal or a just frame of mind,, we would insist on being under no such further obligation to the mother country for our defences. We are not far from two great countries, the peoples of which, either of them, are capable of over-running our territory, and fears are expressed on all sides that there is some sort of latent desire, on the part of China or Japan to invade Australia. And on what do we depend for our defence? On the China fleet and the fleet which is hovering about our ports. Yet we make that miserable contribution of £200,000 per annum, which is, as I say, one-twentieth part of our per capita proportion of England’s expenditure on the army and navy. In spite of all this, the Premier goes Home, cap in hand, pleading poverty, and urging that no country enjoys such opportunities for assisting its dominions as Great Britain. That is equivalent to saying to the people of Great Britain. “We want your people” - the working classes of England, who are struggling far more than we are for a livelihood - “ to put their hands in their pockets towards benefiting Australian industries, and this notwithstanding that we are a happy, prosperous, and even booming’ people at the present time.” Those representations are not only wholly unauthorized, but they do much to discredit Australia. They are put forward as representing the corporate opinion of the Australian people, and they lead the British people to think that we are mean, contemptible, and greedy, and without any consideration for their interests. As a citizen of Australia, I protest against representations of that sort going forth to the British people through the British press, and giving a false impression of Australian sentiment, gratitude, and mag- nanim.it v towards the old country. Then the cabled report goes on to say -
He dwelt on the importance of keeping the Empire together by resorting to every opportunity which would assist its consolidation.
Think of the way ‘in which we have tried to consolidate the Empire ! In the first place, think of our .Customs duties and of our treatment of British subjects, who, when they desired to come to Australia, found themselves restricted. Think of our treatment of the Indian people, who are subjects of the King,’ and whom the late Queen Victoria assured, many years ago, that they should thenceforth be as free citizens of the Empire as any other race within it. Think of our treat- ment of the ship-owners of England in connexion with the White Ocean policy. Think also of our treatment of England in giving preference to New Zealand, and placing the old land in the second place. Yet out of the mouth of the Prime Minister we have this piece of moralizing as to the duty of England to do all it can to consolidate the Empire. There is no part of the British Dominions which has done more, by its legislation, to disintegrate the Empire than has Australia. There is no man now in public life who has done more to disintegrate the Empire by hastening on thoughtless legislation than the honorable and learned gentleman at the head of the Government. The honorable gentleman has had five years of office, and what has he done? He has lowered the credit of Australia ; he has lowered our stocks in the eyes of the world. Mr. Coghlan, the Agent-General for New South Wales, who reported on this subject, showed clearly that ever since 1901 New South Wales 3 per cent, stock has fallen from 99 to 87, while that of Canada, which in 1901 stood on a level with the 3 per cent, stock of New South Wales, had maintained that level ever since. Yet the Prime Minister, posing as the authorized representative of Australia, goes whining and groaning to the English people, as if we were a community of paupers who desired to get some advantage out of the great country which has already heaped obligations of all kinds upon us. What the Prime Minister said was, “ Concessions with concessions “ j and that is in keeping wilh the answer he gave to the leader of the Opposition when he was asked whether he was prepared to lower the duties in favour of England. Sir Joseph Ward’s candour in regard to preference was very refreshing. He said -
He did not want to disguise that New Zealand wanted it, that it would be advantageous to her to have it ; but the Colonies were not so stupid or selfish as to . suppose that England would reciprocate to her substantial hurt.
That is a little more statesmanlike. The people of this country have not read the reasons advanced by British statesmen in answering the so-called arguments of our Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Customs, and will not have an opportunity to do so while the report of the Conference is withheld by the Government. I should like, therefore, to read two or three condensed reports of the observations of some of the leading men of the Conference, in order- to put into a nut-shell the stupendous difficulties, both economic and national, which prevent the entertainment of the Australian proposal. India, with her population of 300,000,000, subjects of the King, is a big factor in the question of preference.
– No man there has a vote.
– The honorable member has so great a contempt for all who are not of his own race, that he would not admit them to this country ; but that is a rabid racial prejudice against which reason makes no intellectual appeal.
– I have not a contempt for all who are not of my own colour.
– To my mind, the honorable member’s attitude in declaring that these people are not fit to live in Australia is sufficient evidence of his contempt for them. He sympathizes with the legislation which excludes all members of coloured races from the Commonwealth. We in Australia are inclined to look out upon the world as through a knot hole, and to imagine that other peoples are prepared to sink their opinions and prejudices to suit us. But we are of little importance compared with Europe. Sir Oliver Lodge once said that, while the inhabitants of the earth think it a very important place, it is only a very little bit of mud, revolving among 500,000,000 suns. So I say of Australia that its people play a very small part in the trade, commerce, and society of the world. Unfortunately, many of our politicians forget that there is an outside world. They seldom read serious English newspapers and magazines to understand the enormous interests of other countries. It is all very well to make ourselves snug and comfortable, but in- doing so we must not neglect the factors which keep the British race pre-eminent amongst the races of the world. India is a very important part of the British Empire, and I am about to read the utterances of the man who was sent to England to represent the 300,000,000 people there.
– He could not represent them, because they had not a vote in regard to his appointment.
– The honorable’ member has not a soul above a vote. He thinks that one cannot be a man unless he has a vote. Sir James Mackay, a member of the Council of India, must be taken to know what is good for the trade of that country. He was sent to London to tell the people of the Empire what are the essential conditions of the permanence of India’s trade. Speaking at the Conference, he said -
The proposal that Great Britain should adopt a general import tariff, with a system of preference, had been a subject of serious consideration by the Government of India. The interests of India were indissolubly bound up with the interests of Great Britain and her over-sea dominions, and they had, therefore, looked at the proposal, from the wider and Imperial, as well as from the Indian, point of view. It was a matter for deep regret that those responsible for the government of India should find themselves at variance with the distinguished statesmen representing Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. India under its existing fiscal system enjoys a highly advantageous position, and since the adoption of the gold standard, its financial system has been still more securely established, and is not menaced by the restrictive tariffs of foreign countries. The rapid growth of the external trade of India is shown by the fact that the total value of its sea-borne trade has increased 66 per cent. in ten years (£132,000,000 in 1896-97, and £214,000,000 in 1905-6). Taking merchandise only, imports increased 47 per cent. and exports 60 per cent. Some of the best customers of India are the protected countries of Europe. Without the markets of those countries, it is doubtful whether India could dispose of the particular commodities she is able to produce. The interests of India do not, therefore, call for any change. The purchasing power of India in British markets is largely dependent on her trade with foreign countries. This is shown by the export and import figures, which show that the British Empire sells £50,000,000 worth of goods to India, and buys £39,500,000 sterling, whilst foreign countries sell to India 18 million sterling worth of goods, and buy goods to the value of 66 million sterling. The risk of damage to Indian trade from retaliation by foreign countries could not be regarded as imaginary, in spite of the fact that Indian exports are largely raw materials. There were serious practical difficulties in the way of rendering effective a discriminating export duty if that were resorted to….. If India kept outside preferential arrangements, foreign countries might agree to treat her separately, but, on. the other hand, foreign countries might retaliate on Indian articles, with the object of attacking Great Britain by injuring Indian trade. The essential feature of any preferential scheme would be that it should combine the whole of the Empire….. An analysis of the export trade of India shows that India has nothing to gain by the adoption by the Empire of a system of Tariffs discriminating against the manufactured products and food stuffs of foreign countries. . . . The risks and sacrifices involved were too great for India to accept. If a preferential Tariff scheme were adopted, Indian manufacturers would press for the protection of their own manufactures. The objections of the Indian Government were based on broad principles, and not conceived in a selfish spirit. The United States, Germany, and France all ought to have a grievance against
India, because they take from her much more than they sell to her. We hear nothing of any grievances….. Anything which interfered with the unrestricted flow of trade would do harm to India. India is a heritage of the whole Empire, not only of Great Britain, and any preference now granted to the United Kingdom by the self-governing Colonies should also be granted to India.
– Sir James Mackay is a rabid free-trader.
– I do not see the bearing of that observation. He showed clearly that the adoption of a preferential Tariff by Great Britain might cause Germany, France, and the United States of America to differentiate against Ind.ian products, and perhaps destroy India’s trade ; which sensible men must recognise as a good ground of objection. I wish now to let honorable members hear something of what was said by Mr. Asquith, one of the ablest men in English political life at the present time. Those who read even the short condensations of his speeches which are available, will admit that his reasoning is irrefutable. To think of the Minister of Trade and Customs meeting Mr. Asquith in an argument is ludicrous. We know how the Minister introduces and deals in Committee with Bills.
– I get them through.
– He “bullocks” them through, to use a word which well describes his method, and which he himself first applied to it.
- Mr. Asquith is a man of great dialectic ability, one of the leaders of the English Bar, a prominent figure in the House of Commons, a great economist, a great thinker, and one of the ablest politicians of his time. His remarks were judicious, fair, and conciliatory. He said -
Sir Wilfrid Laurier had pointed out on several occasions that the. basis of unity must be that each member of the Empire must look first to what was its own interest, and would best serve the whole by so doing. The essential characteristic of the Empire was that it combined loyal attachment to each other of its component units, with the completest freedom on the part of those units where they are self-governing. This is nowhere more true than in the domain of fiscal policy. In the eighteenth century, wehad our warning in the shape of the loss of theUnited States. Statesmen of all parties have never forgotten that warning. Without fiscal independence, self-government would be worthless. That independence the Colonies have fully received, and they have even used it to build up tariff-walls against the mother country. If the Colonies thought it their duty to foster industries by protective Tariffs, their action would not evoke remonstrance or even criticism from him. He noted that various self-governing colonies gave preference to the mother country, but it was a fact that those preferential Tariffs did not admit the manufactures of the mother country to compete on equal terms with the local product. Doubtless the Colonies held this to be vital to their interests, and in the same way His Majesty’s Government held that free-trade was vital in the interests of the United Kingdom. Reference had been made to the fact that Cobden advocated free-trade here as part of a universal system of free-trade, but the official author of the policy, Sir Robert Peel, defended it on the ground of its necessity to this country alone. His Majesty’s Government held that it was more necessary now than it was in his day.
He pointed out the position now existing. We had a population of 44,000,000, bearing the whole weight of an enormous debt, largely contracted in building up the Empire, and of the cost of Imperial diplomacy and Imperial Defence. That population was dependent for food and raw material on external sources of supply. This is the essential point for consideration. He asked how the supremacy of Great Britain was maintained? He thought it must be attributed to our special productive activity, to the profits which we obtain from keeping the biggest open market in the world, and to the enormous earnings of our shipping. All these were based in the long run on keeping our food and our raw materials on the same basis, and as nearly as possible at the same price. ‘ Free-trade was no shibboleth, but a principle maintained because it was a matter of vital national interest. . . . As spokesman for the people, His Majesty’s Government could not accept any infringement of that policy, even by way of such an experiment as Dr. Jameson had suggested. . . . Having stated it, he would proceed to offer some observations on some points raised during the discussion. Mr. Deakin had said that we were being excluded from foreign markets by Tariff walls. He pointed out that we had practically everywhere most favoured nation treatment. We stood on the whole in a better position in protected markets than did the nations under a protective system. Our foreign trade had grown rather more rapidly in those markets than anywhere. The reason was that people required what we could sell, and the supply would last as long as the need did….. Germany stood next to India and Ceylon as the best market abroad for the products of the United Kingi dom. He noted that other papers showed that though the volume of British trade had largely increased, the proportion of it as between the Colonies and foreign countries remained practically constant….. The Conference was indebted to Sir Joseph Ward for his statement regarding New Zealand, which had thrown much light on the subject. Still their preferential Tariff covered only 20 per cent. of the import trade, and the preference was arrived at, not by lowering duties, but by raising them against the foreigner. The Canadian Tariff had been beneficial to British trade rather by stopping decrease than by actual increase in proportion to the total trade. Canadian manufactures, however, remained protected. Raw materials were free. On dutiable goods, the average ad valorem rate was about 25 per cent. for both the United Kingdom and the United States. Taking an aver age on all goods dutiable and free, the ad valorem rate for United Kingdom goods was 19 per cent. and for United States goods 13 per cent., or 6 per cent. lower. As regards the Australian Tariff, he was aware of the circumstances in which it was passed, but he must deal with it as the only present proposal before him. Preferential rates were given only to goods in British ships, manned by white labour, and this was a serious consideration, as it involved a policy which His Majesty’s Government could not but deprecate. Preference was restricted to 8 per cent. of the trade, and it would appear that the profit to the British importer might amount to about £90,000 to £100,000 in the year as a maximum. He stated all these matters in no spirit of criticism, but onlyto show the difficulties in the way of an advantageous preferential Tariff in favour in this country where there is a system of protection. In a free-trade country, where duties were levied for revenue purposes only, the difficulty was much greater. Great Britain at present offers the freest possible market, and preferential Tariffs would involve the giving of less to other people and not of more to the Colonies.
There is more matter of the same kind with which I shall not now trouble the House. I think honorable members will recognise that Mr. Asquith showed a grip of the great facts necessary to enable him to arrive at an intelligent decision upon the question of preference. He practically said that, although it might suit Australian conditions, the mother country must enjoy the same freedom as we did ourselves. He added that the representatives of Great Britain refused upon the grounds I have indicated to interfere with the British Tariff and with the people’s food supply, which it was essential should be taxed if the mother country were to comply with our wishes. Everybody knows that Mr. Churchill spoke in a much more drastic strain. From a press report I learn that -
Mr. Churchill dealt chiefly with the parliamentary party and diplomatic aspects of preference. Any scheme of preference, he argued, must contain dangerous possibilities for mischief, and would prove an aggravation of their political perils. He could imagine nothing more injurious to their good relations than the raising of bitter questions of taxation every year, which would be certain to lead to severe criticisms in the Colonies, causing an inexhaustible source of vexation. Preference was only possible by means of the taxation of the six or seven staple articles of food and raw materials which the United Kingdom would never accept. However light the duties, they were bound to affect prices, which would impoverish the people, who would be sure to resent concessions bringing about such results. Such taxation would cause a sullen anger, and would be certain to bring unhappy consequences, besides greatly intensifying party bitterness and immensely increasing the difficulties to which they were already exposed in the discharge of their parliamentary business. Many who were in favour of preference as an evidence of goodwill would recoil from the necessary schedules of taxation. He appealed to the delegates not to establish any relationship interfering” with selfgovernment, the root principle of the Empire, or consisting of any commercial tie formed by legislative means. The Empire’s only security lay ia permitting no such company as was sought.
Then he made this challenge concerning the question of danger to the Empire -
The Colonies should bluntly state what taxes for preference they would impose upon the motherland. It would be highly dangerous to associate the idea of Empire in the minds of the masses with enhanced prices. If the electors ever demanded the removal of the food tax and found it necessary to consult Governments scattered throughout the world, the structure of the Empire would receive a shock such as it had never before sustained. Some day, when Imperial unification reached a higher development, men would regard the decision of the Conference of 1907 as a successful avoidance of one grand wrong term.
This is what Sir Wilfrid Laurier said -
He preferred to re-affirm the resolutions of the rgo2 Conference, to adopting Mr. Deakin’s motion, though he concurred with the first of Mr. Deakin’s two additional resolutions, which provide that the preferential treatment accorded by the Colonies to the products and manufactures of the United Kingdom be also granted to the products and manufactures of other selfgoverning Colonies. Preference had certainly increased the trade of Canada and Great Britain. He ad. mitted Great Britain’s absolute right to adopt whatever fiscal system was best suited to her internal conditions. He would be glad to apply Canada’s lower preferential Tariff to all British Colonies.
Then another difficulty arose -
Mr. J. X. Merriman, of the Parliament of Cape Colony, spoke against preference, showing that the members of the Bond are divided on the question.
– There was no Mr. Merriman at the Imperial Conference.
– I am aware of that. Nevertheless, Mr. Merriman simultaneously declared against preference. The Daily Chronicle, of which one honorable member spoke disparagingly just now, said that the proposal was -
A gigantic scheme for relieving the direct taxpayer at the cost of the poorer members of the community.
The Westminster Gazette asked -
Do the Colonies wish democratic statesmen to make common cause with Conservative antidemocratic parties to further a policy which would raise the prices of necessaries of life?
It continued -
Freedom is greater than free-trade. England has never attempted to force her policy upon a self-governing Colony.
Nobody, I claim, can read the speeches delivered at the Imperial Conference without feeling the truth of what Mr. Churchill said, namely, that it was a case of the Australian delegates endeavouring “ to get all that they could.” Instead of its being a Conference of representatives of the different parts of the Empire to consider what they should do - even if it involved a little sacrifice on their own part - to consolidate the Empire, the Australian representatives obviously attended with a view to securing some advantage, to whine and moan over Australian conditions - as though they were bad - and to go crying to the British Government to grant them concessions. The proposal to establish a Secretariat was merely an endeavour to improve the position of Australia by placing it more upon an equality with the British Government than it would be under the Colonial Office. The Prime Minister referred to the “ antagonistic Colonial Office.” He declared that it was - imbued with principles of government foreign to - nay, almost antagonistic to - the principles on which the self-governing Colonies are conducted.
I ask honorable members to note that statement, because I shall use it for the purpose of showing how thoroughly unfair he was in commenting upon British institutions in order that he might get his own way. His object wasan ambitious one. He would have liked to be able to say, “ I have established a new Department of the British Empire - a Department which entirely severs Colonial supervision from the Colonial Office.” Had he been successful there is no doubt that he would have obtained great, though questionable, kudos in every part of the world. He affirmed that the conduct of the Colonial Office was such that it was - imbued with principles of government foreign to - nay almost antagonistic to - the principles on which the self-governing Colonies are conducted.
Without authority he represented to the British people that Australians were discontented with the administration of the Colonial Office. It is interesting to turn from his views upon that subject to those which were entertained by another and much greater man - I refer to Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He said -
He could not divert his mind from an impression that such a body might conceivably interfere with the working of responsible government ; andhe considered that the Colonial Office was capable of discharging all the functions called for. “At present,” he continued, “ our relations with the Colonial Office are most happy. There was a time inthe distant past when the name of Downing-street was a term of execration in the Colonies, and particularly in
Canada. Happily, these things are done with. At present, Downing-street is not an object of terror to them, and the term has passed from the language of political discussion. Whether the Colonial Office is presided over by Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Lyttelton, or Lord Elgin, I bear testimony, and cheerful testimony, that the efforts of the Colonial Office have always been in the direction of meeting as far as possible the wishes of the Colonial Governments. . . . In regard to the idea of an Imperial Council, it is not clear to me that it would improve our relations with the Empire to deal with such a Council rather than through the Colonial Office.
