3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following paragraph appeared in this morning’s
Brisbane, Thursday. - In the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Kidston, replying to Mr. Coyne, said there was some ground for the report that he had promised to import indentured labourers for service on the pastoral properties. The number was 80, and the terms were that the employer should provide twelve months’ work, pay wages of 20s. a week, provide house accommodation, and if necessary rations on the customary scale, extras being at the rate of 2s. a month.
Can the Minister of External Affairs inform the House whether the Premier of Queensland or any other person has applied for permission to indent labour? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the current rate of wages in the industry referred to is 30s. a week and keep? Is not the action of the Premier of Queensland contrary to the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act, and an infringement of the decision of the Arbitration Court as to the conditions which shall prevail in the pastoral industry? Will the honorable gentleman see that the workers in this industry are protected from the introduction of cheap labour from abroad ?
– I have not seen the paragraph, nor had I heard anything about the matter until the honorable member brought it under my notice just now. So far as I am aware, no request such as he refers to has been made by the Premier of Queensland, though I shall inquire whether an application has been received bv the Department from him or any other person. I ask the honorable member to give notice of his remaining questions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In view of the new syllabus for cadet training recently approved by the Military Board and the Minister for Defence, which lays down physical training as the basis of instruction, does he not think the appoi ntment of instructors with the following qualifications would place every cadet within the reach of an efficient training : -
– The replies are as follow : - 1. (a) Ves.
With regard to (c), Yes, other things being equal. The following number of officers and non-commissioned officers of the Cadet Instructional Staff previously served in Education Departments : -
Officers, eight out of nine appointed.
Non-commissioned officers, four out of nine appointed.
The five appointments of non-commissioned officers were filled by qualified candidates from the Permanent Forces, there being no qualified applicants from amongst teachers for these positions.
Non-commissioned officers of the Cadet Instructional Staff require to pass in the following special military subjects : -
Map reading and field sketching (practical only).
Elementary tactics; the examination being of the same standard as for an Instructor of the Commonwealth Military Forces.
These non-commissioned officers are also eligible for transfer to the Instructional Staff of the C. M. Forces.
Telephone Service - Banksia Public Telephone - Messenger, Melton Post Office
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Department to supply old and worn-out telephone instruments to subscribers in country districts, whilst those in metropolitan areas are favoured with Ericsson telephones of the latest type?
– It is not the practice of the Department to supply worn-out. telephones to any subscribers. I am having inquiries made regarding the other matters mentioned, and will furnish replies as soon as the information is to hand.
asked the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When the promised messenger for the Melton Post Office will be appointed?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice-
Whether he will inform the House as to the progress made in the negotiations with the various States with respect to the uniformity of the electoral systems of the Commonwealth and States ?
– The following is the answer to the honorable member’s question : -
States of Tasmania in relation to the preparation, maintenance, and printing of joint rolls.
The Government of the State of South Australia is introducing amending legislation with a view to securing a large measure of cooperation with the Commonwealth.
The Governments of the States of New South Wales and Western Australia have under consideration proposals involving amending legislation agreed upon at conferences between the chief Commonwealth and State electoral officials.
The Government of the State of Queensland is sympathetically considering proposals submitted by the Commonwealth, and representations have been made to the Government of the State of Victoria (in which State a measure providing for adult suffragehas recently been passed) as to the desirableness of electoral co-operation.
I have a longer memorandum on the subject, which I shall be happy to show to the honorable member, or to any other honorable member, who may be interested in it.
Motion (by Mr. Mahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the law relating to Parliamentary elections.
Debate resumed from 26th November (vide page 2346) on motion by Mr. Fisher,
That, on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
.- I have listened attentively to the speeches which have been made on this motion. Personally, I desire that Government business shall always take precedence of private business. Previous speakers have commenced their remarks by saying how glad they are to see the present Ministers in office; that a better lot of men could not be found ; but although they began by being pleasant, they proceeded to do what they couldto strangle those whom they had flattered. I call such conduct humbugging. It may not be anice thing to say, but it is my way to speak so.I wish the Ministry a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I think that Ministers will enjoy that; but they have a very trying winter ahead of them. There will be a financial frost. The late Treasurer was very clever in getting out when he did. He, as well as any man, knows when to disappear. No doubt the Deakin Ministry was not particularly sorry to be relieved of certain financial obligations. The present Prime Minister is a Scotchman. I knew that without being told. It will take him all his time to get together the bawbees necessary to pay the expense of managing the ship of State. A fortnight ago the present Ministers had power, but were without responsibility, now the exMinisters have the power and the present Ministers the responsibility. They have proposed to carry out the remnant of a programme put forward by their predecessors. In any case I should have voted for the measures contained in that programme, so that, as my concern is the public interest, the change of Ministry has not affected my position. As I regard these measures as good, I should have voted for them under the Deakin Administration, and shall do so now that the Fisher Administration is in power. I am glad that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is to be proceeded with, although I regret that the Ministry proposes to amend it to provide for the nationalization of the iron industry. That proposal was defeated in the House of Representatives, and I hope that it will not succeed in the Senate, but that the Bill will nevertheless be placed on the statute-book. The Treasurer has intimated that the funds at his disposal twill be sufficient to pay ‘Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions. I hope that the payments will be on a substantial basis, and that the attempt will not be made to give effect to the Act by paying miserable pittances, such as in the past have been paid in Victoria. When he was speaking of the new protection proposals, I repeatedly asked, by way of in- 1terjection, whether the consumers are to be protected, and not having received an answer, I ask him again now, whether he will provide for them, as well as for the operatives in protected industries. Mr. Fisher. - Yes.
– That is an admission which we did not get two days ago.
– I could not say everything at once.
– The honorable member took a long time in saying what he did say, and spoke very cautiously. He now promises to provide for the consumers. Whether he should avail himself of the services of the Arbitration Court, or of an Inter-State Commission, is a matter to be debated when definite proposals are before us. The workers in New South Wales are not very enamoured of the arbitration system existing in that State. They have had seven or eight years’ experience of its working, and it is an open secret that they are far from satisfied with it.
– We shall have something different.
– Of course. If we do not, the ‘Government will simply be going backwards.
– There is no complaint of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– It has only recently begun its work, and has not really been tested yet. At any rate, I will not debate that matter now. It. will be time enough to do so when the Government have thought over it, and have submitted to the House a concrete measure dealing with the whole question. I do not believe in chewing the cud of past political differences. I have had quite enough in listening to them, and have never lent myself to them in either State or Federal politics, nor have I any burning desire to engage in the washing of dirty political linen. Those who like those tactics can adopt them. Personally, I do not care for them. The Ministry are in office, and the method by which they got there is their own concern. I think they got there just as respectably as do most Ministries in the Federal Parliament. I have heard it said in the past that no Ministry should sit on those benches unless they have a majority in their own ranks. That is a very fine idea which I hope will be lived up to in the near future in this Parliament. But since the beginning of Federation we have never had a. Ministry that lived on those benches without some alliance or agreement or outside support. In the same way the present Ministry cannot live an hour without support from outside sources. I admit that they are the most disciplined body in the House, and move with military precision. Their military, precision is the very thing that I do not like. A great deal is said about their caucus, but most parties have a caucus - with the exception of my own. My party holds its meetings in this Chamber ; it has no chairman, and there is no disagreement. I take the responsibility myself for my actions, and am prepared to answer for them to my electors. I do not believe in making the excuse that I did certain things because the party I belonged to took a certain course. That may be a foolish attitude, and it is one which perhaps few honorable members opposite dare to adopt themselves. When I hear Ministers boasting of the growth of their party, their success at the polls, their past and present strength, and their future intentions, I may be permitted to make a little boast on my own account. I have had the honour and privilege for many years of representing absolutely the strongest labour constituency in Australia. Without the vote of the workers I could not have held my position in the State or Federal Parliament. Although the political Labour Party have done, and are always doing, their best to unseat me, the workers have continued to intrust me with the responsibility of representing them, and I do not shelter myself at any time, on a platform or in this House, behind the plea that, because a certain party took a certain course, I had to fall in with their wishes. That may be an unusual attitude, and one that would not work in Australia generally, but my nature is such that I do not think I would be much gain to any party. If there is anything I am fond of, it is individuality and personality. We had yesterday a very fine exhibition of the personality of the present leader of the direct Opposition. I am pleased that my old friend the honorable member for Parramatta has been elected to that post. No one can deny that he has earned it, for he has been most attentive to his duties in this Chamber. Although there is no man outside the Labour ranks whom the Labour organs attack more severely than the honorable member for Parramatta - and strange to say he has come from their own ranks - there is no question regarding his ability or quickness, or attention to public affairs. A singular fact, which shows that the highest positions in the land are open to able men, no matter what their occupations may be, is that the early occupation of the present Prime Minister was that of a miner, while the leader of the direct Opposition also comes from a similar walk of life. It is a splendid testimony to the liberal and democratic nature of representative institutions in Australia that it is open to any man to rise to the highest position in public affairs. No family influence is required in this country. As a rule, the honorable member for Parramatta uses the vinegar bottle a little more than he ought to, but in his speech of yesterday there was no evidence of acid drops. The only danger I apprehend is founded upon my experience that when you start with a hymn you generally end with a riot. I hope that will not happen in this case. We began yesterday with a very good Christian spirit, and I hope the riot is still far off. The leader of the direct Opposition - I do not refer to the Corner party, which I pre- fer to call the party that is cornered, because it does not seem to know what to do - made a very useful contribution to the debate. It is about time that the twentyseven members of the Ministerial party should be attended to, if there is anything in them, by the fifteen whom they looked after for so long. It is now “ up to “ the fifteen to reciprocate. I have nothing to do with the question of whether the present Ministry was found by Andrew Fisher on the doorstep, or whether, as the French say, it was born on the right side of the blanket. To use another classical expression, well known to the Ministry and their supporters and the Labour Leagues, it is “all Sir Garnet-oh” with the Labour Party at the present time. The seven or eight members of it who are now on the Government bench look as well there as would any others, and I think they are just as capable as the average Ministry ; but I wonder whether we shall get from them the solution of a very interesting problem in human nature - will they be faithful to their platform? I do not mean that in any disrespectful sense. We cannot expect them to put forwardat this stage a greater programme than the completion of the work which has been partly done by the late Administration and the carrying of the Estimates. The only additional announcement that I could have expected in the interests of the workers was a foreshadowing by them of the work that they intended to do next session. But the present position strikes another blow at the fiction of the Governor-General’s speech. Now that we are abandoning parliamentary fictions, even in regard to the selection of Ministries, I hope that the present Labour Administration will admit that the GovernorGeneral’s speech for next session is already written for them. Their Leagues have written it. It is in their platform, so that there is no need to wait till next session for it. It is in the hands of every elector who believes in the Labour Leagues’ platform. It has been written not by the Ministry, but by the Labour Leagues.
– For approval by the people.
– It has been written by the people of the Leagues, whether in yearly conference assembled or by their executive. The executive for 1908, if they so desired, and if they were captured, could absolutely revolutionize that platform for the next election.
