3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Under the Electoral Act of 1905, negotiations were entered into with the Governments of the States, with a view to having a common Federal and State roll. Can the Minister of Home Affairs say how matters now stand, and state in detail the arrangements made with Tasmania ?
– The information is being prepared, and I hope to furnish it tomorrow.
Mr. HUTCHISON laid upon the table the following papers -
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulation Amended (Provisional) - No. 143 - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 118.
The Clerk laid upon the table
Spirits, &c. - Statistics re, for 1907 - Return to an Order of the House dated 4th November, 1 908.
Mr. HUME COOK (for Dr. Carty
Salmon) asked the Minister of Trade and Customs,upon notice -
Is it a fact thathe has extended the time fixed by his predecessor for the importation of matches containing phosphorus?
If so, has he any objection to stating the reason ?
The postponement was decided upon in order to afford time for further investigation as to a statement that difficulties are likely to arise owing to climatic effects upon safety matches in certain parts of Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the New South Wales Local Government Act of 1906, under which the municipalities and shires in that State are now working, provides that all lands, with certain exemptions, whether the property of His Majesty or not, shall be rateable -
Will he waive the section in the Constitution which exempts the Commonwealth from payment of such rates?
Will he follow the example of the Im perial Government in England, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer annually forwards voluntarily a cheque to each of the respective corporate bodies for an amount equal to the amount of rates that would be payable if the Crown were liable?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
In connexion with Commonwealth Old-age pensions, payable in July next, will he favorably consider the advisability of paying the pensions by postal notes or post-office orders, delivered by registered letter, with necessary safeguards, so that the old men and women will not be compelled to go some distance and wait about in the weather, as is now necessary in some parts of New South Wales?
– Careful consideration will be given to this matter when arrangements are being made for paying the pensions.
Debate resumed from 25th November (vide page 2209),. on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That, on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
– I congratulate honorable members opposite upon the presentable appearance of the Ministerial benches, which look much better now than they did when nearly empty, as we were accustomed to see them during the term of the last Administration. I also congratulate those sitting on the Ministerial corner benches. If future attendances are as good as those of yesterday and to-day, and honorable members perform their public duties as assiduously, the country will be the gainer. Never in our history has close attention to public affairs been more necessary. My honorable friends opposite never need watching more than when they appear most harmless. At the present time they are in their most harmless guise, judging by the public presentation of their intentions made by the Prime Minister yesterday.
– The honorable member has nothing to complain of then?
– Not at present. I may comfort my honorable friends at once by saying that the Opposition has noother desire than to assist the transaction of public business during the remainder of the session. If Ministers will set themselves to dispose of the measures which have been brought forward, with one or two exceptions, they will be warmly supported by us. Further than that I cannot be expected to pledge myself. The Prime Minister’s speech yesterday reminded me of a hymn which, no doubt, we have both often sung, “ Pull for the shore, sailor.” For “shore” should be substituted “recess.” Unquestionably the first aim of the Government is to get safely into recess. That was the dominant note of the honorable gentleman’s speech.
– What is the matter with “ Abide With Me “ ?
– “ Here we suffer Grief and Pain-“ !
– My honorable friend is quite right. I venture to say that there are quite a number on that side who are already suffering a little “grief and pain,” and I think with good reason. Whatever disadvantages there may be in the selection of a Cabinet by the method of a caucus, it undoubtedly relieved the Prime Minister, on this occasion, of a very delicate task, which otherwise would have caused a great deal of heart burning. The caucus - that intangible thing called the “caucus” - takes the whole of the blame for the selections, and, of course, exonerates the Prime Minister from the always difficult task of choosing seven or eight gentlemen out of a total of, I think, fortytwo, every one of them with a belief in their abilities for the positions.
– That is a very high compliment to the party !
– It is indeed; but I do not know a party in any Parliament that has not the same number of members equally interested in the performance of their public duties, and willing, no doubt, to make equally good use of the opportunity should it arise. I desire to offer my personal congratulations to Ministers, and to say that, whatever may come during the conduct of public business in the way of criticism, adverse or complimentary, there will, so far as I am concerned, be nothing behind any of it but the best of personal good feeling. Listening to the Prime Minister yesterday, I could not help asking myself by what right does the hon orable gentleman meet the Parliament of the country. Whence does he derive his power to propound a policy to the House, and outline the business for the remainder of the session and subsequently?
– Does the honorable member not know whence the Prime Minister gets his power ? It is from the caucus, according to the honorable member’s own showing.
– Yes, I suppose that is the case in one sense; but we may take it, I think, that the caucus did not consult the Governor- General.
– I do not know that.
– I think the honorable member does know. I fancy that the Labour Party had a friend at court, who consulted the GovernorGeneral for them, and that friend is sitting by them to-day, staunch for the present. He is acting the part of a chivalrous adversary - at least, I must call him an adversary, because I cannot describe him by any other word. The Labour Party have treated the honorable gentleman as an adversary, at any rate, they have “booted him out” unceremoniously and ignominiously. If ever a man left office under ignominious circumstances the late Prime Minister did; and, therefore he, of all men: in this House, is behaving at the present moment like a Christian.
– I think we ought to have another hymn now - “ Hold the Fort, for we are coming “ !
– The late Prime Minister is carrying out to the letter that injunction of the Scriptures, which enjoins on him, when smitten on one cheek, to turn the other. To-day he is giving cordial support and approval to the present Government’s immediate programme of business. But there is something more to be considered. There is the question which always arises in a democratic community - by what right do the present Ministers govern the Commonwealth ? They themselves, I believe, are strong in their support of majority rule. Many, if not all, of them, beforetime in their history, have had to do with the enactment of electoral measures embodying that principle which finds its final economic expression in ruling by counting heads ratherthan breaking them. It is a principle which, by this time, is accepted by all civilized communities, and to which none offer the slightest objection, except, it may be, some reactionaries, who, however, are few and far between. Accepting that principle of public life as dominant, how do we honour it in the composition of this Government, and in all that is taking place to-day ? The Government represent twenty-seven members out of a total of seventy-four in this Chamber ; and when we consider that simple basic fact in connexion with their attitude on the Government benches, one is moved to inquire what influences have been at work to bring about this most extraordinary result.
– The honorable member does not represent as many on his side of the House !
– At present, my duty is to criticise the position of honorable members On the other side ; ana I hope the honorable member for Calare is comfortable - he certainly looks radiantly happy. We are not on the Government benches, and, therefore, the interjection does not apply to us. It would apply, however, to any party who took office under circumstances similar to those of the Government. The interjection of the honorable member is not to the point, as the facts show. A change of Government has taken place without a scintilla of a reason being offered. That has never been heard of before in the history of responsible government.
– Oh, yes !
– I am speaking only from my limited experience. The honorable member for Adelaide reminds me that this was a favorite method of des- patching a Government in the State from which he comes, and which is so well represented in the Cabinet. It seems that there is some monopoly in the composition of the Government - that this anti-monopolistic Cabinet has monopolized many of the positions in it for one of the numerically smallest States in the group ; and that is si fact on which the State is to be congratulated. Indeed, I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the method employed in this instance was also a favorite device of your own in your old unregenerate days - that it was a happy method of your own of despatching one Government and installing another. All I have to say is that it has one radical defect. However convenient it may be to swop places in the House in this way, the country has a right to consideration. ‘ The very method by which this Government has succeeded to power is a challenge to our free institutions. However honorable members may affect to make little of the matter, it is one on which the country has a right to an explanation at the earliest possible moment. We must assume, I take it, that before the Government became possessed of their position, assurances were given to the Governor-General by somebody - may-be the caucus, as suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa. J fancy, however, that it was not the caucus that made any suggestion to the GovernorGeneral j and I doubt if it was made by the present Prime Minister himself. I should say that the ordinary simple rule was followed, and that the outgoing Prime Minister was consulted, and offered certain advice to His Excellency.
– I heard that it was the honorable member for East Sydney who said that he could not form a Government, and that the best thing to do would be to send for the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– One hears some strange statements sometimes. The Governor-General could not have received many assurances from the present Prime Minister, because it was currently reported in the newspapers that the interview which my honorable friend had with him lasted only a quarter of an hour. It may bt that, however diffuse he may be at times, his speech on that occasion was aptly condensed. I venture to think that the old method of recommending one’s successor was followed by the late Prime Minister. If that is so, then we are all the more entitled to learn in this House the basis of the recommendation made, and the reason why this change of Government has taken place, and taken place in the peculiar circumstances associated with it.
– It was the result of the vote of the Opposition.
– In answer to that criticism to which expression has already been given by many members of my honorable friend’s party, may I say once and for all that our votes were given to dispossess the late Government, but with no intention of putting the present Administration into office. I hope that that statement will be regarded as clear, candid and Straight. Honorable members would not expect me to say anything else, and it is idle for the honorable member for Gippsland to assert that the change was made by our votes. We voted on the occasion in question as we have voted many times during the last two or three years to put an end to an unrighteous combination - to put an end to the caucus domination of Parliament. Although for the moment the caucus seems uppermost, I venture to predict that its reign will be only a temporary one. It is only a stage in an evolutionary process which will put the caucus in its proper relationship to this House - the relationship of a minority to a majority - and so permit the government of the Commonwealth to be conducted, as it ought to be, by a majority of those who believe in a co-ordinated policy, and who have a common interest in that government.
– That was said prior to the last general election, but the result was not what the honorable member and his party desired.
– The result was that the Labour Party were returned twenty-seven strong in a House of seventyfive members. There are now in this House forty -seven members opposed to caucus rule. However much they may differ, for the moment, in respect of other matters, this much is outstanding from the last general election, that at least members of the caucus have no right to govern the Commonwealth. I make that remark in passing, and believe that what we see at present is only an evolutionary stage, which will very speedily lead to a final and satisfactory solution of the problem of rightly governing Australia. We had submitted to us yesterday a statement of the policy of the Government who voted the Tate Ministry out of office. Looking at the measures therein outlined, one fails to find a solitary reason for the change. Why has it taken place? With, perhaps, one exception, to which I shall refer, there was not a word in the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday, or in the programme that he submitted, which would justify an upheaval in this chamber. The policy of the Government, for the present session at least, is that proposed bv the late Administration. There is to be no change of policy, and no change in the measures to be submitted ; everything is to go on as before. That being so, we have an elementary right in a free assembly such as this to inquire from the Prime Minister the reason why he turned out the late Govern ment, and why he is installed in office. That explanation has not yet been given.
– It looks as if they were afraid to make it.
– I do not think so. It seems to me that, to use an expression which I have heard more than once in this chamber, they are resorting to the process of running cunning, and are seeking the line of least resistance. Certainly their attitude is quite in accordance viith the statement I made at the beginning of my address, that the Government are pulling for the shore - the shore of recess. We must have at some time or other an explanation of the position. The country has a right to it, and the sooner a full, free, and frank statement is made, by either the present or the late Prime Minister, the better.
– Surely I have not to find reasons for the change of Government?
– Was it not “up to” the Labour Party io do what they did, seeing that they were twenty-seven strong, as against the Ministerial party of fifteen members ?
– Even that explanation has not yet been offered.
– Does not the honorable member think th.it it was “ up to them “ to take action?
– It is “up to” the late Government to take the course which they think they ought to take in the interests of the Commonwealth. They have no right- in this regard to consider personal feelings. Since the honorable member for Dalley desires my opinion as to what the members of the late Government ought to do, let me tell him that I think that when a Ministry is unceremoniously ‘ booted “ out of office, any personal obligation that it owed to the party which put them out is wiped off the slate. That is what I should feel, and there is just as much human nature on the part of my honorable friends in the Ministerial corner as there is to be found amongst honorable members in other parts of the House. Here is the only explanation that we have yet had from the Prime Minister of the reasons for the change of Government. I refer to it. because it is an extraordinary one, and leaves the matter just where it was before. In announcing his intention to withdraw the support of his party from the lave Government, the present Prime Minister said -
We are hiking this course now because it is, to our minds, one of decency :md of order.
What was there that was indecent or disorderly in the programme of the late Government? The Prime Minister is actually taking up the same planks that the late Prime Minister surrendered ; he is actually proposing to put through the same programme for the present session. Wherein is the indecency or the disorder of the proposals which he now make,, and of which he spoke on the occasion to which I have referred ? If they -were indecent and disorderly then are they not equally indecent and disorderly now? This vague statement by my honorable friend only casts upon him a greater obligation to make the position clear, and to show what his real and ultimate intentions are. Last night he told us that the finances were all right. He had nothing to .say about the Post and Telegraph Department, except that it wanted a little more money, which he thought he would be able to spare. Of defence he made no mention. Is that a matter as to which the caucus is not quite unanimous ? Are there financial troubles in the way of carrying out a defence policy? Nothing was heard, for instance, of the proposal, which was so learnedly and eloquently expounded by the Minister of Home Affairs a. little while ago, for the imposition of direct taxation in order to find funds for the adequate defence of Australia. There was no mention last night of defence in any shape or form, and not a single word of explanation as to all the other questions of Government policy, except that they are going to earnthrough one or two matters which are now in train, and then speedily betake themselves to the repose of recess.
– Where are they going to get the money for old-age pensions ?
– I intend to ask that question a little later on. The public are the masters regarding all these matters in the final appeal, and the public will need some explanation, although it be refused on the present occasion. I confess my disappointment in some particulars with the Prime Minister’s speech of yesterday. I should have thought the honorable member would take the country, and particularly the workers outside, into his confidence, and tell them what his final and ultimate legislative pro posals were, to be, if given permission to conduct them to success during the remaining months of this Parliament. We have to go outside to learn the little we know about our friends of the Labour Party.
– Does the honorable member want Tom Mann’s programme?
– I do not want Tom Mann mentioned in this debate. I am dealing only with the party opposite, and seeking if I can to gauge their real intentions. The Worker, one of the most influential organs of the party in Australia, placarded over the country last week the fact that the advent of the workers to the Government benches was “ a day’s march nearer home.” I wonder what friend Andrew calls “ home.” Does his home consist of the planks of the Government’s legislative proposals for this session? Is that the final “home” of the Socialist Labour Party of Australia? Is that all that the Government have to offer the workers as the final solution of all their industrial troubles - merely the one or two measures which they sketch for one or two weeks’ work in this Chamber ? That is really all we hear of it. We are told that the advent of the present Government is “ a day’s march nearer home,” but as to just what and where the home is we are quite in the darK I wish to refer to some statements made by the late Prime Minister and some members of his party. I hope I may do so without being accused of indulging in any personal feeling. I certainly have none, but the country requires an explanation from the Ministerial corner quite as much as from the benches opposite. I should like to ask the late Prime Minister whether he gave assurances to the Governor-General that this Ministry could conduct the affairs of the country as they should be conducted, and that, if they attempted to conduct affairs in the way they should, his party would support the reigning Ministry.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that on such occasions the retiring Prime Minister offers no information or advice, unless it is asked for.’
– I do not know that that gets us much nearer to an answer to the question which I respectfully put to the honorable member.
– It gets us this much nearer, that if His Excellency has no objection to that being stated I have none.
– I think we may fairly assume that the usual course was taken, and that my honorable friend was requested to give advice.
– The honorable member had better look at the numbers in the division list. He can then form an opinion as to whether it was necessary to ask any question.
– It is when I look at the numbers in the division that I am prompted to ask this question. When I see a Government being put out of power in the way my honorable friend was the other night, it becomes the more necessary to find out the reason for the accession of the present Administration to power.
– The honorable member followed the lead of the present Prime Minister.
– Unquestionably we followed his lead in the disruption that took place; but certainly not in the reconstruction. It is the honorable member who follows his lead there, and, by-the-bye, we were hardly given any option. Owing to some unfortunate oversight, that honorable member was permitted to jump the position, and did so with an alacrity which has rarely been equalled in this Chamber. We were, therefore, in the position of supporting either the present Prime Minister or the late Prime Minister with regard to that particular motion. There occurred then an opportunity of doing what we tried to do a fortnight before.
– The present Prime Minister would not follow the honorable member.
– I am not asking the Prime Minister or my honorable friend to follow me. That is not the question, nor do I think that it will be an excuse to the country. I do not know that any dereliction of duty or of principle, or attitude of personal hostility to any side of the Chamber, will be a sufficient excuse to the country for this extraordinary state of affairs. It is not a question of the Prime Minister following me or my late chief, who I sincerely regret has seen fit to take the action he has. It is a great grief to all of us, who have been with him for so many years, that he has felt called upon to take that course.
– He is only moving with the times.
– I hope the honorable member, when he reaches the age of my leader, will have as much behind him. I hope he will move also in an equally disinterested way so far as the public welfare is concerned. All these trumpery explanations of what has taken place with regard to a particular vote have no bearing whatever upon the present situation, which finds a Labour Government in power, with twenty-seven members behind it, confronting an Opposition, all told, of forty-seven members, who are pledged against them and their policy and political methods. The honorable member for Ballarat may treat it as he likes ; but he knows that when he is before the electors he will be compelled to take an attitude antagonistic to that party. He knows well that if he does not do so, they will take up an attitude antagonistic to him. They are at it now. They are threatening every day in their periodicals what they will do with the honorable member, and with all the rest of us. Did the honorable member read the other day a statement in the public prints of this State by certain Labour ° supporters outside, who, in their congratulatory complimentary resolutions regarding the present Ministry, took occasion to speak in terms of the utmost contempt of the late Prime Minister ? Does he forget that? He knows that that kind of thing is reeling from the press almost every day of the week, and, whether he likes it or not he will be found at the next election in a position of complete antagonism to the Labour Party - either willingly on his part or unwillingly, for that is what will happen. The Labour Party is ‘self-contained, with methods peculiarly its own. It is pledged not to seek alliances, but to follow its own path for the realization of its aims. It will have nothing to do with other parties, except to use them for its own purposes. Therefore, we should be told why this party, which consists of only twenty-seven members, is to be allowed to guide and control the destinies of Australia. When the honorable member for Wide Bay was supporting the honorable member for Ballarat, he was able to speak for a solid compact party of twenty-seven:, but the honorable member for Ballarat will notbe able to reciprocate. A radical difference between the two parties makes it impossible that what happened in the past cart happen in the future. Much of the support given in recent years by the Labour Party to the late Ministerialists was given unwillingly, and the dislodging of the late Prime Minister was also effected against the will of some members of the party. But its platform requires that on vital questions all members of the party shall act together, and when called upon to do so. shall move as a solid phalanx. The party behind the honorable member for Ballarat observes no such rule j its members act in accordance with what they regard as the dictates of reason and justice. Under these circumstances, either the present or the late Prime Minister should explain how the change of Ministry came about, ‘and let us know what are the relations between them. We have been told that we have made our bed, and must lie on it. I hope that the honorable member for Ballarat rests as quietly on his bor! as we do on ours.
– If the Opposition is as comfortable as I am, it is very comfortable.
– Our bed is soft and downy, and we shall continue to lie on it until we can leave it with self respect. I hope that the followers of the honorable member do not fin’d the cross benches too draughty. If they do, they mav perhaps be more comfortable in the cosy corners on this side.