If it were composed of officials, I should fear that all the faddists, all the men of one idea, all the men whose business it is to solve problems behind a desk, and in the quiet of their offices, might reach conclusions which would come to the interested Governments in a form which might prove embarrassing. We have problems enough in every Colony.
With regard to the Australian proposal that each colony should extend preferential Tariff treatment to the other self-governing Colonies as well as to the United Kingdom, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said -
Canada two ‘years ago had made an exactly similar proposal to the Government of Australia to extend to them exactly the preference which was given to Britain. The Government nf Australia had not thought it advisable to respond yet to this demand. Canada’s agents in Australia had been conferring with the Australian Government, but, so far, to no purpose.
The Age newspaper published a very useful article on the efforts of the honorable and learned member to establish this Council and Secretariat. I take from it the following : -
As an Australian citizen, he was always bitten more or less with the maggot of Imperial Federation, with its vague notions, born in cloudland, of some sort of an Imperial Zollverein. It is a misfortune of the Prime Minister that he is naturally attracted to what is shadowy and impracticable. It must have been something of this tendency that led him to talk about mutual defence as being “ the greatest means of obtaining a united Empire.” What that sentence means nobody will venture to say. It is one of those ambiguities of expression in which the Prime Minister delights, because it commits him to nothing. Still more unsatisfactory is the statement that the Colonies, “ as growing communities, are hardly strong enough to assume a full share of the burdens and responsibilities which they undoubtedly will claim hereafter.” There is no warrant for the assertion that Australia at all events is not fully able to acquit herself of all that is fairly her duty in both naval and military defence, and when Mr. Deakin goes on to say that “ we require some voice in Imperial counsels before we share the responsibilities of Imperial action,” he speaks without the smallest warrant from any considerable portion of Australian sentiment. There is really no party in the Commonwealth that has the least desire to partake of Imperial counsels. The idea is an illusory and impracticable one. A man might as well talk of a consulting partnership between a St. Bernard and a spaniel.
I wish to show the House how the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs acted - I was going to say conducted themselves - whilst in England. I have already shown the statesman-like attitude adopted by Sir Wilfrid Laurier - quiet, dignified, recognising the position of England, and recognising the difficulties of that position. Instead of clamouring for something for his country, he said plainly to the British Government, “ We wish you to grant a preference to us, but we do not attempt to press you, because we recognise that you understand better than we do the circumstances of your people and your country.”
– Did not Lord Milner say that the Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, was the most brilliant man he had ever met?
– The honorable and learned gentleman ought to know that brilliancy is quite compatible with error. He is a rather brilliant man himself; but I should not like to say much of him as Minister of Defence. What could have been more brilliant than the honorable gentleman’s phillipic against the present Minister of Trade and Customs, and his attitude to the Labour Party? It was one of the most brilliant ever delivered in this House, and yet we find the honorable gentleman to-day sitting side by side with the Minister of Trade and Customs, and assisting him to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. The honorable member’s reasoning faculties do not appear to be improving since in answer to my statement that Sir Wilfrid Laurier is a statesman, he thinks it sufficient to say that Lord Milner regarded the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth as the most brilliant man he had met.
– He withdraws the statement.
-I think he should. I admit that the Prime Minister of Australia, when in England, was most brilliant and eloquent, and showed the possession of all the qualities that go to make an orator. It is for that reason that I say the wrong he has done the country is the more to be deplored. When a man seeks assistance, saying, “ I have had a splendid education,” I think that his plea justifies one in refusing to help him. In such circumstances I should be disposed to say, “ If you had received no education I should have said that you had suffered by reason of your disadvantages, and would have helped you.” But I repeat that the very brilliancy, the powers of oratory, the influence and the great abilities, of the honorable and learned member at the head of the Government mark him out as the last man in Australia who should sacrifice the interests of his country, and stoop as low as he has done for the sake of gaining temporary power as Prime Minister. The Minister of Defence does not understand my argument. The very brilliancy of the Prime Minister is the strongest count in my indictment against him. I wish to read to the House, because some honorable members may not have seen them, one or two of the representations - I shall call them representations - made by the two honorable gentlemen when in England. Here is another speech by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and reported in the Times, which makes a splendid background to the pettiness of the plea which I intend presently to quote -
Our Canadian correspondent gives an account of the interesting debate in the Dominion House of Commons on the Colonial Conference last week. He says the definite announcement of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s intention to attend the Conference was heard with satisfaction. Sir Wilfrid Laurier’ said that Canada had not submitted resolutions, because her relations with the mother country were happy, and she had at present no cause for complaint. He explained the reasons why the Dominion Government could not concur in the creation of a permanent organization in London, which might be a source of embarrassment to all concerned. The Canadian delegates, however, would be prepared to weigh fully the views of other representatives. It was none of Canada’s business to take part in the politics of Great Britain. The one important question in which Canada was interested was the trade question. The Canadian Government presented its views at the previous Conference, and it was for the British people to say whether they would accept them or not at the proper time. . . . The only question in which we are interested, and the only question we intend to bring before the Conference, is the question which absorbed most of the time of ‘ the last Conference - the trade question. And upon the trade question we have nothing new to offer. My honorable friend Mr. Borden has stated that the resolution adopted bv the British Conference in 1902 was adopted at the suggestion of Canadian Ministers.
I invite the special attention of honorable members to this -
We have given to the British people a preference under our Tariff. This we have done for our benefit, and for the benefit of the relations which exist between us and the mother country. But we have stated that if it suits the British people to reciprocate we shall be prepared to discuss the question, and go a step further than we have yet gone. Now we have nothing to say upon this point. This policy which we have suggested has not met with favour in Great Britain. It is not for us at this moment, and it is not for me on behalf of the Canadian people, to press this matter on the British people. . . The only way in which the British Empire can be maintained upon its present foundation is by allowing every nation composing it the measure of liberty that it has, and also a free choice of the fiscal policy which it is to maintain. For my part I may say frankly, if I had my own view, if I were asked what would be an ideal condition within the British Empire, what policy would tend to build the British Empire upon an even stronger basis than it has at present - if that were possible - it would be to have a universal system of free-trade between all the parts that compose the British Empire.
Obviously, that is the utterance of a great statesman. He recognises the position of the parties to this Conference, and whilst claiming unlimited unconditional freedom for his own country, admits that Great Britain has an equal right to resent any attempt on the part of people from another part of the Empire to interfere in her local politics, and to try to persuade her people that her policy is a wrong one. The honorable and learned gentleman at the head of the Government, while in London, attended a meeting of the Victorian League, a body of women of which the Countess of Jersey is the president, and I should like honorable members to compare the whining, complaining tone of the speech which he made with the statesmanlike utterance of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The report before me sets forth that -
Mr. Deakin, the Premier of the Commonwealth of Australia, one of the Colonial Prime Ministers to receive addresses of welcome at the annual meeting of the Victorian League, presided over by the Countess of Jersey, at the Imperial Institute yesterday, referred in strong terms to the treatment received by the representatives of the Colonies at the Conference.
And then the writer quotes him as follows : -
I may be pardoned for suggesting that among the brilliant gentlemen at work in the departments, the satirical faculty is most inordinately developed. They say “ Let us summon representatives of some kind. They will probably speak some sort of English; they will probably have a remote acquaintance with the ordinary decencies of life. Let us summon them to do business of importance to themselves and to the rest of the Empire, but let us counter-balance that by carefully providing circumstances which will, so far as possible, distract them from their business, if it does not prevent them doing it.” No other Government department but a department of humorists could have achieved this idea. What is it that London has offered us besides the official gins, pitfalls, and snares which are set for us? You have to fight ,your way into the business chamber. You arrive necessarily unprepared and preoccupied, and you leave it to take your part again in a round of hurry and gaieties by way of preparing yourself for the next day’s business. I undertake to say that, if the management of the Conference, on which at all events something depends, were in the hands of the women of this league, or in the hands of the practical sex, they would never have made the mistake that the unpractical sex have made. If we seek in vain sometimes in official circles for sympathy and assistance, for the helping hand extended out to us in our remote countries, and for the action here which is so all-important at the centre of the Empire, we can look at least to leagues and voluntary organizations of citizens to fill the place which official circles are inclined to leave empty. . . . If you receive less than your meed of recognition on this side - and I am perfectly sure of that, without any knowledge of the circumstances - if they turn the cold shoulder to you, as they do to us, remember there is a warm hand from the other side of the globe -
Yes ! Thirty per cent, duties on British goods and the exclusion of British people ! stretching out to grasp yours across all those thousands of miles of ocean.
That is a whining tone to adopt.
– It is humorous.
– How can the honorable member so describe it?
– The honorable and learned member describes all parliamentary procedure as humorous.
– In a cosmopolitan sense it is. But this was a complaint made by the Prime Minister to a body of women that he and his colleagues had received the cold shoulder because England would not change her policy in the way that they desired.
– He was in Pickwick’s country.
– Quite so. Here is another cabled report -
Mr. Deakin, replying to Mr. Winston Churchill’s speech, said he thought he had allowed his imagination to run riot in an unnecessarily alarmist fashion -
That is just like the honorable and learned gentleman -
Even if no preference were conceded, questions of taxation must constantly arise in every legislature throughout the Empire without such destructive results as Mr. Churchill had extravagantly pictured. The House of Commons would deal with business on its merits, and would adapt the constitutional machinery to the country’s circumstances, instead of making the development of the State fit a measure or a mere standing order. Mr. Deakin challenged the whole tenor of Mr. Churchill’s arguments, because, he said, they were based on a series of, economic assumptions only applicable to particular circumstances, and entirely inapplicable to the actual facts of business competition, especially as deflected by national rivalry. Colonial parliamentary experience showed that the dangers which Mr. Churchill predicted were not very grave.
Then again -
Mr. Deakin replied with considerable warmth. He said that Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill had dealt only with the accessories of the proposal, and asserted that unless the Government were prepared to submit positive proposals of some kind, they failed to fulfil the anticipations they themselves had created. He challenged them to speak out freely whether they meant to do anything or nothing.
– There is no whining about that.
– I should say that they were crying because they did not get that which they desired.
– The Prime Minis*ter is not a man to whine.
– He knew that there were many protectionists in England. That was a temptation which he could not resist. He sought to appeal over the heads of the Conference to the Protectionist Party in Great Britain - to the Chamberlain party, and thereby not only broke through his obligations as a guest, but broke the compact which Sir Wilfrid’ Laurier, as a statesman-, had rigidly recognised, namely, that they were there as guests, and not to interfere in the practical politics of the country. Then, I suppose, being disappointed as the result of their mission in the Conference, when the question of the New Hebrides Commission- came up, according to the cabled official report -
Mr. Deakin curtly declined, saying that since he was not consulted originally he did not now desire to assume any responsibility attached to the work of the Convention, which did not promise to succeed, as it was full of administra0tive difficulties, besides introducing a dual system of jurisdiction in the Islands.
That was simply the act of a spoilt child, who does not get what he wants.
– It was quite justified.
– I do not think so. If it were true that a mistake had been committed by the British Government in not consulting Australia, it was the duty of a statesman to forget the mistake, and do all in his power to put matters on the best possible basis. But to declare, as the Prime Minister did, that he would take no further part, because he had not got what he wanted, was, as I say, the act of a spoilt child.
– The British Government should not have acted without consulting Australia.
– I have here an extract from a speech made by the honorable gentleman who now represents the Government, and it is headed, “ A Fighting Protectionist Speech.” Really, it is wonderful that the honorable gentleman was not asked to stand for the British Parliament, for in that case he doubtless would have offered some novel opinions on British politics. The newspaper report is as follows: -
Sir William Lyne visited Sheffield yesterday, where he received an ovation, the demonstration of the workmen being especially enthusiastic. He addressed a large meeting of commercial men at the Cutlers’ Hall, his remarks being on similar lines to those of the speech he delivered at the Colonial Conference, but he was more outspoken. Sir William declared that Australia was prepared to supply Great Britain with all the wheat sh& wanted at 4d. per bushel cheaper than Argentine present prices.
That must cause laughter to every man connected with agriculture. I should like to know why Australia does not now supply wheat at that price?
– Because Australia is not allowed or able to grow as much as she wishes. If the honorable and learned member will take the trouble to. exercise some sense he will see what I did say.
– If the Minister of Trade and Customs will take the trouble to put the suppressed official report on the table we shall see what he did say. The honorable gentleman further said, according to the cables -
After the speeches made by the Colonial delegates at the Conference, there was no excuse for asserting that the Colonies did not favour preference1..
There is a splendid piece of logic !’ The honorable gentleman first assumes that there may be no authority for them to go Home, and then contends that the mere fact that they made speeches in f avour of. protection, proves that they had the authority of the people of Australia. I should recommend the honorable gentleman to peruse a little handbook on the subject called logic. Here is another passage from his speech -
At present Australian farmers had no guarantee that Great Britain would not give their market to foreigners. Surely if she were able to get a steady supply at the same or lower rates, the British people ought to be willing to take it from their own flesh and blood.
– Hear, hear.
– What are we to think of duties of 30 per cent against our own “flesh and blood” - of a duty of 180 per cent, on boots? What are- we to think of the exclusion from Australia of citizens of our own “ flesh and blood “ ? The honorable gentleman is a paragon of hypocrisy when he talks like that to theBritish people -
He emphasized the disproportionate growth of foreign shipping and manufactures in the harbors of Australia compared with the beggarly increases, and, in some cases, decreases, of British trade.
Who has decreased British trade with Australia? The protectionist party; and the honorable gentleman is doing his best in that direction. Of course, it is very logi1 cai on the part of the protectionist party to shut out. English goods and seek to increase the consumption of those manufactured in the Colonies; and it may be right or it may be wrong to do so, but it is not for the honorable gentleman, who is doing his best to build the wall, to complain that no one is getting over it. That is another instance of the honorable gentleman’s superfluity of logic.
While Australia, he said, in conclusion, expected for many years to bc dependent on the British Navy, yet it would shortly be proved that Australia was prepared to help herself, and also to help the motherland, as far as the Navy was concerned.
We can imagine the working men ‘ of Sheffield - hard working men who, perhaps, toil ten to twelve hours a day, and earn wages about half those paid in Austra- 0 Iia-
– Hear, hear !
– These are the people who are shut out of Australia bv the honorable gentleman - shut out from the sunlight, and from the higher wages of Australia; and we can imagine the honorable gentleman telling these tarradiddles to a crowd of them, and persuading them that Australia will not only be able to dispense with the assistance of the British Navy, but will soon have such a surplus of naval and military power that’ she will be able to come- to the assistance of the mother country.
– I never said anything of the kind, and the honorable and learned member knows it ; it is highly improper for him to make such a misquotation. ,
– There was no one there to tell those unfortunate Sheffield men the actual facts about Australia. There was no one to tell them that the honorable gentleman had put up a brick wall to stop them and their manufactures, from entering that country. . >
– I was there.
– I do not desire to refer to a stereotyped matter ; but I need only mention the hatters and the potters, and maids, grooms, and people of that sort, who have been told that they must have a certificate, and show their contract on coming to this country. I should have liked to have ten minutes with the Sheffield men after the honorable gentleman had done, because I feel sure that had he returned the following day he would have been hooted or booted out of the place. Honorable members can pretty well imagine that men of the Asquith and Churchill type would be very courteous and considerate, but forcibly argumentative without any unpleasantness ; but this is what the honorable gentleman said of Mr. Asquith: -
In the course of a vigorous, outspoken reply, Sir William Lyne declared that Mr. Asquith had been unnecessarily brusque and uncompromising, expect his logic was uncompromising - and his attempts tobelittle the advantage to be derived from the Colonial offers were scarcely fair.
We have not heard of any unpleasantness of that sort in the case of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Here, too, is an extract from a speech by Mr. Deakin -
Mr. Deakin believed that the only safe method of practical politics was to apply economic axioms experimentally, and be governed by experience.
Mr. Churchill’s doctrine would be fatal to all discussion on commercial relations, and would mean no preference within the Empire, no commercial treaties outside the Empire, and no negotiations for the most-favored nation treatment. This involved the absolute isolation of the motherland, which would be treated as a sick man who kept an invalid chair, because if he tried to progress he must run the risk of hurting himself.
If the British Government proposed free-trade within the Empire, combined with a tariff wall against the outside world, Australia would consider it with an open mind.
I should delight to see our ports opened to Great Britain, because it would be a great step towards universal free-trade ; but I am certain that no protectionist will admit that the Prime Minister had any right to say that the people of Australia would consider or entertain the idea of Imperial freetrade. It was logical on the part of the Prime Minister; because, when Federation was advocated, he was perfectly willing to sacrifice the duties imposed on goods from other States, in order to bring about Federation with a Tariff against the outside world. If he was consistent in that, he might’ well say - though I do not be lieve he would - that the Empire might be made one great federation with interImperial free-trade, and a protective tariff against the world. It was merely an affectation of statesmanship in which he frequently indulges; yet he had no authority to make the suggestion. And I am sure, from the sentiments expressed in this speech, that he could not forget Victoria. However splendid a statesman the Prime Minister may be in theory, when you bring him to practice he is a Victorian politician of the most parochial character.
– He is an Age politician.
– I am afraid there is a great deal of truth in that interjection, but it is a matter with which I am not now concerned. Whenever the Prime Minister expresses himself on Imperial matters, no one can take a more eagle-like view of things beneath him, but bring him down to practical matters, and Victorian industries are his first and last consideration. That is so in regard to fiscal matters, or the honorable gentleman could never have participated in that great breach of faith which Sir Edmund Barton committed in regard to the first Tariff. Those who watched the politics of Australia at that time know that the Government was committed to “ revenue duties without destruction “ as a compromise between the Tariff of New South Wales and that of Victoria.
– Nonsense !
– That is what Sir Edmund Barton promised at Maitland, and the present Minister of Trade and Customs afterwards said that 15 per cent. was “ a good compromise.”
– I never said anything of the kind. The honorable and learned member is altogether misquoting me.
– Yet, with Sir Edmund Barton at the head of the Government, the honorable member for Adelaide, and Sir George Turner, introduced a Tariff which represented 6 per cent. more than the average of the Victorian Tariff which had preceded it. Was not that a breach? I told Sir Edmund Barton over and over againthat he had obtained his majority by false pretences, and I say so to-day.