– The Inter-State Conference has been held, and the Federal platform cannot be altered until the next Conference in three years’ time.
– The State platform can be altered every year, although I admit that the Federal platform cannot now be altered until the next Inter-State Conference. But the point I wish to make is that the Ministry must not palm off on the public the impression that their future GovernorGeneral’s speech will be their own work. It will be the work which has been already performed by the Brisbane Conference. It will be interesting to notice whether next session the Government bring forward their programme as the Labour Leagues direct. If they do, it requires no prophet to foretell that their life will be very short. They will not be on 4he Government bench for more than a few hours after the recess if they do, so far as this House is concerned, because all those members who are not in the Labour ranks have been returned as against the Labour Party, and against portions of their platform. In my own case I do not admit the right of any Labour League to dictate to me my views on questions of radical thought. In any case the Labour Leagues cannot claim -with any truth that their platform is original. They have simply adapted it. When they talk about people stealing their platform, or filching some of their socialistic proposals, they should be reminded that much of what they advocate has been stolen by them from a document over 1,900 years old - the Sermon on the Mount.
– Is the accompanying spirit with the document?
– I leave that to my more spiritual friends to discover. I refuse to allow the Labour Leagues to tell me whether I shall take their platform or not. I advocate what I believe is in the interests of my constituents. If the Labour Party can carry out reforms by which my children will benefit, I am not going to be such a fool as selfishly to oppose them.
– Does the honorable member object to our following the Master of 1,900 years ago?
– The honorable member and his party are following the Master a long way behind, for He did not get ^£2,400, or even ^600,’ a year. All I ask is that they should not be so hypocritical as to pretend to follow Him. I admire the man who lives the life of the Master; but I find the Labour Party have as much human nature about them as 1 have myself. The party can live i’n. politics only as an aggressive force ; as soon as they become politically respectable in the Ministerial position, they lose hold ->f the class of the people to whom they appeal. They dare not take the measures which appear on their platform, and so alter them as to make them acceptable to this House, because they must always act in the capacity of reformers, and cannot afford to bend or truckle to any interests. They have described themselves as political Ishmaelites, and we know that Ishmaelites are never in the clover field. However, all that is the concern of the Labour Party, and I fancy that the financial problem is the ohe with which the Prime Minister will have the greatest trouble. The late Treasurer seems to have an instinct which gets him out of trouble, and he ought to be very happy at being relieved of the financial burden at this stage. But how the present Government are to introduce satisfactory financial proposals without instituting more drastic taxation I cannot understand ; and such taxation would mean the end of them as a Ministry. I suppose that human nature will cause the present Ministry to hang on to the sweets of office, and I fancy that the only excuse they will be able to offer will be that they satisfactorily administered the Departments. The Labour Party are politically very “cute,” and they may say that, despite the opinions expressed by newspapers, they are able to administer the Departments, and, therefore, should be allowed to remain in power. If that be the view they take, the sooner we know the fact the better.
– Does the honorable member advise the Labour Party to take that view ?
– That is a matter for the Labour Party themselves; I am merely voicing a little speculation of my own. The statements made by newspapers in this connexion are, in my opinion, very cruel; and it may be that the party will endeavour to prove that they are capable of efficient administration, and thus worthy of being retained in their present place. But do the Ministers propose to administer the Departments themselves, or will they be content to be merely the echo of the heads of Departments? Personally I think that the Government can do more good for Australia bv sound financial and general administration than by introducing fresh and showy legislation, of which the people have probably had more than they can digest. The Attorney-General boasted of the success of the Labour Party in Australia, and though he is quite justified fa doing so, his statements require a little examination. As a matter of fact,” the most noticeable and profitable feature of the Political Labour League is the brand of “Labour “ which they have made their own. The leagues of themselves could hardly return a single member to this House; and they have to rely on a strong popular sympathetic vote, which is given to them simply because no other party in Australia has brought forward a federalized programme of a progressive character. This is one of the reasons for my remaining aloof from all parties. I can live only in progressive thought - I have no desire to be in public life unless I can assist in radical progress. If the leader of the direct Opposition would be as I have known him in the past, and submit his own idea of a progressive programme, he would come very near to my idea; but the position is quite altered if he is tobe the mere instrument of those around him, who, of course, have a right to their own conservative views.
– Are those honorable members not liberal in their views?
– A good many are not. For instance, speaking, of course, politically, can I be expected to have any feverish anxiety to call the honorable member for Swan a Radical ? I have not seen a radical garment that would fit the honorable member ; he measures too much around the “little Mary “ for any garment of the kind. While those honorable members have a right to their conservative views, they have no right to demand my support, seeing that I regard those views as against the interests of Australia. No party can live, or deserve to live, in Australia unless it has a radical and advanced programme ; and I am looking for a leader to place such a programme before us. In this respect the Labour Party has a distinct advantage. Labour electors, whether they be in Port Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, or Sydney, have one political faith, and work with military precision and solidarity. This has made them so powerful in the past. On the other hand, a Liberal of New South Wales would be regarded in Tasmania as a most advanced Radical, and there is a similar distinction as between the Liberal of the small State and the Liberal of Victoria.
– Victoria is more conservative than Tasmania.
– That is not shown by Tasmanian legislation, or by the representatives returned from that State to this House. In Victoria a Liberal is a protectionist, whereas in New South Wales he is a free-trader, who believes in a reduction of taxation on all necessaries of life, and recourse to other methods of raising revenue; and that is the policy to which the honorable member for Calare used to subscribe. It is a waste of time to wrangle whether the man who advocates duties of 25 per cent., or the man who advocates duties of 30 per cent., should be regarded as a Liberal ; if they are held to represent different classes of political thought, they are not worth wasting time over.
– Some of the honorable member’s Liberal friends tell us that duties of 25 per cent. are good freetrade.
– That is what I am saying, namely, that the definition of a Liberal varies. ‘
– Some of the Liberal friends of the honorable member for Calare contend that duties of 40 per cent. are good free-trade.
– They are protectionists.
-No, they are freetraders.
– Order ; honorable members must refrain from interjecting.
– The Labour Party have never been met by a solid, well-organized force in proper battle array ; but live on the divisions of thought and opinion in this House and in the country. I feel sure that the submission of a Liberal-progressive platform, under a proper leader, would make a great change, because the sympathetic vote now given to Labour would be transferred.
– If there had been a true Liberal Party there would have been no Labour Party.
– That is really a solution of the question. If in the various States, in years gone by, there had been an active Liberal force, there would have been no necessity for a Labour Party. But the people were afraid of the Conservatives, and were only too glad to come under the Labour banner, which offered some hope of progress. The only Liberal leader that I can discern in this House is the late Prime Minister. I was not returned to either support or oppose that honorable gentleman; and all I could do was to vote for legislation in which I believed, whether introduced by his or any other party ; and I am in that position to-day. If the present Prime Minister introduces legislation of which I approve, I shall, of course, vote for it; but I ask for no immunity from opposition by the Labour Party or any other party at any time. If I desired to work with the Labour Party, the only course open to me would be to resign my seat and submit myself to my constitutents ; and I ask for no consideration on the strength of my supporting any measures which the Government may introduce. Support of the class I have indicated is of no good to the
Government, and, rather than use it, they would be better out of office. The Labour Leagues in my electorate have fought me for a number of years, and continue to fight me ; but I do not . whine on that account, although it is a labour electorate. On the contrary, I am proud to be in this House as a free man, exercising my judgment in regard to liberal thought and progressive legislation. The honorable member for Parramatta and myself are very old friends; but if, in the course of politics, he thinks I am wrong, let him or his party oppose me. I have heard appeals made here for a re-arrangement of parties; but I do not believe in re-arrangements for the convenience of members or of Parliament. The battle has to be won outside; and the most capable leader is he who has the largest number of followers. Aus-‘ tralian thought of to-day is anxiously awaiting for a man to lead ; and the people do not desire mere showy oratorical or other parliamentary gifts, but a man in whom they can believe. The fact of my not being a member of a political Labour League does not prevent my adopting radical and progressive views. As I am not a member of their league they will, perhaps, fight me more severely than they will any other candidate. That, however, is their own concern. No doubt they desire to win my seat- The Labour Party are now twenty-seven strong, and they ‘win make a big struggle at the next general election to capture twelve more seats. The honorable member for Hume has been doing their work for a number of years, yet the labour leagues in his’ electorate have already received twenty-two nominations.
– Those nominations relate to candidates for the Senate,
And not for the House of Representatives.
– I make no secret of the fact that there are in Australia many political organizations to which I could not honestly attach myself. Intrigue has no attraction for me; I do not believe in it. The man who strikes out for himself is, to my mind, more successful than is one who is continually endeavouring to placate others. There is no necessity for a member of Parliament to resort to subterfuge. The electors are not children. If there is any part of the world where the electors are well educated it is Australia. As a young country, we have set an example in many respects to the rest of the world, and I do not think that in the matter of ability the Australian press compares unfavorably with that of the rest of the world.
– Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the question before the Chair?
– I do, sir. The AttorneyGeneral said yesterday that the Labour Party had got into power in spite of the press, and I am pointing out that the fact that they have been able to do so is another evidence that the people to-day, to a large extent, do their own thinking. Until twelve o«- fourteen years ago the press of the States governed; to-day they merely ventilate views. The labour leagues are largely responsible for this change. Their complete organization has brought it about, and the men who can best organize against them will be the most successful.
– Is not that a contradiction of what the honorable member has been saying?
– No. I am simply pointing out that the Labour Party have succeeded ‘ because they have readily conformed to the twentieth century idea of politics, and have organized their forces. I wish to see put forward in this Parliament a programme drawn on liberal and progressive lines. Such a programme will receive my support, regardless of by whom it may be put forward. The late Prime Minister introduced some legislation for which I voted, and I find myself associated with a party, some of the members of which are not prepared to vote for measures which I should favour. I am awaiting the coming of a leader who will put forward such a policy as I desire. My hope is that instead of having in New South Wales one able man striking a certain note in politics, and another equally able man striking an altogether different one, we shall have a strong leader striking a liberal note for the whole of Australia. It will then be for the people to decide between his party and the Labour Party. In the past the Labour Party have done their best and their worst, and can do no more. I have heard honorable members talk about friendships in this House, and I think that I may safely say that I have as many friends amongst the members of the Labour Party as have most honorable members. I certainly believe that the intentions of the Labour Ministry are good, and that they will discharge the duties of their offices just as honorably as have any who have preceded them. The one point of difference between us is the system which they favour. I approve of portion of their programme, but of other parts of it I disapprove. I cannot, for instance, subscribe to the principle of nationalization. I can point to States Departments that are practically nationalized concerns,but are far from creditable, and in the circumstances I think that I should be an arrant coward if I stood forward now as a supporter of nationalization. As a matter of fact, I love individuality. The liberties which we enjoy to-day are largely the result of the individual efforts of strong men. I am a believer in the strong man theory ; but if a strong man is a conservative I am opposed to him. I have lived amongst the workers, and my experience is that the strong man in a trade loves his own individuality. The good mechanic is not one who is prepared always to walk in a groove. He strikes out for himself, and the Labour Party themselves area living evidence of the value of personality and ambition. They would not be on the Treasury bench to-day if they were not ambitious, and their love of ambition is, to my mind, an absolute contradiction of the principle of government by caucus or system to which they subscribe. Probably they believe that in the multitude of councillors there is wisdom and are pleased therefore to be directed by their leagues ; but I certainly should not like to occupy such a position. The honorable member for Ballarat, like myself and others, holds views that are not far removed from those of the party, but we refuse to be dominated by a system or organization, and to be drilled. The Labour Party may describe such a system as freedom, but I regard it as tyranny. If, after my sixteen years of public life, the electors are not prepared any longer to trust me as a free man, I certainly do not wish to secure re-election by having the stamp of an organization put upon me. The mere fact that I was selected by a league would not make me a better man.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs said the other day that the man who says that he is “as good as a Labour man “ is a fraud..