– The Opposition looks a cold place.
– The honorable member himself is before a particularly warm fire; and I congratulate him upon the comfort of his quarters. Our political consciences are easy, and I hope that ‘ we shall find our bed comfortable until we. san get off it with respect to ourselves, and without outraging our political reputation and experience. We have been charged with having put the Labour Party into power; but the late Prime Minister, in a recent speech in this Chamber - Hansard, page 2138 - said -
It is a singular circumstance, upon which those who have been associated with this Government can look with a considerable amount of consolation, that, although’ our party is not numerically strong, no party combination is possible in this House which can transact thi: business of the country without its consent.
In view of that statement, is it not idle to say that the Opposition is responsible for the present state of affairs? The honorable member for Ballarat laughs; of course, I assume that he is under no obligation to support the Labour Party. I hope that there is no secret compact.
– There never has been, and never will be.
– I believe that there is no such compact ; but the honorable member’s laughter is ill-timed. The quotation I have read answers his criticism.
– It is quite irrelevant.
– I differ from the honorable and learned member. He has openly boasted that no party can carry on without the consent of that which he leads, and must therefore take responsibility for the present position.
– Absolutely ; but what has that to do with the vote which was given?”
– The honorable and learned member’s party must accept responsibility for the continuance of the Labour Party in office.
– Hear, hear. But what the honorable member is saying does not defend the vote which put the Labour Part*- into office. It relates to the situation created subsequently.
– That vote needs no defence. We sought the disruption of the alliance between the Labour Party and the Ministry of the day, and have brought it about, the country being the gainer thereby.
– It is the Labour Party which is the gainer.
– Theirs is the immediate gain; I spoke of the future. The honorable and learned member is responsible for keeping the Labour Party in office. In the mouths of many of his supporters free-traders have been anathema. One of the reasons given for voting against the Opposition was that its ranks contain free-traders; but now the secretary tothe Victorian protectionists, the honorablemember for Batman, and the honorablemember for Gippsland, three of the keenest protectionists in the Chamber, are supporting a Government of which four of the Ministers are free-traders. At the last elections the Prime Minister pledged himself to vote for effective protection, but he was a free-trader when he entered this House.
– No; I voted for the first Kingston. Tariff against the Opposition amendment.
– If the records were searched, it would be found that ihe honorable member did not vote for much of that Tariff.
– I voted with the Government on the main fiscal question.
– How many freetraders would the honorable member’s Cabinet contain?
– That is a question which, for obvious reasons, I cannot answer. Honorable members to whom freetraders have hitherto been anathema, support, with singular complacency, Ministers of whom half are free-traders. No doubt they have an explanation which will satisfy their constituents. But it is time that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat set himself to support the Government on its merits, and not in our demerits. I shall be glad to let personal animosities drop, and to endeavour to find the solution of the trouble ii this House with a view to the benefit of the country. The Prime Minister yesterday lifted the veil enough to give us a Deep at the legislative future desired by his party. The vision was instructive. What did we see regarding the new protection ?
– The consumer has been chopped.
– The consumer is left out of sight. When we began to agitate this question in this Chamber and the country, the consumer was supposed to have first claim ; but all that is now thought of is that section of the workers who are engaged in the production of certain articles. The Prime Minister last night, in his vision of the future, left out of sight any consideration for the consumer. I look keenly at this part of his speech to find the difference between his new protection and the new protection of the Government which he has displaced. If I understand the difference, it simply consists in this - whereas the late Prime Minister proposed to limit new protection to the wages of employes in protected industries, the present Prime Minister seeks a full grant of concurrent industrial power with the States, to deal with all wages and all industrial conditions from end to end of Australia. The present Prime Minister and his colleagues know that concurrent power means paramount power in the working out of any such scheme. If an Act be passed granting such power, the working of the organizations will be so ordered and arranged that industrial power will all go to . the Commonwealth to the exclusion of its exercise by the States. That I take to be the essential difference between the sketch of the new protection of the late Prime Minister, and the vision as indicated by the present Prime Minister; and it raises a very serious issue. It raises the whole question of States rights in one of its most vital aspects. I believe that the majority of the people outside, and certainly the majority of honorable members, are averse to so grave and serious an inroad on th« rights and privileges of the States.
– We are told we must not make too much of States rights !
– I desire to give States rights their proper emphasis. I take it that States rights are involved in Federal rights, and that herein lies the distinction between unification and Federation. If we are going to unify all the industrial conditions of the Commonwealth, we shall not be very far from unification, pure and simple, and, to my mind, the new protection proposals are the most serious inroad on the rights and privileges of the States that has yet been attempted in this Chamber.
– Is the honorable member for Dalley one of the solid forty-seven?
– I believe that the honorable member who is interjecting will find that the honorable .member for Dalley will look as well to States rights as most members of the Chamber.
– Surely the honorable member does not mind trusting the people? It will be the people’s will, and not the will of Parliament.
– My opinion of those who are always calling out about “ trusting the people “ is that they “ take in “ the people most. Certainly my honorable friend cannot say that his party has been trusted by the outside organizations so far as the Government of the country is concerned.
– I do not know about that; we come back in spite of all your lying yarns about our party.
– I am sure the honorable member does not mean that.
– I do not mean personally -I mean the whole of the honorable member’s party.
– I think the words should be withdrawn.
– It may be that foi the moment I was not attending to the debate, but I did not hear any remark that ought to be withdrawn. If, however, the honorable member for Maranoa has made any remark which should be withdrawn, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I do not know to what the honorable member for Parramatta objects, but if he will tell me, I shall be very glad to withdraw any words regarded as offensive.
– “ Lying yarns,” I think, were the words.
– I did not apply the words to the honorable member, but simply re- .ferred to party warfare, in which lying yarns are told about our party. I did not say that the honorable member told lying yarns individually; but if he thinks that I applied the words to him - which I say I did not - I shall be glad to withdraw them unreservedly. I can take my gruelling without complaint.
– The honorable member should take it without whining !
– This simply illustrates once more the great inconvenience and irregularity of remarks across the Chamber. If honorable members on both sides would refrain, it would be much easier for the honorable member for Parramatta to proceed, and the dignity of the House would be conserved to a much larger degree. Will honorable members during this and other speeches to follow strive to avoid, as far as possible, interjections which are not intended to elicit information, but simply to disturb the honorable member addressing the Chair ?
– As to the new protection proposal, I desire to dissociate myself from any movement which may be considered antagonistic to the workers of Australia. I differ from my friends opposite as to the methods they pursue - I differ from them honestly, fairly, and fearlessly, it may be - but regarding the ultimate desire which we all have in common, that the working man shall receive a fair share of what is granted by way of concession by this Parliament, there is and can be no question. My honorable friends opposite have a strange infatuation ; and it arises from their caucus rule and caucus methods. If we do not shout their Shibboleth, and do not agree with them as to their particular method of doing things, they say that we are opposed to all reform, and are traitors to the interests of the workers, whom they claim to solely represent. I desire to make it plain that I will not be associated with any anti-Labour Party of any description. Honorable members opposite may laugh; but I decline to believe that all the sympathy with the legitimate aspirations of the labouring classes of this country resides in the caucus. That is not at all my reading of affairs. I see in the caucus only a pure political machine, which has not in it any clement of amelioration, so far as the great bulk of the working classes of the country are concerned.
– We shall have to put up a better caucus to beat it !
– Hear, hear. There is the chance for the Opposition.
– If we do make a machine I express the hope that it will be conducted on lines less tyrannous than those of their caucus, and that it will be permeated by a sentiment which does not find expression amongst my honorable friends opposite. They seek the brotherhood of man, but they seek it by methods of hatred.
– Class hatred.
– It is not five minutes since I asked honorable members to refrain from making remarks, but the honorable member for Dalley and other honorable members have twice or thrice since interjected. I shall be driven, much against my will, to take other steps if the interjections do not cease at this request.
– I apologize, Mr. Speaker, and can only say that I am so much interested in the speech that I was carried awa v.
– In my judgment, the proposals of the Government will not help the working men of the country. My experience up to date is that the workers in the best paying States of Australia have gained nothing in industrial conditions or otherwise by Federation. I believe it is inevitable that the law of Federation must be the law of the average. That seems to me to be the centre of gravity so far as industrial matters relate to Federal control. My honorable friends opposite, who are clamoring so loudly at the moment for Federal industrial control, will find a tendency to bring about the condition of thing* I am describing. In mv opinion the best results accrue to the workers from the interplay of Inter-State competition, arising from differences in the natural features in the various States. This gives the best industrial results; but what the Government propose to do is practically to socialize natural conditions of Australia. When we begin to fight in that way with nature, we shall find nature beat us, as she beats all her enemies, by establishing an average, which is usually far and away below the best. That law, in my opinion, is inevitable in connexion with Federal control of industrial conditions, as in every other relation of natural life”. I have seen that law already in operation - it can be seen in operation to-day - and I believe, therefore, that what the Government seek to do will not be found ultimately to be in the interests of the working men of Australia, but quite the contrary. Why, in the Prime Minister’s vision, was there nothing more than new protection? Is that the reason for the trouble that lately arose between the two sections? Was it owing to the inadequacy of the new protection proposals of the late Prime Minister that the change of Government has come about? It would seem so, since this was the only departure made from the programme of the late Government by the Prime Minister yesterday. The proposal of the late Government was declared to be inadequate, as one has only to look to the Labour newspapers to see. Here is an extract from the Worker, of which I am and always have been a diligent reader. The words -
Entirely Inadequate. are the head- lines which precede the denunciation of the new protection proposal -
The proposals of the Government concede but one-half the demands of the Brisbane Conference. As a means of securing new protection they might be acceptable, but they leave the Commonwealth position with regard to unprotected industries as it was. Such questions as the legislation of the eight-hour day, and the maintenance of fair industrial conditions as be- tween State and State would remain in their present unsatisfactory condition.
The question which the Labour Party is now faced with is whether it is worth while entering upon the vigorous campaign which will be necessary to obtain an amendment of the Constitution, for so half-hearted a proposal as that which the Government ask it to accept. The Worker is decidedly of the opinion that the people of Australia are prepared to give Parliament full power to secure just industrial conditions throughout the Commonwealth. That Parliament should present the question in any form less than that which would enable this will of the people to have full effect is indefensible from any sane Australian point of view.
Here, it seems to me, is an explanation of the change in the personnel of the Govern ment. The new protection proposed by the late Government was not sufficiently drastic ; and the present Government, as we were told very distinctly yesterday, seek to go further. But why stop at new protection ? What has happened to the Land Tax ? On that matter the other day we listened to a most eloquent address in this Chamber by the present Minister of Home Affairs. He said -
If the worker is to feel that his country is worth fighting for, his country must see that he receives his rightful share of the wealth produced by his labour. His country must not tax him to protect property in which he possesses no share or visible interest. The larger reform is not for accomplishment to-day or next year ; but the minor one can be effected here and now by crystallizing into law the resolution which it is my, privilege to submit. “ Here and now “ does not appear to be this session. Why ? We are not even given to understand that the matter is to be dealt with next session. Why have all these proposals been carefully stowed away ? It would seem that as soon as the Labour Party, so to speak, set up in business for themselves they clear their political shop window. Their shop window has been cleared of their proposals for land taxation, for the nationalization of monopolies, the regulation of Inter-State shipping, a graduated tax on unimproved values, and many other projects.
– Whether that is so or not one would think that owing to the urgency of some of these measures they would take the first opportunity that offered of letting the country know their intentions with respect to them. One would think, in view of the urgent circumstances related the other day by two honorable members of the party, that some statement would have been made as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the control of Inter-State shipping. The honorable member for Werriwa made a very able speech on that question a week or two ago. What did he say -
The men receive practically the same wages as they did years ago.
That is a remarkable admission to come from my honorable friends after fifteen or sixteen years of labour agitation and reform.’ They are never tired of pointing out on the public platform what they have done for the workers of Australia, but in this House they tell a very different tale. Addressing his critical fellow members in this House the honorable member said that the workers engaged in the InterState shipping trade received practically the same wages as they did years before.
– The honorable member must not refer to a motion that is already on the business-paper.
– I did not intend to make more than incidental reference to the debate. The honorable member then told us that all the economies effected had gone in increased dividends, bigger reserves, increased capital, and watered stock.
– The honorable member is still referring to the debate on the motion.
– I take it, sir, that I mav refer to the debate.
– I would remind the honorable member that the resumption of the debate on the motion in question is set down on the business-paper for a later date.
– I should have liked to read to the House a few of the statements made during that debate, for they picture a condition of affairs that makes the question an absolutely urgent one. Rectification should take place at the earliest possible moment if half the assertions made by the honorable member for Werriwa are true. Nevertheless we had no reference to the subject in the forecast pf legislation given yesterday by the Prime Minister. Then, again, another member of the Government, the Minister of Defence - one of the best intellects in the party, I think I may say, without being invidious - asserted in another place quite recently that it was urgently necessary that the Constitution should be amended to permit of the nationalization of some of the trusts and monopolies that are cursing Australia. The honorable member also made the statement when addressing the workers at a recent gathering that the States’ Constitutions should be further amended - the members of the Labour Party appear to be veritable Constitutional tinkers - to abolish the Legislative Councils.
– Hear, hear.
– The Labour Party have not enough work to do in their own sphere ; they wish to take Creation under their wing ; to control the legislative machines of all the States, and to determine the destinies, both State and Federal) of Australia. When one reads in the press of all these proposals, as to what should be done at the earliest possible moment, one wonders why no mention was made of them by the Prime Minister. Why did he not refer to them in his speech? There can be only one conclusion. The Labour Party, the moment they take office, become different people. That has already been demonstrated. Those of us who were in the last Parliament know that the moment the Labour Party succeeded to the Treasury bench they became as sucking doves; they cooed as blandly and sweetly as any one could do. That experience is being repeated, and I do not hesitate to say thatone of the advantages of having the Labour Party in office at the present moment is that they can do no harm there. They will be permitted to remain in possession of the Treasury bench whilst they pass a few measures of no moment- - measures which the late Ministry would have passed had they remained in office - but the moment they proceed to deal with any of the extraordinary proposals which (hey declare to be of great urgency they will go out.
– We are being forewarned.
– That is not a forewarning, it is a simple statement ot fact with which honorable members are familiar, and it explains the programme outlined by the Prime Minister. The Government are seeking the line of least resistance. I suppose, too, that it accounts for the altered note outside as well as in the House. We have had struck outside the Chamber at the very commencement of the career of the present Ministry an apologetic note. For instance, Mr. Prendergast, leader of the State Labour Party, the other day made a piteous appeal to an audience not to be too expectant of results, and declared that if the Labour Party remained in office for three months they would do a great deal by way of administration. I admit that they would. The Minister of Defence, for instance, is now proposing to take away the gold lace worn by some of the officers.. I presume that that is to be a set off to the action which the Labour Party took some time ago in supporting the distribution of public moneys in the shape of a bounty on the production of high-class cigars. They were then very- anxious that those soldiers should smoke the highest class of cigars that could be produced; but now they are endeavouring to strip them of their little bit of gold braid. I hope that this contemplated action will put something into the hungry stomachs of the unemployed.
– The honorable member’s troubles about the unemployed.
– And the same may be said regarding the Minister when he resorts to minor reforms of that character. Another brilliant act of administration is proposed by the PostmasterGeneral. The honorable member had scarcely got seated in his office when he declared that it would be admirable if we could have an all-red cable route, and he made the simple proposal that an effort should be made to induce Canada to buy out her own land line. I hope that this, again, is a matter of immediate reform for the workers of Australia. I am sure that if Canada resumed this land line it would add a great deal to the empty cupboards of the starving workers of Australia ! I venture Io think, however, that a practical man would say, “ Confound you, Mr. Postmaster-General ! Come home ! Deal with our troubles here, and when you have a little time to spare you may open up negotiations with Canada regarding the resumption of her land line.” These are specimens of the administrative acts to which we are to be treated. They are certainly, as before, harmless and safe. This Government will risk nothing, so far as I can see, during the months immediately ahead. Therefore, the country may sleep easy o’ nights for .all that the Government will do in the way of injuring it. Their one great desire seems to be to tell the country how little they have done when in office ; they appear to take an altogether strange delight in being safe, responsible, conservative administrators. They did so before, and after they left office said, “ Nothing has happened.” Nothing had happened, and nothing will happen now. Nothing is intended to happen, except that they may remain in office for a few months. They will then go to the country and say what they would have done had’ they been allowed to remain in power. On the last occasion they were in office for four months, and the ohe achievement to which I have already referred stands to their infinite credit. They propose, so far, a programme of legislation which we shall have great pleasure in helping them to carry through. I am glad to find my honorable friends determining to settle once and for all the question of the site of the Federal Capital. It has been a sore and heart burning one in this House for many years and if they succeed in carrying the question to finality they will deserve well of Australia. I would remind the House, however, that what they propose in this regard would have been carried out if those unfortunate individuals whom they have dispossessed had been permitted to remain in office. Did the Labour Party put out the late Government because of their attitude with regard to the Federal Capital, or the Manufactures Encouragement Bill ? Have they turned them out because of their financial administration? Why have they put them out? Everything that the former Government was doing they propose to carryto completion. As to their other schemes, the veil of futurity kindly hides them from our view. Meantime I think we ought to ask the Prime Minister to be a little more explicit with regard to one outstanding reform to which the whole House is pledged. I refer to the question of old-age pensions, and to the most unsatisfactory statement made by the Prime Minister regarding the intentions of his Ministry. What did he tell us last night? He simply repeated the words of the late Treasurer, “ I shall find the money. The money must be found.” We wish to know where it is to come from. The honorable member might have been a little candid. He was the perfection of candour when sitting below the gangway. Why is he not as candid to-day? Has an. investigation of the finances of the country altered his view? If it has altered his view, I hope it has not altered his candour ; yet, strange to say, we could not get a word from him last night. Here is what he said in criticism of the late Treasurer upon this very matter -
I regret that the Treasurer has not provided more money for old-age pensions.
Well, have we any more money provided for old-age pensions now ? The honorable member told us last night, as though in triumph, that he had put away ,£50,000 for the month. That is at the rate of £600,000 a year to meet an obligation of ^1,750,000 a year.
– Not so much as that. It is rather under than over that.
– The honorable member said it would take .£1,500,000.
– If he is going to get through with a payment of. £1,500,000, then his own language, addressed to the late Treasurer, is applicable to him. He said then -
I am expressing the view of the Labour Party when I say that attempts to tamper with the Act by giving a restrictive reading to the sections in regard to either invalid or old-age pensions will meet with a short shrift.
If the honorable member is going to get through with a million and a half, he must give a restrictive reading to those sections.
– Certainly not.