– It does not follow that the statement is true.
– No, but I think it probable that a great many respectable people would rather take the affirmative from me on that point than the negative from the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– I have heard remarks like that about elections before.
– I daresay. The honorable member for Wide Bay must understand that I do not profess to come here with originalities, but with history, and history is made up of facts, to which I am trying to adhere. These facts may not be new, and they may sound a little strange after three or four years, during which we have had so much to distract our attention. The newspaper report proceeds -
Mr. Deakin’s speech was sarcastic in character, and Mr. Churchill left before it was concluded, in order to be sworn in the Privy Council.
And very proper treatment.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I wish now to say a, word or two as to the attitude of the Australasian delegates in England. Among the cablegrams which were published here while the Conference was sitting was this -
Sir William Lyne declared that means must be found to secure closer unity in commerce. The younger generation had not the same instinctive attachment to the mother country.
It is possible that, through neglect of the study of history, some young Australians have not been as much impressed as we older ones are with our obligations to the British Empire. But the attitude of Australia during the South African war shows that if trouble overtook the Motherland, and a call was made onthe patriotism of this country, the younger generation would be found to possess as enthusiastic and strong a love for the land of their forefathers as any that has preceded it. If the Minister of Trade and Customs meant that the younger generation do not possess the spirit of patriotism that their parents did, he libelled them. The message continued -
As one of the guardians of the Empire, he warned the British Government that trade was slipping away. When he left Australia nearly half the shipping in Sydney was foreign.
That statement was an absolute misrepresentation of fact, as one of the British Ministers showed.
– What did he know about it? What I said was absolutely true, and could be proved by statistics.
– No one who knows the type of mind possessed by the honorable gentleman would expectfrom him great facility in the understanding of statistics, and when he was pitted against men like Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, and Mr. Churchill, he was, in sporting parlance, “absolutely lost.” Then this most hypocritical appeal was made -
Australians as the kith and kin of the Motherland resented being treated on the same footing as foreigners.
Suppose one puts the converse, and asks what difference has the Minister of Trade and Customs or the Prime Minister made between the British and foreigners? In the eyes of protectionists, Britishers are foreigners, and their goods are to be treated as foreign goods? Indeed, the British people, althoughkith and kin of Australians, have been dealt with as foreigners under the Immigration Restriction Act, having been kept out of this country. The honorable member’s contention was absolutely incorrect and hyprocritical. He, at any rate, has never shown any liberality towards the British people by proposing to treat them differently from Frenchmen, Germans, or Americans. The cablegram continued -
The Colonial Premiers, Sir William Lyne as- . serted, had been met with an almost offensive negative by two members of the Conference. The first was Mr. H. H. Asquith, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had a case, and worried for it as if he held a brief in court.
Was that attitude even moderately proper or courteous for an Australian delegate to take because the Chancellor of the Exchequer was opposed to an alteration of the fiscal policy of England ? The remarks of the Minister of Trade and Customs were in striking contrast with the dignified attitude of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The honorable gentleman went on to say that -
The second was Mr. Winston Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Colonies, “ who was against us all the time, as far as preference was concerned.”
What was there to complain of in that? Mr. Churchill might as well have said, “ Sir William Lyne and Mr. Deakin were against us all the time.” At the Conference, delegates were assembled from all parts of the Empire, not to fight, abuse, or complain of each other, but to see how far it was possible to harmonize conflicting views in the interests of the communities represented. We did not expect our representatives to complain of unfair treatmentbecause they could not succeed with every proposal. What had the daily papers of England to say about this attitude ? ‘ According to the Daily Chronicle -
The remarks of Sir William Lyne are sadly lacking in restraint, even in courtesy. The address of Mr. Asquith to the Conference was unquestionably trenchant. If Sir William Lyne cannot answer, he had better leave it alone. We welcome discussion …. but there should be as little of direct infusion of party spirit as possible.
Mr. Asquith was again taken to task by the Minister. According to a telegram published in one of our papers -
Sir William Lyne . . . told an interviewer yesterday that he considers that the Imperial Government adopted a callous attitude on the question of preference. . . . Sir William is doubtful about good results from the secretariat, as it will be worked by the Colonial Office.
I have read the testimony of Sir Wilfrid Laurier that of late years there has been not the slightest unpleasantness or difficulty in the relations between the Colonial Office and Canada, and it ill became our Minister to make offensive remarks about one of the largest official Departments in England, containing, as it does, some of the ablest public servants in that country. At a meeting of the London Chamber of Commerce, the honorable gentleman - complained of Mr. Asquith ‘s action in reasserting the fiction that the Premiers had demanded preference on raw materials required for British manufactures. Sir William also insisted that Britain’s trade with Australia was not increasing.
That statement might have been well enough for the Sheffield workers, who have not the time to study commercial questions, but it was a strange one to come from a man who has taken such an active part in building up a fiscal wall against Great Britain. The act of shutting up New South Wales, a free-trade country with a population of over 1,250,000-
– New South Wales was never a free-trade country.
– Of course, there were duties on tobacco and spirits, but virtually New South Wales was a freetrade country. The effect of the Commonwealth Tariff has been to increase living expenses in that State by 25 per cent.
Mr. -BRUCE SMITH.- That is the universal testimony of the people there. If the Tariff has not had the effect of shutting up the State for the benefit of Australian manufacturers, why have the people been burdened with heavy. Customs taxation? The honorable member talks to his constituents by the hour of his zeal for assisting Australian industries. His method of assisting them is to compel the public to buy local manufactures instead of importing what they want. This policy has, of course, decreased importation, and consequently English trade has suffered. Therefore, while the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs would have been well enough for an uninformed audience in a provincial town, it was ah absurd reason to put forward in London as an argument why Great Britain should impose duties against foreign countries. Such a statement, coming as it did from a representative Australian, might well cause us to be looked upon as a nation of ignoramuses in regard to the elements of political economy. In the British Australasian, under the heading “ Offensive negatives. Why Sir William Lyne is disappointed with the Conference,” the Minister is reported to have said -
The Colonial Premiers and other Ministers came to this country largely to deal with the question of preference, and in that regard it was a crime that a country like Australia, which could produce so large a quantity of wheat, was only permitted, by. reason of the fiscal system existing here, to send to this country 4^- per cent, of its imported food supplies.
The honorable member got stronger as he went along. At first, he spoke of British statesmen as brusque and discourteous. Then he regarded it as “ a crime” that thev would not consent to duties on American and Russian wheat to enable Australian farmers to get higher prices for their produce. He continued -
There were two members of the Ministry who had met them with what he might call almost an offensive negative - Mr. Asquith and Mr. Churchill.
Mr. Churchill talked straightforwardly to these gentlemen, because they seemed to forget the fundamental principle of Empire, that each part should be free. They seemed to think that they should be free to say whatever was offensive, but that English Ministers must not say anything offensive to them, and must act offensively to other countries in order to please Australia. Such discourteous and even insolent, conduct to the people of a great nation beggars language. Some very interesting articles in regard to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs appeared in the English newspapers. Not only have these gentlemen not succeeded in their mission, but they have acted in such a discourteous mariner as to leave the impression on the English people that Australians are as ignorant as their delegates proved themselves to be in regard to economic facts and arguments. The Manchester Guardian is a well-known newspaper - a thoroughly level-headed organ, which does not talk thoughtlessly-
– Hear, hear.
– Has the honorable member for Darwin ever seen a copy of it?
– The honorable member for Yarra has asked a question concerning the observation which I have just made. I do not know whether he regards all newspapers from the standard of the Victorian Labour Call, but I would like to tell him that the Manchester Guardian is one of the first six newspapers in the Empire. The London Times, the Scotsman, the Birmingham Post, the Manchester Guardian, and the Liverpool newspapers are practically the most powerful organs in the British Empire.
– Are they more powerful thanthe Sydney Daily Telegraph?
– That is a very sagacious remark to make It merely goes to show that some honorable members are quite dead to the gravity of the situation which the Imperial Conferencehas brought about. The Manchester Guardian says -
There can be no doubt that two or threeof the Colonial Premiers have given us all reason for thought by casting off the restraint of ambassadors from the daughter nations and plunging into the “ raging and tearing propaganda “ of an English party in English internal affairs. As to the fact of their haying done so, there is, of course, no question. . . . Since the Conference ended, Mr. Deakin and Dr. Jameson have thrown themselves into the work of abusing and ridiculing in public the English nation’s way of managing this intimately domestic affair of taxation….. Mr. Deakin and Dr. Jameson have relinquished the character of representatives of British Colonies for that of assailants of. the Ministry chosen by the English people, and of the internal policy on which the English people have determined. It is, of course, idle to suggest that they are. only promoting a mutual arrangement which they de- sire between the Mother Country and the Colonies….. The question on which Mr. Deakin, in particular, has become for the time an English party speaker is simply an English question - the question in what form English taxpayers shall pay their taxes. This doubling Of the parts of Colonial representatives and of external ally to an English domestic party has led many of us to wonder what would have been said in Australia if an English Minister had done there what Mr. Deakin thinks it right to do here. There is a free-trade party in Australia, a party much stronger than could be gathered from anything in, Mr. Deakin’s speeches. Suppose that a Prime Minister of free-trade Great Britain, finding himself in Australia, to confer with the Australian Federal Government, just then a protectionist Government, were to diversify these inter-Ministerial interviews with somewhat vehement free-trade speeches to Australian Opposition party men. We must imagine him to pass a somewhat contemptuous judgment on the chosen representatives of Australia, with whomhe had been conferring, to imply that the great majority of Australians were much less capable of seeing; what was good for them, than a politician from Eurooe on a short visit, and to convey pretty plainly his own opinion that Australians were quite out of the swim of competent political thought, that they were victims of phrases and dead dogmas, and fit to be the laughing stock of the world. We know it is difficult to imagine any present or future English Premier doing; such a thing, but the effort of imagination is necessary if we care to see Mr. Deakin’s and Dr. Jameson’s action as it is. But, to complete the parallel, our imagination must go still further. We must imagine the English statesman encouraging an Australian minority to insinuate a charge of want of racial responsiveness and cordiality against the majority of Australians. TheMother Country, we must suppose him to say, had made a valuable gift to the Colonies, thegift of free admission to her great markets whereas the Colonies persistently used tariffwalls to keep her products out of theirs ; England had built her half of the bridge that should carry the whole race to the happiness of a complete free-trade Empire ; when were the Colonies going to do their share? Finally, wemust suppose the whole of the imaginary ora-‘ tion, seasoned to party taste, with the usual party intimations, that the speaker’s arguments are arguments,, while the other side’s arguments areprejudices, and superstitions ; that the speaker’s convictions are convictions, while the other side’s are shibboleths; the speaker, a far-seeing dealer with facts, while those who disagree with him are ipso facto unable to see an inch in front of their noses. What, we wonder, would the effect of such an exploit on Australian public opinion be? Does Mr. Deakin think it would be conducive to increase Australian good feeling towards England ? We scarcely think he does. Does, then, his contempt for “ immutable laws “ extend to the law that identical causes are likely to produce identical effects, even on opposite sides of the globe? We can certainly see noexceptional reason for hoping that scorn, poured without knowledge, by an Australian upon Englishmen’s conduct of their own most intimate affairs will prove more emollient than the corresponding scorn poured on Australians by anEnglishman. There are actually some special reasons why Englishmen may venture to believe that they know what is good for them, even when an Australian party politician says that it is bad. English fiscal experience is a little older than Australian ; England has tried both protection and free-trade much longer and more fully than Australia has tried either. England has passed out of that happy boyhood of a new country’s early life, in which all sorts of liberties may with impunity be played with itsmaterial health. Australia can still be either free-trading or protectionist without killing herself ; her real trials, like America’s, have not yet come. England, on the contrary, has reached the time of national life when rash tricks may be sorely paid for. With our population, with our huge, delicately-poised structures of foreign trade, we simply cannot afford to put lightly out of our heads, at a brisk clap on the back from Mr. Deakin, all that we learnt in the years when we were, as the saying is, our own fools, and formed our judgment of the uses of protection from the first-hand study of the urban starvation and the rural bankruptcy that attended it between Waterloo and the repeal of the Corn Laws.
A much more trenchant article appeared in a well-known Scottish newspaper called The People’s Journal, of nth May, upon the attitude of our delegates. It reads -
It is time there was some plain speaking with regard to the conduct of those Colonial delegates, who are abusing our hospitality, and betraying the Imperial interests they have been sent here to conserve by posing on every conceivable opportunity as jackals for the ToryParty. We are quite willing to accept the view that these men are suffering simply from an attack of swelled head, and have no idea of the harm they are doing to the cause of Imperial amity. . . It is a matter of pity, as much as for regret, that these harum scarum protectionists from the antipodes, and these faithful representatives of De Beer’s from the Cape, whom our Tories are finding such convenient cat’s paws, do not possess some of the common sense and political wisdom of their distinguished colleague at the Colonial Conference, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whose conduct throughout the whole proceedings has been so conspicuously sane and correct. . . . Let us consider for a moment the claims that are advanced by these bumptuous colonials amidst the eager applause of Tory press and Tory caucus. They tell us that they are anxious to secure a profitable market for their products, which consist chiefly of foodstuffs and wool, and they ask usto make such a change in our fiscal arrangements as will handicap the foreigner in the race for our custom. This they propose should be done by putting a tax on all commodities, except those which come from the Colonies. In this way, all prices would be raised to the British consumer, and thousands would be taken out of his pocket annually, and transferred to that of the Australian stockman. Of course, there is the usual talk about the foreigner paying the duty, and the goods coming in at the old price; but that is all protectionist fudge. . . . No; the whole purpose of the scheme is to fleece the British public for the benefit of men who are never tired of boasting how much better off they are than the “ effete “ dwellers in these Islands. But that is not all. Some of these preference hunters have, in their blind insolence, fallen into the trap the Tories have set for them, and are proclaiming loudly that if we do not come to a “reciprocal “ arrangement with them the bonds of their loyalty to the Empire will be strained to the breaking point. A curious system, indeed, of trade reciprocity they propose. While demanding that our doors shall be open freely to them, and only to them, they tell us in the same breath that under no circumstances will our goods be allowed to compete with theirs in the Colonial market. Canning used to say that in matters of commerce the fault of the Dutch was giving too little and asking too much; but at such bargaining they have not a look in with our protectionist Colonials. And these are the people, the burden of whose naval de- . fence rests almost on this country - a country which, in the elegant and courteous language of that eminent Australian, Sir William Lyne, is “ living from hand to mouth.” If beggars cannot be choosers, dependents should be last to snap at the hand which sustains them. How refreshing it is to turn from the froth and fume of these Australians to the calm, dignified, and statesman-like language of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and General Botha, neither ofthem of British blood, but both of them imbued with a sound, British Imperialism. Preference, both of them declared to the Conference, was not a question which should be pressed upon the British people ; they must deal with it in the way they thought best for themselves, and no matter what their decision was, the attachment of the Colonies they represented to the Mother Country would not be in the slightest degree diminished. That is sane and solid fact, but it was wasted on men puffed up with a sense of their own importance, and intoxicated by the heady must of Tory flattery.
– That is pretty hot.
– Coming from a free-trade paper, it is very hot.
– These are all one-sided quotations.
-Yes, there are none upon the other side. I have here another article which I shall not read to honorable members, but which demonstrates that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs have done much to stir up ill-feeling between the people of Great Britain and Australia by their constant complaints regarding the refusal of British statesmen to comply with their mild request. Canadian newspapers have severely commented upon their attitude, and have unfavorably compared it with that of their own representative. Mr. Winston Churchill made a very slashing and drastic attack upon the position taken up by our delegates during the Conference. He said -
There was another aspect of the financialproblem - the demand for preference for the control of produce, for the putting on of taxes against the foreigner on foreign bread, and meat, and dairy produce, and also he made no doubt - although it was always denied - upon wool and leather and timber and other raw materials, in order to be able to give an advantage to the Colonial supplies which reached this country. He said nothing about the speeches which our Colonial guests had been delivering at various places, except thatthey were the guests of the Government, and that the laws of hospitality, which were amongst the most ancient and sacred, imposed obligations not only on the host but also on the guest. He referred to the demand for preference which has been made at the Colonial Conference, and which was repeated day by day with strident clamour by the Tory party and the pot-house press which supported them. They were told the Government had banged the door. Well, upon what had they banged the door? They had banged the door upon the Imperial taxation of food. Yes, they had banged it, barred it, and bolted it. It was a good stout door of British oak, and the largest Liberal, Radical, and Labour majority ever seen in the House of Commons had their backs firmly against it. That door would never be opened, not a chink would ever be opened so long as Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was made the national hall porter. The Liberal Party stood like a rock between the hard working masses and all who would exploit their food supply and squeeze some shameful little profit out of the scanty pittance of the weak and poor. Popular or unpopular in office or in opposition, that was the line on which they fought. They would not concede one inch. They would not give one farthing preference on a single peppercorn.
I had shown to me only yesterday a letter written to an Australian citizen by the editor of the British Weekly, a magazine which exercises much influence all over the Empire. It is a well-known publication, and has an enormous circulation in Great Britain. In this private letter the editor writes -
I wish I could get the opinion of Christian men in Australia as to the action of the Australian representatives at the Colonial Conference. As a strong Imperialist, I deeply deplore it. The present Government was returned by an overwhelming majority to defend freetrade. How, then, could it grant protection ? I see real danger of an anti-Colonial Party being formed in this country, and the working man joining it. The working men do not like Australia, because they think that the Australian people wish to discourage immigration.