– I say that I am better than a Labour man, and I seek no patronage from the Labour Party. My own party are not too “struck” on me: I do not think that honorable members of the Opposition would be much concerned if I were thrown out of political life.
– That is not so.
– I have no right to attack honorable members on this side of the House. They do not attack me, and I am prepared to accord them the privileges that I demand for myself. I believe that the radical party predominates on the Opposition benches, and that what they want is a leader and a policy. I may be wrong, but the man who looms most largely in the public eye as the holder of radical views in this House to-day is, I believe, the ex- Prime Minister. The honorable member for Werriwa has made certain charges, but they concern the honorable member for Ballarat, and not me.. I am here to do what I conceive to be best in the interests of Australia and the constituency which I represent, and I intend to do it. The members of the Labour Party are as honorable as are those of any other party. They may believe in the “quick despatch order” of dealing with Governments, and perhaps it is just as well to put out a Ministry as they have done, without any screaming or bitterness, instead of defeating them after a long debate, in which many hard things are said’ until the numbers are up. I anxiously await the Labour Party’s programme. I recognise that it would be unfair to ask them to put their programme into working order at the present moment. They are now. completing the work of the session which was introduced by their predecessors, and my vote in respect of that work will be cast just as if there had been no disruption. I do not desire a long recess, but I trust that that into which we are about to go will be such that the Labour Government will be able, when we resume, to come forward with a full statement of their programme. It is for them to determine what measures they should introduce, and if their proposed legislation is that of which I approve I shall certainly support it. If a Liberal leader can come forward with an equally good programme, and with a promise of that freedom which is not the lot of the Labour Party, I shall’ certainly vote against that party.
– What a.bout the honorable member’s own position?
– When the honorable member is able to do what I can do - when he can “go on his own “ - it will be time enough for him to ask that question.
– Pride goeth before a fall..
– The Attorney-General has some pride, and I think I was justified in making the statement that I did in reply to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, since the Labour Party is not likely to spare me at the next general election. I do not believe in indulging in mere polite phrases, and then resorting to the vinegar bottle. When there is going to be a row I take care to get in first. I am looking forward with a. good deal of expectancy to the work of the Labour Ministry. The workers are not to be fed with promises or platforms. They will expect the Government to carry out its programme, or to abandon office. The Ministry will have to struggle to get over the last twelve miles of their journey, and to keep the twenty-seven members of their party together. When the dissensions on this side of the Chamber are dead, and we have a leader whom we can trust to assist us in carrying out a Liberal programme, the Labour Party will have the fight for which they have asked ; but the result will not be such as they would wish to anticipate.
.- The motion is similar to one which I submitted a fortnight ago to concentrate the attention of honorable members upon the business to be transacted before the Christmas prorogation, and I should not speak upon it but for the opportunity to reply in a few sentences to some statements from members of the Opposition. This will avoid the need for replying to their charges at a later stage, though it may not prevent a repetition of them. The idea that the members of the late Government should display emotions of regret, mingled with exasperation, because of their displacement, can be entertained only by those who forget the extraordinary cirsumstances prevailing during the whole of this and of the last Parliament. The House being divided into three or four political sections, none of which has a majority, it has been necessary, to enable the government of the country to be carried on, for two of these parties to act together.In my reply to a motion of want of confidence moved a month ago. I spoke at some length of the difficulties occasioned by such a situation. Last Parliament the Labour Party arrived at a resolution, which they made public, to give a general support to the Government when it assumed office. We afterwards received no other assurances of the kind. During this Parliament there was only a tacit understanding that the Ministerial and the Labour Parties would co-operate so long as both should think expedient. Under these extraordinary circumstances, the work of the session was transacted until a fortnight ago, when, on the 6th November, the leader of the Labour Party made an important announcement to the House. The co-operation of two parties was necessary for the conduct of business, but each remained independent of the other, exercising a separate judgment as to the course it would follow. These exceptional circumstances supply a sufficient answer to the exclamations of surprise that we should be neither exasperated by what has occurred, nor feel called upon to show the slightest personal animus towards those who have displaced us. Again, none of our crtics has pointed out that when the leader of the Labour Party made his announcement of severance he stated the reasons which actuated him and his followers. He mentioned, what had been obvious, that “ from time to time embarrassing circumstances had arisen.” I interpret that to mean “ in this House.”
– Solely in this House.
– He repeated that there had been “ situations of embarrassment.” He spoke, too, of the “ restraint that a large party such as his must feel in difficult circumstances.” That was the second reason for the action which he was taking. The restraint has been real. He also said that he had “endeavoured to restrain within reasonable grounds adverse criticism within his own following,” and, being unable to do so longer, had arrived at the determination of which he was informing the House, that from this out our paths must divide. His was a sufficient, plain, straightforward, and truthful statement.
– The honorable and learned member is easily pleased.
– Each party has always had to judge for itself. I am not defending the decision of the Labour Party, or saying that the course which it has followed was the best, or that its last action is wise ; it is sufficient for me that its members considered it wise. The government of the country was being conducted by the co-operation of two independent parties, and, to my mind, the reasons given by one of those parties for the termination of ‘the understanding - restraint of its proceedings, embarrassment in connexion with the business of the House, and adverse criticism that it could not stifle - were sufficient.. I know nothing beyond what is contained in the public statement of the leader of the party. He has not acquainted me with any other motives, il there are any, that actuated him and his followers in coming to their decision. Such a statement, coming from the leader of the party which has been described by honorable members opposite as the most separate in the House, was ample for me. We were not called upon to take exception to the action of an independent party which, having supported us for a considerable time, saw fit to withdraw its support, any more than they were entitled to canvass any decision of ours.
– Then we may take it that every one on that side is satisfied.
– I hope so. They ought to be.
– The honorable and learned member has spoken of the change of attitude without giving a scintilla of reason for it.
– I have given the reasons advanced by the leader of the Labour Party, which, to my mind, are clear. If, in the future, we find that the proposals of the Government cause us embarrassment, and unduly restrain our freedom, we shall not support it. If its programme places us in a false position in regard to our constituents, or if I cannot control the hostile criticism of my followers, we must withdraw our support.
– In this case there was no apparent reason for the withdrawal of support.
– The honorable member must not expect me to find reasons for the action of a party with which I am not connected. All I say is that the reasons stated by the leader of the Labour Party were clear. Surely it is easy to understand the situation which presented itself to a party having a programme as extensive and as definite as that of the Labour Party. Evidently we had not gone far enough for that, nor fast enough for them. Was not that sufficient justification for its action? Knowing what the party’s platform is, and the responsibility of its members in connexion therewith, why should we feel resentment when the time arrived at which they conceived themselves bound to go farther?
– The position would be different if the Labour Party proposed to go further and faster.
– I am unable to say what that party will do in the future. The bond between it and ourselves was an agreement existing from day to day and1 from month to month, terminable at any moment. The members of the Labour Party are the only judges of its action. T express no opinion as to the wisdom or practicability of the course or appropriateness of the time it has chosen.
– Like any other party, it may do unreasonable things if it wishes.
– Honorable members have heard the explanation given by the leader of the Labour Party. We needed no other. There was no secret compact to dissolve. The leader of the Labour Party was under no obligation to make excuses for his .conduct, and, under the circumstances, could have taken no more straightforward or considerate course. He might have been justified in moving a direct motion of want of confidence, but evidently felt that, having regard to the relations which had subsisted between his party and ours, some more marked divergence of views would have been necessary to call for such action. Instead of striking at us, he frankly gave the reasons why it had been resolved to end the tacit understanding between us. I cannot but suspect that honorable membersopposite who look for the display of acrimony on our part have given some acceptance to the current fables about the relations between the two parties. The honorable member for Wide Bay has been pictured as a tyrant who dictated to our Cabinet the measures which we should propose, and our handling of them. But, in fact, both he and his ‘predecessor, who were at all times most courteous and considerate, did no such thing. Their communicationswere few, made always to myself, and, inevery instance, afterwards communicated tethe House or became apparent in connexionwith the business on hand. At no time was any influence exercised other than was patent during the proceedings inthis Chamber, when the Labour Party, or some of its members, differed’ from us in greater or lesser “degree in regard to proposals under discussion. Consequently, there having been no dragooning for us to resent, and there being- no dragooning for my honorable friend to anticipate from me in the future - as I hope to adopt an exactly similar course to that which he followed, in any case, either of agreement or disagreement - neither of us has anything to regret in the relations which have existed. Now I hope to have satisfied the curiosity of my honorable friends opposite.
– The honorable member has not satisfied them.
– I do not take so hopeless a view.
– The situation is a double-barrelled one.
– It is three or four barrelled. In fact, it is a sort of mitrailleuse, reminding one of those inventions of a brilliant genius described by an American humourist. He discovered that the ordinary piece of artillery was defective, because if it could be discharged at both ends at once, it might be much more destructive, especially if set spinning, to deal its destruction at large. While our parliamentary situation has not been so complicated, it has certainly not been as simple as a double-barrelled gun. Having already occupied more time than I intended in order to remove the apprehensions of my honorable friends, let me now proceed to discuss with the honorable member for North Sydney, and with the right honorable member for Swan - if he were present - the constitutional view of the particular method by’ which the change of Government was brought about. In the first place, I have not only no complaint to make as to the action of the present Ministers and their supporters, but have no complaint of the action of the direct and indirect Opposition, and they were perfectly within their rights in voting for the motion of the present Prime Minister ; but they in no sense aroused any resentment in my mind. They were perfectly at liberty to do as they did, and under no obligation to me not to do it. But let me dwell a little further upon the constitutional significance of the action which was taken. That action, from a tactical point of view, was a source of the profoundest surprise to me. ‘ Honorable members sitting on the opposite side have been asserting during the whole course of this debate, and, in fact, have told us for three years past that their principal, if not their only, objection to the Government which I led lay in the fact that we were as sociated with the Labour Party, and thus allowing them to share, to some extent, in the exercise of the powers of government. It has to be remembered first, that the cardinal doctrine of all honorable members on that side is that the Labour Party is not, in any circumstances, to be allowed any share of power. They are to be isolated as a minority in this House without any more power than their own numbers give them. Then recall the intimation which I felt it my duty to give to the House before any of these events took place. I discussed the whole relation of parties, explaining the position of the Government, and insisted that if its conduct of business was challenged in anyway, no matter how slight, it could not consent to retain office. I made a Ministerial statement, and suggested that I should move a motion. If it had been desired, either by the leader of the Opposition in the first place, or, by the leader of the Opposition Corner in the second place, to follow with statements of their own, that was the time at which they could have made them. They had the opportunity. Neither of them chose to take it. That, of course, was their affair.’ I then gave notice of a motion which would have enabled every member in the House not only to make a statement, but to submit arguments in relation to the position. That was blocked by the leader of the Opposition in the exercise of his right.