– It is impossible for him to give an extended reading to them when expending that amount. Any one who knows anything of the subject will agree that it will cost more than the honorable member says, and certainly a great deal more than the honorable member for Hume, when Treasurer, hoped to get through with. Here is what the honorable member said as to the ways and methods of financing this matter of old-age pensions. I call attention to his words, because the matter becomes one of supreme importance now that the honorable member is not only Prime Minister, but also Treasurer. He is sitting on the Treasury chest, and is able to do as he pleases now with regard to the finding of money for various projects. He said -
The Treasurer flatters himself that he will be able to pay invalid and old-age pensions with a sum, approximately, of£1,300,000. I do not think the honorable gentleman has the least chance of being able to do so, and I hope that he has not. . . . What should we say of a public company that entered into an obligation to pay invalid and old-age pensions, and that, though its resources were as extensive, and its prosperity as great, as that of the Commonwealth, begrudged a few thousand pounds to completely fulfil that obligation?
When we asked the honorable member last night how he was going to fulfil that obligation, he said, “I will meet it; funds will be forthcoming.” Anybody could say that. Taking the honorable member’s own simile of a public company, a bogus director could assure the shareholders that the money would be all right, but the shareholders would want to see their money and to know that it was all right. My honorable friend, on that occasion, went fur- ther, and, not relying upon merely negative criticism, went into the constructive realm, and proposed to find the money from a particular source. This is what he said -
I wish to know exactly where we are going in this matter.
We wish to know exactly where we are going now -
No matter who the Treasurer at the time may be, there is not the shadow of a hope that, solely from indirect taxation, there will be sufficient money available to meet all the claims for invalid and old-age pensions up to the end of1910.
He says there is no hope of paying the pensions out of indirect taxation. Is that still his opinion after an investigation of the finances? That is a, plain, straight question. He made that statement only a fortnight ago. I ask him now, and I think the country is entitled to an answer, whether it is still his opinion after inquiring carefully into the matter, that old-age pensions cannot be financed out of indirect taxation ?
– They will be financed all right.
– The late Treasurer is not in it. He was simplicity itself compared with this Machiavellian silence. The moment honorable members become possessed of the Treasury bench, they become the personification of all the craft in creation. My honorable friend to-day is not able to answer a straight question which he would have answered without hesitation only a fortnight ago. We must draw our own inferences. The fact that the honorable member declines to make any answer leaves us no option but to infer that he is forcing the difficulty further into the distance, and that he will then make a definite proposal to meet it by means of direct taxation. If that is his purpose and intention, what harm could happen if he told us plainly now upon the floor of this House that taxation of a direct character would be absolutely necessary and that the Government would introduce it at a convenient season? That would be straightforward - as straightforward as the honorable member always was when sitting below the gangway. I hope that he, of all men, will not follow the devious courses of previous Ministers - those so-called mere politicians of the past. I thought we should have had a little straight Labour statesmanship for once, but honorable gentlemen are dumb as oysters on anything concerning the country’s finances, and, strangest of all, on anything concerning their own Labour platform. I suppose it will be left to honorable members who sit behind them to talk a little more plainly, as one of them did the other day. The honorable member for Herbert then said that they were going to. get ready at the next election to go through all the thunders and lightnings of. the Conservative press, and that they would come back, as he said, sailing the ship into port “with a larger and more valuable cargo than we have ever had yet.” The honorable member for Lang interjected, “More Socialism?” and the honorable member for Herbert said “ Yes, and of a more advanced type, too.” Where is the trace of advanced Socialism in this programme - Capital Site, old-age pensions, £50,000 for the Post Office, and not a word about defence? There is no special reform there of any kind. We shall have to leave my honorable friends, as they will say nothing. They have adopted the methods of the Sphinx. They will not speak.
– It is a good job the honorable member has some one else to worry now.
– The late Treasurer, if he had been asked, would have said, “ Yes, I will pay old-age pensions even if it is done out of direct taxation.” H”. would not have hesitated, and, in fact, he did not hesitate. Why should he be pluckier and more straightforward than the present Prime Minister, who is supposed to represent the platform on which he was returned to Parliament? And so one could go through this platform of theirs, but I do not wish to prolong my remarks. I had intended to read one or two extracts showing how the evolution of events has completely justified the criticism of the Labour Party made by the late Prime Minister two or three years ago - I refer to the criticism in which he said that the nearer you got to the Labour members, the more bitter they became. I think I had better read the extract, because, if ever a prophesy has come true, and been substantiated to the very letter, it is the one then made by the late Prime Minister at Ballarat. Our complaint against that honorable member all through the last three years has been that he was in too close alliance with the Labour Party. That was principally and chiefly our complaint against him, and now that it no longer exists, it is worth while to look over his record to see how completely he predicted what has actually come to pass. He has tried to help them for three years. He has done his best for them. I think I put it on one occasion that the honorable member had shafted beautifully in the gala coach of Socialism for them, and now they have hunted him out. They have turned him out without any corn - turned him out to political grass. All that has come about is in fulfilment of a prediction which he himself made two or three years ago. He said then -
Those most closely allied with the Labour Party, those who make the greatest sacrifices for them -
And will any one in this House say thai the late Prime Minister has not made sacrifices for them? Every one knows that he has suffered in reputation by the sacrifices he has made to the Labour Party.
– He has made his reputation for wise democratic work.
-That is a matter of opinion. He said then : -
Those most closely allied with the Labour Party, those who make the greatest sacrificesfor them, who stand closest to them, und wishmost to help them, are always the first to besacrificed to them. One may help the Labour Party for one month, for two months, for three months, or four months, but the moment onestops or makes a single independent step he istreated as a bitter enemy. This i« the frear. ment that follows alliances with political machines.
Is the honorable member still under obligation to continue his assistance to the members of that party? It is for him tosay. I do not think that any ethic of political fair play requires us to help them to get ready those projects of visionary and destructive legislation to some of which I have already referred. Fair play demands from all sides of this House that every rightful step should be taken to prevent the carrying forward of that legislation, because I believe some of it would disintegrate the Commonwealth, and cause bitter and lasting suffering to the very people whom it is sought to benefit.
.- Although it is well known by honorable members opposite that I am not in accord with their policy, that fact does not prevent me from congratulating them, on the position that they have attained in this House. While I am an opponent of theirs in their main principles and in thenmethods, I hope I shall not be found factiously opposing any measures which I consider are for the benefit of the Commonwealth. I have always been on excellent personal terms- with members who are now on the Treasury bench, and with those who are supporting them, and I disclaim what has often been ascribed to me - the possession of any personal feeling against them. My opposition to them is purely political. I have always been opposed - because of the extreme Socialism which is their real objective - to those for whom I cannot find a more appropriate name than the Caucus Party.
– Our right name is the Australian Labour Party
– In my opinion, the Caucus Party is a more appropriate name.
– ‘Why be insulting?
– I do not use the term insultingly. The appropriate name for honorable members who support the Government, in my opinion, is the “ Caucus Socialistic Party.” As it is probable that before I sit down a good many interjections may be made, I desire at once to state my position. It has been constantly said by honorable members opposite that I was subservient to the Caucus Party when a Minister in the Deakin Government. There is no evidence in the records of Parliament or elsewhere giving the shadow of substance to such an allegation, and I have never, .by word’ or deed, shown the least subservience to the members of that party. When I was a member of the Deakin Government they supported that Government under a distinct agreement, which was faithfully kept, though the honorable member for Ballarat, I think, gave them more than he agreed to, and to some extent, more than I always approved of. When the agreement expired, both parties seemed to have had enough of it, and opposed each other at the general election, showing clearly that no political friendship existed between them. I was opposed by a labour candidate, and so was nearly every member of the Deakin party, including the honorable member for Ballarat himself, and often when there was but small chance of winning the seat. After the election I resigned my office, not out of pique, but because, being in a minority, I was not prepared to submit to the domination of the Caucus Party. My experience in the months preceding the election, and during the electoral contest, made the position unsatisfactory.
– The right honorable member took twelve months to think the matter over.
– That is an absolutely incorrect statement. I appeal to the honorable member for Ballarat to say whether I delayed a moment longer than was right. I first used every endeavour, as his friend and colleague, to influence him to take a course which I thought he should take, and failing in that, I resigned my portfolio. In my opinion - and I place it on record, not out of unfriendliness, but so that there may be no misunderstanding as to my political belief - the caucus is a secret means of coercion and tyranny opposed to independent thought and judgment. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has said of it that -
It compels a minority to vote against judgment and against conscience, and threatens the independence of its members, and is dangerous to the community.
Those words express more forcibly and more eloquently than any I could use my objection to the. methods of the Caucus Party. Before entering upon the main subject of my speech, I wish to make one other explanation. I have never had any political quarrel with my former leader, the honorable member for Ballarat, and his party, except in regard to the alliance or understanding with the Caucus Party, and anything which I may say about him will be said, not with a view toadversely criticise him, but with the object of proving, by his public declarations, my own case. I should indeed be sorry if any word of mine affected the long friendship between lis, which, notwithstanding that it may have been somewhat strained at times on both sides, through political differences, will, I hope, continue to the end. Coming now to the position of the Government and its programme, it will, I think, be admitted that the situation is exceptional. Generally, a Government is displaced by an Opposition, which takes its place. Two parties having been opposed, one defeats the other and obtains office, the former Ministerialists going over to the Opposition benches. In this case, instead of there having been a defeat of the Government by its opponents in opposition, there has been a revolt, or desertion, of its supporters, and the deserters have been called upon to form a new Administration. It is extraordinary, as the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, that no reason has been given for this revolt or desertion. The change has come about so quietly and harmoniously that one might be justified in assuming thougH I do not do so - that it was the result of an arrangement. We read that during the building of the second temple at Jerusalem neither the sound of the hammer nor any other noise w”as heard, and yet the edifice steadily. grew ; and, similarly, the displacement of the Deakin Administration and the taking of office by the Labour Party has been effected quietly - not a word or reproach being uttered, nor any explanation being given. I do not think that there is any precedent for a change of this kind in the Mother Country or in any of her dependencies, except, perhaps, South Australia, and what happened there under some extraordinary circumstances should not be considered as a precedent to be followed in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I cannot understand this reticence and secrecy. We have a right to know the reason for this “cuckoo-like” transaction. The former supporters of -the Government have not only supplanted their friends, but have also taken their places.
– The honorable member did not ask for reasons before voting against the Deakin Government.
– I was about to remark that it has been said that my friends and I are responsible for placing the present Government in power. The honorable member for Ballarat has expressed that view. For myself - and I think I can speak for others - we absolutely repudiate and deny the accuracy of that statement.
– - It is an axiom of law-
– I am not dealing with axioms of law ; I have my own knowledge and my own conscience to guide me. I entirely agree with the leader of the Opposition that the desire was to bring to an end the unreal and politically unhealthy arrangement by which the late Prime Minister and his supporters were carrying on the . Government under the domination and the lash of the Socialistic Labour Party. That is the most that can be said of us. I had on -many previous occasions strongly denounced a combination which placed those who had the responsibility without the power under the control of those, who had the power without responsibility ; and I consider that I acted quite properly and consistently when, under the circumstances, I gave my vote to remove the late Government.
– *But the honorable member for Bendigo, and other members of the party, said that the right honorable member for Swan was prepared to vote for the Tate Prime Minister on this occasion.
– I need .not go into that) I’ am only dealing with :what was done. It is not necessary, I think, at this time, to deal with what was done or said by any one outside this House. I acknowledge no responsibility whatever forthe present Government being in office. I desire to say, as I said at the beginning,, that I, and those who sit with1 me, and also,. I believe, those of the direct Opposition, are all opposed to the present Governmentbeing on the Treasury bench. That being, so, how can it be said that we knowingly brought about the very state of affairswe did not desire ? We voted for breaking: up an alliance which we regarded as undesirable, but we are not responsible for the existence of the present Government. If I had had my way, that party who are ina minority in this House would not havebeen placed on the Treasury benches; and* the full responsibility for the existence of the present’ Government rests on those whoare now even temporarily supporting them.
– The right honorable member supported the present Government into office.
– I cannot subscribe to that statement. Who, I would! like to ask, are keeping the present Government in office? The honorable member must not try to shirk responsibility and place it on me. Let those honorable members who are keeping the present Government in power take the responsibility.
– The right honorable member placed the present Government ii> pc,er, and we are keeping them there.
– I accept the admission that the honorable member for Ballarat is keeping the present Government in power, but not the statement that I placed them there. There was no necessity to advise that the leader of a party in a minority - a party without alliance or boDe of alliance - should be sent for to form a Government. Surely it is not contended that the mover of an adverse motion from, the Ministerial side has any right to be sent for to form a Government, and that the Opposition are to be jockeyed out of” their recognised rights by such a circumstance. We know that the Labour Party are not permitted by their rules to form any alliances; and if there was one party incapable of carrying on the Government, for the very reasonI have indicated, it was the Caucus Party, who number only twenty-seven members as against forty-seven. ‘ Like mv friend, the late’ Prime Minister. I believe in responsible government, and not in triangular government, or a Ministry kept in power against the will of the people. If what has been going on for some time now in the House continues, and a minority retains office under the domination of another [arty diametrically opposed to the main principles of those in power, then I share the fear of a, great many that our system of responsible government must break down by its own weight, and that some other system must be substituted. I have no sympathy with the view which has been presented by some persons, who do not, I think, sufficiently realize the gravity of the position. It has been urged that there should be no attempt made to turn the present Government out of office. There seems to be a sort of sympathy with the present Administration; but I do not think that “sympathy “ is provided for under our Constitution, or under any system of responsible government. It is majority rule with us.
– Unfortunately for the light honorable member !
– A minority of twenty-seven have no right to expect to rule a majority of forty-seven.
– They are doing it !
– Am I to understand that this is the majority rule about which the Labour Party_ talk so much all over the country?
– The right honorable member said nothing on the point for many rears.
– It is urged that the present Government must be given <: a chance “-that it would be “ very unfair “ to turn them out, and that the Opposition will be helped if it be generous. All this kind of pleading is made in order to give a minority control of the interests of Australia. What chance would we on this side have if we were to accept power twenty-seven strong as against a Labour Party of fort. -seven ? Would the I.:bour Party have anything to say about “ sympathy,” or giving us a “ chance “ ?
– Why does the right honorable member not turn the Government out?
– If I had my way I should certainly turn the Government out.
– Only the right honorable member cannot get the other fortysix to agree with him !
– Never mind that ; the Government are in a minority, as I shall clearly show before I have finished.
– How many pages of notes has the right honorable member vet?
– I must ask honorable members - especially those who are Ministers - to observe the ruling .1 recently gave from this Chair.
– Whenever anything is said to which the Labour Party object, they endeavour to interrupt; but if they will only keep quiet I shall not take long to conclude mr remarks. All the pleadings for consideration to which I have referred, and which have no place in constitutional government, are altogether adverse to the principle of majority rule. Let us be true to ourselves and those who sent us here. We are not here to carry out our own ideas of what is generous to this party or to the other - we have a sacred duty to perform without any trifling; a duty we owe to those whom we represent. Now, I should like to ask whether those who are supporting, or thinking of temporarily supporting, the present Government are not doing the very thing that the late Prime Minister so strongly denounced the Labour Party for doing?’ We all know what the honorable member for Ballarat said to his constituents some years ago. Of course, we were all aware of the facts, but the honorable gentleman placed them on record when he referred *o a prominent member of the Labour Party saying that “ that party was up for sale’ to the highest bidder.” According to the honorable gentleman, that prominent member of the Labour Party said, “ Here are our votes for your legislation; we do not believe in you or your party, but if you give us the legislation we want we will’ support you.” That is the sort of policy which the late Prime Minister denounced at Ballarat ; and yet we have him in effect saying that, so long as the legislation of the present Government is not opposed to his policy, so long will he support them in office. He in effect says also -
Here are our votes 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.
This is practically the position which was taken up by the prominent member of the Labour Party referred to; but what did the late Prime Minister say in regard to this code of political honour then ? The honorable gentleman asked, “ Could a more demoralizing bargain be proposed by any public body or institution?” That is the bargain to support a party whose platform they do not believe in and give them votes so long as they propose the legislation the other party to the bargain desires. If the late Prime Minister was right in denouncing that prominent member of the Labour Party - and I think he was - then I say that what is “sauce” for the caucus “goose” ought to be “sauce” for the anti-caucus gander.” We are not here to barter our votes, but as the trustees of the people ; and a large majority of the people, in no uncertain way, have given us a mandate to oppose what not long ago the late Prime Minister described as the “ crude and hasty notions and vain visionary imaginings of those who wish to rush us over a precipice.” It must be apparent to every honorable member, and I atn sure that it is uppermost in the minds of the Government themselves, that whereas when they were sitting in the Ministerial corner, twenty-seven strong, supporting a Government consisting of a party of only fifteen members, they occupied a position of power and authority, they ,are now powerless to do anything except with the consent of those who are temporarily assisting them.
– Then why does the honorable member complain ?
– I simply wish to let the Labour Party know that they have exchanged a position of power for one in which they can do nothing.
Mr. Page. Why complain?
– Because the honorable member’s party has no right to be in office.
– Would the honorable member prefer to have us in a place of power ?
– I would rather have the party where it is, but it seems to me to be subversive of constitutional principles that a party of twenty-seven should take office unless it has assured promises of support that will enable it to carry on. The Government, with its party of twentyseven all told, cannot hope to pass any important item in its programme. The Prime Minister seemed anxious yesterday not to mention any proposal which might give offence to those who are supporting him. In assuming office, he has exchanged power without responsibility for responsibility without power. The Labour Party have missed a great opportunity. Had they declined to take office on the ground that they had not a majority, they might have stood before the people as independent men. charged with a full sense of their ‘obligations and responsibilities. But the temptation to take office, and to be even apparently the dominant power in the Australian Parliament for a little time, was too strong, to permit of their doing what was their undoubted duty. They ought to have declined office for the all-sufficient reason that they were unable to make an .alliance with any other party, and that, without a majority, they could not hope to carr)’ on the Government of Australia. Some honorable members have declared that the Socialistic Caucus Party consists of men of pure metal. They find now that it is not so. Like a good many more men in the world, the members of the Labour Party cannot withstand temptation. In this case, the temptation was too strong, and they fell. They gave up a position of’ power in order that they might occupy a position in which they would have only the responsibility, and absolutely no power. If they are inclined to pray at all, I should say that they will henceforth pray, “ Lead us not again into temptation.” This is,, however, the Nemesis which pursues all self-seekers who take office in contravention” of the well-established principles of constitutional government. I refer more particularly to the well-known principle which’ has been violated in this case, that a Government must have behind it an assured majority to enable it to carry out its ownpolicy, instead^ of being compelled to carry out that of others. I do not like to useharsh words, but recent developments show that the members of the Labour Party are,, after all, only clay, and not pure metal’. Their selfish ambitions have led them astray, and they deserve to suffer tlie penalty. I can commiserate with them, however, because if there is a distasteful’ position to occupy it is that in which, whilst having a semblance pf power, one really possesses none. How can the Caucus Party expect to carry out its policy and yet retain office? That is a consideration which must have been uppermost intheir minds when they were debating the question of whether or not they should takeup the reins of Government. Surely it wastheir desire to take office in order that they might carry out their policy, and they must have asked themselves whether they were likely to secure such support as would enable them to do so. They knew, however, that they could not ally themselves with any other party. That being so, how could they expect forty-seven members in this House to sit here day after day, and month after month, and to allow a party of twenty-seven, not merely to govern the country, but to carry out its socialistic and revolutionary programme? I sincerely hope that men do not accept office from purely personal selfish considerations ; surely they seek to gain possession of the Treasury bench in order to give effect to the programme that they are returned to support. But how could twenty-seven members expect to be able, as a Government, to carry out their programme unless they had a definite promise from some other party in accord with their platform to assist them? I do not suppose that they expected to ob- tain any support from this side of the House. Before they took office, we were thirty-two strong, and now, I believe, we are thirty-four.