I conclude this part of my speech by. expressing the firm conviction that, instead of doing good to Australia, our representatives at the Imperial Conference have, by their vehemence and complaints of the way in which they have been treated, caused an impression’ to prevail throughout G*reat Britain that the whole Commonwealth, and not merely the present Ministry, is demanding that the English people shall impose duties in order to hellp us. Having regard to the great, almost unlimited obligations, that we are under to Great Britain, it would come with an ill, grace from Australia to complain that we could not get more out of her. In taking up such an attitude, an injustice has been done to Australia b,y these two representatives. We ought to leave no stone unturned to satisfy the people of
Great Britain, as some of her British Ministers seem already to understand, that the protectionists of this country, and certainly that objectionable section of the Protectionist Party which is trying to force its doctrines upon England, do not represent the whole of Australia. We should show that in all the different grades of society - from the president of the Chamber of Manufactures downwards - there are hundreds and thousands of people who, while anxious for protection, recognise that it is impossible for us to justly demand that a tax shall be (placed on the food supplies of the working classes of England merely to satisfy the advocates of Australian exportation to the old land. I propose now to deal with our representation at the Navigation Conference. I should like to say at the outset, because this is the first opportunity I have had to speak on this subject, that I think the Government, by the appointments they made to that Conference, showed a great want of consideration for one of the interests affected. Our delegates were to .confer with the British authorities on the best and most equitable and desirable laws to regulate the stupendous body of shipping which trades between Great Britain and the ports of the Commonwealth. Who was sent to represent Australian shipping at that Conference? In the first place, we had the Minister of Trade and Customs who, I have no hesitation in saying, is in absolute sympathy, with labour ideals. I have heard him describe himself as a Socialist. It is only of late years that he has assumed that role, and of course he knows best why he has done so. But we have our own opinions ; and it is fairlywell recognised that, except that he has never taken the labour pledge, he is heart and soul with every movement of the Labour Party. That party is not in sympathy with capital in any form. Its journals characterize it as robbery. They say that all capital is stolen property which belongs to the workers. I am not going at this stage to deal with that theory, but I repeat that the Minister of Trade and Customs has far more sympathy for sailors and others of that class than’ he has for ship-owners, merchants, squatters, and other employers. This was one of the honorable gentlemen who was sent to England in the shipping interest to assist in devising laws which should be conducive to the growth, development, and prosperity of the Empire. Ship-owners could hardly expect much consideration from him. The second delegate appointed by the Government was the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. Every one knows that he has been for years in intimate relationship with the wharf labourers of Sydney, and that his sympathies - not only as entertained, but as expressed by him from time to time - are entirely on the side of the seamen. The third delegate was the honorable member for North Sydney.
– He is a good man !
– A very intelligent, well-informed man, but he is not a ship-owner.
– Ah ! he is a good man.
– I think that every honorable member who knows him recognises that he is a good man.
– Not in the sense in which the honorable and learned member uses the word “ good.”
– The honorable member may be placing upon the word a different construction than I have in mind. What I mean to say is, that the honorable member for North Sydneyis a sound man, a man of knowledge and information, but he is not a ship-owner. The request which the ship-owners of Australia made, that they should be represented upon the Conference by a practical man who knew the requirements of the shipping trade from the point of view of ship-owners - that thev should have a re-‘ presentative as well as the sailors themselves - was absolutely ignored. Australian shipping interests, which involve, I might say, millions of money were represented by these three honorable mem-‘ bers. From the reports we learn that the honorable member for North Sydney had frequently to vote in opposition to his codelegates. This was probably because he took what I might describe as a sound and rational view of the necessities of the shipping interests of Australia. In doing so, he found himself separated from his two colleagues, who, no doubt, went unconditionally for anything that would favour the employes as against the employers and ship-owners.
– In a good many cases the ship-owners voted with us.
– The shipowners of Australia, I repeat, were without direct representation:. It is true that the honorable member for North Sydney in a measure represented them, but the other delegates did not. I have here a very interesting summary of the views of the ship-owners of England, showing in a quiet, well-considered way what effect all these proposed shipping laws would have upon British shipping, and more particularly upon the shipping which comes from the old country to do trade in and around Australia. The report runs thus : -
Nevertheless, some interesting sidelights on the proceedings are obtainable. They show that there has been vigorous sparring between the Australian and New Zealand delegates (with the exception of Mr. Dugald Thomson) acting together on the one hand, and the Imperial delegates, the Board of Trade, the shipowners, and the Colonial Office representatives on the other.
This is the point that I desire to bring under the special notice of honorable members -
At the outset the ship-owners submitted an able gaper, temperate, in tone and informative, in reply to the majority report of the Royal Commission on Navigation of the Commonwealth. The Royal Commission, the shipowners’ statement asserted, founded in great measure their recommendations on the decline in the number of British seamen employed on British ships between i860 and 1900, and also on the increased proportion of trade of the world carried by foreign vessels during the same period. As to these statements, the shipowners pointed out that although since 1870 the number of British merchant sailors had decreased from 200,000 to 176,000, the Admiralty had practically taken the cream of the men anxious to engage as sailors. The number employed in the Royal Navy had increased in the same period from 70,000 to 129,000.
The one report honorable members will see, was the off-hand, superficial view of the situation, no allowance being made for the fact, as this paper shows, that the Navy had taken the cream of the sea-faring men of Great Britain to such an extent as to involve an aggregate addition of 129,000 to the number of men engaged in shipping in the British Empire -
Thus in thirty years there had been a total increase of 35,000 British seamen employed in both services. At the present time one out of every 36 males over fifteen years of age in the United Kingdom in some form or other earns his living from the sea. The United Kingdom owns in round figures one-half of the oversea tonnage of the world, whilst its population does not exceed one-twelfth of that of the other shipowning countries. It would be absolutely impossible with the limited population of the United Kingdom to maintain its mercantile marine as it now- exists without employing foreign and Iascar seamen.
Referring to the special conditions the Commonwealth Bill proposed to enforce on ships engaged in the coastal trade, the ship-owners asserted that the liners constitute but a small proportion of British shipping. The larger proportion has no fixed route. Such ships on leaving the country of their register have frequently no programme beyond the first stage. The owners cannot, therefore, provide for compliance with divergent standards when they are ignorant of the ports which their ships will visit. V essels engaged in the general carrying trade of the world must of necessity be prepared to accept employment wherever it is offered. This ability to go anywhere and accept all employmentoffering had been one of the most important factors in building up the British mercantile marine. A nation requiring vessels using its ports to conform to special and unusual standards will of necessity deprive itself in great measure of the services of this very important class of shipping. The special standards required may differ only in minor points of detail, but even then the difference introduces an element of uncertainty prejudicial to business interests. Divers standards must act as toll bars to the British mercantile marine, and as a bounty to the foreigner to the extent that the same disabilities cannot be imposed on them. If this is injurious to British shipping it will be equally injurious to the trade of the Empire. Intercourse cannot be cheap unless it is also free.
That is a very fair summary of the opinions of the British ship-owners, and every honorable member will see a great deal of force in the reasons advanced. If the great bulk of the British shipping consists of trampships, which have to go from one part of the world to another, and do not know from time to time where their next port may be, it stands to reason that if throughout the Empire there are different standards of efficiency, and different structural standards, which must be observed, it is quite impossible to carry on this enormous shipping business. If the men are not decreasing as the ship-owners have shown, and if a large number of the best men are being drafted into the Navy, so as to still leave the increase at 35,000, why should we in Australia, instead of trying to consolidate the Empire, make differential laws, which will be so injurious to the shipping trade of England?
– Has the honorable and learned member the paper which is an answer to that?
– I have not seen it. The Minister of Trade and Customs asks me if I have seen the paper, and all the time he has it in his drawer.
– I have not.
– I have asked frequently for the official report of the Conference proceedings.
– The words to which I refer were not spoken at the Conference.
– This is the Navigation Conference about which I am speaking.
– I have not the report of that Conference.
– We do not know what the honorable gentleman has. He is familiar with all these matters, and he had a trip home in order to become familiar with them. I do not know that this is not contained in the suppressed report which the honorable gentleman has in his possession.
– That is the document which has gone on to the honorable member for East Sydney.
– It is a pity that the document was not laid upon the table yesterday, but perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs did not wish me to see it.
– I am not afraid of the honorable and learned member seeing the document.
– The honorable gentleman is afraid of nothing ; he is not afraid of the British Empire, but his is the courage of the intellectually blind man who cannot see any danger. A blind man on a railway, in front of a train, is not frightened, and the Minister of Trade and Customs is in no way afraid of the British Navy or the British Empire, and for the same reason - that he does not see the danger. It requires a little more intellectual delving than the honorable gentleman can apply, to see those dangers which are apparent to other men. Mr. Lloyd George is a good and sound authority, and I have here a summary of a speech by him which is reported in the cables from England, and which would be found set out in the suppressed document, if we only had it here. It is as follows: -
Mr. Lloyd George considered the resolution unnecessary. He attacked the decisions of the Navigation Conference so far as they affected British shipping, and complained that the great lineTS would be subjected to heavy losses through structural alterations and wages if they were forced to conform to the standards enforced in the Australian coastal trade. The Australian conditions even applied (Mr. Lloyd George continued) where the ocean liners picked up two passengers at an Australian port for conveyance to another port. Such conditions would do much to hamper the carrying trade to Australia. He thought that Australia ought to give the Motherland equality of treatment before discussing preference……
He thought that the restriction of traders and the choice of transport facilities would probably raise the cost of carriage, thus proving a disability. Also a positive advantage would be given to foreign trade between the Empire and foreign countries as compared with trade within the various portions of the Empire if goods could only travel direct within the Empire in British ships, while goods from foreign countries had the choice of either British or foreign ships.
Neither Norway nor Germany exclude us (Mr. Lloyd George continued) from their coasting or inter-Imperial trade, yet they supplied the bulk of the foreign shipping engaged in our inter-Imperial trade. The only vessels excluded under the resolution would be those of Russia and the United States, whose trade was so small that the proposal would confer little practical benefit. If the principle were extended there would be danger of reprisals against our shipping, which was half that of the world. Foreign ships, if excluded, would compete more keenly in the foreign trade still open to them, which largely exceeds the Colonial trade.
So far as the United Kingdom was concerned, the interests of British shipping were not prejudiced by the very small amount of foreign shipping entering our coasting trade.
Mr. Deakin replied. He said that the proposals were those of the Royal Commission - not the Government’s, whose policy was still undecided. He also said that the conditions objected to were intended to raise the standard in conformity with Australian opinion.
– That speech was made . at another Conference ; not at the Navigation Conference.
– I do not care at which Conference it was made; I am not quoting it because it was made at any particular place or time. The speech has reference to the shipping proposals, and it must carry great weight with honorable members when they know that Mr. Lloyd George, so much more than the Minister of Trade and Customs, is aware of the ramifications of the British shipping and the stupendous extent of its work throughout the world.
– We have got very good conditions for Australia.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s test - what have we got? That is exactly like the honorable member, and exactly the spirit in which he entered the Conference; it was a bargain and sale attitude. The idea of an ambassador is absolutely foreign to the honorable gentleman. He went to England to see what he could get, and the Prime Minister went in the same spirit. We may employ a commercial traveller to see what we can get, but if the traveller does not get the order he wants, he does not cry, and whine, and groan, or run away to a gathering of women such as the Victorian League, and tell them that if only they had charge of British interests Australia would be able to get something.
– We got all we wanted.
– That is a fine spirit in which to enter an Imperial Conference. I now pass on to the question of immigration; and there is something ludicrous about the attitude of the Government in this connexion. We can hardly understand a statesman - and that is a word I hope we shall not hear too much of in this Parliament - who has for six years tried to block his own flesh and blood, and all European people who do not conform to our requirements, from coming into Australia, going Home, and asking England to help us to get immigrants. Yet that is the attitude of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs. The first utterance of Mr. Deakin was at a city luncheon, and there he had an opportunity of opening out on the ills of Australia. This is the report of the speech: -
Mr. Deakin referred to Australia’s need for population, and expressed a hope that the Conference would devise such machinery as would secure her as the home of a British population.
Could anything be more ridiculous or laughable than for Mr. Deakin who, in 1902, not only passed, but practically fathered, the Act, to shut out British people where they were under contract, and to shut out European people unless they could pass our education test, to go to England and ask the English people to help to devise some means of populating Australia? Mr. Coghlan has said that Australia is the second most sparsely populated place in the world, and one is curious to know what place is worse. We find that the only other place which is more sparsely populated is, according to Mr. Coghlan, the polar regions. That is rather an interesting fact when we consider that for six years we have been trying to block people of our own flesh and ‘blood from coming here.
– Who are “ we “ ?
– This Parliament.
– Not the Labour Party.
– The honorable member voted in favour of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– The Labour Party did not ; we voted against the education test.
– Did the honorable member vote for the second reading of the Immigration Restriction Act?
– Yes, but we voted against the education test which the honorable and learned member and others supported.
– The honorable member is making history, if he dots not mind my saying so.
– And then the honorable and learned member and his friends go about saying that we passed the education test.
– I have a keen recollection of reading the comments in the Labour newspapers when General Booth proposed to bring 1,000 families to Australia. Because General Booth had the reputation of helping the poor, and notwithstanding that he said the people he would bring would do credit to the country, and help to its development, the Labour newspapers from Queensland to Western Australia abused him, and spoke of him in the most disparaging terms, as if he proposed to bring a number of lepers ; and I never heard a Labour member protest against the tone of those articles. The fact is that the Labour Party have a bee in their bonnet on the subject of population. They are ruled by an economic fallacy that, if people are kept out of the country, those already here will have such a demand for labour that it will rise to much greater value. No greater economic blunder was ever made by intelligent people; but it has been at the bottom of the Labour Party’s policy all through. How could they’ block immigrants from coming in competition with the working classes is what they have asked themselves. They have not recognised that every man who comes into the country creates wants, work, and wealth. And the man who helped the Labour Party in their policy has been the Prime Minister, in passing this Immigration Restriction Act, and in ever since blocking all attempts on the part of the States to break down the barriers. There is preserved in the proceedings of this House a most valuable . State document mode up of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales, in which the latter urged and urged the former to allow a large number of agricultural labourers to come in. But every letter was met in the spirit of the chess player, the Prime Minister saying, “ I shall require to see the contracts before the immigrants come out.” Honorable members will see the impracticability- of getting agricultural labourers or working men in- the old country to enter into a contract which must come out to Australia for exhibition to the Prime Minister, and then be returned to England before they receive permission to emigrate. There never was a country, ancient or modern, civilized or barbarous, which was so utterly inconsiderate of their own flesh and blood. The absurdity is heightened when the Prime Minister goes to England, and asks the English people to undo what he and his Government have done. I find Mr. Deakin is reported as saying -
Mr. Deakin referred to Australia’s need for population, and expressed a hope that the Conference would devise such machinery as would secure her as the home of a British population.
He then moved this resolution -
That it is desirable to encourage British emigrants to proceed to the British Colonies rather than to foreign countries.
What had the Conference to do with the matter ? We do not ask the Conference whether we shall accept people in Australia. We have to say whether we shall open or shut our doors to them, and all we have to’ do, if we desire to open the doors, is to repeal a particular clause of the Immigration Restriction Act, which requires an immigrant to come without a contract if he wishes to enter the country. Have honorable members seriously considered what is the effect of this clause? Surely no one could be a better judge of the suitability of an immigrant than the man who is willing to enter into a contract with him. A farmer sends Home to his friends, and says, “ I want you to find me a dozen straightforward, hard-working farm labourers, whose passage money to this country I will pay, and they can refund it out of their wages.” That is a better method of encouraging immigration than the system of pauperizing immigrants by bringing them out in immigrant ships, perhaps to their life- long regret. But the members of the Labour Party say that wages will be reduced if free immigration is allowed, and that therefore every contract must be scrutinized by the Prime Minister. This, notwithstanding the fact that two of the States have Arbitration Courts, and a third Wages Boards, to see that proper rates of wages are paid. - These facts put the following motion of the Prime Minister at the Conference in a ridiculous aspect : -
That the Imperial Department be requested to co-operate with any Colonies desiring immigrants in assisting suitable persons to emigrate.
That is the cry of the pauper. The motion asks England to give official assistance in connexion with the sending of people to Australia. We have an Act preventing free immigration ; but, in any case, the Australian people do. not desire that the British Government shall be approached, cap in hand, and asked to lend us officials to do work which should be done in the offices of our Agents-General. We do not need information from the Imperial authorities as to how immigrants can be got here. The method is very simple. All we have to do is to open our doors, and they will come.
– If we unlock our lands we shall get people here.
– That is a cry which has been used by the Labour Party to excuse its own legislation. Let us get the people here first. Some want to come here as agricultural labourers. The cry about opening up the land is a mere rhetorical trick. ‘
– The opening up of the land is a positive necessity.
– It has been spoken of by labour members and the labour press ad nauseam. There are hundreds of persons who would come here, but who do not even wish to go on the land. It is ridiculous to suppose that every immigrant would go straight from his ship to take up land. Many would not have the capital, while others would wish to look round first and learn something of the conditions of the country. All that is necessary to obtain population is to open our doors wide. We are told that -
Mr. Deakin dwelt on the urgent need for increased emigration to Australia.
He thought fit to add-
Australia was not ashamed of the treatment of kanakas.
I, as an Australian, am ashamed of it. In my opinion, it was the most un-Christian’ thing that has been done by us. In many cases the kanakas were brought here by force, and it was barbarous to ship them back to savage islands after they and their children had been educated here, and had learnt, during a residence of ten or fifteen years, to respect our laws and to appreciate our civilization. I am prepared to tell any audience in any part of Australia that, in my opinion, the action of this Parliament in respect of the kanakas was un-Christian. Here is another statement made by the Prime Minister in England -
Concerning immigration, Mr. Deakin asserted that if only the States could be persuaded to break away from their red-tape methods, the
Commonwealth Government. would undertake to bring over all the settlers they “could find, and place them on the land.
To say this in England, was to add insult to injury. In some instances, neither of our delegates can’ have realized that his remarks would be reported to the Australian people. The statement which I have just read is a libel upon the States. Who ever heard of a British, or even a European immigrant, being refused admission to Australia prior to the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act? For the Prime Minister to charge the States with the result of his humiliating domination by . the Labour Party was unworthy of his position. I wish now to refer to the question - of defence. Among the many misrepresentations made by the Prime Minister was this statement -
Australia desired an extended interchange of officers, especially of men of higher standing than had hitherto been sent.
I quite agree with that as a statement of policy ; but, in view of what has happened, one cannot help feeling, surprised at the request. We all thought, when the defence arrangements of the six States were controlled by the Commonwealth authority, that an expert should be imported to advise us as to our military defence; and the Government of the day, on the recommendation of the British authorities, chose Major-General Sir Edward Hutton for the work. He had had great experience in New South Wales and Canada, had been through the South African war, and was a man of recognised ability. Having taken time to study the conditions of the country, he formulated a scheme of Australian defence. It was submitted to Parliament three or four years ago, and what happened? The late Sir Edward Braddon moved the reduction of the Military Estimates by £160,000, and the Ministry had not the courage to resist this extraordinary proposal. The leader of the Labour Party then moved a further reduction of £60,000 His proposal, likewise, met with no opposition from the Government., and in one evening the military expenditure was cut down by about 25 per cent, owing to the miserable want of courage on the part of the Government. The Ministry said, “Yes, Mr. Watson; yes, Sir Edward,” and allowed its Estimates to be reduced without a protest. As a result, the symmetry of Sir Edward Hutton’s scheme was spoiled. Officers of merit, ability, and experience, were retired on small pensions, and some of them left the Commonwealth. I have heard it said that at the present time the Military Forces are seething with rebellious feeling because of the treatment they have received and are receiving from the Government.