– May I say at once that I believe the objection was taken because we had only just come from a very exhausting journey, and rushed straight up to the House, and wanted time.
– I have no doubt that is one explanation of the course which the leader of the Opposition then took. I am only concerned, for my argument, to point out that this was the second opportunity offered to him and to the House. It was declined for the reason just given, whether there was any other reason associated with it or not. Finally, I did move a motion which could not be objected to, and on that third opportunity arising for all honorable members to speak, the only honorable member who did so was the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– He was the only man who could.
– When he sat down, the floor was still open to every- other honorable member. We might have had a week’s debate on that motion if it had been thought fit. Honorable members chose to sit silent. Acting as they did afterwards, it was a perfectly consistent course for them to follow. If they intended to accept the lead of the Labour Party on this motion, their most judicious and strategic conduct was to sit still and say nothing. They did so. Of that I make cot the slightest complaint, direct or indirect. But they threw away the only chance of following a consistent policy. They need not have taken any course that involved their putting the Labour Party in power. They might first of all have intimated to the Government publicly by word of mouth that they never did, and never would, have any confidence in us. If at that time they had done this, and their allies in the Opposition corner had done the same - if they had stated that die votes which they were obliged to give us were not votes to keep our Government in power, or expressing any confidence in us, but were votes expressing their permanent want of confidence in the Labour Party, and thus showing their consistency - if then they had come over here in a body, and sat behind the Government, that Government could not and would not have retained office for a day, or even for an hour. They would have put us out decisively and consistently. But what a different constitutional situation would have been created ! When the leader of the strongest party in the House, on a motion of want of confidence, deliberately challenged by the Government of the day, has the support of the leader of the official Opposition and the whole of his supporters, and of the leader of the Opposition corner and the whole of his supporters, what choice was left to the representative of His Majesty as to the person who should be sent to for to form a new Government? That is the point I endeavoured to make to the honorable member for North Sydney last evening, although, of course, it was impossible to do so completely by interjection. The two courses I have mentioned, at least, were open to the Opposition, besides a third, if not a fourth, one, which it is unnecessary to describe. But such a course 2s those honorable members took, I can say without any breach of confidence, marie it unnecessary for any representative cif the King to ask for any advice on the subject at all. It indicated the person whom all parties in this House outside our own declared ought to be sent for. Therefore, the course followed by honorable members opposite - a perfectly legitimate course, to which I take not the slightest objection, and which, from a personal point of view, I prefer - brought the present Ministry into power by the solid vote of the whole Opposition. Perhaps the remark that, from a personal point of view, I prefer what has happened, needs a word of explanation. I prefer it for this reason : Our Government had to go out. and it was of great advantage to them and their supporters that they were able to do so without having any obligations imposed upon them at the time of their going out. We were left, as we desired to be left, to stand by ourselves or fall by ourselves, commencing our new course of conduct perfectly free from obligations which we had not sought and did not desire. Consequently the series of events could not have been more acceptable to my colleagues and myself if we had dictated it. But the argument is incontrovertible that the course followed by the Opposition as a whole, in putting aside its three opportunities of explaining itself to the House, of challenging an expression of opinion, its silence, its unanimity in voting behind the leader of the Labour Party, were the essential factors that put that leader in power. Our votes were naturally against him. The honorable member for North Sydney proceeded to affix to us the responsibility of now retaining the Ministry in power - a responsibility for our actions similar to that which the Labour Party bore during their support of the late Government. That is a perfectly fair assertion, and, I think, the honorable member understood last night that I accepted it. Honorable members sitting in this corner have, and must accept, that responsibility. That - although not that particular form of it - was the very thing I foresaw last week, when I said that, unhappily, the vote about to be taken, and the change of Ministry [hat must follow, would not settle the situation. I said it might, or might not, help to clear it ; but that, at all events, it left us in a painful condition of confusion with a consequent division of responsibility. The situation described must be left to develop itself before the sight of the country and in a perfectly constitutional manner. The present Government and their supporters have their opportunity. They are free from any obligation to us, just as we were free of obligation to them. They will take the course which they believe, in accordance with their principles, to be most advantageous to the country, and by that they will be judged. In a similar manner the whole Opposition, and also honorable members in this corner, who are not included in the direct Government party, will be properly judged by their conduct as they offer factious resistance to reasonable proposals, or give them the support they deserve. We cannot avoid being judged by this standard, and we ought to be judged by it. For my own part, I was reluctant to join’ in this debate, simply because it appeared to me we should gain nothing by it. Seeing the shortness of time in which we have to dispose of a considerable amount of practical business, and the desirability of getting to that business without further delay, my colleagues and myself hastened the vote which has placed that business in other hands. I have, also, as far as I could, stated the case in no contentious fashion, except in regard to one constitutional point, in order to save time.
– It has been a most admirable dialectic - scarcely a reasoned - utterance.
– I shall accept any title of the kind the honorable member chooses to bestow ; I have expressly tried not to provoke further discussion. I have made this short statement in order to avoid, so far as we are concerned, a repetition of explanations, which relate to a situation, fortunately for us, foreseen before we left office, and which have been dealt with by myself fully in statements already made. To those statements I beg to refer future critics on either side. We are now prepared to co-operate with the Government, and with the whole of the House, in order to give effect, not only to our own policy, but to any additions to or variations of it which the circumstances of the country require.
– Including nationalization?
– Of what?
– Of various industries and monopolies.
– There are some industries of which the nationalization is, I think, highly desirable ; and amongst them that of coining interjections in Parlia ment. That industry has been developed to such perfection in the hands of the honorable member for Lang and others opposite, that their monopoly ought now to be intrusted to a Government Department. Such a proposal for nationalization is just as impracticable as most of the others.
– Will the honorable member support it ?
– Let me see the Bill. The change now accomplished in the Government affords this House another chance of settling down to business. It affords the Labour Party an opportunity of showing that despite their remoter aims, they can deal with practical business in a practical way, and the House its opportunity of rising above what sometimes appears to be a prejudice against the possibility of those who have impracticable ideas doing practical business. There is no such impossibility ; it is perfectly possible for the Government and their supporters to justify their retention of office for all the time they devote themselves soberly to the business of the country ; and for the rest of us, there is the possibility of showing that we can take advantage of such a state of affairs to maintain a healthier condition of party relations than has obtained in the House for the past few years.
– I do not propose to attempt to make any apology for the vote I gave, which resulted in the defeat of the Deakin-Lyne Government. On the platform I deliberately stated that on the first opportunity I should vote to put an end to what I regarded as a very improper state of affairs in this House, namely, minority Government ; just as I shall take the first opportunity that presents itself to vote against the present minority Government. Events have transpired which show that the Government have already received a six months’ notice to quit.
– Where is the majority ?
– I hope the Minister will very early have an opportunity of testing that question. The honorable member for Ballarat has suggested that an Opposition, which a few nights previously had deliberately challenged his Government, should have walked over and supported that Government as against the Labour Party.
– If the Opposition had done so, the Government would have retired.
– Experience shows that the late Government would not have retired so long as they had a majority of any kind. I repeat that I am not going to apologize for the vote I gave; and I have no sympathy with men who, after giving a deliberate vote, turn round and whine about it. Honorable members on whom the present Government’ rely for support have already told the Labour Party that they shall remain in office only so long as they do nothing.
– The honorable member for Ballarat did not say anything like that.
– The honorable member for Ballarat does not pledge himself to carry the whole of the members of his party with him in support of the Government ; and he would be the last to say that he had either the power or the desire to herd his followers up against their inclinations. There are strong evidences that he had no authority to pledge his party. Although the late Prime Minister may or may not have given any such intimation to the Government as I have indicated, the honorable member for Laanecoorie, the honorable member for Corio, and the honorable member for Mernda, have declared that the moment the Government introduce their labour programme, they will be put out of office. Of course, if the Government are prepared to accept the situation and do nothing for the remainder of the life of the present Parliament, their tenure of office may be secure. However that may be, the position is very unsatisfactory, not only to this House, but to the people of Australia. As a matter of fact, the Government are now living on a policy of scuttle; but, in my opinion, they will be compelled to bring their programme before Parliament, and we know that they will not survive the first test vote. What is our position so far as the electors are concerned? We have done little or nothing during the present year; and the Government propose to go into recess, and, five or six months’ hence, bring down their programme, on which they are doomed to defeat. All honorable members, except those twenty-seven of the Labour Party, were elected to oppose that programme at the first and every opportunity ; the defeat of the Government next session will mean another change ; and, with an approaching general election, nothing will be done during next year. If the Government are really in earnest, it would be infinitely better for them to test their programme during the present session, rather than waste five or six months of recess, with certain defeat at the end.
– Suppose the Labour Government be removed, in what better position will Parliament be next year?
– We have to deal with the condition of affairs as it is. The Government policy at present is one of do nothing - one which means deserting, however temporarily, the programme they were elected to carry out, and which means a barren session next year. The salaries of members and Ministers cost the country some £76,000 per annum, and the electors have a right to something more than a Government which lives on promises and sufferance. In my opinion, the majority of the Labour Party outside, if not inside, the House believe that the Government should stand or fall on its merits.
– Hear, hear ! No timidity !
– If the present attitude of the Government is not timidity, what is it? The Prime Minister has been told that the moment he takes one step forward towards the introduction of the Labour platform, he is to be defeated.
– Then it is just as well to know !
– The Government do know, and vet they are prepared to accept the situation. The Attorney-General made a piteous appeal yesterday when he said, “ Do not butcher us now, but give us time.” But the honorable member for Dalley has pointed out that the programme of the Labour Party was prepared at the Inter-State Conference at Brisbane ; and that is the programme which the Government will have to submit to the House.
– That is the programme for the next Parliament.
– The Minister of Home Affairs last night displayed a courage not observable on the part of other Ministers, when, holding up the noticepaper, in answer to an interjection, he said, “ There is a portion of our programme for next year.” That programme includes a Federal Land Tax, the provision of the whole cost of defence out of direct taxation;andthe nationalization of the shipping industry. Are we to understand that the Ministry have one programme for Parliament, and another programme for outside? If, as I believe, they are going to stand by their policy, the whole of next session will be wasted by our allowing them to humbug themselves into the belief that they can go into recess to prepare a programme to which a majority of this House will agree. I am one of those who gave a direct vote against the late Government, and am prepared to accept the full responsibility for it. I believe, also, that during the present session a direct vote should be taken to determine whether the House is prepared to allow the Ministry to go into recess to prepare a programme which the majority of honorable members were returned to oppose, and which they have already ‘announced their intention of defeating. The electors expect something more of us than that we should spend the whole of our time in what may be called political “thimble-rigging.”