– I am. simply taking into account the places where honorable members sit.
– Seats are nothing.
– I submit that under the custom prevailing in this House, the seat taken by a member, on first entering this House or after a change of Government is indicative of his course of action. All the members on this side of the House have been returned to oppose the Labour platform, and I suppose that most of them, like myself, were opposed by Labour candidates ,at the last general election. That being so, the Labour Party, in taking office, could have had no hope of securing our assistance. It was also unreasonable for them to expect assistance from those who were not only returned to oppose them, but had been deserted by them without a word of warning and ignominiously turned out of office. Such treatment is not likely to engender feelings of friendship. It is natural, I should say, to feel hurt when turned out of office in that way ; and it would be, I think, generally regarded as the height of insolence if those who had been so treated were asked to help Ministers to hold the very offices they had so unceremoniously and unexpectedly dispossessed them of. If T were in the position of the leader of the late Government
I should say to the Labour Party : “ You must think me a strange man; I am, as you know, opposed to your caucus, your principles, and your methods, but I have tried to help you, as far as I properly could, for years past. I’ have gone out of my way, even at the risk of doing damage to my own career, to help those who were helping me. Yet you have turned meignominiously out of office, and have yourselves taken the place of my colleagues and myself. How can I be expected to support you?” The Labour Party are familiar with the views of the late Prime Minister. No man in Australia is more strongly opposed to the basic principles of the caucus and the Labour Party than he is. No man in Australia has expressed his opinion upon them in stronger and more eloquent terms. And through good repute and ill, notwithstanding that his statements in this regard have been quoted a good many times in this House, he has never, by word or deed, sought to withdraw any of them. The members of the Labour Party knew this when they took office. They knew also that they had not only defeated his Ministry but had endeavoured to drive him out of public life at the last general election. They knew, too, that he had defeated their attack by 12,331 votes to 6,305 votes, and that he had described their caucus methods as “ the downward path which would lead to political servitude, and, perhaps, to social slavery.” That being so, was it not unreasonable for them to expect that he should lend them his assistance? I cannot use words strong enough to express my view of the ungenerous way in which the Labour Party have treated the honorable member for Ballarat, and yet, on succeeding his Ministry, they look to him for support. The honorable member for Ballarat is not the only member of his party who was opposed by the Labour Party at the last election, and from whom the present Government and their supporters expect assistance. The honorable member for Mernda has been opposed on many occasions by them.
– He was opposed by thi right honorable member’s party also.
– I was nol aware of it. The honorable member for Mernda is, like myself, a protectionist’, and, therefore, I do not see how he could be opposed by another protectionist.
– He was opposed by a Conservative protectionist and a Labour candidate.
– He was opposed by the Labour Party, and will be opposed by them again. The honorable member for Bourke, who holds liberal or radical views, the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and the honorable member for Batman, were all opposed by the Caucus Party at the last general election. Not only was that so, but that party are organizing now all over the country to defeat them next time. They are making preparations in the district of the honorable member for Riverina, who has been a good supporter of theirs for a long time. He was even supported by them at the last election ; but they are not satisfied. He will have to take the pledge or be opposed next time. I believe they are also at present organizing against my friend, the honorable member for Hume. Yet these are the men from whom they are expecting support in keeping themselves in office. Whether they are supported by any members of this House or not does not affect my argument ; all I say is that they had no right to expect support from any of the Ministry they had deserted and dispossessed so unceremoniously. I suppose that some of the members of the Labour Party would rather 1hat they were not forbidden to make alliances with others; but they are forbidden, and they have to submit. The Caucus Party has made up its mind to go alone along; its political road. It has cut itself off from any political alliance. That this is so. the following resolution, agreed to at the Brisbane Conference recently proves -
That, in the opinion of the Conference, the Party should not enter into any alliance, nor grant nor promise to any person any immunity from opposition at any time.
Surely that is strong enough. They have cat themselves off by their own act from alliance with any other party. I assure the Prime Minister that I sympathize with him in the difficulty that he is in, because if he could have acted differently he might have obtained some support, not from this side, but from the side he has deserted. The members of the Labour Party are fully aware of the late Prime Minister’s many denunciations of their organization, caucus, and general methods. I have a copy of a resolution that the honorable member went all the way to Balla rat some years ago to move, and I am not aware that he has changed his opinion in the slightest. If he had, I should be the last to quote it, and would accept his disclaimer; but I know that he has not changed his views. % He is a man who, having made up his mind, is very hard to turn from his determination. At a meeting at Ballarat he moved this resolution
– I amended the motion. I would not move it as it had been prepared.
– I took this copy from the Age published the day after the meeting.
– Was it the motion that was moved, or the one that was first prepared ?
– It is as follows : -
That the time has arrived when it is impera-, live 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.
Is that the one?
– I think there was an allusion to the Labour Party which was taken out. As it stands it means any section.
– It means the Labour Party, as the speeches show. The honorable member moved that resolution, which does not show that he then had any sympathy with or faith in their organization, or that he was likely to go out of his way to enable them to have the supreme control of Australia. Later, on the 16th November, 1906, speaking to the people of Ballarat and of Australia he said -
What hope have you from the Labour Party? In all its long programme and remote aims, that party has not yet been able to find space to include any fiscal policy whatever. You have to look jealously at the Labour Party before you intrust them” with the control of those measures that make for the protection and the future of Australian industry.
A few days afterwards, also at Ballarat, he referred to the Caucus Party as a party step by step sapping away the liberties of the people. They were, he said -
I ask, too, what will be left ? That is the party that boasts of freedom, and is never tired of proclaiming its regard for its fellow men. It is not freedom but thraldom that they advocate -
Thraldom who walks with the banner of freedom, and recks not to ruin a realm ‘in her name.
Then the honorable member, expressing an opinion which I concur in, and which I think a great many others in Australia will concur in, said -
No caucus, except the caucus of the Labour Party, sought to compel a minority to vote against judgment and conscience, because a majority of their following demanded it.
– That is not true.
-I am quoting the honorable member for Ballarat whom the present Government expect to support them.
– That is only his opinion.
– I am using it to show that the members of the Labour Party are unreasonable in expecting assistance from the honorable member for Ballarat. The honorable member for Ballarat was referred to as a Christian. They must consider him a Christian of Christians if,after what he said about them, and after the way they have deserted him, they can expect support from him to carry out their platform. They have no right to look to him for such support. I refer only to support to carry out their platform, which is what they are in their present positions for. I am not quoting these remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat with the object of placing him in any difficulty. I am using them against the Government and its supporters in their unreasonable idea that they can expect support from the honorable member after having behaved so ungenerously to him and others who are now in the Ministerial corner. The honorable member for Ballarat has never changed his opinion, and therefore I feelfully justified in quoting the views which he expressed so definitely.
– The honorable member seems to think that we are down on our knees pleading for support.
– I am putting my facts, and honorable members can form their own judgment. The late Prime Minister said, regarding what I think may be fairly named “the Socialistic Caucus Party,” that-
Members who had sat side by side with Labour members in the State and Federal Houses, who had voted for them on every divi sion, and who were a bulwark of strength to the Labour Party in this House, went to the country with the Labour pistol to their heads and the demand “Sign or resign.”
That is going to happen to the honorable member for Riverina, because the hounds are in full cry after him now. They are organizing in his district, the district of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and that of the honorable member for Bourke, while in a few days I expect they will be organ using in the district of the honorable member for Hume.
– I shall be quite able to take my own part.
– Nevertheless, the honorable member will have the pistol at his head, and the demand to “ Sign or resign ‘ ‘ will be made.
– And I will do neither.
– These are not my own words. The late Prime Minister said on the same occasion that -
No consideration was shown for past friendship, past work, or services. They must bend the knee entirely to the organization.
That is what the honorable member for Hume will have to do.
– I shall not.
– Then he will not get their support.
– -I shall be returned as I was before.
– I could have quoted many other passages, but I shall content myself with one more. It is an admonition to the Labour Party which they might have taken more heed of. It seems to me to be based upon what is right, and it conforms to my own view. This is the admonition that he addressed to the Caucus or Labour Party on that occasion -
Did they not 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.
There are manyother passages of the same tenor, but I shall not read them. My quotations have been made to show the House what are the deliberately expressed opinions of the honorable member for Ballarat regarding the caucus organization and its aims. He has never sought to withdraw or explain away these statements, which stand, therefore, as his absolute convictions. They expose the extraordinary effrontery of the party which, notwithstanding that he has referred to it in such unmeasured terms, and that it has deserted him. expects his support. This party lias no authority from the electors to occupy the Treasury bench. That can be easily proved by a reference to the voting at the last Senate election, when there was a contest in each State. On that occasion. 991,850 formal votes were recorded, of which 415.147 were cast for the Caucus Party, a splendid record, evidencing that it has a great hold on Australia, though in a minority of 161,556, the votes cast against it being 576,703. The Senate elections, occurring as they do periodically, afford an interesting indication of the attitude of the public towards our political parties. The record of the last election shows that the supporters of the Labour Party are in a minority, taking the Commonwealth as a whole. It shows, too, that they are in a minority in every State but Western Australia, where, however, less than 20 per cent, of those on the roll voted for their candidates. Yet, notwithstanding that expression of the will of the people, the Socialistic Party has taken upon itself the administration of our public affairs, and wishes to make the people believe that it can pass the socialistic legislation which stands upon its platform. I give credit to the leaders of the party for their astuteness and cleverness. Although the party has always been in a minority, it has been so well managed by political manoeuvring of one sort or another, that with every move it has secured an advantage. It has been, now on one side, now on another, always solid. We have seen it in office for a short time, in Opposition, and supporting a Ministry, and now it is in office again. By acting always as a solid phalanx, it has directed successive Ministries, and been a menace and danger to good government. While its leaders have acted wisely in the interests of their party, they have done injury to the country. As the honorable member for Ballarat has stated, the members of the Labour Party have subordinated the public welfare to their sectional aims and interests.
– Yet the right honorable member was willing to accept our support for five years.
– The Labour Party did not, out of regard for me, support the Administrations of which I was a member. Its members know that I have always been opposed to their principles and methods.
– The right honorable member took some shifting.
– The honorable member thinks that to procure food and raiment by . means of office is the highest ambition by which one can be actuated ; but let me tell him that office which is not held under satisfactory conditions is a burden and trouble. I do not desire to hold office unless by doing so I can be of service to my country. The Labour Party, in taking office, was aware that the man from whom they expect support has likened it to a political machine, possessing “ no conscience, no loyalty, and no judgment.” The fact that a party of twentyseven members has been allowed to take possession of the Treasury benches shows the lack of wisdom in the majority opposing it, in not sinking all minor differences and joining forces.
– There are too many free-traders in the Opposition.
– The public sees only that the party which it rejected at the poll is in power because the members who form the majority opposed to “it are divided amongst themselves, instead of combining to effect useful and beneficent legislation. Had the members of the Labour Party acted similarly, they would have been isolated and disregarded. But by leaving their differences in the caucus-room, and voting solidly together, they have for years past directed legislation, and are now on the Treasury bench. They have not hitherto, like other parties, let go the substance in order to grasp at the shadow. But perhaps I have dwelt long enough on their past actions and present position. Let me now speak of the future. If the platform of the Labour Party had not been published we should have known nothing of it from the speech made by the Prime Minister yesterday Have you, Mr. Speaker, in all your experience, ever seen or read of a Government, in the British Dominions, being changed under such circumstances as the present? No explanation has been given for the change - for placing a minority on the Treasury benches without any promise of adequate support. Was there ever such a statement made in regard to the. affairs of a great Continent, as that we listened to from the Prime Minister yesterday? There are six States within the control of the Commonwealth Government; and even in the smaller Legislatures of those States it is customary for the leader of a party taking office, to review the position of public affairs and the whole policy of the party. But what was said yesterday about the necessities of the future development of Australia? There was no mention of the great interests of the States in the north, south, east and west; and, without desiring to be in any way unpleasant, I may say that I was absolutelyastonished at the inadequacy of the speech on so great an occasion. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister said so little that I found nothing worthy of a note or reply. Not a word was said about the platform of the Labour Party, or of there being any intention on the part of the Government to carry it out at the earliest or any opportunity. If the Prime Minister had been politically straightforward, he would have indicated that it was the intention of the Government to realize the platform of the party - to do so much as was possible before recess, and deal with the remainder next session. But not a word was said about the nationalization of monopolies, a graduated land tax, naval and land defence, the Naval Agreement, or about the resolution of the party at Brisbane declaring that naval and military expenditure should be met out of direct taxation. All that the Prime Minister told us was that the new protection question will be dealt with next year, although we know how very persistent and somewhat unfair the Labour Party were to the late Government as to the urgency of this measure. Under the circumstances, it is strange to hear the present Prime Minister say that it is intended to do nothing this year, but that the Government will see what can be done «next session. What would the Labour Party have said to the late Prime Minister had he taken up a similar position? Doubtless the Labour Party would have told the late Prime Minister that they would not be able to support him until next session. The Prime Minister, in his address, showed, perhaps, some astuteness, but a straightforward, bold course is in such circumstances the best. If a man is straightforward and hides nothing, we feel inclined to support him even if we disagree with his views. I may be attributing a motive which perhaps did not exist, but it is the only one I can suggest for the honorable gentleman’s reticence. If the Prime Minister had said, for instance, that he did not intend to adjourn at Christmas, but would keep Parliament together until a graduated land tax had been passed, he knows very well that the late Prime Minister and his party would have said, “ We are very sorry, but you must go your way by yourself.” And so in regard to the nationalization of monopolies and other great measures of a controversial nature, the honorable gentleman knows that their submission at once would mean his removal from office at once. I am sorry to attribute this motive, and if the Prime Minister will disclaim it, I shall say no more. At any rate, we had from the honorable gentleman a milk-and-water speech, which never touched on any of the great interests of Australia, but dealt with matters of only comparatively small importance. What other reason can I assign but that the Prime Minister is playing the game of politics, probably coerced by honorable members in the Government corner?
– Why does not the right honorable member move a vote of no confidence in the Government on the ground that he has indicated ?
– I am not the leader of the Opposition, but am speaking only as a private member; and I do not think I am saying anything unreasonable. I am merely pointing out that tha Prime Minister referred to only unimportant matters, and am assigning as a reason for my statement that he. is dependent upon the assistance of those who would not support the important measures of the Labour Party’s programme. Lord Tennyson once advised Mr. Gladstone “ to take the bend “ ; and this the Prime Minister has done, leaving us to imagine what he would have said had he dealt with the published platform of the Labour Party. When a new Prime Minister was taking office, we might have expected a clear statement of his intentions, not only in regard to the programme of the Labour Party, but to Australian affairs generally. For instance, the honorable gentleman made no mention of immigration, which many people regard as of the- greatest importance from the stand-point of defence alone. We heard not a word about the Northern Territory, the taking over of which has to be considered either this session or early next session, or about the transcontinental railways, or the talking over of the States debts, and the general financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth, though these are all of so much importance to every citizen of Australia. We might look for a comprehensive review of Australian affairs from an industrial, developmental, anc! every other point of view; but the Prime .Minister neglected to take advantage of an opportunity which will not probably present itself to him again during his lifetime. As honorable members know, all my opportunities and political experience have been in defending the citadel, and I have not had much experience in attack. I make the excuse for the Prime Minister that he, as a member of the Labour Party, has always been on the attacking and pullingdown side, and, therefore, may have been out of his element yesterday. Had he been taking part in an attack on the Government, he would, I have no doubt, have done much better in pointing out all the defects in the Government policy and the administration of the Departments. Adversely criticising and pulling-down have been the forte of the Labour Party ; they have not been accustomed to building up and opening out new avenues of trade and commerce, and rendering the country more prosperous, and thus making the lives of the people brighter and happier. The very fact that the Labour Party have no fiscal policy shows that they have always been on the attacking- side. If they had had *.he work of the development of the country, or the building up of its industries, they could not have taken up the position of a freelance in regard to fiscal matters, but would have had to range themselves on one side or the other. However, a fiscal policy was regarded as injurious for their solidarity. Their wort has been in pulling down, no doubt, they will say, with the object of building better; but, in my opinion, it is better to add to the old structure than to pull it down and attempt to completely renew it. I have now nearly concluded my. remarks ; and, although I may have said some hard things, I am sure the Prime Minister will accept my assurance that there is nothing personal in them. I have said sufficient to show that the Labour Party do not occupy the Treasury benches by the will of the people; that they are there on sufferance and without any real promise of support. If I can be assured that they hold office with a promise of a SS stance,- that others have pledged themselves to support their policy, I shall withdraw all that I have said in this respect; but from what I can learn they have received no such promise. Alf that I have heard is the statement made by the late Prime Minister in this Housethat if they carried out the policy of hisparty he would give them some support. That, however, does not mean responsiblegovernment. It seems to suggest something in the nature of a sale of votes- - “ Give me certain legislation and I wilt give you my vote.”
– The honorable member for Ballarat said that he would support any party that would carry out his policY
– Perhaps so. The point that I wish to make is that theLabour Party have no promise of supportby which they can carry out their policyand that they are merely in office on sufferance. I have endeavoured to show that their main platform, based, as the honorable member for Ballarat has said, ore “crude and hasty notions and vain visionary imaginings,” has not the support of amajority in this House, and that consequently their position in office is opposed tr> our system of responsible government. This condition of affairs should surely not continue, lt has become possible only because of the disunion in the ranks of those opposed to the caucus rule - a rule which the late Prime Minister has said “ tends tosubordinate public interests to their own interests.”
– To their own personal interests ?
– I should saythat the honorable member was referring not to the personal interests of members of the party, but to the interests of the caucusand the Labour Party organizations.
– In other words, to the interests of the people.
– I think that the course of the forty- seven honorable members who sit on this side of the House and who are opposed to caucus rule should be clear. We have been returned to oppose the Caucus Socialism of the Labour Party and to oppose its domination.
– The policies of the parties on the Opposition side of the House are as far apart as the poles.
– We- are at all events all opposed to what is known as caucus rule, and we should set to work te* close up our ranks and join forces.
– The right honorable member ‘rails at us for being united, and he now asks his own party to unite.
– We do not wish to make a minority subscribe to the views of a majority. The late Prime Minister ;said that the caucus ‘” compels a minority to ‘vote against; judgment and conscience, because a majority of their following demanded it.”