– Why do they not show it?
– If the honorable member will apply that remark to his own conduct, he will see the absurdity of it. Would he think of rebelling against his leader?
– I am always independent.
– Our expenditure is greater than that of Canada.
– That remark is wholly irrelevant. The Military Forces of Australia have been ill-treated and mismanaged, and we have lost some of our best men. Do we not know that two of our officers who left the service in disgust took care to publicly refer to this mismanagement ? Then the officer who was imported as an expert, to advise us on questions of defence, went away dissatisfied with his treatment, and disappointed with the manner in which his suggestions and advice had been received. To-day our military Department is in a chaotic state. Let honorable members consider the Prime Minister’s request in the light of the facts which I have just recalled to their memories. Can we imagine any officer of high standing coming to this country, knowing as he must the treatment meted out to Sir Edward Hutton and to his advice? It would be well to get officers of higher standing, but it would be a bad thing for such men to come here and be so treated because the Government does not possess the majority enabling it to defend its Estimates.
– Is the honorable and learned member aware that Sir Edward Hutton never finished anything that he commenced ?
– I am not surprised that he left much unfinished. He prepared a scheme of military organization involving an expenditure of about ^1,000,000, and Parliament at once cut down the sum at his disposal to about ^750,000, speaking in round numbers.
– The first Estimates were for about ,£800,000.
- Sir Edward Hutton could not have been expected to finish his work, because directly he got a scheme ready an immense reduction was made in the military Estimates.
– Was not the reduction partly in the naval portion of the Estimates ?
– Honorable members can readily imagine how the Imperial Government would treat two irresponsible members of the House of Commons who suggested that the military and naval Estimates should be cut down proportionately. The Prime Minister preferred a request to the Imperial, authorities, that some system should be initiated under which officers of higher standing in the Imperial forces than have hitherto been sent here, should be transferred to Australia in exchange for some of our own officers.
– That is a very laudable desire, I consider.
– I am merely pointing out the hopelessness of asking the Imperial authorities to send us officers of higher rank, seeing how unceremoniously we treated Major-General Hutton, and how we disregarded his advice. I wish now to say a few words concerning the Naval Agreement. If there is one subject upon which the Prime Minister and his colleague had no authority to speak, it was the proposal’ that Australia should cease her contribution to the British Navy. I claim that there has never been a public meeting held in Australia at which such a suggestion has been put forward by either of those gentlemen. Yet they have left upon, the British authorities the impression that Australians regard the existing Naval Agreement unfavorably, and wish to utilize our present contribution - the miserable pittance which, in reality, represents only about one-twentieth of our per capita share towards the maintenance of the Imperial Navy - for local defence purposes.
– I never did anything of the kind.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs may not have been present at all the discussions in the Conference. I will tell him what his colleague said in this connexion. The Prime Minister observed -
The Naval Agreement is not popular in Australia.
I claim that that statement is not true. There has never been a public meeting held in Australia at which either of our delegates have had the courage to express that opinion. It is a remarkable circumstance that although the Prime Minister told the people of Great Britain that the Agreement was not popular, he has not had the temerity to make any reference to the subject in the Governor-General’s Speech. It has been dropped quite out of consideration. The Prime Minister continued -
He desired to see the Naval Subsidy diverted from the coffers of the Admiralty and expended upon docks or coaling facilities, which, no doubt, would be located in Melbourne. I am aware that there has been a constant agitation against the Australian Squadron being located in Sydney, and it is quite in keeping with the political views and breadth of vision of the Prime Minister that he should desire to move it to Melbourne. I repeat that there was not a tittle of justification for the statement of the honorable and learned gentleman, and seme authoritative communication ought to be forwarded to the British Government pointing out that he has not had the courage even to mention the matter in the Viceregal Speech. Any such proposal, I venture to say, would be negatived by twothirds of this House. The disposition of the Australian people towards Great Britain in connexion with her Army and Navy is one of gratitude. We depend upon the presence of the British Fleet in the Pacific, and it would not suit us from a commercial stand-point to have that fleet leave the precincts of Australia simply because we chose to discontinue our naval contribution. As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that1 the people of the Commonwealth would be willing to double the contribution to-morrow. What position do the Government as a body occupy upon this question? I have a keen recollection of some utterances by the Treasurer upon it. The right honorable gentleman went to England, and propounded a magnificent document upon the subject of the British Navy, presumably on behalf of his Government.
– Flexibility, again.
– That1 is so. Upon that occasion, the Treasurer said -
I am not prepared to recommend, under existing conditions, the establishment of an Australian Navy. Even if it were established, I am afraid it would not be very efficient, for, besides the enormous cost of replacing the fleet from time to time with more modern ships, there would be no change for the officers and crews, who would go on year after year in the same ships, subject to the same influences, and, I fear, with deteriorating effects.
In regard to defence, we must altogether get rid of the idea that we have different interests to those of the rest of the Empire, and we must look at the matter from a broad, common standpoint. If the British nation is at war, so are we; if it gains victories or suffers disaster, so do we ; and, therefore, it is of the same vital interest to us as to the rest of the Empire that our supremacy on the ocean shall be maintained. There is only one sea to be supreme over, and we want one fleet to be mistress over that sea.
Our aim and object should be to make the Royal Navy the Empire’s Navy, supported by the whole of the self-governing portions of the Empire, and solely supported by the people of the British Isles as is practically the case at the present time. c
That was the opinion of the Treasurer, who expressed it deliberately, and as representing the feelings of the Ministry of the day.
– But that was five years ago.
– I should like to know what has happened since then to alter the feelings of the Australian people towards the Imperial Navy or in respect of our contribution towards the maintenance of that Navy? Absolutely nothing. There has been no expression of opinion on the part of the people against it. Yet the Prime Minister and his colleagues talked ex cathedra, as though they were charged with the task of voicing the views of the Australian people upon it.
– I never referred to it.
– But the Prime Minister did, and it was the duty of the Minister -of Trade and Customs, when he heard him do so, to remind him that he had no authority to make the statement which he did. But, instead of doing so, the Minister of Trade and Customs sat meekly beside him - overwhelmed, no doubt, by the atmosphere of the Conference - and said nothing.
– And the Treasurer repeated that statement only eighteen months ago.
– When an inconsistency on the part of a prominent politician is pointed out, I do not think it is a desirable sign of the times that it should be considered a sufficient defence to exclaim, “ But that was five years ago.”
– The point is that the present Government is a new one.
– But the Treasurer is practically associated to-day with the same colleagues. At any rate, the present Prime Minister was -a colleague of his ar. the period to which I refer. Yet the Treasurer is content to continue a member of the Government, notwithstanding that he is at cross purposes with his leader upon this question. I hold in my hand a copy of the Naval Agreement Act, and in the schedule to it I find the following preliminary statement: -
Agreement between His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Colony of New Zealand.
The Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, &c, and the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia and of New Zealand, having recognised the importance of sea power, in the control which it gives oversea communications, the necessity of a single Navy under one authority, by which alone concerted action can be assured, &c.
That appears in the Act which was introduced in 1903 by the Government of which the present Prime Minister was the head. Upon two or three occasions the honorable and learned , gentleman has spoken as if the people of Australia were rather disposed to spend our present contribution under the Naval Agreement upon the establishment of an Australian Navy. I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to a report upon the defence of Australia prepared by Captain Creswell, which deals with the proposal which he is supposed to have inspired in regard to the establishment of a local Navy. This is what he says of the functions of the local fleet -
This will provide a defence not designed as a force for action against hostile fleets or squad- Tons, which is the province of the Imperial fleet, but as a line necessary to us within the defence line of the Imperial fleet - a purely defensive line that will give security to our naval bases, populous centres, principal ports, and commerce.
Captain Creswell, it will thus be seen, has no idea of substituting anything for the British Fleet which is to act as our protection beyond our shores. A paper which was printed a little time ago by the honorable and learned member for Angas sets out some very interesting facts bearing upon this matter. There has been a great controversy raging in this country from time to time as to how near the ships of the Imperial Navy should keep to our shores. The popular opinion seems to be that the Australian Squadron should be chiefly used in and about our ports. But no less an authority than Captain Mahan, in a paper upon “ The disposition of the Navy,” which was published before the Russo-Japanese war. laid it down that the naval base for the defence of Australia was the middle of the Indian Ocean. He recognised the principle laid down by Lord Nelson, that a navy should not remain at the place likely to be attacked, but should go out to the enemy, and prevent it from getting even near the point of attack. The RussoJapanese war has taken place since Captain Mahan expressed this view, and no doubt, if he were appealed to now, he would say that the naval base for the defence of Australia is much more to the east. I am satisfied that he would fix upon a point somewhere between Australia and China and Japan, because if, in the near future, Australia were menaced, as some people fear, by any nation, it would be by what are described as the “ hordes of yellow races “ who might seek to reach our northern shores, since they are not being used as they ought to be by the British people now occupying Australia. If it be correct that the naval base for the defence of Australia is somewhere to the east of the middle of the Indian Ocean - lying midway between China, Japan, and Australia - we scarcely need these men-of-war in our ports. We certainly should not require their presence here if. the fleet, which the Prime Minister seems to be bent on creating, were brought into existence for the defence of our coast-line. It is interesting to read in the pamphlet referred to what the Admiralty does and what it has to do. With the view of showing the shipping, which it is the function of the Navy to protect, the writer states -
About one-fourth of the trade of the Empire never touches the United Kingdom. It is direct between British possessions and foreign countries or among British dominions. The part of the total trade of the United Kingdom which is carried on with British dominions is also about a fourth. The whole trade is protected by the Imperial Navy.
In another passage we have a very interesting fact as showing the benefit which Australia and the other great Colonial possessions are deriving from the British Navy -
The Admiralty memorandum of June, 1902, submitted to the Imperial Conference, based the case of the mother country on trade alone. It points out that in 1900 more than half, the combined trade of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India was with foreign countries.
When I hear honorable members declaring that we ought not to contribute to the cost of the British Navy because it is designed simply to protect the trade of Great Britain, I feel constrained to remind them that more than half of the trade of the four great Colonies- in the Empire never goes near England, and that, therefore, the British Navy would be under no obligation to defend them if it were not intended to protect the interests of the Colonies as well as of Great Britain itself. I should like to show the House how the British authorities received the statement by the Prime Minister that the naval subsidy was unpopular, and that the Australian people desired to divert the money from the coffers of the Admiralty into some other channel of expenditure. Nothing is more dignified than the way in which British statesmen deal with- the whims and fancies of the outlying parts of the Empire. I find it reported that -
Lord Tweedmouth (First Lord of the Admiralty) stated that, as the result of interviews with the Australasian delegates, he was now able to summarize the Admiralty’s decisions. So far as Australia and New Zealand were concerned, the Admiralty would be willing to leave the continuance of the present subsidy entirely in their hands, leaving them. to do whatever they thought best. He realized that Australia did not favour the present mode of contribution.
Honorable members will see that the representation made without any authority from the Australian people or the Australian Parliament, was received as authoritative by the Admiralty. Lord Tweedmouth regarded it as being so far authoritative as to warrant his placing it before the naval authorities in England. They gave the answer that Australia might do what she pleased. We must realize that a miserable paltry sum of ^200,000, which, possibly, would be spent upon some local defence in a couple of years, is a very small consideration to the British people, having regard to their total defence expenditure. It shows the dignity and the independence of the British people that they recognise in us some childish quality which prompts us to have one whim to-day and another tomorrow. The Prime Minister, without authority, gives expression to this whim of his that we should stop our contribution to the British Navy, and the. naval authorities at Home say, “ Very well, we shall not fight or bear you any ill-will. You may do as you please.” Lord Tweedmouth went on to say that -
The Admiralty was willing to adopt the principle of Australia choosing for herself, especially as the Admiralty wished to be relieved of the obligations of the agreement respecting the strength of the squadron to be kept on the Australian station.
I have it on excellent authority that, apart altogether from wages, from disbursements in respect of wages, the annual expenditure of the British Navy in Australia is £300,000. And we are giving a paltry sum of £1 80,000, plus the ,£20,000 voted by New Zealand, to compensate the British
Navy for sending their vessels here. Is it not very natural that these great organizations, when told that Australia looks askance at the naval contribution, should say, in effect, “ Very well, if you do not like the present arrangement you may terminate it at any time; we shall be very glad to be relieved from the responsibility of the further demands you are making upon the Australian Squadron.” Is it not obvious to every well-informed man that if the naval base for the defence of Australia is somewhere between China, Japan, and this continent, the Admiralty should object to the vessels of the Australian Squadron being kept in our ports? They can serve no useful purpose there, and by remaining they violate one of the fundamental principles of naval warfare, which requires that a navy shall go out to meet an enemy instead of waiting for it to attack. Is it not natural that the Admiralty should resent any further demands on the part of Australia, and be prepared to terminate the Naval Agreement, saying, “ If you do not like this arrangement, we are prepared to terminate it, and, by doing so, we shall be relieved from the obligation of keeping our vessels in your harbor.’’ We pay ^200,000 per annum towards the maintenance of the squadron here, but we have also the advantage of the presence of the China Squadron in the northern seas to protect us against the probable enemies which some so greatly fear. I believe, however, that the Australian people would resent an attempt on the part of this Parliament to put an end to that obligation. If they were appealed to, I am confident they would gladly agree to the present subsidy being doubled or trebled. They would do so in a spirit of loyalty to the mother country, and because of a feeling of gratitude for the great benefits we have already derived from the British Navy.
– I believe they would declare that the original agreement was an error.
– I know that the whole of the Labour Party voted against the Naval Agreement. I have studied Hansard, and the miserable, illogical reasons advanced by some members of the Labour Party for refusing to support that, measure. I could never understand how a body of intelligent men, who read and think, and ought to know what is going on in the world, could justify in their own minds a failure to recognise the obligations we are under to Great Britain for the protection she affords us. What would Australia do in the event of our being deprived of the services of the British Navy? Do these honorable members imagine, as some of them, in swashbuckling language declared, that we could defend ourselves against the Japanese or the Chinese? If we could not do so, are we not under an obligation to those who save us so much expenditure and trouble in that regard? Do we not know what is the condition of the British people? If we recognise that wages there are much lower than they are in Australia,, and that the conditions of life in this country are much brighter, is it not paltry and contemptible for us to say that we shall not contribute to the British Navy, or relieve in any way the burden of taxation which rich and poor alike in England have to bear in order to provide us with our present magnificent defence against our enemies? I could never understand how such a body of men as the Labour Party, many of whom read and make themselves familiar with the world’s work, could logically reconcile their attitude with respect to the Naval Agreement Bill. When it was before this House, the leader of the party stated how he intended to vote, and the rest of the members, to a man, voted with him. By a strange coincidence, not one honorable member of the party crossed the floor and, from a sense of gratitude to the old country, voted in favour of the Bill. It stands to the credit of Sir Joseph Ward that he said -
New Zealand was not prepared to embark upon the heavy financial responsibility of building and maintaining a local navy, as the Colony had much development work ahead requiring the expenditure of millions sterling. He did not desire to follow a dog-in-the-manger policy regarding Australia. He would be willing to assist to release Australia from the conditions of the agreement, which New Zealand retained, for the adoption of the policy she considered better for her interests. He would consult his colleagues and Parliament, recommending this course, and leaving New Zealand free to make her own arrangements with the British Government for the defence of the Colony.
Honorable members will see that the representation of the Prime Minister, which was wholly unauthorized, was made with such gravity and with so great an assumption of authority, that the naval authorities were actually led to reconsider the whole question, and to give a final answer to our delegates. It actually impressed Sir Joseph Ward with the idea that the Commonwealth delegates had some authority at their back, and he had to take up a nega tive position, and say what New Zealand would do on her own account. I come now to an entirely different question,, upon which I think something ought to be said. The honorable and learned member at the head of the Government made another representation to the Conference, for which he had no authority, when he said that “ The Privy Council was not altogether acceptable to Australia.” It is true that some unsuccessful litigants have from time to time spoken depreciatingly of the Privy Council, but no one who knows anything about the complexities of the law doubts that that tribunal embraces some of the ablest Judges in the British Empire. Everyone within the inner circle, and who has considered the merits of that great tribunal, knows that many of the great lawyers of England sit both in the House of Lords and in the Privy Council. Honorable members may be aware that the Privy Council is reserved as a Court of Appeal for all the British Dominions, while the House of Lords is the Court of Appeal for all the Courts of Great Britain. No Court in Great Britain can be appealed from to the Privy Council, and no Court in the British Colonies can be appealed, from to the House of Lords; they are two distinct tribunals, though the same men frequently act in both. There was no authority from this House or this country to represent at Home that the Privy Council was not altogether acceptable to the people of Australia. Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that the findings of the Privy Council were generally approved in Canada; Sir Joseph Ward said that the people of New Zealand were generally satisfied with the existing arrangements, while the representatives of Cape Colony and Natal affirmed the importance of continuing the Privy Council. It will be seen that on this question our representative was absolutely isolated, and I protest against this system, which we shall have to regulate in the future, of Ministers going from this Parliament, and laying before the people of England, as if they were the opinions of the Australian people, suggestions which they have no authority to make.
– Then we shall have to instruct the representatives as delegates.
– I do not think that the alternative is a bad one, because it would have been a perfectly easy matter for the Prime Minister before departing for England to have placed the resolutions before honorable members for indorsement as representing the feeling of the: people of Australia.
– Did not the Prime Minister make a long speech to that end?
– Yes, but he did not submit the resolution for indorsement.
– He read each one of them.
– Of course, as the honorable member knows, he was anxious, like everybody else, to put an end to the session, and to submit a motion for indorsement would have meant a long discussion.
– I was anxious to go on with the session.