– Yes; we are now receiving £600 , a year.
– It is about time that, at least, some of us set to work to try to earn it. We are certainly not earning it whilst we permit a Government with a programme to which it is committed up to the hilt to remain in office, although it is afraid to say one word in favour of it during the present session. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Attorney-General during this debate has said one word in support of the Federal Labour platform. They have not the pluck when in office to enunciate any one principle embodied in motions they, as private members, placed on the business paper. The whole of their fighting platform has been put out of sight, in order that they may go into recess to prepare a programme which this Parliament has already told them they will not be permitted to carry out.
– The honorable member forgets that their fighting programme is not their Government programme.
– I am beginning to think that there is a great difference between the fighting programme of the Labour Party when they are free lances, and their scuttling programme when they are on the Treasury bench. The Prime Minister, when outlining, on Wednesday, the programme for the remainder of the session, presented the spectacle of a blind man walking on the brink of a precipice, and afraid to take one step forward, lest he might be hurled to his doom. He made no reference whatever to any intention on the part of the Government to give effect to any of the principles embodied in the fighting programme of the party, of which so much has been said at the Inter-State Labour Conferences and at meetings of Labour leagues.
– We have this session a whole fortnight in which to carry out the programme !
– It is a question, not of the Labour Party carrying out their programme now, but of their having the courage to say that they intend to propose next session the legislation that they were elected to secure. If we allowed Ministers to be humbugged into the belief that they are to go into recess to prepare a fighting programme for next session which will be acceptable to this House, we should be guilty of a criminal waste of time. Those on whom they are relying for support fling it at them as a kind of charity. They give them their support just as a bone might be thrown at a dog. The honorable member for Corio, a day or two ago, said that his party would support the new Ministry as long as they did nothing, but that the moment they took one step forward they would be put out of office. Honorable membersmay talk of the late Government having held the Treasury bench on sufferance; but I have not heard of speeches by Ministerial supporters that were so contemptuous in tone as were those delivered recently by the honorable member for Laanecoorie and the honorable member for Corio. They said in effect to the Labour Party, “We are only going to allow you to go into office as a kind of charity. The moment you attempt to carry out your policy we shall hurl you out of office.” Could a Ministry remain in power under more contemptible circumstances? I hope that before the session closes a test vote will be taken to determine whether the House is prepared to allow such a state of affairs as I have outlined to continue. I believe that the bulk of the Labour Party would welcome such a challenge. The Labour leagues certainly do not wish to see their pet representatives in this House, from whom they have expected so much, swayed only by a desire to get into office and then to hurry into recess, living on the votes of men who say that the moment thev take one step forward they will be condemned. In the interests of Australia we should demand from the Ministry an immediate disclosure of their programme for next session. If we do so we shall certainly avoid a wanton waste of time.
Mr. FOSTER (New England) [12.23!. - The burden of the cry of the Opposition throughout this debate has been, “We have painted the Labour Party as a sort of political tiger, but it refuses now to wear the tiger skin that we have prepared for it, and we are consequently very angry.”
– No; on the contrary, we are delighted to find that the tiger has long ears.
– The honorable member and his party have a> peculiar way of showing their delight. I listened with interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Dalley, who paid a high tribute to the Labour Party. . He began by indorsing our platform.
– Not the whole of it.
– At all events, the honorable member indorsed our programme for the present session, and then went on to say that our success was due to the fact that we had not to fight any other party with a great liberal and democratic programme. He disclaimed any desire to belong to an organization, yet in the very next breath he advocated the formation of an organization similar to our own.
– I spoke of the formation of an organization, but not of a similar organization to that of the Labour Party.
– The honorable member
Said that he desired to see an organization formed to fight the Labour Party and its programme. One of the highest tributes that could be paid to our programme is the fact that members of other parties have become tired of those which they have been supporting, and are crying for a new platform and a new organization. We are here first and foremost to give legislative effect to the programme in which we believe, but, as honorable members are aware, we have only a fortnight in which to pass certain necessary measures before the present session closes. It is. absolutely necessary that we should deal first of all with the Estimates, yet we are asked why we have not come forward with what may be described as a Tom Mann programme. Had we done so, we should have delighted the Opposition and the Opposition corner party. I can well imagine the jubilation of the Conservative press if such a programme had been submittedThey would have said, “Have we not declared again and again that if the Labour Party were in office they would not be able to carry out any legislation, and would’ attempt the impossible. Down with themat once.”
– Is it absolutely necessary to go into recess before all this good work is done?
– The good work of which I have spoken can be done within a fortnight. I refer to the passing of the Estimates.
– But what about the other good work which the’ Labour Party has before it?
– It will be. dealt with in due time. The Labour Party is quite as competent to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth as is any other party. In looking at the history of the Labour Party, I have been somewhat amused by the objections that have always been urged against itstaking possession of the Treasury bench. We have invariably been told that we should” drive capital out of the country. During this debate, however, we have heard nothing of that cry, and I think we may take it that our opponents now recognise that it is wholly unfounded, and have given it up.
– Why ! The price of wool has already increased !
– And we have been told that Australian stocks have also gone up. Surely it cannot be said that the confidence of the commercial world in Australia has been shaken by our taking office. The one complaint of the Opposition is that we will not attempt the impossible. There seems to be a feeling in certain quarters that we are ignorant of ‘finance ; that we are familiar with the process of pawning a bonnet, a brooch, or a dress ring, but that we should find it impossible to control the finances of the Commonwealth. I am willing to admit that our party is absolutely ignorant of financial jugglery. We freely give to those who are staunch supporters of the Opposition the palm for financial jugglery, for watering stock, and for questionable finance all along the line. We freely yield to them pride of place in creating prices and dragging money out of the pockets of the people by means of trusts, and it is to fight their abominable finance that we are here. Throughout the civilized world, the peopleare demanding that they should be considered in matters affecting commerce and finance. It has amused me, as a student of these things, to hear the progress of Australia spoken of as if we were concerned only with the wealthy and prosperous. The interests of the people have been left out of sight, and it remains for our party to bring them to the front. We hope” to have the assistance of Parliament in passing honest financial proposals. We see the rocks ahead. The last Government, had it remained in power, would have found it difficult to steer past them. Many adjustments must be made between the States and Commonwealth before the financial outlook can be clear and hopeful. The payment of oldage pensions will need some financing, and we know the position of the Post Office. I have complained of the present state of affairs there, and shall continue to do so. I shall treat this Government as harshly as any other, if it does not take all means in its power to provide an efficient postal service, especially in the country districts. I have always opposed the idea that country postal services should be made to pav. That is an injustice to the pioneers who go into the country, and face all the hardships of the position. Then, too, the question of defence must be kept in sight. I regard it as criminal to make no provision for the defence of a continent containing 3,000,000 square miles. Defence preparations will absorb some of our cash at a later date. But the Government will not falter when the time comes . to bring forward its proposals, and, if necessary, will suggest direct taxation. I hope to see a land tax imposed, and I desire also the establishment of a Cornwon wealth National Bank. We have not exhausted our sources of revenue. Hitherto we have been satisfied with the revenue from the Customs and Excise duties ; but as the Tariff becomes more effective, that will diminish. Still, we must have money to carry on the government of the country. In addition to the special expenditure which T have suggested, large funds will be necessary for the development of the Northern Territory and the making of the Transcontinental railway. All these works will be proposed in their proper order. It wo”ld hp ridiculous to urge that they should be brought forward within a fortnight. Tt will take ten times that period to consider how things mav best be done. It is ridiculous for honorable members opposite to try to moke it appear that the members of the Labour Party think that they can give effect to their platform within six months or a year Our programme is for the future, and our supporters outside know that we shall give effect to it as quickly as we are permitted to do so. Unfortunately, we are in a minority, and until our supporters increase, the giving of effect to the measures which we advocate must be delayed. The new leader of the Opposition has my warm congratulations. He is the right man in the right place, having earned his position by hard work. I pay him that tribute, though I disagree with his politics, and shall have to oppose him. I cannot but think what a keen reader of the times the brainy ex-leader of the Opposition is. But some shred of his mantle has fallen ‘ upon his successor, who yesterday stated that he would have nothing to do with an anti-Labour programme. If we can convert the whole Opposition to the Labour programme, we shall be able to sit as one party. The late leader of the Opposition discovered that he made a mistake in fighting a campaign on the antiSocialism issue. What he meant by antiSocialism was anti-Labour. He tried to frighten the electors, and having fooled them so long, thought he could fool them for ever. In the days when he did his best work, he had the support of the Labour Party, and he knows that when he left it his path was full of pitfalls. There is no hope of him leading the party again, and like a wise man he acknowledges that his day has passed.
– Does the honorable member repudiate Socialism?
– The anxiety of the members of the Opposition as “to our attitude in regard to Socialism is amusing. They have kept a tiger in their back yard so long that it is becoming troublesome.
– Socialism is not a tiger.
– They have spoken of it as an awful tiger, which would destroy everything, and complain because we do not -act as they say Socialists do. I am pleased that the leader of the Opposition has come forward as the champion of the unemployed, though I cannot forget that by voting against protective duties he lessened the amount of employment available to our people. At the same time, when he received a telegram from the farmers of his district, he voted for a tax on tinned milk.
– Like four of the Ministers whom the honorable member is supporting, he was an advocate of low duties.
– The Labour Party has been accused of having done nothing for the unemployed. Why are the men tramping about this glorious country looking for work, and unable to find it ? It is because of the bad administration of the past. The old political parties did nothing for the people. In New South Wales the Government provided sand shifting and other petty charitable jobs. The Labour Party has never had an opportunity to do anything; it has been prevented by the other parties.
– Now that it has an opportunity, it proposes to go into recess as quickly as possible.
– The honorable member’s sneers are very mean. When other honorable members w’ere working very hard, dealing with important measures, he was away in England, enjoying a little recess of his own.
– The honorable member must know why I was forced to go away.