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– I think that it is a very fair statement of the position. The honorable member for Ballarat also said that the caucus “ had the effect of crushing out the independence of the representative,” and also that it “ threatens the independence of its members and is dangerous to the community.” There should be no hesitation on the part of those in this House opposed to the Caucus-Socialistic Party to make a great effort to carry out the mandate of the majority of the electors of Australia, whose trustees we are. In carrying out that mandate we shall be fortified by the knowledge that we are also doing our bounden duty to our constituents as well as to ourselves.
– The right honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat occupied a very considerable portion of the time in telling us how much he respected the members of the Labour Party as individuals, and how utterly he detested them as politicians. I desire for my part at the outset to say that nothing can exceed the respect with which we regard the right honorable member personally. He is a man who by his kindliness must endear himself to every one with whom he comes in contact; he is a typical Britisher, saying what he means - careless whether he offends or pleases, he embodies the virtues and vices of the race from which he has sprung. As an explorer he has gained considerable fame, and has done something, too, towards bringing the light into dark places, and pushing the great British Empire further and further into the uttermost recesses of the earth. As such, and as a man, we admire and revere him; as a politician he is to us anathema. I propose to deal with his career as a politician. For some two hours this afternoon he has devoted himself to a criticism of our party. All that he has said could, without any exaggeration, have been expressed in five minutes. His statements practically amount to this : that we are here, and that he is very sorry to see us here; that if he had his way we should not remain in office five minutes longer. The right honorable member is sorry - and you, Mr. Speaker, can ««e how sorry he is - that he cannot shift us. He tells us that he speaks for forty-seven members. Upon the only occasion on which he ventured to display his strength we heard a very different story - he was able to persuade only six to cross the floor with him. He had previously favoured us with an exhibition of his earnest desire for good government, and for concerted action against the Labour Party and those who are working in harmony with it, by deliberately declining to support the motion of want of confidence in the then Government, which was moved by the right honorable member for East Sydney. He has spoken of our solidarity, and has been constrained to admire it ; it is said that men always admire that of which they stand most in need. The right honorable member, during the whole of his career as a politician, has played many parts, but any success he has gained has always been due to the assistance of the party which he is never tired of decrying.
– In the Parliament of Western Australia, where he acquired that autocratic bearing which still clings so tightly to him, it was his good fortune to represent the people upon a most restricted franchise. I think that during the first Parliament of the Commonwealth I quoted the case of an electorate in Western Australia in those halcyon days with only forty-seven voters - -and the right honorable member did not deny it - who returned a member to Parliament. This is the man who essays now to speak on behalf of democracy.
– I received more than forty votes.
– Perhaps so. The right honorable member mav have secured fifty.
– I was always returned unopposed.
– I am confident that the right honorable member did not have one vote for every hundred that I secured at the first general election to the Commonwealth Parliament. What was his record as a member of the Parliament of Western Australia ? Whenever this monument of independence - this slave to responsible government - was confronted with the might of the people, he gave way. He has compared the Prime Minister with Machiavelli.
– I admit that I ought not to have done the right honorable member so much wrong as to accuse him of knowing anything about Machiavelli, but, whilst he did not mention that name, he certainly accused the Prime Minister of being astute. Astuteness is a virtue in some circumstances; in others it is a vice. When the right honorable member so described the Prime Minister, he did not intend to be complimentary. And yet what has been his own career? It has certainly been characterized by a display; of such astuteness as his brilliance or dullness of intellect will permit him. If he resembles anything, he is like the schoolboy blubbering out the innermost wishes of his heart, unable to restrain himself or to behave with that restraint’ which politics and political warfare imposes upon men. He stands in this House to-day, and accuses the Labour Party of doing or nol: doing a number of things, and whether we had or had not done them, the position, so far as he is concerned, would have been just the same. The right honorable member for some five years in this House was content to receive the support of the Labour Party, and to live in office by them.
– That is an exaggerated statement.
– It is a tact. I do not know what an exaggerated fact is, but I shall say that for the five years that the right honorable member was in office he remained there, except on one or two exceptional occasions, through the support that the Labour Party gave him. He was content then to receive that support. During the whole of that time we did not have from him one solitary reason why he should not receive it, or why we should not give it. But since he resigned his views have changed. He said in the beginning of his speech that he defied any one to prove that he had not resigned early enough. He said he had not delayed the moment of his resignation. We do not know whether he did or not. We only know that he resigned, £and has been obviously very sorry for it ever since. If there is one fact patent to this House and to the country, it is that the honorable member realizes that he made the mistake of Wis life. He thought, as others have thought, that his withdrawal from the
Ministry would embarrass it and cause its downfall, and he has lived to see that Ministries can carry on very well without him. And it is our greatest offence that we have added to the number of instances of that unhappy but undeniable fact. The right honorable member has complained that the Prime Minister is the leader of a party that can make no alliances. H<: says that we stand apart, that we are the Ishmaels of political life, that we may not make alliances with other <nen ; that we are, so to speak, those upon whose foreheads the gods have set a mark, that we mav neither receive support nor give it. The circumstances of our political career prove completely that such statements are in the last degree absurd. Since we entered politics it is true we have given support but rarely received it. Yet surely if there be something about us that is immoral and improper, in the very nature of things it must be as wrong to receive our support as to. extend support to us. If there besomething about us that pollutes the political atmosphere and threatens the Constitution with destruction., will the right honorable gentleman explain how, for eight years, with an interregnum of only eleven months, the government of thiscountry has been carried on by our consent, with our approval, and by our support ? The right honorable gentleman knows that nothing distinguishes this side of the House from that except the opinions and convictions of its members. He has sought to divide the House into two camps, in one of which are found twentyseven men and in the other forty-seven. There is no such distinction. Between, the right honorable member and members on thisside of the House there is a chasm hardly more wide or impassable than that which separates him from several of those who sit on the same side with him. There is absolutely nothing in common between him and seven out of every tel men that sit uponhis own side. He is a living monument of a bygone age - a remnant of the postpliocene age of politics. He stands there a kind of fossilized mastodon-, at once a source of astonishment and interest to the curious. The honorable gentleman speaks of a united band of forty-seven: Take the honorable members who sit in the Opposition corner alone, and ask upon what principles they agree. It is declared that our party are improperly in office because they have not- a majority. of the House behind them. I defy the right honorable member, or any other honorable member, to prove that there is any other party bound together by principle and conviction, by interest and expediency, capable of taking these benches at the present time. Obviously there is no such party, and the proof of that is that it does not show its hand. If such a party existed the right honorable member would not have spent two hours and a quarter, more or less, in addressing the House. He would have moved in sharp and terse language the motion which would put us out of office, and, having done the deed, he would have hurried away to receive the reward of his act. The present pos” tion is due to the fact that there are in this House at present but two possible combinations, and those are between thf forces behind the late Government and those behind the present Government. What may come ih the future, the future will show; but at present we are rightly and properly here, because we are the only party that have a majority, thu only party which by conviction, by principle, and bv virtue of the support of the majority of the electors outside, are sent here upon one platform and with one set of principles.
– Not by a majority of the electors outside.
– I did not say the Labour Party represented a majority of the whole of the electors. I say the Labour Party and those who support them in this House are sent here by a majority. There are twenty-seven of us elected upon exactly the same set of principles. Those principles are advocated, not merely by the members of our party, but by the members of several of the other parties in the House. There are plenty of planks in the Labour Party’s platform that are supported bv members of every party in this House, and since we are the larger party professing those principles, we have the best right to be here to enforce them, it we are able to do so.
– The Government must trot them out first.
– We shall see in time what they are. The right honorable member for Swan spoke of responsible government. A great deal is made of that, and it is alleged that in some mysterious way the organization of the Labour Party :s apposed to it - that it is in danger because we are here. But no honorable member endeavours to prove that, or even to define what he means by responsible government. Responsible government must of necessity exist here. There is no way by which responsibility can be evaded. In a Legislature of this kind there can be government only by the consent of a majority of persons in it. Whether they all belong to one organization or belong to many is quite immaterial to the preservation of responsible government, which is not dependent upon the strength of any one party, but only upon the expression of approval or disapproval by a majority of members in the Legislature. Every one of us is responsible to his constituents. Each of us is responsible to the parties to which we severally belong. No Government can free itself from the responsibility which rests upon it in office. By no contrivance can the responsibilities of office be evaded. The right honorable member for Swan said something about our solidarity, and stated that we have, in season and out of season, in good fortune and bad fortune, stood together. He professes to admire us for that, and certainly he envies us for it. It is a great achievement that we have been able in this country to build up an organization which none of the forces arrayed against us can destroy. We have built it up under conditions of the most unfavorable character. We have never been able to control those great organs which mould public opinion. We Have had to fight against a hundred’ and one obstacles, and yet, in face of difficulties and obstacles, we have steadily increased our forces at every election. ‘ The solidarity of the Labour Party throughout Australia is as much a fact to-day as it was when we had not one-fifth of our present numbers, fifteen years ago. Since a great deal has been said about our numbers, it will be useful to quote some facts relating to these and the growing strength of our party. I shall be able to show that if we do not command the support of a majority of the people we are steadily and surely increasing our forces. In 1901 the total number of our members in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments was ninety-five. In the following Parliament (hey had increased to 150. That was in the course of three years. No other party in Australia can show an increase to becompared with that, nor do I think 0 ni party in the civilized world has such a record. In the first Commonwealth Parliament we had twenty-four members, now we have forty-two. Our increase has been rapid yet steady. It has not been the result of any wild outbreak of public opinion, but is based upon the general approval of our actions and our policy. But we ha.ve never yet had an opportunity to give effect to our platform. We have always been a party in a minority. Our strength has been growing steadily, but it has never become sufficient in any one State to give the Labour Party control of the House. But that the majority of the people are fast coming round to our opinions, and are prepared to support us, is proved undeniably by the election statistics for the past fifteen years. Take, by way of contrast, the party which the honorable member for Parramatta now leads. In the first Federal Parliament the right honorable member for East Sydney had a following from New South Wales of, I think, twenty-two members.
– Not so many.
– They must have numbered twenty, at any rate. At the last election the right honorable member made a straight-out appeal to the people against the Labour Party. He selected the battle cry himself. He deliberately threw himself across the path of our party. Its destruction was the issue upon which the election was to turn, and -he came back from that Stage with only eleven supporters. If that is not an overwhelming defeat, I do not know what a defeat is. Our party came back from New South Wales with, on the other hand, an increase of four members. So much for the Commonwealth. Now for the States : there could not be ai clearer indication of the trend of public opinion than the results of recent State elections. The Labour Party has gained ground on every occasion.
– The Labour candidate lost his deposit in the Echuca constituency.
– Perhaps the constituency needed financial assistance. The recent elections in Western Australia considerably increased the membership of the Labour Party there. In South Australia, a Labour Government is in power, supported by members belonging to other parties’; in Queensland, the Labour Party returned from the country with added strength; and in
New South Wales it has also gained considerably. In each of the States, and in the Commonwealth, while other parties are going down, the Labour Party is climbing rapidly up. Neither bluff nor eloquence will prevail against that fact. To emphasize these remarks, let me quote a few more figures. In 1904, there were thirty-nine Labour representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament ; now there are forty-two. Last year, while the members of all the Australian Parliaments numbered 664, 159 were Labour representatives, and 505 anti-Labour ; while, at the present day, 171 are Labour representatives, and only 493 anti-Labour, the Labour Party having gained twelve seats at the expense of its opponents. We belong then to a party whose adherents are increasing every day. We have clearly a right to be where we are, especially since we have the support of a number of members who, while not belonging to our party, are pledged to support principles which are planks of our platform. A writer in the Review of Reviews for July, 1904, said -
No one can be biassed to the rising of the tide of sentiment and to the way in which it is making. All over Australia the Labour Party is winning at the elections. The recent contests have shown a great increase in numbers returned on labour pledges. He is a blind student who fails to see and make a proper estimate of this growth of public sentiment. It is not to be fought and killed ; but nourished and educated that it may serve the best interests of the Commonwealth.
It is clear that the people are tired of the cry that 01.Ir organization and principles are opposed to the best interests of the country. For the last sixteen years, the Labour Party has considerably influenced the course of legislation in the Parliaments of the States and of the Commonwealth, and the electors have approved of that legislation by returning Labour representatives in increasing numbers. Out of the sixteen Labour representatives who were returned to the House of Representatives at the first Commonwealth election, fifteen still hold seats in this Chamber; no other party can produce such a record. Then, again, in New South Wales, after the inauguration of the party in that State, every Labour representative who presented himself for re-election was returned to three successive Parliaments. Probably there have been similar happenings in other States ; I am speaking only of what I know. The ‘ honorable member for Swan said that the Labour Party is the only one whose members are prepared to vote against their judgments, a statement so much at variance with facts that the briefest examination refutes it.- The caucus principle adopted by the Labour Party is democratic, salutary, efficacious, and one which will endure. It makes so much for effective party warfare that it has commended itself to all political parties ever since its origination by the great Liberal Party of England, who carried it to lengths which would not be tolerated by the members of the party to which I belong. I have been a Labour representative since the solidarity pledge was adopted, yet do not hesitate to declare that discipline such as is enforced by the great political parties in England and America would not be tolerated by the Labour Party here. There is more independence of thought and action in our ranks than has been displayed by the members of the parties to which we are opposed. The caucus principle which governs us makes the caucus a microcosm of democracy. Every member of the party is regarded as a man, not as a poodle to come to heel when the whip is cracked. No one yields his consent to a proposal until he has been convinced by sound, and often lengthy, reasoning. At the meetings of the other political parties, to which they fear to give the name of caucus, the leaders speak and the others are dumb, though the smiling expression of the honorable member for Parramatta this afternoon suggests the efflorescence of our democratic methods in the party which he now leads. I have attended meetings of the party in Opposition, who now regards me as a lost soul, where all that happened was that the leader said, <! I suppose we may consider so-and-so desirable,” and his proposals were carried nemine contradicente. Occasionally, some member showed signs of wishing to speak, but no one ever ventured to give effect to his intentions. Of course, there have been different meetings. During the heated discussions of a caucus immediately preceding or subsequent to the formation of the first Labour Ministry, its members were wont to walk to a window, and watch the vehement gesticulations of a still more excited meeting, whose members were obviously saying things which you, Mr. Speaker, would not permit to be uttered here. The caucuses of other parties differ from ours, in that they are based on autocratic, not democratic, lines. At the meetings of other parties, the leader speaks, and the followers are dumb ; whereas all our members are on the same footing, and have no hesitation about declaring their opinions. The right honorable member for Swan says that the caucus of the Labour Party takes away the right of the individual to exercise his free opinion. I do not hesitate to say that that statement is absolutely without foundation. During my experience of the New South Wales Labour Party - an experience which extended- over seven years - I never remember, excepting on one occasion, when the party decided to turn out the Reid Government, any serious difference of opinion. It was not a question of principle on that occasion, but a question of men; and there was, as I say, a serious difference of opinion which threatened to disrupt the party. Happily this was avoided, and the Reid party went out of office. But, so far as principles are concerned - so far as concerns the abandonment of any one of those principles on which we had been elected - I never heard, in the New South Wales Parliament, nor have I heard in thisParliament, any question raised on which a man was compelled to sacrifice his principles at the bidding) of the caucus. I have many times heard questions of expediency discussed - as to whether we should do this or the other thing - but I may say, without fear of. contradiction, that, in nine cases out of ten. the decisions of the caucus have been on questions on which members were not at all bound by their pledge. But members deliberately, in the interests of the party, have decided that it would h& better to vote all one way. The questions on which the pledge we givebinds all members are comparatively few. For instance, no member is bound in regard to the fate of a Government ; no man has been compelled, since the inception of the party, to vote for the downfall or in the support of a Government on an- vote of censure.
– Not compelled.
– After all, our party isa party, and, like every other party,’ weshall always regard a man who votes, against his party exactly as honorable members opposite would regard such a person. A man who deserts his party under such circumstances is a rat. and is always treated’ as one by every party in the civilized world. I remember that, before the last election, when the right honorable member for East Sydney said he expected every member of the Opposition to follow him, the honorable member for Parkes said he would be glad to follow if he knew where the right honorable member was going. The honorable member for Parkes showed unmistakable signs of wanting to know things ; but the right honorable member for East Sydney brought him up with a round turn to a lively sense of where he was by desiring to know who were for and who were against him. And leading articles in the daily press quite finished the independent aspirations of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who duly fell behind with the crowd. No party can afford to allow such a breach of discipline.
– What is the authority for the statement of the Minister in regard to the honorable member for Parkes ?
– I am alluding to a leter written by the honorable member for Parkes complaining that the right honorable member for East Sydney did not tell him where he was going. ,
– Is the Minister alluding to an alleged letter sent from Mr. Reid? ,
– I shall look the matter up during the dinner hour, and quote the letter.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– I referred to the caucus as developed by the Liberal Six Hundred at Birmingham - a caucus which was used by that party for many years, and is in use now - and I said that the caucus and party discipline, with control of members of Parliament by outside bodies, had there been carried to an extent that would not be tolerated here. On reference to page 198 of Volume I. of Ostrogorski’s Democracy and Organization of Political. Parties, it will be seen that this is amply borne out. Mr. Forster was at that time one of the leading politicians in Great Britain, and it was thought that if Mr. Gladstone were to retire, he would take that gentleman’s place as leader in the House of Commons. He was a man of first-class reputation, and held, as I have indicated, a very prominent place in the British Parliament. The local caucus and Mr. Forster had a quarrel, in the course of which the chairman of the caucus said -
Such a doctrine has never been breathed by our party, has never been contemplated, and would not be tolerated in this country. Mr. Forster, who had grown old in the service of the State and the Liberal Party, was compelled, in spite of his protests, to sign the pledge on pain of being taken off the ticket. Mr. Schnadhorst, the organizer of the caucus, said that even John Bright would have to be nominated, and stand or fall by the voting. Projected legislation, when brought into the House of Commons, was submitted to the caucus, and individual members were directed by their several leagues the way in which they should vote. The Conservative Party having denounced this system for a long while, adopted the organization themselves, and are now subject to similar control. Party discipline in Great Britain is notoriously very much more rigid than it is here. In the Irish Party, the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party, the discipline is extremely strict, and the control by the whips over the actions of individual ‘members is such as is not dreamt of in Australia. Individuals who venture from the fold, rarely, if ever, have an opportunity of again standing on the ticket. A man may rat once in Great Britain - he may go from the Liberal to the Conservative Party or vice versa - but it is his last move. The caucus, as it exists here, is denounced bv the honorable members for Parramatta, Swan, East Sydney, and others; but I should be glad to learn, from any source, what there is improper or immoral about a number of men, all elected on a similar ticket, meeting together to discuss the platform upon which they have been elected. Personally, I regard the proceeding as eminently sensible, proper, and moral. If it be said that the decisions of Parliament are anticipated, all I can reply is that that is a curious and belated criticism by honorable gentlemen in this Parliament, or any Parliament, in which party government obtains. To all intents and purposes very few questions are determined in a Parliament. No man here, who has been elected on a ticket, can “ go back “ on that ticket. When he comes here it is not in him to suffer the pangs of conversion, and still live. Supposing the honorable member for North Sydney were, by reason of my eloquence, to be converted, and then pre- sent himself to the constituency of North Sydney, what would happen to him?