– I am now talking about the system; and what is inconvenient to the honorable member or to myself is of no importance ; we are merely passing shadows, and this Parliament will continue when we both are dead and forgotten. I say that in future we shall have to establish some better method by which we can either have men of the Laurier stamp who know and observe the limit of their -authority, or, if we have to send out men of smaller calibre, we must take care to clearly define their functions by a set of resolutions, which have been indorsed by the Parliament of the country.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that Mr. Deakin is of smaller calibre than Sir Wilfrid Laurier?
– Certainly ; I do not think the Prime Minister can be compared with Sir Wilfrid Laurier for statesmanship. As a speaker, the Prime Minister may be even more eloquent than Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As one honorable member said to-night, the honorable gentleman is brilliant, and I admit the fact ; but brilliancy or eloquence do not mean statesmanship. We have arrived at a day when eloquence is almost a forgotten art; we want truth, common sense, plain dealing, and correct thinking1 - we do not want flowers, but facts. Although I quite admit that Mr. Deakin may be the most eloquent man in Australia, and he may have been more eloquent than anybody in England - eloquence is a dangerous faculty, and it may have led him into misrepresenting us when he was at Home. It is possible that his eloquence and brilliancy led him to go beyond his judgment; at all events, he went beyond my judgment, and I think, beyond the judgment of this House on some important questions. I had intended to say something on the ques tion of the transfer of the States debts, but as that matter has to be dealt with specifically later, I shall refer to it then. I now only desire to refer to paragraph 12 of His Excellency’s Speech, which is as follows : -
To meet the situation created by the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of Webb v. Outtrim, a Bill will be introduced preventing decisions on matters relating to the distribution of powers between Commonwealth and States being pronounced by two Courts of Final Appeal, and to confirm the High Court in its position as the final interpreter of the Constitution in this regard, except when the High Court itself certifies that the matter is one which ought to .be decided by the King in Council.
If that paragraph means anything - I do not know if it was drawn by the AttorneyGeneral - it means that an attempt is going to be made to give the High Court more appellate power than it now has under the Constitution. I shall be very anxious to see ‘ how the powers of the High Court are to be increased by am Act passed by this Parliament; the measure will be a curiosity to me, because it seems an impossible proposal. If the High Court is not preeminent now under the Constitution, it is quite impossible for the House to make’ it so; nothing but the action of the Imperial Parliament, or an amendment of the Constitution, could add to its powers, as every legal man- must know. I have dealt with nearly every subject I intended to touch upon, and I apologize to the House for the great length of my remarks. I felt that we were at a very serious juncture in our history when the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs had returned” from the Conference, where they had made representations for which they had no authority, and that we were at a stage in the history of parties at which nobody seemed to know how the parties were going to be placed in regard ta one another.
– We know verv well.
– The honorable’ member may know, but I do not know.
– We are going to- “ run this show” for the next three years, anyhow.
– My fear is that we are possibly about to enter on another period similar to that we experienced during the last Parliament. If it be true that a compact was made as stated by the honorable member for Kennedy, and if a similar offer were made now, I should look forward with very little hope to what I” could call legislation in the interests of the whole people. I hope, however, that such a compact will never again be entered into, but that the Prime Minister will rise above such standards, and refuse to place himself under an obligation to any other party in the House. I should like to see the Prime Minister mend his ways, and take a thoroughly independent course. If he did so, I should be no party to mere factious opposition. If I felt that the Prime Minister was a free man, under no obligation to any party, I would readily support any legislation he introduced, so long as it commended itself to me as conducive to the welfare of the whole country. I thank honorable members very much for the patient way in which thev have listened to mv prolonged observations.
.- The honorable and learned member, who is just now gathering up the fragments of his notes, has made a mighty effort, and there will be no busier man in the Commonwealth than he when he is correcting his proofs. Under your beneficent rule, Mr. Speaker, it is one of our privileges* to have handed to us every morning proofs of the most capable reports made by our well-established Hansard staff, and we, I am. sure, will sympathize with the honorable and learned member for Parkes tomorrow in the amount of reading which his pile of proofs will require. If I can be of any assistance to him, I shall only be too glad to place myself at his disposal. The honorable and learned member, on Imperial questions, absolutely expresses my view. He is, politically, my next-door neighbour, on the front Opposition bench, and my next door neighbour, in view of the fact that his electorate adjoins mine. Honorable members are aware that next-door neighbours “ fall out “ much more readily with one another than with neighbours opposite or around the corner.
– I never see the honorable member.
– That is because the honorable and learned member is so seldom here. The honorable and learned member has a pretty tall flag-staff in his back-yard, and so have I, and we both fly the Union Jack for all it is worth. I am pleased at the way he waved the Imperial flag tonight, but I think he applied the microscope too often. We know, however, that his speech has not been made for home use, but for export purposes, and I think that the honorable and learned member’s views on Imperial matters admirably express the Australian/ sentiment. I was saying that the honorable and learned member and myself were political nextdoor neighbours, and, strange to say, we have the same “ landlord “ in the person of the right honorable member for East Sydney. I am beginning to get a little diffident about my “ landlord.” Last session,. I thought the honorable and learned member for Parkes was going to terminate his “ lease,” but he says he has entered into another term with the “landlord,” and I say frankly that I am getting a little uneasy.
– The honorable member is afraid of his associations?
– Exactly. The Opposition benches, in the earlier part of the evening, presented, as the advertisements say the appearance of “ a highly respectable locality in which to live;” indeed, I may call it a “ highly fashionable” locality, there not being much of the Footscray or Richmond element about it. I am watching my landlorda genial soul, to whom, I am glad to say, I owe no rent - with a good deal of interest, because I do not know that I shall not receive notice to quit one of these days. You, Mr. Speaker, are a keen politician, and I hope that if you have seen a solidly built, well-roofed democratic building in the course of your travels, you will let me know, because I am desirous of taking up my residence in such quarters. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has found fault with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs for the attitude which they adopted at the Imperial Conference. According to the honorable and learned member, Australia is only a little bit of mud ; but I am glad that, after his airy flights of oratory, he was able to get back safely to this same bit- of mud. He objected to the manner in which Mr. Asquith was spoken of. I admire Mr. Asquith as much as he does; but I see no reason why those who disagree with him should not dare to say so. The honorable and learned member adopted a patronizing tone in telling us that the Australian politician very seldom reads English magazines. I, at all events, am an exception, because I occasionally read, and even understand, an English magazine, although I do not possess his elegant diction. A little while ago, in another lecture which he gave the House, he spoke of
Japan being a great country which, “ if he might use a vulgarism, was progressing by leaps and bounds.” That phrase is not a vulgarism, but an accepted one amongst educated Englishmen, notwithstanding the fact that our sensitive friend does not like it. To-night, however, he was guilty of an unusually mixed metaphor, in saying that the Prime Minister had “stooped” so low as to take the leg of mutton from off the greasy pole. I differ from him on many matters, but without proceeding to further discuss his speech at the present time, I wish to refer to the statement of the leader of the Opposition . that he is prepared to step aside, if that be necessary, to terminate the three-party system in this House. The right honorable gentleman has few stronger admirers than myself, although I have always reserved my independence of speech and action, both here and on the public platform. Of course, he had a perfect right to make that statement, but his supporters also have the right to ask what ir means. I have followed him politically for a number of years, and if his remark is to be taken as an intimation that the Opposition is to have a new leader, I wish to know who is to be that leader. I do not promise to follow any leader until I know who is to succeed the right honorable gentleman. In my opinion, his services lo Australia, and especially to New South Wales, have been so great that it is inconceivable that he should occupy in politics any other position than that of a party leader.
– He is too able a man to Cease being a leader.
– Exactly. He is unquestionably the ablest man in the public life of Australia; while the Minister of Trade and Customs is the most capable, that is, So far as political craftsmanship is concerned.
– I am the most innocent man in our public life.
– Then recently the honorable gentleman was an “innocent abroad.” He forced his way into the Imperial Conference in a manner which has irritated the honorable and learned member for Parkes; but I think that his craftsmanship was as evident in London as it has been here.’ He has not the ability of the leader of the Opposition, nor a command of phrases such as is possessed by the honorable and learned member for Parkes ; but he knows human nature, and therefore keeps, not only in public life, but in power. No politician knows human nature better than he does. If the leader of the Opposition stands aside, I trust that it will be to accept the High Commissionership in London. Probably he will not thank me for this mention of the matter, because I do not hold a brief for him; but I trust that that appointment will be the coping-stone of His political career.
– He -has too good a thing on here.
– Perhaps that is so. We all know what a great demand there is for his professional services at the New South Wales Bar. He makes a great personal sacrifice in attending the sittings of this Parliament, and naturally, now that the years of his working life are not very many, wishes to give close attention to his professional work. I would not be one to ask him to relinquish his work, but if he would do so, I should like to see him appointed High Commissioner. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, in his attack on the Treasurer, repeated the phrase which has so often been used in this Chamber, about the eating of dirt It was used last Parliament by Sir George Turner, and many honorable members seem to think that he coined it. I am astounded that so literary a person as the honorable and learned member, who advises us to study our English history, did not know that Mr. Gladstone was the author of that phrase. In a private conversation, Mr. Gladstone, speaking of Lord Palmerston, - who was at the time clinging to office, said that he “ would eat dirt, and would continue to do so while it was golden dirt.” The deputy leader of the Opposition referred to the paragraphs in the Governor-General’s Speech as the dressing in the Government’s political shop window. Had an amendment been moved on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, there would have been less waste of time in this debate, and the deficiencies of the Government programme would have been more glaringly exposed.
– Let us have an _ amendment.
– The honorable member attacked the Government very severely the other night, because he knew that it was safe to do so. He would not have spoken in that manner had he been addressing himself to an amendment directed against them.
– His speech was a blank cartridge.
– Yes. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech must be treated much as one would treat an auctioneer’s catalogue. Every item is described with a flourish, but not truthfully described. If we could believe the auctioneers, everything they have for sale is as described ; but the usual way of doing business is to make an inspection before bidding. However, I am not going to wastemy time by discussing mere descriptive titles, although I shall be ready enough to criticise the measures for which they stand. We ha.ve heard a good deal about the magnificent and even regal treatment accorded tothe Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs in London, and one might liken the Vice-Regal Speech for which they are responsible to a Hotel Cecil menu, on which there are twentyfour courses. If one were to call for any of the dishes there set down, the Government could not supply it, because they are not prepared with a single measure. They hope to live on their Tariff proposals, and, in my opinion, will seethat we do not get Tariff reform during the life of this Parliament. I believe that they will try to make the need for a revision of duties the cry at the next election. The mover of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply said that he was following a musty precedent. If he is such a radical as to wish to abolish this form, why does he not go further, and propose that the country should be saved the expense of the pageantry attendant upon the opening of Parliament by the Governor-General ? We should get on very well if our proceedings were commenced with a Ministerial statement from the Prime Minister. As it is, following musty precedent, the Governor-General has to endure some physical discomfort in arraying himself in a splendid uniform, while, on the last occasion, we had the spectacle of the Presi- dent of the Senate, a man of reputed wealth, flying about the corridors in his robes of office without visible means of support. The Government have been criticised from various quarters - indeed, members of the Labour Party have done nothing but condemn them. That, however, represents the beginning and the end of their hostility to the Ministry. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie made a most serious accusation against the Postmaster-General - an accusation of sufficient importance to warrant the tabling of a motion of censure. There are many matters in respect of which the administration of the Government has been open to challenge Certain honorable members upon this side of the Chamber have expressed themselves very strongly upon the question of responsible Government - notably, the honorable member for Flinders. But not one of these gentlemen referred to the most egregious blunder of all those committed by the Government - the absence of Ministerial responsibility in connexion with the mail contract. Day after day the Postmaster-General was absolutely silent upon the matter, and when the press representatives made inquiries of him his reply almost invariably was, “ You must see Sir John Forrest.” What right had he to delegate his responsibility to the Treasurer ?
– The Government wanted to send the Postmaster-General to Brisbane, but he would not go.
– If honorable members are such sticklers for responsible government, I hold that the question of Ministerial responsibilityis of equal moment. The Postmaster-General is paid to administer his Department, and I believe that under the Federal Government that Department demands more careful administration than does any other. In my judgment, the present occupant of that office adequately fills the bill as an able administrator, but I object to him surrendering alike his responsibility and his dignity by referring the press representatives, who sought for information concerning the mail contract, to the Treasurer. His predecessor in office did precisely the same thing. He allowed the Prime Minister of the day, the right honorable member for East Sydney, to answer a deputation of merchants which waited upon him in the New South Wales capital. I do not believe in the Prime Minister interfering in the affairs of any Department other than his own.
– The honorable member forgets that the Prime Minister is responsible for the administration of all the Departments.
– The honorable member will find, when he gets a responsible master - like the Minister of Trade and Customs - that he will be compelled to “ toe the mark.”
– But the PostmasterGeneral had not a hard taskmaster to deal with ; he had his genial friend the Treasurer, who knew nothing whatever about the mail contract. The representatives of the press were obliged to exercise all sorts of in- genuity to obtain information in respect of that undertaking. But now that that contract has been cancelled, I trust that Australia will no longer be dragged in the mire by the scheming persons who endeavoured to secure it. During the last Parliament I said that I regarded that contract merely as a speculative option, and subsequent events have absolutely justified my opinion. I believe that the agent for Messrs. Laing and Sons is sufficiently keen to institute an action against the Commonwealth Government for a breach of contract. We all know how- cleverly he succeeded in piling up bills of costs against the State Government in connexion with the Butter Bonus Commission. The whole matter of the mail contract was bungled from the beginning to the end of the negotiations. It is a singular circumstance that so far as the debate has proceeded, the Government can claim only two supporters, namely, the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and its seconder - one a wise man and the other otherwise. The whole of the debate, it seems to me, has revolved around the question of the Imperial Conference. Personally I consider that the Prime Minister shaped very well in the old country. There is no doubt that he attracted the eyes of the people of Great Britain to his strong personality. I do not say that I agree with all his conclusions, but the honorable and learned member for Parkes apparently thinks that because he fought for his hand he acted in an undignified manner. I beg to think otherwise. We must always recollect that the gathering was a Conference of Premiers. I am astounded, however, that our Prime Minister did not suggest that the next Imperial Conference should be held in Canada and the succeeding one in Australia. It is a matter which might easily have been arranged. The true bonds which bind us to the Empire are those of blood and kinship,’ and so long as the Empire gives its oversea dominions autonomous rights, I am satisfied that the sentiment of unity will grow. The honorable and learned member for Parkes evidently is of opinion that the Prime Minister should have attended the Imperial Conference as if he were treading upon Holy ground. Personally I certainly admire the attitude which our principal delegate adopted at that gathering. He did not attend it in an obsequious spirit, nor was he expected to do so. I believe that the reason why the Conference was regarded as being such a great success was because it accomplished nothing. There was simply a sort of Christmas gathering of the leading statesmen of the Empire as the result of which a better understanding between them was arrived at. Whether the Prime Minister of Australia expressed the views of this country is quite another matter. When he explains his attitude to this House it will be either my duty to accept his explanation or to criticise it adversely. One thing, however, I do say, and that is that when the Prime Minister landed in Victoria a fortnight ago he was a stronger man in the estimation of the people of this country than he ever was before. Why was that? Because the people felt that he had done something to strengthen the bonds of attachment between Australia and the motherland. They saw with delight how well their representative had been received in England, and how fully he had attracted the public eye. They also read with pleasure his assurances that Australia was solid for the Empire. I believe that was the cause of the welcome that was given to him. But so far as concerns the introduction of the spirit of bargaining, I certainly agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that as soon as we introduce the element of commercialism into the relationships between the dependencies of the Empire and the motherland we may bid good-bye to the excellent sentiment of unity that now prevails. I firmly believe that to base our Empire upon considerations of a mercantile character would have the effect of breaking’ the links asunder. The Empire can be held together by sentiment, bv blood, and by the feeling of kinship, but never by bargaining. The honorable and learned member for Parkes put it very plainly, that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when in England, simply looked out for opportunities for making a good bargain for the artisans of Australia.
– The honorable member means in the Navigation Conference?
– No, I am referring to the desire that ran through his public utterances that the people of Great Britain should buy more from us, and that we should buy less from them. For the Minister does not wish Australia to buy more from Great Britain; his sole desire is that we shall be able to sell more to her.
– I want Australia tr> buy more from Great Britain, and less from foreign countries.
– The honorable gentleman’s position is exactly that of the honorable member who seconded the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and who told us plainly that as a protectionist he does not want British-made goods to come into competition with goods made in Australia.
– That is right.
– That is a frank admission.
– But the honorable member would sooner buy English than American boots.
– That is right.
– I suppose that while the Minister was in England he was wearing English boots?
– As a matter of fact, I had them made for me in Sydney.
– At any rate, I remember the time’ when the honorable gentleman wore none but imported boots.
– Not only my boots, but everything I wore in England was made in Australia.
– Including the Court dress?
– All that could be made here of that was Australian.
– The members of the Labour Party have been very severe in their attacks on the Government, but with one exception, no regret has been expressed at the absence from the Governor-General ‘s Speech of all reference to the nationalization of monopolies. Yet that was the cardinal feature of the Labour Party’s platform at the last election.
– That was for platform use only.
– What? Does the honorable member mean to tell me that it was merely meant to gull the public? I will not believe it !
– Give us a majority, and we will soon nationalize some of the monopolies.
– The Labour Party rule the Government to-day. They direct the Government. Indeed, if the Prime Minister had been present, and heard the personal attacks made by the Labour Party upon him, I could understand that, sensitive as he is, he would at once have handed in his resignation. I believe it will come to that before long. I cannot conceive of a man of the Prime Minister’s tempera ment putting up with such criticism much longer. I believe there is room for a rearrangement of parties in this House. There is a clear line of cleavage. There are Radicals here, and there are Conservatives. Take my case. ‘ How many of my neighbours on this side of the House are in accord with me?
– The honorable member seems very uncomfortable.
– I am on a solid foundation, though. I can do what I like, but if I were a member of the honorable member’s party I should have to do what the majority directed me to do.
– The honorable member’s majority fell off in strength by several thousands at the last election, and that is the reason why he is uncomfortable.