– If the honorable member chooses to sneer at us, he must put up with our retorts. I have a great respect for him personally, but it would_ lead to very serious consequences at times if one were to take notice of his sneers and laughter, and, fortunately, they are generally disregarded. The finest union in Australia - the Shearers’ Union - -by coming before the Arbitration Court as a federated body, has been able to obtain an increase in the rates for shearing. Other industrial unions have not scored similar triumphs because they have not followed that example. To say that the workers have got nothing out of Federation is clap-trap. No member of this House should be an enemy of Federation. Have the States done so much that we should pass a slur upon the Commonwealth? This Parliament is more democratic than those of the States, and more is to be hoped for from it. But no matter what the Labour Party brings forward to benefit the workers, the Opposition will play a game of bluff, which is the one game that it can play. Its members, by indorsing most of our proposals, acknowledge that the day of Conservatism and Toryism is past, and therefore they can defeat us only by hindering us from pass ing legislation. It has been said that the New Zealand Government, which has passed so much beneficent legislation, is not a Labour Government. I lived for two years in the Dominion, and passed through’ an election there, so that I know something about its politics. The Government did not call itself a Labour Government, but whatever the workers asked for within reason was given to them-. All sorts of concessions were made to the people, and good results have followed. Have we ever had a similar Government in Australia? No Australian Government has attempted so much, and the workers of Australia would not have got one-tenth of what they have, had it not been for the efforts of the Labour Party both in Parliament and outside. I was pleased to hear the ex-leader of the Opposition give his adherence to the new protection. I hope that when the measure is brought down it will be supported by many honorable members outside of the Labour Party. We must surely acknowledge that if we are to help manufacturers we should also helpthe men they employ. I know men whohave had a conscientious objection to giving Customs protection at all, because theworkers got no share of it. I might well instance same of the members in my ownparty. I leave them to judge whether they have been right or wrong in that attitude,, but they have been right in demanding that a share should go to the workers as well as1 to the manufacturers. It has been insinuated that the consumer is absolutely forgotten. That is not a fact, and I, for one, shall insist on his not being overlooked’ when the measure is before the House.
– That was only the expression of a hope on the other side.
– It is like the hope of honorable members opposite that we would” bring down a twenty years’ programme inone session. It appears to me that the objection which will be urged against the Federal control of industries in the shapeof the new protection by some honorablemembers, notably by the leader of the Opposition, will be that by that means wemay level up conditions “throughout the Commonwealth. I can quite understand^ that, serving their masters, the wealthy, their desire is to leave open at least one or two parts of the Commonwealth where lowwages can be paid, and long hours worked,. in order that there the capitalists may concentrate. I can quite believe that that is the desire behind their obstructive opposition to the new protection, and also behind their great free-trade advocacy. I believe they would willingly give the great trusts of the world a chance to do all their manufacturing in China or Japan, where they could get the cheapest and most sweated labour. They need not think that the Labour Party are a body of ignorant men, who cannot see behind their schemes. When I take up a daily paper to ascertain what those persons are thinking, I find that they are throwing dust in the eyes of the people, raising every issue but the real one. I can see the real motive behind the opposition to the movement for the proper regulation of wages and labour conditions throughout the Commonwealth. They would like to see applied in Australia what they would apply generally to the rest of the world if possible.
– The honorable member for Parramatta said he was afraid that the result of the new protection scheme would be to level down, and not to level up.
– I did not hear him make that statement. If he did, I am pleased to know it, because the sooner he becomes a Labour man the better. The cry of the leader of the Opposition, “ By what authority do you people sit there and administer the affairs of Australia?” came very pathetically across the chamber. If I wanted authorities, I should say that the motion of want-of -confidence previously moved by the honorable member for East Sydney, and so ably dealt with by the honorable member for Ballarat, gave His Excellency the Governor-General a good lead as to the position of affairs. It showed at any rate, that that right honorable member had a meagre following of only 19 or 20. The main slashing of the late Administration has come from the Opposition. While the Tariff was going through this House, we heard continuous suggestions from honorable members opposite that we, and not the small party of fifteen led by the honorable member for Ballarat, should be on the Treasury bench. But earlier this session, when they thought there was a possibility of that very thing happening, they were silent. Surely the castigation of the late Administration by the Opposition was a fair reason for a change of Government. I cannot help referring to the peculiar effort of the
Opposition to coax the late Government into their parlour. It reminds me of the little couplet - “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the spider to the fly, “It is the prettiest parlour that ever you did spy.”
The Opposition have gone on their knees, as it were, to beg those fifteen supporters of the Labour Party to go over to their side. The leader of the Opposition even told them that the bed was soft, and the pillow beautiful. I cannot help feeling slightly amused at the great desire shown by the Opposition corner to set the Labour Party fighting with the Ministerial corner. I can assure honorable members that I am not a spokesman for the Cabinet. I am speaking simply as an independent member of Parliament with a full right to criticise public affairs on the floor of the House. I may be pardoned for saying, in conclusion, that the leader of the Opposition seems to be in a very cold position. No matter how willing his party may be to coalesce with any other faction in the House, I believe that the people will refuse to indorse the action of any men who throw away their political principles and* join with another party with the sole object of destroying an Administration and blocking progress. In fact, so cold is the position of the leader of the Opposition that he reminds me of a man who went out fishing. He was able to throw his “ Lvne “ into the river, but fell in with it and got a good wetting. When he crawled out he tried to make a fire, but found that the “ Forrest “ would not burn, as it was frozen over by a local iceberg, and all he could do was to sit down on a broken “Reid” and howl at the party opposite. “By what authority ? By what authority?”
.- I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the honorable member for New England, but I strongly object to his. statement that we who are members of the Opposition are the servants of the capitalist. That is a base insinuation which I desire to deny. I am no more the servant of the capitalist than I am the servant of the worker. I flatter myself that I am equally the servant of all classes who compose the population of the country. I came here to represent my constituency as a whole, and I decline to be classified by any honorable member as purely and simply a servant of the capitalistic classes. I refuse to believe that I ought to represent one class in preference to any other, but I am afraid that that is the relation which the honorable member holds to those who sent him here. He may claim with pride that he is a servant of the -worker, and of nobodyelse, and that he comes here to legislate not for the good of the majority of the people, but simply for one particular class. It may well be said that he is sent here by a small clique. Does he represent anybody?
– Did not the people send him here by their votes?
– He comes here as the result of the vote of the people, but once here he finds himself bound hand and foot to do exactly as the majority of the party direct, amd not as his own conscience would dictate. Every man on that side of the House is in exactly the same position. They call themselves free men, Australians, representatives of the people, but they are nothing of the sort. They are here simply as the representatives of a machine. They have been selected not by the people, but by the Trades Halls outside - by those, small conglomerations of men who are simply a law unto themselves. Yet that is the party which has the audacity to usurp the Treasury bench, to hold the tiller, and guide the ship of State. They have no authority from the people to take up the position that they have assumed. How they got there I do not know, but they are there byno constitutional right. I am not permitted to discuss the action of the representative of the Crown in Australia, but I can speak of the action of the late Prime Minister, as I presume that it must have been on his recommendation that the Labour Party were called to office.
– Why presume anything if the honorable member does not know it?
– I am quite within my rights in drawing certain conclusions from what I see. The honorable member, perhaps, has never seen his brain, but we may permit him to suppose that he has one. I should imagine that the late Prime Minister recommended that the honorable member for Wide Bay should be sent for to form a Government, but I do not know what authority he had for do;ng so. I understand that it has been the custom in times past for a member of Parliament, before he could take office, to assure His Excellency that he had a majority at his back. What assurance could the present Prime Minister have given to the GovernorGeneral that he could command such a majority? He has simply his twentyseven supporters, who are a, minority of the House.
– He had a promise of support from the honorable member for Ballarat.
– If he had a promise from the honorable member for Ballarat, I warn him not to rely too much upon it, because that honorable member has made promises on previous occasions which he has failed to keep.
– That is not correct.
– We know all about the Ballarat speech, all about the way in which the honorable member for Ballarat treated the late leader of the Opposition, and all about the stab in the dark. If the Prime Minister is going to trust himself in similar hands, T sincerely hope that he will not have occasion to regret it.
– 1 hope I shall not squeal.
– There was an occasion on which the Labour Party did squeal. I remember the ludicrous spectacle drawn by the honorable member for Ballarat of the present Attorney-General being dragged away from office, kicking and squealing like a little boy who was being dragged from a tart shop.
Sitting suspended from i to 2.15 p.m.
– We must not lose sight of the fact that this is a most important occasion. I am rather astonished at the atmosphere of the House, and confess that I do not understand it. There appears to be an air of content and genial itv which the position of affairs does not warrant. This is the second occasion on which a Labour Government has taken the reins of office ; we have reached, as it were, a turning point in the history of the country - it shows, at any rate, that we in Australia have a decided democratic tendency. With that I have no quarrel - with that T thoroughly agree. I have been taunted with the suggestion that I came here as a representative of the capitalists; but I claim to have every sympathy that a man can possibly have with the worker. What have the so-called Labour Party - this Socialist Party - done as vet for the worker, and what do they propose to do? Is there not at the gates of this House a monument to the eight hours movement? And was not that started fifty years ago? What had the Labour Party to do with that movement? Sympathy with the worker was felt by the governing classes of Australia long before the Labour Party came into existence. Only the other day I attended a demonstration in my electorate, and I was saddened at the thought of how little confidence the majority of my constituents have in the party who represent them. Their cry is, “What have you done for us? Have we an eight hour day, after all the stress and turmoil we have gone through?” In Victoria, young women are working eleven hours a day for 15s. a week; and the Labour Party are doing nothing for them.
– What is the capitalistic party doing for them?
– The capitalistic partyshould not be in a position to tyrannize over any class of worker ; and if we on this side of the House had the support from the Labour Party that we should have, things would be very much better. I look on the recent change of Government with considerable suspicion. There was a small minority on the Treasury benches kept in power by a party nearly double in number ; and yet, without any explanation to the people or the House, the signal was given, and a countermarch took place. One party retired to sit in the corner, while the Labour Party took possession of the Treasury bench, and some explanation of the reason for this silent movement is due to the country. .1 am reminded of a horse-breaker, who, when he mounts a restive animal for the first time, goes very carefully about his business. He puts his foot quietly in the stirrup, after gathering up the reins, and raises himself slowly and carefully until he gets his leg across. Once, however, he is firmly seated in the saddle, he plunges in his spurs; and it will be ai sad day for Australia when this so-called Labour Party find themselves secure, for then the flanks of this unhappy country will run with blood. I am looking to the future ; and, in my opinion, this country must pass through a period of Labour domination. I am glad that this is a young country, full of wealth and resources; because this will enable it, if necessary, to make a grand recovery. However, it must pass through the fire before it fulfils its destiny. It is evident to me that, if once the Labour Party get seated firmly on the Treasury benches, they will continue their policy of one step at a time; but, in the meantime, with a sort of runaway- knock at the door, they are creeping into recess. What is the policy which the Government present to us ? We are to have brought before us the Federal Capital Site and other questions upon which we are practically agreed, though, unfortunately, the Government do not appear to be so unanimous in regard to the Capital site as I should wish. I shall do all that I cart to bring about a settlement of the question ; and I believe that it is approaching finality. I am satisfied that the people of Australia, and particularly of New South Wales, will not rest satisfied until we have a home of our own; and I urge the Prime Minister to take the matter in hand, and not be guided^ for instance, by the Melbourne Age, which has already suggested a method by which a settlement may be delayed. As to old-age pensions, I should like to know where the money is to come from. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say, “ I take that responsibility “ ; but that is always the cry of small men who find themselves in office and power. Who are they to take the responsibility ?
– Only a fortnight ago, the present Prime Minister was blaming the late Treasurer for saying the same thing.