– He would be returned just the same.
– Is that the kind of place North Sydney is?
– Yes; the electors there know when they have got a good man.
– If it is the mark of a good man to rat on those who rely on him, I do not know what a good man is. I do know, however, that nobody bas been anxious to have on his brow that mark of a good man; because, as I have already said, a man may rat once, but never twice. In every party, a man is bound by his hustings pledges, and is expected to stand by them. It is of no use for me to say on the hustings that the caucus compelled me to do this or the other; the people who vote for me know, as every other member of the party knows, exactly what they are voting for. They are voting for men who are in favour of certain principles, who have declared their intention to submit the details, and the order in which they shall be presented, to a general meeting of the party. On these matters we are not only pledged to organizations, but also to our constituents, who, by electing us, indorse our programme, platform, objective, and methods. Therefore, when the caucus is denounced, those who support it are denounced, and the number of these, as 1 have shown, is increasing every year. The honourable member for ‘ Parramatta, and the right honorable member for Swan, complain that the Government have not put forward a sufficiently comprehensive programme. According to those honorable gentlemen we ought to have brought forward half-a-dozen measures, all of firstclass importance; and because we have not done so we have drawn down upon us strong criticism. But is there any man in this Chamber who. had he been in our place, could have done other than we have done? We are now blamed for not having brought down the whole of our platform, and embodied our planks and principles in potential legislation for the indorsement of the House. Every honorable member knows perfect1 well that the circumstances of our position and the occasion are alike inopportune. We are circumscribed and have done that which was necessary and proper to be done in the circumstances. But let us consider what that pattern Government which for eleven months controlled the affairs of the Commonwealth did under similar circumstances. We are told that we have brought down a programme which is not sufficiently comprehensive that it does not disclose any of the measures to which we are particularly committed. What is our programme? For the session it is to complete that work which the late Government had upon the business-paper; and to do such other things as appear necessary under the circumstances. It is clear, for instance, that we must pass the Estimates, and we propose to do so. We desire also to deal with the Capital Site question in the way that both Houses of Parliament by resolution have declared it should be dealt with. Then again it is absolutely necessary that we should either reject or accept the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. It is unfair to one of the greatest industries in Australia that that measure should be left any longer as it is. These matters are all of the first importance, and the. House would not permit one of them to be set aside in favour of something else. We have between this and the date when Parliament must necessarily prorogue barely three weeks at our disposal, so that nothing else can be done in the circumstances than that which we have decided to do. We have been in office, so far as our opportunities fpr legislation are concerned, about twenty-eight hours, and because in those twenty-eight hours we have not placed upon the statutebook our whole programme, because we have not littered the table with proposals which honorable members have so thoughtfully unearthed for us this afternoon - because we have not, in short, endeavoured to turn the world upside down in a clay - we have exposed ourselves to the criticism of the Opposition. But what did the ReidMcLean administration do? There has been a good deal of talk about rule by majority, but during the whole course of the right honorable member for East Sydney’s career in the New South Wales Parliament he never ruled by a majority except for a period of ten months. He remained in office by the grace of the Labour Party. Certainly if any man has remained in office by the support of a party that was elected to oppose him, and actually did oppose him tooth and nail in the first Parliament, he has done so.
– He had more than half the House behind him in the second Parliament.
– The honorable member is referring to what occurred in New South Wales. If he counts Mr. Wise and Sir William McMillan among the supporters of the right honorable member, there was certainly a majority behind him. But since from the opening until the close’ of that Parliament Mr. Wise never missed an opportunity to stab him with a political javelin, and Sir William McMillan’s criticism of his administration was such that the right honorable member would have travelled a hundred miles rather than listen to it, I fail to understand how those gentlemen could be so described. The Labour Party kept him in power.
– Mr. Wise and Sir William McMillan, notwithstanding their criticism, voted for him.
– They voted for him where it was perfectly safe to do so. and when it was safe for the right honorable member to tell them that they might go where they pleased. But when he was in .’1i extremity where was Mr. Wise to be found? Was he not marshalling the clans on the other side? Every one knows what happened in this Parliament during the Reid-McLean administration. The honorable member for Parramatta has spoken of an unholy combination. There has been in the history of this Parliament only one unholy combination, and the honorable member was a party to it. It was a CO]nbination with men who had nothing in common, and who sacrificed every principle in which they professed’ to believe. It was a combination of men whose only desire was to get into office, and whose only effort was to stay there. I wish to give the House an opportunity to inform itself as to ‘the programme of that Government. They had not the courage - perhaps they had not an opportunity - to decide who was to lead the party. The right honorable member for East Sydney and Mr. McLean were equal in ail things. That Ministry of patriots was to introduce a flew era and. to restore responsible government. What did it do? Where are its members to-day ? Go to the politic: ; graveyard, and there we shall find four out of the eight who faced the music here. There never was such a debacle. Fifty per cent, of their numbers were lost when they went before the people. I do not think that a greater casualty list has ever occurred in the battles of nations or of parties. What was their programme? I have been looking through Hansard in order to discover it, and find that it comprised, first of all, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill - a measure which they affected to loathe and despise.
– I heard several honorable members who were supporting them in the corner declare that they would have nothing to do with compulsory arbitration. Then again they loathed preference to unionists, yet it was that measure, and that measure alone, that formed the main plank of their Ministerial programme. They proposed to introduce that Bill, which the late Prime Minister declared was used as a trap to ensnare him. Having achieved their purpose they deliberately put into force a measure which they had declared to the people to be immoral and improper. Preference to unionists is now the law of the Commonwealth, and under the Bill passed by the ReidMcLean Administration. In the programme submitted bv that model Government, reference was made to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill; but it was said that the Ministry were divided upon it. That was responsible government ! The only measure which they mentioned in their programme in addition to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was one on which they were divided. Upon the Tariff they were also divided-; but they said they hoped to bring in a Bill for the appointment of a High Commissioner before the end of the session. They did nothing of the sort.
– They said they were not going to bring it in.
– At page 4349 of Hansard, of 7th September, 1904, we have the statement by the right honorable member for East Sydney -
A Bill for the creation of the position ot High Commissioner is on the Notice-paper, and I believe that the late Government proposed to deal with it during the present session. In our view, however, it is utterly impossible to establish the position of High Commissioner until the various States have been consulted.
We, therefore, do not propose to proceed with that Bill until we have had an opportunity in the recess ….
The honorable member for Parramatta has spoken of “ the beautiful shore “ to which we are pulling. I shall not quote a hymn, but there is a word that will serve my purpose. It is that blessed word “ Mesopotamia “ - that “ recess “ to which the Reid-McLean Government pressed with such indecent haste. They made no pretence of explaining their attitude. They went into recess and stayed there. They were determined to remain there as long as possible, and their desire in that regard has never been rivalled, to my knowledge, by any Ministry that has had an opportunity to hold the reins of office in the Commonwealth Parliament. They came out of the recess having accomplished nothing, and put forward a Governor-General’s speech which contained only one dismal paragraph - a reference to the desire of the Government to put in order the electoral machinery so that we might go to the country. That was the barren harvest of that combination of patriots, who agreed upon nothing, who were divided upon the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and upon the Tariff, and who had nothing in common, except the desire to get into recess Their one ewe lamb in the way of legislation was the Sea Carriage of Goods Act, and that Act was recommended by the Royal Commission on Navigation, which had been appointed by the Watson Government.
– That is also incorrect. The Navigation Commission at that time had not recommended the intro- duction of such a Bill.
– The Royal Commission on Navigation supplied the honorable “ member ; with the whole of the material for that measure. Witnesses before it cited the Harter Act, upon which the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill was based.
– But there was then no recommendation by the Commission.
– Then I withdraw that Statement ; it was only a hint that the Government received from the Commission. The Reid- McLean Government was in office for eleven months and never had a majority. If it had why did it not do something? It was to restore responsible government, but went out of office without making a decent attempt to show a reason for being there. The Prime Minister has put forward nothing to which any exception can be taken. All the measures to which he has referred are absolutely essential, and unless this House is prepared to sit on without any recess what is proposed to be done is all that can be done. If the House is dissatisfied with the programme put forward by the Government an obvious remedy is open to it. Until the Opposition avail themselves of that remedy they are not in a position to make the charge that we are not in office by virtue of the support of a majority. A great deal has been said as to our not having a majority behind us, and the right honorable member for Swan has claimed that forty-seven honorable members share his views. One thing is perfectly clear. At the last election the anti-Socialists were bitterly opposed to the party led by the honorable member for Ballarat, and, in the speech with which he opened the campaign, the right honorable member for East Sydney spoke of the honorable member for Ballarat as the leader of a ragged remnant of men lost to all principle and all sense of moral decency At the last election there were not two parties in the field. There were three, and each party endeavoured very naturally to secure the return of its own men. It does not now lie with those gentlemen who, for two years, have bitterly opposed both the Labour Party and the late Government, to claim that the late Government have everything in common with them and nothing in common with us, when the whole careers and all the political surroundings of the two parties show the very reverse. I venture to say that there is very much more in common between the gentlemen. whom we have supported for so long and ourselves than there is between them and honorable members on the other side. The right honorable member for Swan endeavoured to draw a pathetic picture of the manner in which we treat our opponents. The manner in which the Labour Party treat their opponents will well bear comparison with the way in which other parties treat theirs. The history of the Labour Party and of its relations with others is well known. For five years, in New South Wales, we supported the Reid Government, and we never heard then one solitary word against the Labour Party, its programme, or its methods. But from the day when we transferred our allegiance to the Lyne Government until now we have heard nothing but denunciations and criticisms of our platform, our methods, and our principles. The right honorable member for Swan says that we will slay the honorable member for Riverina; but there was nothing to prevent us trying to do so at the last election, had we been prepared to do it without reference to the consequences. In the same way it was perfectly easy for the party led by the honorable member for Ballarat to have put up candidates against us, and so to have embarrassed us, and, perhaps, caused our defeat. There are circumstances that rise superior to any consideration. There are facts that have to be faced. I do not hesitate to say that the love exhibited by several members on the Opposition side for the members of the late Government and their supporters was not at all calculated to make the latter anxious to embrace them just now, or even later. Many moons must wax and wane, and much water must run under the bridges, before there can be washed away the recollection of things that have been said and done by the members of the direct Opposition and the Opposition corner in relation to the gentlemen who sit behind the honorable member for Ballarat. The honorable member for Parramatta asks by what right we are here. We axe here by right of being the strongest individual party in the House. That is a perfectly sufficient reason. The honorable member asked why the late Government resigned, and said that no reason had been alleged. He described it as an unheard-of proceeding. Such a statement is so absurd, and so opposed to facts, that it hardly requires comment. Governments have been thrown out of office, have been counted out, or refused adjournments before now. A Liberal Government in England was thrown out of office upon a vote for cordite. The fact that this House did not give the late Government a majority on a particular question which they for reasons which they considered perfectly proper, had elected to regard as a test, is a quite sufficient answer for the country and for this Parliament. If it be an insufficient one, the remedy is open to honorable members opposite. I wish to say a few words with reference to our general programme. I do not mean the programme for the session.
– Are they not the same?
– They are different, and, being different, they cannot be the same. The platform of the Labour Party is well known. My honorable friend has tacked many a moral discourse to it, and I hope it will serve his turn in many another hard-fought field. Our programme is well known, and what we propose to do in regard to it remains to be seen. One thing is certain - that the Government will, at the proper season, bring down its programme, and give the House an opportunity of ex pressing its opinion about it. But we demand the same fair play as has been extended, and ought to be extended, to every Administration. We think, and the people outside think, that the party to which we belong should have an opportunity to bring down its programme. We demand that that programme shall have a fair chance, that it shall be discussed, that we shall not be “ butchered “ to make room for another unholy combination, but that those who “ butcher “ us shall give good reasons for doing so.
– The Government, have not given their reasons yet for “ butchering “ the late Government.
– Nor was that done on a previous occasion. We propose that it shall be done this time. I have spoken about the combination that brought about the downfall of the Watson Government, and the honorable member for Ballarat has explained how he was drawn into supporting it, not clearly recognising the inevitable end. We intend that that shall not occur again, and we claim the right to have a proper opportunity of bringing down our programme. That has always been extended to every Government, and we ask that it be extended to us. The honorable member for Parramatta, of whose election , to the office of leader of the Opposition we all approve, for he has certainly borne the heat and burden of the day, and has a right to the position, has elected to signalize his accession to the post by digging indecently down into the scarcely filled-in graves of some resolutions put forward by members of our party. It is only proper to ask him to explain one or two things that he said himself in days gone by in reference to those very matters. He asked . us this afternoon, “ What about your progressive land tax?” He is, of course, a very vehement opponent of the Labour Party now. He was not always so.On the 2nd February, 1893 - Vol. 62 of Hansard, New South Wales, page 3813 - he, said -
With respect to the income tax, i do not object to that tax at all, but i do object to its taking precedence of a land tax.
– Order ! I understand the honorable member to be referring to a debate which took place fifteen or sixteen years ago. I ask him whether he thinks it necessary, on this occasion, to depart so far from the matter that is before us.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has said nothing of this kind about a land tax since, so that I am scarcely able to refer to a more recent debate. I have something that he said in 1894, but I presume that would hardly prove much more acceptable to you. With your permission, sir, I shall merely make the quotation. The honorable member said -
With respect to the income tax, I do not. object to that tax at all j but I do object to its taking precedence of a land tax. I admit thm it is a good mode of taxation, and second, perhaps, only in effectiveness to a land tax. But am i to be satisfied with this being poked at me when the Government, already pledged to a most superior tax, quietly ignores it? The income tax as proposed by the Government does not differentiate between incomes from property and incomes from personal exertion. i submit it is only reasonable to tax incomes from property to ‘ a greater extent than it is to tax income which .is earned by the working man of the country….. It does not touch the man who holds hundreds and thousands of acres of land which are lying idle, and from which he derives no income. The Colonial Treasurer the other night professed that an income tax would be derived from these unremunerative lands. How he proposes to obtain it i am at a loss to understand. That seems to me to be the veriest piece of political jargon that I have ever heard coming from a person in the exalted position of Colonial Treasurer. The income tax will tax incomes from land, but only to the extent to which that land is used and put into occupation. That is not what we want. . . . It is not the thrift of the country, but the legalized theft that we want to tax - the men who have taken, through the medium of land values, something which they did nothing to create, who have taken from the people the result of their own flesh and blood, who have taken it by the machinery of the law and appropriated it to their own personal use. That is the kind of value, and that is the substance we want to tax, and the income tax does not necessarily reach these people. It only reaches those who are cultivating their estates, but it does not reach the estates that are locked up, and which are contributing nothing to the revenue.
He said more, but that is sufficient. Those were the honorable member’s sentiments, and we might well have asked him why, during all the years that have since elapsed, he has done nothing in support of them. He has shown no desire to support a land tax, but, rather, has been its most vehement opponent, ever since he left the New South Wales Parliament. He said many other things to which I shall not refer. The Labour Party have come into office ; they have to deal with matters that they find before them. Upon their shoulders there is a great deal of responsi bility, which could not be shirked even had the members of the Government and the party behind them desired to do so. The people of this country who elected us look to us to fulfil our pledges. The many who have been disappointed with previous Administrations, or deluded with the airy nothings of the Opposition and corner parties, expect something from us. The ReidMcLean Administration brought forth nothing but the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. We, however, are alive to our responsibilities, and in spite of the almost indecent haste of some who wish to remove us before we have had an opportunity to bring down our programme, expect to obtain from Parliament the fair-play to which we are entitled, and which has been extended to every other Administration. . Our list of measures for the remainder of the session has the approval of the House. If we pass the Estimates, and place on the statutebook a measure giving effect to the resolutions of the two Houses in regard to the Capital Site, we shall have done good work for this year. The criticism that we do not constitute a majority can have no weight until a majority has been got to de- clare that we do not possess the confidence of the House. Our party has grown in strength at every election. Its numbers have been nearly doubled since 1901, and we hope to get such an accession to our ranks at the next election as will enable us to give effect to our whole programme. Until then we must depend largely on the support of members who, although not members of our party, are pledged to principles in which we believe.
– Since, like the members of the Ministry, I have no desire to delay useful and necessary work, I should not have spoken on this occasion had it not been for the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, upon which I cannot compliment him. It is about time that honorable members proved less barren of ideas than we seem to be on occasions of crises. Instead of dealing with the position of to-day, and the actions of the present Ministers, or of those who have recently retired, the custom is to go back five, ten, and even twenty years, and to rake the Hansards not only of this Parliament, but also of State Parliaments, to find reasons why the Ministry of to-day should exist and that of yesterday was turned out of office.
– This is a weakness chiefly of New South Wales representatives.
– Whoever are to blame, it is time that we devoted our attention rather to existing conditions. I am sorry that the Attorney-General made such a bitter personal attack on the right honorable member for Swan. We might well devote ourselves more to the subjects with which we have to deal, and less to individuals. Like others, at times I have had to disagree with the right honorable member, and to oppose his propositions; but what he has done for his State and for Australia should protect him from such personal attack. I do not object to the strongest criticism of actions and speeches, but I protest against the introduction of the personal element, attempts to ridicule the individual, and the suggestion of individual misdoing quite apart from the questions at issue. The Attorney-General says that the Labour Party alone has definite principles. That should be news to us, especially ;t» we have heard nothing about its principle* since its members took office. These principles are embodied in a programme, but the only legislation proposed for this or any future session is that introduced by their predecessors. The Attorney-General said that the Reid-McLean Administration on taking office did what this Government proposes to do. . Is the Reid-McLean Government to be the scape-goat of every Administration that succeeds it? Members of the Labour Party roundly attacked that Government for doing what they now say they are justified in doing. Surely Ministers are hard put to it to find excuses for their actions when they advance a precedent which they have strongly condemned. I trust that they have a tetter reason for their policy. I do not deny the growth of the Labour Party in Australia. It is not an unfortunate thing that labour has found’ direct representation in our Parliaments, instead of being indirectly represented ; but it is not to be supposed that liberal, radical, ana progressive principles were not advocated before its appearance in the political arena. Members whom Labour representatives have displaced, and many others still in politics, have been, and are, inspired by those principles. As to the comparative rate of growth, the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney reminded me of comparisons which I have heard re garding the relative increase in the British and other navies. A navy may increase by 100 per cent, in a year; but if the original number of ships is only one ot two, the actual increase is trifling. I do not say that the increase in Labour representation is small, but as the party has come into existence only recently, its comparative rate of increase is not a matter to occasion much surprise, and it makes ils actual growth appear much larger than it is. It is the habit of Labour representatives to claim credit for all the progressive legislation passed since their party came into existence. It might be thought front some of the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral that all the progressive legislation of this Parliament has been due to it. He did not give credit even to the party that, until lately, has been supported by the Labour ‘ Party. His party cannot fairlylay claim to this credit. New Zealand has been instanced as a country in which more legislation for the benefit of the workers has been passed than in Australia. We hear constantly from a certain quarter that we should follow the legislation of that country. But in New Zealand the Labour Party did not exist in Parliament when that legislation was carried.