– The honorable member asserts that I am occupying an uncomfortable position. That is not so. At the last general election, the Labour Party brought to bear every possible means of unseating me; but their efforts were unsuccessful. As a matter of fact, I have held a seat in the Parliament of New South Wales as well as in this Legislature, and on every occasion that I have sought election, I have beaten them, and beaten them in the biggest Labour constituency in Australia. I know that last year hundreds of electors voted against me, and had I occupied their position, I should have voted against myself. The Labour Party had the big end of the stick. The issue of “ Socialism versus anti-Socialism,” which was put ‘before the people by the Opposition, was not a popular one in my electorate, and I had, therefore, to fight at a disadvantage. But, in a socialistic electorate, I won against Socialism. My constituents know that throughout my life I have always been imbued with radical ideas, and I shall never ask the Labour Party for permission to vote for what I regard as radical measures. At the general election I had to face opposition as keen as that which confronted any candidate for election to this Parliament. I was opposed not only by the Labour Party, but by capitalists, who subscribed! to the expenses of the Labour candidate, and voted against me. The Minister of Trade and Customs reminds me that owners of large manufactories subscribed to the funds of the Labour Party, and did all they could to unseat me. The electorate represented by the honorable member for Yarra does not comprise anything like as .many. unionists as are to be found in my constituency, but I am not more in favour of the Labour Party to-day than I have ever been. If I can fight and beat them, I am going to do so, but no one will ever be able to accuse me of favoring any proposal savouring of conservatism. That, in a nutshell, is my position. I trust that the present leader of the Opposition will live up to his political reputation, and as long as he does so he will have, as he has had for years, my ardent support. But in any new arrangement of parties, that may take place, I shall not be found in a combination of a Conservative character.
– I hope that the honorable member does not regard his old colleagues as Conservatives.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is certainly not a Conservative, but I do not consider that the honorable and learned member for Flinders, the honorable member for Kooyong, and some other honorable members, new to the House, who are now sitting in the Opposition corner, are Democrats. They may be, but if they are Democrats, they have succeeded so well in disguising themselves that they must be very clever in the art of “ making-up.” Indeed, they display so much ingenuity in this respect that one is inclined to believe that at one time in their career some of them must have been members of a. strolling theatrical company. I have never seen a body of men more closely resembling Conservatives than some of these honorable members do. They are all very well, but I .should prefer to see a little more of the element of Richmond and Footscray, and a little less of that of Toorak on this side of the House. I frankly admit, however, that I think the Labour Party, by constantly . ‘contrasting the position of the rich with that of the poor, are unsettling the community.
– Does the honorable member wish the workers, like those in the starch trade, to settle down to a wage of 30s. per week.
– I am prepared to assert that the honorable member who is so freely mouthing his sympathies for the workers is far better off than I am. There is not a member of the Labour Party who could not write out a larger cheque than I can. I repeat that it is wrong to hold before the workers pictures of the splendour of the homes of the wealthy with the object of showing that riches necessarily mean happiness. If I thought that any legislation proposed by the Labour Party would improve the conditions of the workers, I should vote for it; but it seems to me that the party has lately taken up an attitude that will serve no useful purpose. I can quite understand the position of the Socialists, who declare that wealth is not the only thing in life to work for. There are men whose gospel is that of the Almighty Dollar, and who seem to think that the only object one should have in life is that of amassing wealth. But the Labour Party are wrong in presenting to the workers a picture designed to show that true happiness is to be found only in the mansions of the rich. My own experience is that the home of the average worker in Australia is a happier one than is that of the average wealthy man. I am pleased to think that the great bulk of the people of Australia are contented and happy, and I do not believe in suggesting that in wealth alone can we find contentment. I believe in a man fighting for the cause of which he approves, but in doing so there is no necessity to try to mislead the people. In my electorate there are some unfortunate workers who are ekeing out a miserable existence on a wage of about 30s. a week, and no one can deny that such men would be prepared to listen to the candidate who said “ Vote for me, and I will change your condition.” Could such men be blamed for selecting such a candidate in preference to myself? Reason does not wait upon the hungry man ; hunger does not sharpen one’s discernment. Had I been in charge of the Labour Party’s campaign in my electorate I should have beaten all opponents. I should have been able to work upon a wealth of sentiment that would have enabled me to arouse the passions and prejudices of the people and the retiring member would have been beaten by thousands of votes.
– That seems to indicate that the honorable member’s cause is not a good one.
– My cause is certainly a good one, but it is difficult to fight against sentiment, prejudice, and passion. I notice, by the way, that the Labour Party is not urging such drastic reforms as it was disposed to do some time ago.
– We sympathize with the honorable member in the sorrowful position that he occupies.
– I must advise the honorable member not to waste his sympathies. He and others of his party are ever ready to assert that the Labour Party have succeeded in passing this law and that law, but they fail to recognise that much that they have accomplished would have been impossible if they had not received the support of honorable members like myself. Strange to say, however, their party oppose candidates of my political views far more fiercely than they fight against the return of such men as the honorable and learned member for Parkes. , The nearer you are to them the keener they fight you. They feel the thraldom and the yoke, and they would put me under them if they could, but I would prefer political defeat to a sacrificing of my liberty. That is my answer to the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who thought my opening remarks were made with a view to “ squaring the yards “ in regard to my electorate. I have fought my political battles on my personal political views, and will continue to do so in the future.
– The honorable member will hear about this speech to-morrow.
Mir. WILKS. - The honorable member need trouble very little over me. I am not so foolish as to exchange my freedom here for the thraldom of the caucus. We have heard the Labour Party sneering at the three-party system, and declaring that it would continue. I can only “describe it as a pawnbroking system, the sign of which is a familiar object in some of our thoroughfares. So long as it exists, the betting is two to one every time that, though a section of the public may get what they want, the great majority of the electors will never have their opinions crystalized into legislative action.
– The honorable member refers to unredeemed pledges?
– I am glad to find that the honorable member for Flinders has some humour. We heard the honorable and learned member for Parkes to-night say that it is sad to be humorous, and, later on, that it is humorous to be sad. I am always in a quandary as to whether, amongst my other offences, I am too humorously sad or too sadly humorous. The honorable and learned member for Flinders has been represented in the past as the superfine iceberg of Australia ; but, I am glad’ to find, from this flash of humour on his part, that there is a little bit of human nature about him. Certainly the honorable and learned member ‘knows all about unredeemed pledges, because there are a. good number he has not redeemed, though I did not know that he would be so frank as to say. so. When the present leader of the Opposition is gone, .perhaps the honorable and learned member for Flinders will cultivate his sense of humour, and, avoiding unredeemed pledges, become more democratic than hitherto, even if he does not take the pledge. The honorable and learned member made a very excellent speech on the question of the States debts. My own opinion is that, before we can have conversion, we must have a High Commissioner to superintend it, but if the debts are not to be taken over, I cannot see what use we have for a High Commissioner. There is no man of means in Australia who could, from the show or social point of view, rival Lord Strathcona.
– We have men with other resources.
– Certainly ; we do not desire to send the man with the largest purse, but the ablest and best man ; and I do not think that the ablest man in public life is the “ downy “ member for the Swan. I take the liberty to say that, in my opinion, the right honorable member for East Sydney would “ fill the bill “ completely.
– He would make a splendid beginning.
– And save honorable members opposite a deal of difficulty here, eh?
– I think the Prime Minister is head and shoulders ‘above either of the right honorable gentlemen mentioned.
– No doubt, for the Prime Minister has been in the clouds for years. The best work that ever the right honorable member for East Sydney did in the course of his public life was when he represented Australia at the Jubilee Conference. He stood out as an Australian against the wiles of Mr. Chamberlain, who was then the great personality of Great Britain, and the most prominent figure in the Empire. On that occasion, in regard to the Naval Agreement, the right honorable member for East Sydney, while standing out as an Australian, remained a Britisher; and I am glad to see that the Prime Minister also took a firm stand during the recent Conference.
– The honorable member is generous !’
– Generous ! I have nothing to give ; I am stripped of everything, and nearly all my political friends have left me. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, and other honorable members, are the Gradgrinds of public life - they are for ever calling out for “ facts,” but men in public life gain power and strength by the use of their imagination. If the anti-Socialists could have clothed their ideas and ideals with flesh and blood, and had appealed to the imagination of the people, they would have been returned in greater strength. On the other hand, the Labour. Party appealed to the imagination’; and appeals of this kind are always so powerful that even the Melbourne Age and the Melbourne Argus use them with effect. The Government are very silent about the Naval Agreement.
– I wonder if the Minister of Trade and Customs will tell us whether the agreement is to be cancelled ?
– I imagine that the Minister of Trade and Customs is himself against the proposal to break the agreement.
– The honorable member stretches his imagination.
– Indeed, I believe that, not only the Minister of Trade and Customs, but the Prime Minister, is against the cancellation Of the agreement. It is not a fact, as the Prime Minister stated in London, that the people of Australia desire the present arrangement to be discontinued ; the very people who so heartily welcomed the Prime Minister on his return are the people who do not desire to see the subsidy withdrawn. The Governor-General’s Speech is absolutely silent on the matter ; and, in fact, the representatives of the Government in another place practically told honorable senators that the Government were in favour of continuing the agreement. The representative of the Government in the Senate repudiated the action taken by the Government Whip. It will be remembered that about a week before the beginning of this session, the Government Whip had a controversy with the Whip on this side. Times were bad ; nothing was doing, and so each Whip said,. “ I think it is time to write a letter to the press.” The Opposition Whip got in first and the other replied stating that he did not believe in the Naval Agreement, and that it should be torn up. When the Government were challenged in the Senate on the point, their representative said, “Oh 1 the Whip had to do something. He therefore wrote a letter, but he only expressed his own opinion.” If the representative of the Government in the Senate disowns the assertion of their Whip, it is very easy, with my small imagination, to take the stand that the Minister of Trade and Customs also disowns the attitude taken by the Prime Minister. But whether he does or not, I shall make this speculation - that the Government will never bring in a Bill to discontinue the Naval Agreement. I do not wish to traverse the reasons for and against its continuance, but I certainly think that we require to strengthen our hands in that regard. The reasons for taking that step are so well known to you, sir, that it would be really wasting time to state therm. The excuse that the subsidy of £200,000 is required to carry out our harbor and coastal defences as they should be, will not work. I desire now to whisper - I said “whisper,” . sir - a few remarks about the new ideas regarding the Federal Capital Site. If they had anything to do with the sugar industry of Queensland, or with the transcontinental railway, or with the duty on boots or agricultural implements, which affects Victoria, I could screech so that I should be heard at the other end of Bourke-street. But when it comes to the question of the Capital Site, which affects New South Wales, one must only whisper, and even if he does that he must first .beg pardon for being so parochial. So now, sir, I sincerely beg your pardon. I have to whisper the question, “ What about the Capital Site ? “ The labour member for New England says that it is a very parochial affair. The fact of the matter is that new members, like old members of that party, commit to memory the leading articles of the Bulletin, and give them out here as addresses. The Bulletin is a very able paper; indeed it is so competent that it will advocate the nationalization of the tobacco industry when no tobacco advertisements are appearing in its columns. It is really the bible of many members of the Labour Party. A few months ago, it wrote so strongly on the nationalization of the tobacco industry, that a few weeks later there appeared a full-page advertisement from leading tobacco firms. The advertisements have been continued since that time, but the arguments for the nationalization of the tobacco industry have not been continued. That may be only a coincidence. I have been looking to the Bulletin for instruction. I have found that that beautiful organ can never .see anything good on this side of the Chamber, and since I have mentioned the question of the Federal Capital Site, it will probably say, “ It is only a parochialist like Bill Wilks who would mention such a matter.” For some time I have been living in Victoria, and I must admit that the Victorians are a highly intelligent people, because they understand me. I cannot say) that about all the members who address them, but I find that they are beginning to understand what I mean. The public of Victoria are as anxious to see that compact carried out as are the public of New South Wales. The Victorian elector in the street is of the same blood as we are, and recognises that the compact should bie carried out. No doubt the Victorians would have liked to get the Federal Capital established in their State, but since they find that it cannot be secured there they are not so jealous, greedy, or small-minded as to desire to delay the settlement of the question. Its settlement has been delayed by the politicians and the press of Australia.
– Chiefly by Mr. Carruthers.
– It has been delayed by the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the other representatives of New South Wales fighting amongst themselves. If its representatives had only met in caucus, like the Labour Party, in the early days of Federation, and decided upon a site, the question would have been settled years ago. They had only to be unanimous in order to secure a. settlement.
– The honorable member knows that the hidden compact had more to do with the delay than had anything else.
– No. Again, sir, I whisper to you that I would like to see the question settled. Queensland said openly that it wished to come into the Federation on account of the black labour difficulty ; that is settled. It also said that it desired to enter the Federation in order to deal with the sugar industry ; that too is settled. Victoria’s main idea in entering the Federation was to secure a uniform Tariff. That is settled. The people of New South Wales can live without the Federal Capital. They are not so hard up that if they do not get it they are going to be starved out of existence, but they have a feeling that they have not been fairly treated, seeing that after seven years of Federation the Capital Site question has not been settled.
– That is part of the imagination the honorable member was talking about just now.
– If the honorable member for Yarra was on the other side of the border, he would have the same feeling, and would do all he could to -have the position reversed. I ask the Government to get the question out of the way as soon as possible, instead of placing it in the position of twentieth on the list. I interpret the provision as to the 100-miles limit to mean that the Capital Site was to be fixed as near that radius as possible if the country was suitable. I voted for Lyndhurst, which I thought the most suitable site. I think the New South Wades people have a right to a say in this matter, which I hope will soon be settled, and the difficulty got over. One of the objections to speaking after an honorable member has gone round the course for about six hours is that one does not like to keep you, sir, in the Chair much longer, but I have been pretty quiet this session listening to other honorable members, and there are certain matters about which I should like to say a few words as quickly as I possibly can. I again differ from the honorable member for Parkes about the result of the Navigation Conference. I think the Minister of Trade and Customs did good work there. It is absolutely in accordance with my political life and votes in the past that I should agree with the objects that our delegates sought to attain at the Conference. The better housing of, and better wages for, seamen is of eminent importance to the people pf Australia, and if the Minister of Trade- and Customs and our other representatives were able to obtain from the Imperial Government power to override the Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain, in order to carry out those objects, they did good work. But I am not going to buy a pig in a poke by saying that I will agree to what they did when I do not know all the details. We have only heard the outlines. When the Government bring the Bill before us, I trust it will embody the good work reported to have been effected at the Conference.
– It does.
– I am glad to hear it. Although the Minister did not go to sea very early, he is a pretty good pilot, and has managed to “ get there “ in this matter. I hope the Conference has removed a good many difficulties from our path. A lot of the people in my constituency are seafaring people, and are particularly concerned in this question, and if they saw vessels such as I have seen coming into our ports, they would see the absolute necessity for power such as the Minister of Trade and Customs has outlined. I differ altogether from the honorable member for Parkes, who seems to worship the Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain. I no more worship that legislation than I worship Mr. Asquith or Mr. Balfour, or anybody else. I can appreciate them, but there is no room in my mind for worship. That Act is unquestionably the finest piece of legislation that any Parliament ever passed. I think the honorable member for Flinders will admit that my statement is not overdrawn. Nevertheless, although it is one of the best drawn pieces of legislation in the world, I do not worship it as a fetish. If our delegates to the Navigation Conference have obtained power te provide a better system of housing and a better scale of wages for the seamen on our own vessels, they have performed good work.
– What I think the honorable member for Parkes was insisting on was that we should, as far as possible, have uniformity in the shipping laws.
– I understand that there is uniformity beyond a certain distance from Australia, and I gathered from the Minister of Trade and Customs that we are absolutely all-powerful so far as concerns vessels engaged ‘in the Inter-State trade.
– But beyond that, I understand that if we interfere with British vessels the British Government can exercise their power of veto.
– We are to have absolute power over all vessels doing our coastal trade, whether they are oversea vessels or not, whilst they ate engaged in that trade. In the case of oversea vessels, which are not doing a coastal trade here, if they come here, and do not conform to any of our rules or laws, or if they are unseaworthy, we can interfere with them, but we cannot interfere with them if they go away beyond our limits unless they trade here again. If they come here again we can deal with them.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has obtained some valuable concessions, and I am pleased that many of the ship-owners also were in accord with them. I am not one of those who believe that simply because a man is an employer of labour he has his hands on the throat of labour, and desires to choke it.
– The ship-owners of Great Britain were far more reasonable at the Conference than I expected.
– I am very glad to hear, it. That is the general attitude of the British employer. He is one of the finest employers in the world. One family for years, and in some cases for centuries, has conducted a business concern, and the employes and their descendants have also worked for the same firm for generations. There is a sort of camaraderie between the master and men all through. That is what we require in Australia. I wish to say a few words about the revision of the Tariff. We have recently had an exposure of the low wages paid in the starch industry, in spite of the high protection given to it. Personally, I am a freetrader, but I was returned with a -free hand to do as I liked on the Tariff question. In the last Parliament, when the Tariff was under consideration, I used a rough and ready illustration by saying that I knew as well as most people when to put up an umbrella, meaning that I knew how to take shelter when I saw there was trouble ahead. The Minister of Trade and Customs asked me what I meant by that expression, and I said, “ I see you are going to have trouble over the Tariff at the next elections, and I am not going to see certain specialized industries getting benefits when industries in my own electorate are neglected. If there is any loot going around I shall see that we are not left out.” I was returned with a free hand on the question. The Labour Party twisted my remarks round to mean that I wanted the loot for my own personal benefit, but it was only a figure of speech regarding the imposition of certain duties. Like others of my honorable free-trade friends on this side I am going in for a little bit of protection. I know how the amendment of the Tariff will be moulded. The Government will bring in a Bill on almost impossible lines. We shall wrangle over it, and then probably they will take the recommendations of the Protectionist section of the Tariff Commission as a compromise. This Cabinet is pretty artful, and they will either do that or leave the matter over till the end of this Parliament. They have been told by the honorable member for Flinders and others on this side of the Chamber that if they get rid of the Tariff there will be a rearrangement of parties, but do honorable members think that the political craftsman sitting opposite me will be in a hurry to get the Tariff on the table with that end in view ? The Minister of Trade and Customs will never hurry to do anything of the sort, and so long as the Tariff dish is on the menu the Government will keep the Labour Party with them, and we shall have the fight over the Tariff at the next general election. If the Government upset my prophecy and bring the Tariff on soon, I shall endeavour to get everything in the shape of the absolute necessaries of life as cheaply as possible. I shall vote for every reduction proposed upon any such article. I quite agree with the honorable member who deplored the omission of a proposal for direct taxation to provide the cost of Naval and Military Defence. Australia will have to meet a large military bill and a large naval bill before long, and those bills, so far as my vote is concerned, will not be met by imposing taxation upon the backs and shoulders of the masses of the community. The provision of means for defence purposes is a just purpose for which to impose direct taxation. I suggest an income tax for that purpose. In Great Britain it is regarded as a war tax, and is invariably increased when more money is required to put the defences of the country on a war footing.