– And blaming him in no uncertain words, though the Prime Minister is now very careful as to what he says on the question. How different is the policy now submitted from that presented to us by the former Labour Prime Minister, the honorable member for South Sydney. That honorable member proposed to introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and a High Commissioner Bill; and, in my opinion, it is about time that a High Commissioner was appointed. We carr have no immigration policy until we have a High Commissioner; but the object of the Labour Party is to close the doors of Australia against immigrants. They believe profoundly in the exploded idea that, if the number of workers be increased, rates of pay must be decreased; and their sole object is by every means outside this Houseto prevent immigration. However, I urge the Prime Minister, at the earliest possible moment, to appoint a High Commissioner, and then proceed with a policy of immigration. The former Labour Prime Minister promised us a Fradulent Trade Marks Bill, a Papua Bill, a Transcontinental Railway Bill, an Amending
Electoral Bill, an Inter-State Commission Bill, a Quarantine Bill, and a Bill dealing with warlike material. That was something like a policy ; but the honorable member did not remain in office long enough to see his ideas take form. The honorable member went further, and proposed a policy for his second session, including a Navigation Bill, an Old-age Pensions Bill, a Banking Bill, and a Bill dealing with the tobacco monopoly. The present Government, on the other hand, merely offer us two proposals, on both of which we hope to be practically unanimous. However, we know quite well what the policy of the Labour Government is. We have only to turn to some of the notices of motion by the Labour Party as private members, to see what they would do if they could. For instance, the Prime Minister, as a private member, has a motion on the paper declaring that in the best interests of the Commonwealth, there should be a progressive land tax on unimproved land values, subject to an exemption of . £5,000. Did the Prime Minister tell us anything of that proposal in his statement to the House on Wednesday? Is the direct taxation he suggests to be utilized for the payment of old-age pensions? It is marvellous how the Labour Party, who were so constantly roaring out their opinions when in the Corner, now sit on the Treasury benches without opening their mouths ; this must mean an enormous capacity for self control. Then, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has a notice of motion declaring that it is advisable that the manufacture of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes shall be a national monopoly. ‘ What have we heard from the Prime Minister of the nationalization of monopolies? The honorable gentleman is moving softly and gently towards the recess.
– The honorable member would blame the Prime Minister if he proposed nationalization of monopolies.
– That is what I am here for - I am here to blame the Government, and not only the Government, but those honorable members who keep them in power. Perhaps Ministers would like to hear the opinion of the late Prime Minister on the working of the caucus machine ; and I shall take the liberty of quoting a few of his remarks.
– We know them by heart.
– It will do the honorable member no harm to hear them again ; and they are a warning from a man of great astuteness. The late Prime Minister, when speaking on the Ministerial statement of the honorable member for South Sydney as Prime Minister in the previous Labour Government said -
What we have to fear here is that machinery - so useful as long as you are not in a majority, so extremely efficient while you are fighting an uphill fight on the way to power - may, whenyou become possessed of power, represent almost exactly the machine as it now exists in America, worked in the primaries by interested persons, and afterwards by organizations and combinations to personal ends until it becomes represented in the Legislature by men who move just as the strings are pulled outside.
The honorable member for Ballarat there tells us that the Labour Party in this House are neither more nor less than puppets - nothing but a parcel of marionettes.
– Does the honorable member for Hunter indorse that opinion?
– I do. There are diseases which require drastic remedies ; and I am always prepared to speak as I think. The late Prime Minister went on to say -
But my honorable friends are approaching - and if they become a majority will be tempted perhaps to embrace the methods of - the machine which is fatal alike to the liberty of the individual elector and the liberty of the individual representative.
There we have as thorough a condemnation as could well be uttered. He shows distinctly that the Labour Party are simply a machine, which will revolve as the handle is turned. I do not fear the legislation that may be introduced or passed by the party, because I recognise that, whereas the late Government was like a horse between the shafts, and had to move as the reins were pulled, it is now on the box seat, and can determine which way the parliamentary coach should go.
– What is the honorable member afraid of?
– I am afraid, not so much of the legislation as of the administration of the Labour Party. We find them adopting the old plan of working quietly, and slipping speedily into recess. We may have a recess extending over six months, and during that time the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth will be in their hands. If I had my way, they would not have an opportunity to go into recess. Can we not find a man ready to rise to the occasion ? I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the late leader of the Opposition, who, seeing that it was impossible for him to bring the parties on this side of the House together, resigned his position, and, giving up all chance of place and power, retired into the background. I should like some honorable members in the Opposition corner to follow his example, and when they had done so, I should be glad if an honorable member with a mind of his own came forward to lead one united party - the anti-socialistic party - with a workmanlike majority against the minority which now without rhyme or reason occupies the Treasury bench.
.- I had not intended to take part in this debate, but having listened to so many comments on the situation, I feel inclined to add a moiety of my own. No very brilliant light has been thrown upon the road by which this Parliament must proceed. It must certainly progress much more expeditiously than it has done to perform the duties which the country requires of it. The honorable member for Ballarat expressed the opinion that we had now a favorable opportunity to get on with the business of the country ; but the honorable member for Franklin, who succeeded him, urged that before it could properly be proceeded with, the present Labour Ministry would have to be driven from office. I inquired, by way of interjection, whether we should be any better off as a Parliament if the present Ministry were out of office, but the honorable member did not condescend to enlighten us. It appears to me that even if the Labour Government be driven from office, the problem of managing the affairs of the Commonwealth with expedition, and with that thoroughness which is demanded of the Parliament, will be no nearer solution than it has been for some time. We have, undoubtedly, been playing the game of the ins and the outs to a degree that has been demoralizing to the Parliament as a whole, and has created a considerable measure of dissatisfaction throughout the continent. In view of the fact that a motion, which I have on the business-paper, cannot be reached this session, by reason of the Government having taken over the time usually allotted to private members’ business, I wish to point out briefly its appositeness to the situation, as has been indicated by many honorable members, during this debate. The motion reads-
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that motion.
– I understand, sir, that the motion has automatically disappeared from the business-paper owing to the fact that the time usually allotted to private members’ business has been appropriated by the Government.
– The honorable member will see that although that may be the result, all that is proposed by the motion before the House is not to remove from the business-paper notices of motion given by private members, but simply to give precedence to Government business. The standing order which precludes the anticipation of debate upon a motion on the business-paper must still prevail.
– I had forgotten foi the moment, sir, that the motion by the Prime Minister that Government business, should take precedence over private members’ business had not yet been carried.
– The business of the honorable member’s party is to pass the motion.
– My business is to talk serious politics in this House, and if [ could close my ears to frivolous interjections, no doubt I should be able to do so much better. It appears to me that this is the proper time to urge upon honorable members the necessity and advantage of a reform which in another country was adopted for exactly the same reasons that are presenting themselves to honorable members to-day. I am afraid, however, that in view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I shall be unable now to discuss the question of elective Ministries, as I had hoped to do. I shall only point out that there is undoubtedly a method by which we may overcome the difficulty with which we are at present confronted. It is a difficulty that has confronted other Parliaments in precisely similar conditions, and the method that they have adopted to overcome it has undoubtedly been successful in facilitating the business of the- country and in ending the demoralizing state of affairs in which principles are merely the cards with which politicians play for office. I hope on another occasion to be able to discuss the question more fully. If this Government goes out of office, I trust that I shall be able to give honorable members an opportunity to manifest their patriotism and their desire to proceed with the business of the country in a thoroughly practical way. The reform I have named can be carried into effect without any remarkable change. It is one to which a meeting of shareholders charged with the business of the country could give effect in half an hour, and it is only due to the inadequate, roundabout, cumbrous methods of Parliament that difficulties remain in the way of such a change.
– The effect, most likely, would be the same as before - the caucus would appoint the Government.
– I do not care what organizations, or individual members of Parliament, may desire to do in such a matter as the election of Ministries. I am confident that if the election of Ministries were conducted on the floor of the House, in the full light of day, just as you, Mr. Speaker, are elected to the Chair, the result would be the return to office of men capable of carrying out their duties, and that Parliament would be enabled to push on with its work. If any members of Parliament were so demoralized, or so false to their pledges, as to vote to put any one into office who might be regarded as unworthy or unfit, it would be for the electors, at the proper time, to settle with them. In that way, we should have a safeguard, to a large extent, against such methods as the honorable member suggests. I do not wish to take up the time of the House any longer, since I am “cribb’d, cabin’d, and confined?” by parliamentary procedure in discussing this matter in its fullest aspects; but I would seriously ask the House to consider whether there is not some effective method of getting out of the present political impasse - a method which I believe the country will demand before very long as one of the absolute necessities of the situation.
.- But for some of the speeches delivered this afternoon by Ministerial supporters, I should have deferred what I have to say until a later period when the present Government hope to meet the House in a new session, with probably a more extended programme. But certain statements have been made this afternoon which’ call for a reply. I am inclined to avail myself the more readily of the present opportunity, because much as I had hoped that we should be able to push on to-day with the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill, I realize that it is impossible to proceed with that measure this afternoon, and that, consequently, the remainder of the sitting will be devoted to the question now before us. In exercising my right to speak; therefore, I feel that I am not in any way prejudicing the passing of legislation.
– The honorable member is blocking the Seat of Government Bill, which is ready for consideration.
– The honorable member’s interjection shows to what mean, miserable subterfuges some honorable members will resort in order to misrepresent those who chance to sit in opposition to them. The Minister knows that there is not the slightest intention on the part of the Government to go on with that Bill this afternoon.
– There is.
– There is not. It has been actually arranged between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition that this debate should close by 4.30 p.m., when the sitting itself will close in less than an hour’s time. The honorable member knows that representatives from the other States must leave not later than halfpast 4 to catch their trains.
– The honorable member’s statements are incorrect. I am ready to at once move the second reading of the Seat of Government Bill.