– But the Liberals in New Zealand supported a graduated land tax and similar proposals which are opposed by the Liberals’ here.
– The fact remains that the Labour Party did not exist as a party in New Zealand at that time.
– The Labour Party existed, but not as a separate organization.
– I say. that the Labour Party did not exist as a party in the Parliament of New Zealand at that time. Then, in other Parliaments of Australia much of the legislation for which the Labour Party claim credit was passed on the initiation of men who were in Parliament before the Labour Part)’ existed, and some of it was passed with the assistance and leading of others not associated with that party. That being so, I cannot see the force of the AttorneyGeneral’s argument that the Labour Party have accomplished all he claims ; nor do I see the force of his statement, if I understood it aright, that the Labour Party were regarded as Ishmaelities by men who had, in many respects, ideas similar to those of the party. It is the Labour organizations who have placed the brand of Cain on the brow of all not associated with them, and refuse coalition with those of practically similar views. While the Attorney-General tried to insinuate that certain members who were not opposed on a previous occasion might not be opposed in the future by the Labour Party, he failed te mention the more drastic resolutions that have since been carried against freedom from opposition being extended to those who have not signed the pledge of the party.
– Similar resolutions were carried years ago.
– They have since been carried very emphatically ; and it has been resolved that certain candidates, who were allowed to escape Labour opposition, shall not again be allowed to escape.
– That affects only the party inside Parliament, and not the party outside.
– It affects the elections, and it has been decided that Labour candidates shall be run in every constituency. The Attorney-General referred to the caucus principle, and claimed it as democratic ; but in my opinion it is absolutely autocratic. It may result, and has resulted, in a majority against a certain measure being turned into a majority for it.
– I think the honorable member is in error there. We are only pledged in regard to matters on which we are pledged to our constituents.
– The Labour Party are pledged only to their programme. and therefore there is no necessity for any difference of opinion in regard 10 that. But when in caucus on other questions, such as the fate of a Ministry-
– We are not obliged to caucus on that question - no man is compelled to vote.
– But the; do caucus on it, and there may be other questions which have a bearing on the party’s programme.
– Does not every party go into caucus on such questions?
– In reply to the interjection of the Prime Minister, I mav give an illustration of what I mean. If in caucus there are thirteen against and fourteen for a certain proposition, those thirteen, if added to the other members of the House, would make a majority against. But the majority of one in caucus swings the whole twenty-seven, and, therefore, a proposal is carried against which, in the honest views of members, there is really a majority.
– Does not that apply to every other party?
– First of all, we on this side are not bound by a programme prepared for us, and to which we have to submit. It is not uncommon for members of our party to take exception on the hustings, and claim freedom, in regard to one or two items in the party’s programme.
– - But those are not important items.
– They may be important items, on which the fate of a Ministry depends. The AttorneyGeneral said that a member of any party who voted against the majority of the party must be regarded as a rat, and practically excluded. I may say that on several occasions in this Parliament I have voted against the majority of my party.
– And so have members of the Labour Party.
– I have voted against items in the programme of my party to which, on the hustings, I took exception.
– But not a vital point.
– How can we say what is or what is not vital?
– What was the occasion?
– There have been not one, but several, occasions. For instance, 1. stated on the hustings that I was in favour of the Natal test, and not the colour test, and I supported my statement by my vote in the House.
– Was the honorable member’s party, as a party, opposed to that test ? .
– A large majority voted for the colour test. The Attorney-General asked what would happen if I departed in any way from my party, and afterwards presented myself to my constituents ; and I reply that I have on several occasions not voted with my party when I felt my duty so compelled me.
– But not on party questions.
– I am not the only one of the party who has done so ; and all the questions are party questions. The Attorney-General is placing me on delicate ground when he asks what would happen, to me in my constituency under such circumstances, because he himself happens to be one of my constituents, and honorable members can understand the tremor that thrills my breast at the implied threat.
– The honorable member does not much rely on the support of the Attorney-General.
– I have never asked the Attorney-General how he votes ; but I have the’ honour of representing or misrepresenting him. My experience of our own party leads me to the conclusion that the Attorney-General is quite wrong in assuming that there is anything like the rigidity that exists in his party.
– That is only due to the absence of organization.
– It is not altogether due to that ; and in regard to his statement of the rigidity in British parties, I think there could be found recent examples of Honorable members crossing the floor on certain Bills in the House of Commons. The difference between the Labour Party and other parties is that the Labour Party must accept the platform prepared, not by, but for them, in globo, if they are to continue members of that party, whereas members of other parties can take exception to certain portions of a programme.
– But not on vital points.
– Whether vital or not. I am speaking of programmes. But if what we read is true there is a new caucus development in the method of electing Ministers. Great indignation was displayed on a previous occasion when it was hinted that the Labour Party had ever outlined the policy of the Ministers of a previous Labour Administration. The following is an extract from Hansard, beginning with the remarks of the right honorable member for East Sydney -
– I am happy to say that my honorable friends on this side of the House have not asked the Ministry to meet them in the vaults, and to outline the policy we intend to pursue before we have an opportunity to express it in this Chamber, and to present it to the people of Australia.
– What Government had to do anything of the kind ?
– My honorable friend knows.
– If the insinuation is that that was the position of the late Government it is absolutely incorrect.
No member of the party ever approached me in regard to the personnel of the Ministry which I was about to form.
Therefore, it would appear that we have abandoned selection of Ministers by the man who is deputed by the representative of the Crown to form a Government, and have adopted a new system of electing them by caucus. I do not know whether the Attorney-General would defend that system as strongly as he has defended other operations of the caucus.
– I always judge a tree by its fruits.
– I suppose that is intended to mean that, so long as the honorable member for West Sydney is in the Ministry, he does not care by what process he reaches the position. That is the only interpretation to be placed upon his interjection.
– Not at. all.
– The- AttorneyGeneral also said that the right honorable member for East Sydney, on a previous occasion, had held office although he was in a minority. I do” not think these are desirable matters to introduce, but I am compelled to refer to them in order to reply to statements that have already been made. The statement that the right honorable member was in a minority is incorrect.
– I said that he had not a majority of his own.
– Nevertheless, he had a majority. If the Labour Party has a majority to support it, and can continue to hold it, it is entitled to remain in office.
– I was merely replying to the honorable member for Swan, who had said that we had not a majority.
– If the Government have a majority behind them, they are entitled to remain in office j I do not take exception to their doing so under such circumstances. We have had, as usual, an attempt to make a scapegoat of the Reid-McLean Administration or the Reid party. The Attorney-General took exception to the right honorable member for East Sydney having held office at one period in his career without having an absolute majority of his own. He also said that the Reid-McLean Administration pressed towards recess with indecent haste. Can we imagine any Government pressing towards recess with greater haste than the present Ministry are doing? They are sailing to the haven of recess with every stitch of canvas set. I do not object to their doing so, but, since they are, they should not complain of a similar course having been followed by any other Government.
– I asked what else could be done in the circumstances ?
– The honorable member justifies the proposal of his Government to go into recess by a reference to something which was done, according to him, by another Ministry. I am not here to defend previous Administrations, and shall not dispute the AttorneyGeneral’s statement. All that I wish to say is that if the Reid- McLean Administration did press towards recess, it did so in the face of the opposition of the Labour Party, which attacked it for doing so.
– And that Administration passed only one non-party measure.
– It passed more than one. If the present Ministry go into recess within the next few weeks, and, on meeting Parliament some months hence, find that circumstances have arisen which should lead to their leaving office - probably they will not leave without receiving a stronger hint than did the Reid- McLean Government before it retired - what measures will they have passedthat were not originated by their predecessors? The Prime Minister has told us that he merely proposes to deal this session with certain measures that have already been introduced.
– And with two important measures that have not been introduced.
– The honorable member said that they were little Bills, and were not likely to occupy our attention very long. He now says that they are important.
– The Seat of Government Bill will be important.
– But it will be introduced in pursuance of the action of a previous Government.
– In pursuance of the decision of the Parliament.
– The late Government brought the matter before Parliament, which arrived at a certain decision, and that decision is now very properly to be followed by legislation. In the circumstances, how foolish it is to complain of a Ministry which was placed in a position similar to that in which the present Government finds itself- in that it has taken office within two or three weeks of the proposed prorogation - having passed only two or three Bills.
– The Reid-McLean Government came into power’ in August, and we came into power in November.
– We had been sitting a long time, and the Parliament was anxious to go into recess.
– Is it worth while dealing with these questions of history?
– I do not think that it is, but I cannot allow to go uncontradicted statements that are not in accordance with the facts.
– It was the honorable member for Parramatta who made the original statement that called forth my reply.
– Let us get on with the Seat of Government Bill.
– The Government are naturally anxious to pass on to anything that will free them from criticism.
– And to get out of sight.
– They wish to get into the snug quarters of recess and to hibernate till next session.
– That is not the feeling of the Government. If any attack is to be made, let it be made.
– The AttorneyGeneral made a similar statement, and seemed to desire an attack.
– I did not.
– Having made that statement, he said that the Government expected to receive that fair play that ought to be extended to it.
– My answer to the charge that we wish to get out of sight is that we shall welcome, at any time, any attack honorable members may desire to make.
– I have not yet found fault with the Ministry for having failed so far to disclose its full policy. I am merely replying to statements made by the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman asserted that the Reid-McLean Government said that they would pass the High Commissioner Bill before the recess, and that they did not attempt to do so.
– I withdrew that statement.
– The honorable member did not, but he made a quotation which showed that his statement was incorrect. He also said that the Sea Carriage of Goods Act, which was introduced by the Government of which I was a member, was the result of a recommendation made by the Navigation Commission. He subsequently withdrew that statement, and said that the Bill was the result of inquiries made by the Commission. As a matter of fact, it was the outcome of a deputation which waited on Ministers, and pointed out the heavy loss incurred by those engaged in the fruit trade owing to owners of vessels contracting themselves out of their liability.
– That information was put before the Commission.
– It was put before the Government of the day by a deputation. The Attorney-General in making many statements is either not aware of facts which should be mentioned in connexion with them, or else deliberately suppresses them. He asserted that the honorable member for Parramatta had been in favour of a land tax! until he dissociated himself from the Labour Party. After that, he declared, we had heard nothing from him in support of such a tax. He did not mention that after leaving the Labour Party the honorable member became a member of a State Ministry which brought in a Land Tax Bill, and that he helped to carry it.
– I said that he had said nothing about a land tax since leaving the Parliament of New South Wales.
– The honorable member did not give him credit for having backed up his opinion by supporting a State land tax.
– What I said was-
– I must ask the AttorneyGeneral to refrain from interjecting.
– The insinuation was that the honorable member for Parramatta had deserted a principle that he had at one time supported. So far as I know, he has never supported such a tax as is proposed by the Labour Party - that is to say, a progressive tax on land exceeding . £5,000 in value. If the honorable member has been inconsistent in this respect - and I say that he has not- what can the Attorney- General say of the consistency of his party in supporting a land tax with an exemption in the case of areas under £5,000 in value, notwithstanding that he and others of the party to which he belonged at the time to which he has alluded were absolutely opposed to any exemption ?
– I voted for the £240 exemption in the New South Wales Act.
– Quite so, but in the first instance the State Labour Party objected very strongly to any exemption, and they voted with the Government in support of an exemption only because it was a trifling exemption, and because it was necessary to do so to secure the passing, of the Bill. That is an illustration of the inconsistency of the Labour Party. The Attorney-General has said that the programme of the present Government will appear in proper season. I should like to know when that proper season will arrive. I do not say that the Government should be required to come down instantly with its programme, but I do say that if it is to go into recess it should, when it again meets Parliament, outline not merely its programme for the succeeding few months, but its complete objective.
– Part of its programme is already on the business-paper.
– The honorable member refers to motions standing in the name of private members of the party. Those proposals, however, have practically been abandoned. The Government have appropriated the time usually devoted to private members’ business, and have thus practically prevented the dealing with this session of instalments of their programme which private members of their party have submitted. I am not pressing them to disclose their full programme this session, but they will be, and should be, expected, when they meet Parliament again to lay before it, not merely their immediate programme for a few months, but their intentions regarding that part of their programme which appears in their platform:, and to say with how much of that they intend to try to deal. If they do not, we can only conclude that they have abandoned their platform, not merely for this session, but for the next session also. I have been amused at the attempts of the fowlers, in the sight of the bird, to entrap members in the Ministerial corner. One would think that those members were very coy and innocent. The Attorney-General, in the most simple manner, if we can regard anything that comes from him a® simple, was trying to attract the coy young maidens of the Government corner into his net.
– What about the right honorable member for Swan?
– The AttorneyGeneral admits that he did it because the right honorable member for Swan had been exhibiting his attractions to the same coy maidens. It is really absurd, in a Parliament of experienced men, that, in the full light of the world, each of those gentleman should be trying to entrap by his attractions the very experienced members who sit in the Ministerial corner.
– I merely stated facts.
– When any one is describing “His own merits and attractions, or the merits and attractions of those with wHom he is closely associated, I have no doubt he considers all his statements to be facts, but other people may have an idea that they are exaggerations.
– What did I say?
– I should not like to repeat it. In a new situation such as this, honorable members of every party will consider for themselves what is the proper action to take in the interests of the country. If they agree with the Labour programme in its entirety, they will support, and continue to support, the Labour Party, and go to the country with them.
– What if the Labour Party do not touch their programme?
– If the Labour Party do not support their own programme, that will be an evident attempt to retain office without carrying out the policy that they are pledged to the people to bring into effect when they have an opportunity. That would be a sufficient reason for dealing with any Ministry. If the members in any portion of the House are supporters of the full policy of the Labour Government, no doubt they will support, and continue to support, them. If they are not, they will no doubt act in the way their consciences dictate. I am not going to say what that action should be. Every man must judge for himself. But the question that must guide each of us in coming to a decision is this : “Is the programme to which the Government are pledged one that can be supported in toto by honorable members”? If not, no doubt honorable members will give expression to their views.
I do not think that the Labour Party, if they have any pride or satisfaction in their own programme, any consideration for their own reputation, would wish to hold office merely by deserting what they had been elected to carry out. It would- be the worst compliment that any Government could get, that only by deserting and continuing to desert their pledges could they, obtain support or remain in office. If they deserted those principles in order to retain office, it would be one of the worst actions that they could be guilty of. After the able speeches of the leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan, there is no occasion to go into many matters that might be dealt with in this debate ; but I would allude to an interjection made by the honorable member for Ballarat when the right honorable member for Swan was speaking. He said that the right honorable member for Swan and others who voted with him had placed the Labour Government in office. While, of course, every honorable member who voted against the late Government may be responsible for that Government going out of office, they cannot be held responsible for another particular Government coming into office or being retained in office.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. In such a case they are responsible. If they make the mover of the motion their leader, and give him an overwhelming majority, they practically indicate to the Governor-General that he has their confidence.
– The honorable member for Ballarat surely could not claim that the members of the Opposition were supporters of the Labour Party, or that the Labour Party were supporters of the Opposition.
– They were to that extent.
– Some of the members of the Opposition had registered, on a previous occasion, their dissent from the policy of the late Government.
– And if the Labour Party had voted with them, would not the leader of the Opposition, who moved the motion, have necessarily been sent for, with such a majority ?
– That is a matter of no moment. When a vote was called for on a subsequent occasion, did the honorable member for Ballarat expect members on this side of the House, who had previously given expression to their opinion, to go right against that opinion and vote on the side of the Government ?
– I make no complaint. I am perfectly satisfied, but I am simply pointing out to honorable members opposite the consequences of their action.
– And I will show where and how the consequences arose. It matters not who might be sent for by the Governor-General to form a Government. I know that this is delicate ground, and I am not going to canvass the actions of the representative of the Crown, but it would be the duty of whoever was sent for to satisfy him that he could conduct the business of the country. If he had a majority in his own party, that would be the best evidence. If he had not, then there should be evidence of support from some other party in the House which would be sufficient to constitute a majority. A credential is necessary, but where was that credential obtained? lt was obtained in the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Hear, hear.
– I am not criticising the honorable member. I am merely stating the fact. In the speech which he made before the late Ministry was voted out of office, he said -
It is our duty, when laying down the official conduct of business, to endeavour to strengthen the’ hands of those who will take it up while the conduct of that business by them does not conflict either with the principles upon which we were returned, or with the interests of the Commonwealth. . . . No matter into whose hands that policy may fall -
By that the honorable member meant the policy of the late Government - it will be both our privilege and our duty to support it. This can be accomplished, as my honorable friends in the corner have shown for the past three years.
In that he referred to the action of the Labour Party in supporting the late Government during that term - ‘
With their fixed and decided platform, remaining without amendment from Parliament to Parliament, they have been able to lend us support without breach of, or departure from, it or the obligations which they have assumed. So much at least is possible from us under similar circumstances.
Without criticising that statement, without saying whether the honorable member for Ballarat was right or wrong in making it, I simply point out that before he made it, as he has since indicated, he had an intimation of a motion by the present Prime
Minister which would be regarded as hostile. He knew that, and said that if the motion were carried against him he would give to the Government which might be formed in consequence immediate sup- port for the items of his party’s own policy that were on the business paper.
– Then the Opposition voted for the motion with their eyes open.
– Of course we voted for it with our eyes open, and I do not regret it. I should do it again to-morrow, but the responsibility which the ex-Prime Minister seeks to throw on to members on this side he must share himself.
– I threw it upon honorable members opposite by that statement.
– The honorable member sought by interjection this afternoon to throw it on to honorable members on this side. I do not object to take my share of the responsibility, but the honorable member must take his share also.
– My responsibility is a responsibility after the event. The Opposition make the event, and they are responsible.
– The honorable member cannot get round words like those I have quoted. He absolutely promised support to the new Government if a certain motion were moved and his Government were defeated.
– Then the Opposition knew what they were voting for.
– Of course we did, but were we going to stultify ourselves by changing our vote? The late Prime Minister is responsible for the promise of support which he gave to those who now form the Ministry.
– I am responsible for making the Opposition responsible.
– We are responsible for the result of the vote which we gave. I do not know that the honorable and learned gentleman will try. to evade his responsibility, but, if he did, the word’s which he has used would make such an attempt useless.
– I stand bv what I said.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has stated that his party can keep the Government in office or drive it from power, and whether he accepts responsibility for putting it there or not, he must accept responsibility for keeping it there. I am not sorry that the Labour Party is now on the Government benches. . The present position is more wholesome than that which previously existed. I am pleased that the members of the Labour Party will have a personal and party responsibility for the legislation which they introduce. I admit that a much more wholesome state of affairs would be to have on the Treasury bench a party justifying its position by weight of numbers, which, when it went to the country, could do so on clear-cut lines, free from three-party entanglements, and would be dealt with -according to its policy and its performances.