– Does the honorable member propose that the Federation should impose an income tax?
– Most decidedly. We as a Federal Parliament are charged with the task of providing for the Military and Naval Defence of Australia, and the wealth of the community will have to provide its share of the cost of those services. This Government, or some other, will have to introduce a Bill to place upon the shoulders of the rich the responsibility of providing funds for military and naval expenditure, while the community at large must be taken to have done its part in the defence of Australia if the people form the rank and file of our regiments, and help to man our war-ships. If the masses give their services in this way, they should not be called upon to pay special ‘taxation for defence purposes. I have never heard any Government attacked with more spitefulness or bitterness than has characterized the attack upon this Government, and had the Prime Minister been here I should not have been surprised at his resignation. Being a man of fine sensibility, if he had heard some of the speeches which had been delivered, I believe that he would have resigned. On the other hand, if he likes to show himself a strong man, he can be the strongest Prime Minister that we have ever had. All that he has to do is to say to the Labour Party, “ This is my programme. If you do not like it, throw it aside, and ask the stout man in the corner to take office.” The Labour Party will never do that. Labour members say that they dislike the Prime Minister, but that they dislike the leader of the Opposition more. Why should they dislike the leader of the Opposition? Has he not been one of our foremost politicians, and has he not fought the battles of democracy without being goaded into action by the Labour Party? I know that he has got into bad company politically, but if he remains the man he was in New South Wales, no one will support him better than I shall. What the electors ask for is a strong man, a man of individuality, though, if the member of a party shows that he is possessed of individuality, be gets himself disliked, and meets with the scowls of those with whom he is associated. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has spoken of his courage in having made one statement and another to public audiences; but I have shown myself equally courageous. Although he is a Conservative, the Labour Party did not dare to send a candidate to contest his seat, whereas they opposed me, although I am a Radical. But as they fought me outside, so I shall fight them here. If the Prime Minister keeps on the right track, there will be nothing to disturb him. The Labour Party dare not put him out, although he may tell them to do so. I hope, however, that if the leader of the Opposition continues at the head of this party, he will be oftener on deck than he has been in the past, though I know that it is at great personal sacrifice that he comes here. I hope, also, that the Prime Minister will take up the attitude towards the Labour Party which I have indicated.
– Why should the Prime Minister tell us anything?
– It would be commencing a new order of things if he did so. The practice has been for the Labour Party to order him about.
– That is a superstition, or, rather, a wild statement made in default of a good argument.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay knows that there are Radical and Conservative forces in this Chamber, although I do not know how they are to be brought in opposition as two parties. I cannot conceive of any unattached Radical surrendering his freedom by joining the Labour Party, and therefore I trust that the Prime Minister will bring in legislation which independent Radicals can vote for.
– The honorable member belongs to this side.
– I am not a child in politics, and, to use a classical quotation, which has no sectarian reference, “ I fear the Greeks when they bring presents.” I trust that the honorable member for Gippsland, when he commences his reforms, will go further than the abolition of the musty custom of moving a motion adopting an Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I hope that he will propose getting rid of the present method of having Parliament opened by the GovernorGeneral. I wonder that the Labour Party has not proposed something of that kind already. Whatever the faults of the Opposition may be, it is a pleasure to me to sail with a crew that is British in its sympathy, and has aspirations embracing the welfare of the Empire.
.- At this late hour, as we have had a heavy day, and have had to listen to a very lengthv address from” the honorable and learned member for Parkes-
– Is the honorable member afraid of his record?
– It is the honorable member for Darling whose record has to be considered. The address of the honorable and learned member for Parkes was a very lengthy one, and contained many statements which deserve notice on the part of a Labour member ; and it is only fair that honorable members should have an opportunity to digest his statements as far as that is practicable. It would be impossible for any one to digest his whole speech. Still, a reply must be made while it will be effective. The honorable and learned member has made many statements against the party which it will be easy to refute, but which must be refuted in the interests of the Labour Party, and of those whom we represent. I shall endeavour to refute them, and, at the same time, lay before the House matters which have not yet been touched upon by other speakers, but are, to use a phrase of which the honorable and learned member is very fond, of very great importance to Australia. They are of importance to Australia, but not necessarily to the British Empire, and to me Australia comes before the Empire. I shall be glad if the Minister of Trade and Customs can see his way to allow the debate to be adjourned.
– The honorable member has proceeded too far to take that course now.
– I entered upon my remarks with a desire to impress the Minister with the necessity for adjourning the debate, and have merely been stating the reasons why it should be adjourned. I ask leave, in the circumstances, to continue my address at the next sitting.
– That would be upsetting all the arrangements.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his speech?
– I hope the honorable member will withdraw that request.
– I realize that some arrangement has been made, but I do nol understand why, if that be the case, the whole of the time should have been occupied by speakers from one side. That does not appear to me to be a fair understanding.
– No arrangement was made.
– Why does the honorable member say that? An arrangement was made.
– An arrangement having been made, and some honorable members having, in consequence, left Melbourne, it might be difficult for the Government to arrange for continuing the debate to-morrow. In that case, rather than interfere with the arrangement made, while regretting very much the difficulty that has arisen, I shall not proceed with an unprepared speech, but will avail myself of some early opportunity to say what I have to say.
– I do not know that we are bound to lose our right to speak in reply to the charges of which the honorable member for Parkes has’ delivered himself in such an exalted way. As the honorable member for Gwydir wishes to speak-
– The honorable member will see that the honorable member for Gwydir could not speak now, even if the debate were continued.
– Surely some brief reference might be made to the debate.
– As there seems to be some misunderstanding, honorable members will allow me to put the matter clearly. The honorable member for Gwydir could, with the consent of the Government, have moved the adjournment of the debate as soon as he rose, as any other honorable member might have done who had not spoken to the question. But when the honorable member proceeded with his speech for four or five minutes, under our Standing Orders, he lost his opportunity to do so, ,and the only course then remaining to him, if he wished an adjournment of the debate, was to ask for leave to continue his remarks, which leave would have to be given unanimously. I understood that there was dissent, and the honorable member, having subsequently concluded his speech, cannot rise again to speak in this debate.
– I rise ‘ to a point of order. I wish, sir,’ to ask your ruling on the question whether, in a debate on the Address-in-Reply, reference may not be made by subsequent speakers to what has taken place during- the debate?
– Most certainly. The honorable member for Darwin was perfectly in order in what he said, but as he was asking if the honorable member for Gwydir might still have an opportunity to speak in the debate, I rose to point out that that was quite impossible after that honorable member had concluded his speech.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, and, in doing so, I will deprive the honorable member for Darwin of no right he has to_ speak. I rise to say what I think the ‘Minister in charge of Government business ought to say, and that is that there has been a distinct understanding come to with the leader of the Labour Party on the faith of which he has gone home, and on the faith of which we have undertaken to take no steps which will interfere with the completion of this business to-night.
– But was it thought that one honorable member would occupy six hours ?
– The honorable member is at liberty to make any criticism he likes, and he can go back on his leader if he pleases. I am referring now to the emphatic denial on the part of the deputy leader of the Labour Party that any such arrangement as I have stated had been made. I say most distinctly that an arrangement was made.
– No arrangement to restrict debate to one side was made by Mr. Watson.
– On the faith of the arrangement made, the honorable members for East Sydney and South Sydney have gone home. I say that a definite and distinct arrangement has been made to close the debate to-night, and a clear understanding was come to including the taking of some purely formal matters bv the Minister in charge of the Government business at the conclusion of the debate. In the circumstances, it is not quite fair for the honorable member for Wide Bay to repeat his denial that no arrangement was made.
– If I may be allowed a word in explanation, I would say that my point is that no arrangement was made by my leader that one honorable member should occupy the whole of the sitting in such a way as to prevent a reply to his remarks. An arrangement of that kind would not be adhered to by straightforward people.
– That may be so, but the honorable member has no right to deny that an arrangement was made. ; Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin) [n.17]. - I have no desire to interfere in any way with the arrangement made, but I certainly must protest against any honorable member, no matter to what party he belongs, or whether he is an intellectual Demosthenes, a modern Napoleon, a Confucius, or whatever else he may be, taking up all the time at our disposal and making charges against a. party, the members of which are given no ‘ opportunity to reply. Such conduct is monstrous and, to my mind, beyond parliamentary decency. There has been an agreement come to, and I wish to keep it.
– I am not asking the honorable member to forego any of his rights.
– I quite understand that. I propose carrying out the agreement which has been made, as the
Minister informs me that we shall have an opportunity later on to reply to what has been said. I should like to say that the Labour Party represents human beings, and the difference between it and those who oppose it, is that while capital has not a soul to be damned nor a body to be kicked, the Labour Party is a human entity lighting the great battle of the oppressed of this world. It is all very well for the honorable member for Parkes with his education, with his opportunities, with his wealth and luxury, to stand up here and denounce the Labour Party. The members of that party have never publicly or privately wronged the people. But there is no necessity to apologize for them. I sympathize with the Prime Minister when in England. I confess that I was not pleased with his speech to the “ boodleiers.” When Mr. Hain got the honorable gentlemanin amongst them, he was carried away by the magic spell of the “boodleiers’” shining jimmy. However, that will not drive the Labour Party from behind him. It is here to fight its way. I want to say to the Liberals upon the other side of the Chamber, “ Come out from amongst the boodleiers.” Let the latter fight for their sheep and their cattle, their horses and their dogs, their banking accounts, and their dividends. But I warn the Acting Prime Minister not to again endeavour to close a debate after one honorable member has occupied the whole of the after-‘ noon and evening in attacking the Labour Party, without affording members of that body an opportunity to reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business; and that on each Thursday, until half-past six o’clock, until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.
– I have no objection to this motion. Indeed, I am not quite sure, in view of the urgent necessity for disposing of certain business - particularly of the Tariff - that we ought not to allow the Government to occupy the half day which it is proposed to devote to private members’ business. I think that our experience has been that the time devoted to private members’ business has been largely resultless. However, that is a matter for Government supporters specially to consider. I offer no objection to the motion.
.- It is quite an unusual occurrence for the leader of the Opposition to suggest that honorable members should be exclusively occupied in the consideration of Government business. Such an attitude is well worthy of attention by members of the Labour Party. The practice of setting apart a certain period for the discussion of private members’ business is one which is extended to protect minorities in Parliament, and I hope that it will be continued. I trust that the Opposition will not assist the Government to deprive the minority of its privileges by occupying the time of honorable members exclusively in the consideration of Government measures. We scarcely know upon which side the Government will be shortly, but upon the present occasion I think that they are adopting the right course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That on Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, general business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : -
On one Thursday -
Notices of Motion.
Orders of the Day.
On the alternate Thursday -
Orders of the Day.
Notices of Motion.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook for Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the Table of the House, in relation to the proposals for taking over the Northern Territory of South Australia, showing -
The names of individual holders of alienated lands within the Territory (excluding Palmerston and suburbs), together with the following particulars, viz. : -
Total area and estimated capital value of each holding.
Nature of the tenure and terms upon which such lands are held.
Nature and estimated value of improvements effected on such land by the holders.
The purposes for which such lands were alienated.
The number of men employed (white and coloured) by each holder.
Similar information relating to lands held by companies or syndicates, and the names of the persons comprising them.
Similar information (excepting as to paragraphs d and e) relating to the town of Palmerston and its suburban area.
Total amount of revenue received by the South Australian Treasury from alienated lands within the Territory.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor for Mr. J. H. Catts) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the Table of the House showing, with reference to the proposed transfer of the Northern Territory of South Australia to the Commonwealth -
The estimated area and value of Crown lands.
The estimated area and value of alienated lands.
The amount of Customs revenue collected at Port Darwin since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
The amount of revenue other than Customs collected in the Northern Territory by the Federal authorities since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
The total amount expended for the administration of Federal services in the Northern Territory since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
The amounts of earnings and expenditure respectively upon the Port DarwinPine Creek railway for 1901-2-3-4-5-6.
The amounts of earnings and expenditure upon the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway for 1901-2-3-4-5-6 respectively.
The total capital cost of the Port AugustaOodnadatta railway, including cost of resumptions, stations, wharfs, and other buildings and accessories used in connexion with the working of the line.
The estimated cost of Northern Territory services already transferred to the Commonwealth.
The estimated value of Northern Territory services not already transferred, but whose transference is provided for under the Commonwealth Constitution.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook for Mr.
Johnson) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the table of the House showing how the£500 voted by Parliament for the relief of British settlers in the New Hebrides has been disbursed - giving the names of the recipients - the amounts paid to each, and stating whether such payments were made directly through Captain Rason or indirectly through a shipping firm.
Official Reports of Premiers’ Conference at Brisbane and Imperial Conference.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
– Itake this opportunity to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is yet in possession of the official report of the Premiers’ Conference which was recently held in Brisbane?
– It is not to hand yet.
– I also desire to know whether the Minister has any copies of the official report of the discussions at the Imperial Conference?
– I have six copies of that report, which I propose to distribute to-night. I may be able to distribute more to-morrow.
– I take it that they will be printed?
– In reply to the honorable member, I desire to say that the reports in question are already in print. A certain number of copies have reached the Department of External Affairs, and six of these I propose to distribute to honorable members to-night. Tomorrow I will ascertain if I am in a position to distribute more. It must always be borne in mind that I have to keep a certain number for distribution amongst members of the Senate.
– To which Conference is the Minister referring ?
– To the Imperial Conference. I have no official report of the Premiers’ Conference in Brisbane.
– I do not think that anybody wants that report.
– I intend to distribute six copies of the official report of the Imperial Conference to-night, and if I can possibly spare them, more will be available to-morrow. I am not laying the reports on the table to-night, because they have not yet been laid upon the table of the Senate, and I wish to distribute them amongst the members’” of each House at the same time. Probably they will be laid upon the table on Tuesday. Before determining that the report shall be printed, I should like honorable members to see it. The work would cost a considerable sum, probably something like£500. I see that the price of it in England is 5s. per copy.
– Even so, we sometimes print documents that cost 5s. per copy.
– If honorable members think it desirable to go to the expense of printing the report, I shall raise no objection. I am sorry that I have not a larger number of copies to distribute.
– I presume there will be one copy for the room of each party ?
– We will distribute the copies as equitably as we can. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Treatment of Aborigines in Western Australia - Order of Business.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am reluctantly compelled to offer a few remarks with regard to an interview with the Treasurer relative to the treatment of the blacks of Western Australia. The article is headed as follows: -
Chained by the neck. - Australian aborigines. - The practice defended. - Sir John Forrest’s views.
The paragraph is as follows : -
As stated in our columns last evening, reference was made in the House of Commons to the practice of chaining aborigines by the neck, when it was found they might escape from custody, and the Imperial Government decided to direct the Governor of Western Australia to impress on the State Government the objection which a continuance ot the practice “ could not fail to excite in England.”
Sir John Forrest, the Federal Treasurer, who, in his old exploring days, and later as Premier of Western Australia, had much to do with the treatment of aborigines, was interviewed on the subject by one of our representatives to-day. “ All I can say,” said Sir John Forrest, “ is that the people of Western Australia know more about this matter than the people of England. , Chaining aborigines by the neck is the only effective way of preventing their escape. The ring they wear is often padded, and their arms and legs are left quite free. To place chains on their legs or handcuffs on their wrists would be irksome and inconvenient, and 1 have no doubt, that the blacks themselves would much prefer the present method. “ Make no mistake about this,” Sir John Forrest continued, “ there is no inhumanity. I will undertake to say that in no other country are the aborigines looked after better than in Western Australia. Every policeman and every justice is a protector of the aborigines. I would be the last to sanction anything in the nature of cruelty, but as one who understands the circumstances, I have no hesitation in saying that a great fuss is being made about very little.”
Now, I desire to say, even at this late hour, when honorable members are anxious to catch their last trains, that in the name of the people of my electorate, at all events, I entirely dissent from the sentiment thus expressed by the Treasurer. He has stated that there is nothing inhuman in chaining blacks by the neck. In my humble judgment, it is a most inhumane fashion in which to treat them. We are assured by the Treasurer that the chains used are “ often padded.” I say frankly that there have been many cases in Western Australia in which the chains have not been padded, and there has been evidence that aboriginals in that State have been treated in the most inhumane manner in other respects.
– Why are they . chained ? Are they prisoners?
– They are chained when they are prisoners, certainly, and the ostensible object is to prevent them from escaping. But in dealing with white prisoners in this country there is no necessity to use chains to prevent escape.
– There are some people who would use chains on white people if they were allowed.
– I believe that there is so much of the ancient spirit of barbarism lingering in the minds of some individuals that they would even to-day use chains on white people if they were permitted. I rise to say, as briefly as possible, that I believe that the practice of chaining aboriginaJs by the neck in Western Australia, even though they be prisoners, is not indorsed by the people of that State. During the visit of Dr. Roth from Queensland some months ago, it was shown unmistakably that the aborigines of the north-west portion of the State and in other districts, were very inhumanely treated. I have within my recollection an occasion when the same individual who made the statement to the Herald which I have quoted, observed in the Parliament of Western Australia that it was not inhumane to flog an aboriginal. He advanced that argument I think about nine years ago, and said that as the sun had tinned the skins of the aborigines, they had not the same feeling as white people, and that flogging was the only effective method of dealing with people of that description.
– What is the use of flogging them if they do not feel it?
– Possibly he meant that the aboriginals were not affected by a flogging to the same degree as white people would be. But in my humble judgment, at all events, both flogging and chaining are inhumane, and can only be justified by persons whose minds have become warped as the result of unhealthy environment. I entirely repudiate the suggestion that this method of dealing with people who were the original inhabitants of this country is approved of by the white people of Australia, and I feel justified in the name of my constituents in saying that they repudiate the inhumane suggestion made by the Federal Treasurer.
– What business is it proposed to take on Tuesday next?
– On Tuesday we propose to proceed with the Quarantine Bill.
– Is the health of the Government in danger?
– Is it proposed to go right through with it?
– I should like to proceed with it as far as possible. After that business is dealt with, the proposals in connexion with the transcontinental railway survey will be dealt with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070711_reps_3_36/>.