– How does the honorable member suggest that that may be brought about ?
– I make no suggestion ; I merely say that that would be a more wholesome state of affairs.
.- A good deal has been said about the attitude of members of the Labour Party towards the late Ministerialists. May I point out briefly that the resolution of the Brisbane Conference does not affect the freedom of the local labour leagues? At the last election, the honorable members for Riverina, Hume, and Eden-Monaro were not opposed by candidates chosen by the local labour leagues, and these bodies are free to act similarly on the next occasion. Honorable members say that the contemplation of the present situation has afforded them a good deal of amusement ; and I have been considerably interested in what has happened since it became obvious that there would be a Labour Ministry. I have here an interview with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a week ago, and is the strongest instance of political dishonesty that has come under my notice. It is headed -
Appeal for Unity by Mr. Bruce Smith. Selection of an Opposition .leader. Party loyalty, and Patriotism.
For six-and-a-half years out of sevenandahalf years the honorable and learned member, and others, have opposed at every point the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, denouncing him throughout the length and breadth of the land.
– For serving the Labour Party.
– No. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, addressing a number of innocent and unsuspecting old ladies in New South Wales last month, told them that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had been guilty of disloyalty in pulling down the Union Jack and hoisting the Australian flag in its place. Everything that the ex-Prime Minister has done has been declared by honorable members opposite to be wrong, and everything that he has advocated to be absurd. He proposed the formation of an Australian navy. They opposed it. He advocated a system of new protection, and compulsory military service; they opposed both propositions. Now they have the deliberate effrontery to invite him to join them, and hint that if he wishes, he can lead them. This sudden reversal of the position would be humorous- were it not so dishonest. They ask him to add to his political record the political sin of being false to his policy, and promise in return to put him into office again. That is what this interview means, if it means anything, and that is the position taken up by the right honorable member for Swan and others. They are prepared to forget their past differences, and to come to heel at the call of a man whom they have done their best to drive from the public life of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member seems afraid that what he speaks of may come about.
– However poor an opinion the honorable member may have of the exPrime Minister, I do not share the view that he is ready to discard the principles which he has advocated for so many years.
– Why did the Labour Party turn this paragon out of office?
– I have not spoken of him as a paragon. But between him and his opponents there is all the difference that lies between the man who believes in what is Australian and the anti-Australian. We have had to listen to the quotation of many of the statements made by him in the heat of a political contest with a Labour candidate, but we have not had repeated his utterances of a month or two ago in regard to the party which now wishes to slime him and then swallow him.
– Nor what he has said about the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.
– If it will add to the entertainment of honorable members,, and they have the passage at hand, I am willing to quote it for them. This is what the honorable and learned member recently said about the Opposition -
At the present time the right honorable member (the late leader of the Opposition) has behind him only the wreckage of half-a-dozen old sections. He has behind him the wreckage of the free importing party; the wreckage of the individualist party ; the wreckage of the anti-Socialist party; and the wreckage of the black labour party ; all are to be found on that side of the House.
Now, he is being asked to join his party to such a crowd as that.
– It would beonly one more wreck.
– Honorable members have not yet succeeded in wrecking the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– The Labour Party has done it for us.
– No reply of mine could equal the suggestions which the honorable member will be able to make before the next election. The Deakin Government was put out of office because the Opposition was so desirous thatthe Labour Party should take the responsibility of administering the public Departments.
– Yet honorable members are not grateful.
– I trust that we shall have the beaming face of the honorable member opposite us for many years to come.
– The Labour Party will be able to stop in power for a good while, if it does nothing.
– Whatever may be said of the party, it will not remain here long and do nothing.
– It will go into recess.
– The honorable member must contemplate with pleasure the possibility of a speedy recess, because of the opportunity it will give him for another trip to England, or a motor ride across the Continent of Europe. Do honorable members suppose that the ex- Prime Minister will join them after what he has recently said against them? To honorable members who have no idea of adhering to the policy on which they were elected, it may appear easy, for the Prime Minister to cross the floor of the House; but there are some of us who really believe that the late Prime Minister and the late Treasurer mean what they have said, for instance, in regard to new protection.
– The Labour Party does not believe in protection for the consumer.
– That statement is quite unwarranted, and a pure invention on the part of the honorable member.
– It is a fair inference from what the Prime Minister has said.
– Honorable members opposite have an extraordinary capacity for drawing wrong inferences from the utterances of the Prime Minister. The late Prime Minister said -
I see in this House many gentlemen with whom it would be a privilegefor us to act - some with whom we have acted, and others with whom we may act again - but we also see here the remnants I have spoken of, with whom we cannot act.
– The Labour Party.
– I speak of some with whom it is impossible for us to act, either now or at any future time. Why is it impossible? It is because we have a distinctly different line of policy, because we have different ideals.
That is what the late Prime Minister said within the last month. If honorable members opposite think that the late Prime Minister can swallow the words I have quoted, they have a poorer opinion of him than I have.
– Are honorable members opposite afraid of losing the late Prime Minister?
– For my own part - and I think the same may be said of the members of my party - I am not disposed to care very much whether the late Prime Minister chooses to cross the floor or not. No doubt he will remain where he is so long as it suits his party, just as we remained behind him as long as it suited our party. If I believed that he could jump Jim Crow, and be such a political somersault artist as to advocate and disclaim principles within a month, I should be the last to suggest him as leader of any party.
.- I do not know to what end this debate is tending; but I feel convinced that the recriminations which are at present being indulged in will not. advance the House, either in our own opinion, or in the opinion of the great Australian public we have the honour to represent. In my opinion, the present Government occupy their position as the result of a tactical blunder; because, when the vote took place, there was insufficient consideration as to what the results would be. But the Labour Government are now in office ; and I am not one to believe that they will misuse their position ; on the contrary, I believe that they will, to the best of their ability, of which they possess much, do what is just and right and within the law. Contrary to the view which has been expressed to-night, I think that the Prime Minister yesterdaymade a straightforward statement, and did all that he could do under the peculiar circumstances of his assuming office. Honorable members in the Government corner, who have shown their loyalty to the honorable member for Ballarat, cannot relieve themselves of responsibility for creating the present position; and I appeal to them, as I do to the direct Opposition, and to those who sit in the Opposition corner beside myself, to subordinate all those personal and other considerations which have influenced us in the past, and by arriving at some understanding, stop once and for all the disintegration which is so interfering with the usefulness of this Parliament. The lines of cleavage between the two corners and the direct Opposition are infinitesimal.
– Indeed they are not !
– The Tariff, which was the main question which separated us, has, I earnestly hope,_ been settled for many years to come ; and though there may be differences of opinion in regard to matters of detail, there are practically no differences between the three sections on the fundamental questions which ought to influence our attitude. There would appear to be a fear on the part of the honorable member for Werriwa and others that, if the view I have expressed be regarded with favour by members in the Government corner, there may be a fusion of parties in opposition to the Government. As I said before, it was only a tactical blunder on the part of the three sections of the House that led to the placing of the Government in power.
– We had nothing to do with the placing of this Government in power.
– The late Prime Minister made it clear that the motion “he submitted was not to be changed even to the dotting of an “ i “ or the crossing of a “ t.” However all that may be, there is a responsibility on the three sections of the House to which I have referred to consider what are the points of difference between them. The Labour Party, with their clear and definite programme, are an example to the disintegrated mass opposite them. Do we consider thai, under present circumstances, we are doing justice to our constituents? If the honorable member for Ballarat had been present, I should have appealed to his loyalty to the Constitution he assisted so much in creating, and asked him to do something to remedy the present state of affairs. We may agree that the Government shall remain in power during the recess, but surely the time has arrived when personal recrimination should be stopped, and a proper understanding come to. The country is asking for practical work; and if the measures now proposed by the Government are proper, why should we not assist in carrying them ? On the other hand, we ought not to go into recess without taking a step towards such a combination as I have suggested, seeing that there are no substantial lines of demarcation.
– Why d!3 not the honorable member think of that before he voted the late Government out of office ?
– We were precipitated into that position by the attitude taken up by the late Prime Minister. Does any one here suppose that that gentleman can or ought to be permanently excluded from political life ? The idea is utterly absurd ! Then the right honorable gentleman, who has surrendered his position as leader of the Opposition, is suffering much from past misrepresentation and * misconception. People are asking what are the benefits and purposes of this Australian Parliament; and I once more appeal to honorable members to cease this wretched bringing up of what one member or another may have said or done in the past. Let us face the future, and see what business it is competent for us to undertake in the interests of the Commonwealth. I have repeatedly said tHat I attach very little importance to the persons who occupy the Treasury benches, so long as the business of the country is carried out successfully, but the Government ought not to be allowed to go into recess until there is some cohesion established amongst honorable members of the direct Opposition and in the two corners. The Labour Party are perfectly justified in taking full advantage of the situation created when they were put into office. That blunder, I trust, is not going to be perpetuated by a continued division of parties. Honorable members who have retired from the Treasury bench and those who have supported them are, I hope, amenable to reason, and will come to some common understanding as to what our position should be in the interests of the people of Australia.
– I have to congratulate the Prime Minister on the position that he occupies. One of the characteristics of his countrymen is a disinclination to sit behind any Government, or to support any body of people, without obtaining a share of the plunder. My fellowcountryman doubtless thought that he had sat long enough behind the late Ministry, and he is now participating in the sweets of office. The funds of the Commonwealth will be thoroughly safe in his keeping, for money is always secure in the hands of a Scotchman. If the honorable gentleman has not more administrative ability than was displayed by members of the late Government I shall be sorry for Australia. I am quite sure that the present Administration cannot make a bigger mess of the affairs of the Commonwealth than the late Government have done. Indeed I shall be surprised if the Prime Minister and his colleagues do not effect many improvements. A greater muddle than has resulted from the work of the late Ministry could not be possible. They held office for some years, and although they promised to do much for Australia they did nothing. There has been a great deal of bickering among honorable members as to who shall occupy the Treasury bench.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has not read the statutebook of the Commonwealth.
– I’ have read enough to know that the Federal Parliament was created to deal with the larger questions of Australian politics. The late Government has certainly dealt with one or two big questions, but in such a way that it has been necessary to appeal to the High Court to secure an interpretation, of their measures. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have taken up a number of noncontentious Bills introduced by their predecessors, and are likely to get into recess in a very short time. I regret that they have not announced their intention to legislate with regard to some of the larger questions that await our attention. The proposed transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth is apparently once more to be shelved. It must, however, be speedily taken in hand, for South Australia cannot continue much longer to administer its affairs. It has done a creditable work in holding it so long as a white man’s land.
Colonel Foxton. - But it is not a white man’s country.
– I am sorry to say that under present conditions it is a very undesirable country for a white man to live in. The time is not far distant when we shall find it necessary to legislate in regard to not only the Northern ‘.territory, but the whole of the northern part of Australia. I sincerely trust that the Prime Minister will intimate that he proposes to ask the Parliament to agree to the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. When it is transferred we shall have in connexion with it so many matters to engage our attention that there will be an end to the consideration of such trifling questions as have from time to time been put before us. It is well known that the Northern Territory comprises some of the finest country in the world. At the present time the eyes of the world are upon it, and I think it may safely be said that it is in greater need of population than is any other part of the globe. Those who think that we may hope to hold it with only a small population make a serious mistake, lt is said by some that we need no assistance from the Old Country. I do not hold that view. To my mind we require all the assistance that we can obtain from the Old Land. Without its help we could not hope to hold the Northern Territory. Great Britain has dealt very fairly with us. Her relationship to us reminds me of the position of a very small boy playing round the knees of his father iri a railway carriage filled with passengers who would like to shake him, but who dare not do so lest they incur the displeasure of the parent. There are many nations that would like, so to speak, to shake Australia, hut they are afraid of Great Britain. When we are called upon to deal with the transfer of the Territory question I think that I shall be able to propound a scheme for the administration of its affairs in such a way that instead of its being a burden it will be a source of profit. There should be no difficulty in transforming it from a white elephant into a highly prosperous part of the Commonwealth. The late Prime Minister stated some time ago that he intended within the next fortnight to submit a motion providing for the taking over of the Territory. That promise was not fulfilled. I am sure, however, that the present Prime Minister will endeavour to carry out all his promises.
– Does the honorable member think that the question of the transfer of the Northern Territory is as important as is the desire of the Government to get into recess?
– The Prime Minister, who is a fellow countryman of mine, was accused to-day of not. saying enough. A Scotchman is always allowed to speak twice, but I do not suppose that the honorable gentleman will attempt to do so on this occasion. Just noW he is thinking hard. I do not blame him for doing so for he needs to proceed steadily and with caution if he is to carry out the traditions of his race. You are well aware, Mr. Speaker, that one of the important objects for which Federation was accomplished was the consolidation of the States debts. The people of South Australia were informed that by the transfer of the debts of that State to the Commonwealth they would save, in the first year, .£13,000, and in the next, £23,000, after the whole cost of Federation had been paid. We find, however, that we have been going from bad to worse, and we still appear to be drifting. I hope that an attempt will be made to stop the drift and that the new Government will devote its attention to some of the larger questions that demand our consideration. When the right honorable member for Swan was Premier of Western Australia he carried out the great undertaking of supplying Coolgardie with water, and I hope that this Government will be prepared to adopt a bold policy. If the right honorable member for Swan were in office and thought that we ought to build a railway through the Northern Territory, he would at once propose to do so, and I certainly hope that the new Administration will not adopt a do-nothing policy. The Post and Telegraph Department is in a wretched muddle, and the late PostmasterGeneral, who has been blaming his officers, yesterday gave notice of his intention to move for leave to introduce a Hill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act.
– That was a delayed noconfidence motion in himself.
– No doubt it was. Australia cannot hope to progress without reasonable postal facilities. Only to-day I received from a constituent on Kangaroo Island a letter stating that no less than five months ago he and others were called upon to lodge a deposit with the Post and
Telegraph Department in connexion with the construction of a line which it was said would be proceeded with as soon as that deposit was paid. Since then the money has been held by the Department, which now informs the persons concerned that there are no funds available for the work. That is an absolutely unfair position for the Department to take up. We cannot hope to progress if such a system is to be followed. We have seen honorable members, instead of seeking to legislate for the well-being of the country, doing nothing but scheming how to turn out the Government of the day.
– Is that why the honorable member voted against the late Government ?
– The honorable member has too much to say. If he had a little more sense he would keep his mouth closed. In my opinion, we should have elective Ministries. That system would put an end to the trouble to which I have just referred. Every Parliament in Australia elects its Speaker and Chairman of Committee as soon as it meets, and no one’ will deny that the occupants of those high offices are a credit to Australia. That being so, why cannot this Parliament be intrusted with the work of electing a Government? 1 am satisfied that we should proceed on right lines, and that some of the members of the present Ministry would find a place in an Administration elected by the House. In such a Government, all sections of the community would be represented.’ ‘1’fie system is well worth a trial. Any system that would put an end to the miserable wire-pulling that has been going on to secure possession of the Treasury bench would be a good thing for the people ot Australia. I hope that before ‘ long we shall adopt the system of elective Ministries. Is it any wonder that the people are at present disappointed with Federation ? Let us hope that the Prime Minister will rise to the occasion. It has been said during this debate that he will tlo nothing. 1 do not hold that view, and 1 sincerely trust thai he will put forward a bold and vigorous policy. If he falls, as the result of such a programme, he will surely rise again to power. I must confess that 1 do not like the proposed legislation in regard to stowaways, and I have only to say in conclusion that I trust that when next a change of Government is made we shall have an elective Ministry.
.- One of the methods adopted by the enemies of the Federal Labour Party to discredit them as administrators of the affairs of the Commonwealth is to decry their knowledge of finance. The Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd November, . 1908, in its leading article, wrote -
Now that the Labour Party has control of the financial affairs of a continent it will find that its experience, gained upon the fate of the labourer who, out of work, takes his wife’s trinkets to the pawnbroker, does not altogether apply.
A more degrading statement than that has never appeared in any newspaper which prides itself upon being a respectable publication. There are greater authorities than the partisan press of Sydney. These papers, owned by wealthy shareholders, who tremble because the Labour programme threatens the unrighteous toll they exact from the toiling masses, will print any calumny and invent any falsehood for their own party ends. The most reliable test of the financial ability and integrity of a Labour Ministry is the confidence expressed by the investors in Australian stocks. This confidence has been expressed most emphatically upon each occasion when Labour has assumed control of the affairs of Australia. The first Labour Ministry took office, led by the honorable member for South Sydney, on 27th April, 1904, and resigned on 17th August, 1904. The London Times recorded the price of Australian Stock on specified dates as follows : -
This shows a marked appreciation in Australian securities. ‘ The second Labour Ministry, led by the honorable member for Wide Bay, took office on 13th November, 1908. Again have the London investors expressed themselves. The Sydney Morning Herald on 19th November, 1908, records increased prices of Australian stocks, as does the Melbourne Herald of 18th November, 1908. The latter paper on that date published the following : -
LONDON, 18th November, 1908.
The following are the latest quotations for the Australian stocks named : -
Bank of Australasia shares, buyer £104, seller £105, as against£103 10s. and£104 10s. respectively a fortnight ago.
Bank of New South Wales shares, buyer £44 15s., seller£45 5s., as against£44 and£45 respectively on November 3.
Union Bank of Australia shares, buyer£60 5s., seller £60 15s., as against £59 10s. and £60 10s. respectively a fortnight ago.
This indisputable argument of concrete fact altogether dissipates the whole artillery of libels directed against the Labour Party by unscrupulous opponents. We meet the enemy at their last ditch, and, as usual, effect their destruction by incontrovertible evidence.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wilks) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Mahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to determine the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to express the hope that every honorable member will facilitate the conclusion at the earliest possible opportunity of the debate upon which we have been engaged.
– I should be glad if the AttorneyGeneral would lay upon the table a copy of the application of the Marine Cooks, Bakers and Butchers’ Union to the Arbitration Court, and also a copy of Mr. Justice Higgins’ award and his general remarks in connexion with the matter.
– I wish to impress on the Prime Minister and honorable members generally the fact that as there are only fourteen or fifteen sitting days available before Christmas we shall have to apply ourselves closely to business* in order to get through anything like a decent amount of work before the prorogation. We ought to push on with the business, and I trust that after this there will be no suggestion of adjournment so early as twenty minutes past 10.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Grey that as the time at our disposal is so short we ought to endeavour to push on with business. But I would suggest to him the propriety of Government supporters settling their . differences as to the conduct of Government . business either in the caucus room or elsewhere outside this chamber. Honorable members of the Opposition and, I think, of all parts of the House, are anxious to proceed with the conduct of useful business, but we do not want to be discouraged by Ministerial squabbles. The Prime Minister occupies a highly responsible position as leader of the House, and bis own followers ought to set an example in supporting him in the difficult position in which he is placed. I am anxious to assist him to push through the useful measures which have been forecast, and I hope 1 shall be encouraged in that dispostion by the display of an equal good will on the part of his own followers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081126_reps_3_48/>.