– Then why did not the Minister call down his supporters, who have taken up most of the time in speaking to-day ? Why has he charged us, and not them, with blocking that measure? He knows perfectly well that it is not intended by his Government to deal with it this afternoon. I make the fact publicly known because of the misrepresentation to which we are so constantly subjected. I have no sympathy with the position of Ministers, but having supported a Government possessing a majority of only two, I know that their followers must feel most uncomfortable, for they have no majority at all, except by favour of another party. They know that they are sitting on a mine which at any moment may be exploded beneath them. The fuse is a slow-burning one, but it is likely to fire the mine when the Government meets the House again after the recess. For a time, if Ministers do nothing, no harm may come to them; but they are between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand, their temporary allies will destroy them if they attempt to give legislative effect to their socialistic proposals, and, on the other, their own organizations will wipe them out of existence if they pursue a policy of laissez faire. Thus they will be ground between the upper and the nether mill-stones. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat attempted this morning to saddle upon the Opposition the responsibility for the change of Government, and, to do so, indulged in a retrospect of our proceedings. But he went back only to the 6th of this month, the day on which the honorable member for Wide Bay made his statement that the Labour Party had withdrawn its support from the Government. But that was not far enough. It is necessary to go back about a fortnight further, when the right honorable member for East Sydney, having moved a motion affirming that the Deakin Administration did not possess the confidence of the House because its financial proposals were unsatisfactory, to which, with his concurrence, I moved the amendment that their old-age pensions proposals were also unsatisfactory, the members of the Labour Party voted with the Government against both motion and amendment, thus declaring their confidence in the Government, and their satisfaction with its financial proposals in general, and its inadequate provision for old-age pension proposals in particular. A few days after doing so, the Labour Party, without giving any reason for’ doing so, turned the Deakin Administration out of office. Yet the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had the temerity to taunt the Opposition with not having taken action to prevent the Labour Party from occupying the Treasury bench. Seeing that the Labour Party had refused to co-operate with us in turning out the Deakin Government, and had asserted its confidence in that Government, what support could the leader of the Opposition expect for a second motion of want of confidence within a day or two of the first, when the position of affairs was exactly the same? We on this side were pledged to vote against the socialistic proposals of the Labour Party, and against the Deakin Administration. The accidental consequence of our vote, that the Labour Ministry was put into office, was beyond our control. We did not know what the Governor- General would do. That could at best be merely a matter of conjecture, and it was our duty to con sider only what was the right course for us to pursue. Having yesterday declared we had no confidence in the Government, we could not, like the Labour Party, without any change in conditions having occurred in the meantime, stultify ourselves by declaring to-day that we had confidence in the same Government. A Labour Ministry, however, having come into power, we have now to consider what next to do. In the present temper of the House, it is impossible to remove the Government from office. While the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and his friends give the Government their support, unwillingly even though that support be given, it would be useless for us to move a motion of want of confidence, much as some of us would like to do so. Ministers have been asked their reasons for bringing about a change of Go-‘ vernment a few days after expressing confidence in the former Administration, whose programme and policy had not been in any way altered; but nothing has been said on the subject, and we have been left to form our own conclusions from the rumours which have reached us as to the dissension between the moderate and extreme socialistic sections of the Labour Party, of which the latter has succeeded in getting its way. Was the change brought about to expedite socialistic legislation? Common-sense replies, No. Had the Labour Party wished to expedite the passing of the measures on the programme of the Deakin Government, it would have left that Government in office, because its Ministers had the details of those measures at their finger ends.
– Does the honorable member think that the resumption of the land line in Canada would assist our unemployed ?
– No doubt that is a brilliant suggestion, but it was not anticipated when the fatal plunge was taken.
– Ministers do not term it a fatal plunge.
– It will, I think, prove fatal. Did they think that on the Treasury bench they could do more than would be done by an Administration subservient to them? No. They knew that their party numbered only twenty -seven in a House of seventy-four. They knew that there were forty-seven members of the House pledged to oppose socialistic legislation. Therefore it must have been as evident to them as it was to other honorable members, as welt as to the general public, that their best chance of getting something in the direction of the aims of their platform passed into law lay in maintaining the Government where it was. Instead of doing so they elected to displace the Government, and by that means not only was the actual business that was then being proceeded with delayed for at least a fortnight and so much valuable time sacrificed, but they absolutely destroyed, as they knew when they committed the act, the possibility of any of the socialistic planks of their Labour platform being carried into effect in this Parliament. We can, therefore, assume that some other consideration induced them to put themselves into such an indefensible position. What is their platform, and how do they expect to give effect to it in this Parliament? In their fighting platform for this Parliament are one or two things that have been taken from the Liberal programme, and that all Liberals and democrats in Australia agree with, such as the maintenance of a White Australia and old-age pensions. But it includes also a progressive tax on unimproved land values, without any remission of other taxation, the restriction of public borrowing, navigation laws, an amendment of the Arbitration Act, and a Citizens’ Defence Force, based, presumably, on a system of compulsory training or conscription, which is no more likely to be indorsed by a majority of people outside than it is by a majority of this House. When we speak of their Socialism, some honorable members on the other side become extremely restive. They do not like the term “ Socialist “ applied to them, except when they apply it themselves.
– Who objects to it?
– Several honorable members rise in a most aggrieved manner to protest against it. The Prime Minister himself has done so.
– We protest only against some of the outrageous definitions of Socialism being applied to our policy.
– They object to our fastening the name “Socialist” upon them, although individual members of the party have declared time after time on the floor of the House that they are Socialists - that the party is socialistic, and that their programme and objective are socialistic. We have also their own platform to show that they are Socialists, and the only inference to be drawn from this combination of circumstances is that any legislation which they put forward in the name of their organizations, and which they are sent into this House to try to pass, must be in the direction of Socialism. They are responsible for the application of the term to themselves. They have claimed to be Socialists, and have endeavoured by indirect means to give a socialistic character to a great deal of the legislation which has been proposed in this Chamber. Their objective is Socialism, and it is idle for them to pose as Socialists in the House and injured persons outside, whom their opponents wickedly miscall Socialists. Not long ago, Senator Pearce, Minister of Defence in the present Government, introduced in another Chamber a Bill to amend section 51 of the Constitution bv adding at the end thereof the following paragraph - “ the nationalization of monopolies with respect to production, manufacture, trade, and commerce.” If that is not whole-hog Socialism, I do not know what is. That. Bill lapsed owing to the prorogation.
– I do not think there is any one here who will repudiate that Bill.
– I am glad to know that. It is just as well to have these admissions on record, because they are always watered down or denied as soon as honorable members get outside the Chamber. They say, “It is our opponents who call us Socialists.” thereby implying that the accusation is false.
– That is not Socialism. .
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie says it is. So we have the Minister and one of his supporters contradicting one another. That supporter, by the way, ought to have been a Minister. If any member of that party ought to have been in the Government, it was the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who has done so much to bring about the change in the occupancy of the Treasury bench. I think he has been most undeservedly treated. If that Bill is not Socialism, perhaps the Minister will say that what I am about to quote is not Socialism. Senator Pearce, before he became a Minister, speaking in public at Hobart, said -
Individualism was doomed, and Socialism must take its place with the means of production manipulated and controlled by the whole people.
At that time and now, so far as I know, that sentiment was, and is, indorsed by the whole of the Labour Party, and is embodied in the terms of Senator Pearce’s Bill which
I have just quoted. No attempt has been made to deny that it represented the opinions of the party and their legislative aims. In the proposals which the Government intend to lay before us for our consideration later on, are any measures embodying those sentiments to be included, and, if not, why not? If not, do they repudiate those sentiments? Do they no longer entertain those principles? If so, it is due to the country, and especially to their own supporters that they should make public that change in their attitude. They cannot speak with one voice to their own leagues, with another voice to us in Parliament, and with another voice to the people outside.
– They would need to be hydra-headed.
– That is exactly what the party is, and that is why it is so difficult to deal with it. It is a hydra-headed party, speaking with many contradictory tongues to suit different audiences. The present Postmaster- General, speaking at Broken Hill at the last election, said -
This, then, is what the Labour movement means : - In one precise, pregnant word it means Socialism. Well, Socialism is your scheme, as apart from all other schemes.
He was speaking, of course, to the Labour leagues and the workers, to whom he was appealing for support.
It is based on social growth. It is the common holding of land and the means of production and exchange, and the holding of them for the equal benefit of all. ls that Socialism ?
– I think it is; but if it is, the other cannot be.
– One is the “ whole hog,” and the other is the “half hog.” Will the Minister repudiate that statement of the position and aims of the party by one of his own colleagues, or will he assist his colleague to put that principle on the statute-book ?
– Is the honorable member responsible for brother Knox’s views ?
– That was not a statement of the individual views of the honorable member for Barrier, but a declaration of the aims of the party, on whose behalf he spoke, and for whose policy he was asking support. I do not know whether he holds the same views now. If he does, I should like to see them put on the programme. Now is his opportunity. He and his colleagues have possession of the Treasury bench, and they have a chance to show their sincerity, and to show some justification for their occupancy of the Treasury bench. The honorable member for South Sydney, the late leader of the Labour Party, speaking at the New South Wales Labour League Conference before the last elections, in regard to Mr. Cann’s proposal for a cooperative commonwealth, founded upon the socialization of the production and distribution of wealth, is reported to have said that -
The sooner it was made clear that the movement was Socialist in its trend and intentions the better. It would be the wisest thing to make it a sine qua non that those who came into the party were Socialists.
The honorable member for Kennedy said on the floor of the House -
Let us appeal to the country, and let honorable members opposite take up the cry of antiSocialism whilst we take up the cry of Socialism.
Did the Minister for External Affairs object to that proposal when it was made? Did not the appeal of the honorable member for Kennedy mean that the aim of the party was Socialism? The honorable member for Maranoa, another highly respected member of the party, makes no secret of his views on the subject. The honorable member, when he was travelling through his constituency not very long ago, said, in the course of an interview, to a representative of the Queensland Worker -
I let them know where Jim Page stands all right. I am a Socialist, and I not only believe in Socialism in our time, but in Socialism all the time.
I presume that the honorable member still holds that opinion ; and I should like to know what he will think of the present Government if they do not bring down a programme embodying that policy.
– The honorable member cannot expect a programme in five minutes.
– But we ought to know the intentions of the Government within a fortnight; and the Prime Minister’s statement should have conveyed the information. There should be no difficulty in the matter. Their programme is made for them by their leagues. All that remains for them is to proceed with it. The fair inference is that the late Government was displaced because it did not advance quickly enough towards socialistic ideals; and yet we find the present Government doing nothing, and rather taking pride for having cleverly duped the House. I do not use the word “ duped “ in any offensive sense, but merely as the best word to describe the position.
– I must ask the honorable member to use some other phrase.
– Yes. I do not quite like it myself, but for the moment an equally appropriate term does not occur to me. I will say instead, “ misled.” At any rate, the natural assumption is that the late Government was displaced because . it did not go fast enough ; and I think it is fair to ask why the various socialistic proposals that have been made by Ministers when they were private members are not embodied in the proposals of the present Government? It is fair to suppose that the Brisbane Worker, and other newspapers of the kind, which are the official organs of the Labour Party. by whom they are subsidized, represent the views of the organization ?
– But the Labour Party repudiate those organs in the House.
-.-Still, seeing that these newspapers are subsidized by the party, it is sheer nonsense to pretend to repudiate them. They are the party’s official organs. This is what the Brisbane Worker said -
Nothing short of a policy of straight-out Socialism, vigorously and persistently pursued, can be of much avail, and the labour movement must be part of the great world-wide onsweep which threatens dynasties in its progress, and is shaking established institutions to their base.
What are the Labour Party doing now in the way of “ threatening dynasties” and “shaking established institutions?” The same newspaper said -
The flag of our faith is flung out to the battle breezes - the banner of Socialism.
Then, again, when speaking of the Labour candidate who was opposing the late Prime Minister at Ballarat at the last election, and of the attempt by some members of the party to water down their Socialism, the Worker said -
The pledged caucus, man who is- running against the Prime Minister at Ballarat, declared that the objective is collective ownership, but it is being kept in the background, because it is at present unattainable. The objective was not, however, to be lost sight of. He did not wish to deceive his hearers in the slightest degree, but his party was leading direct to Socialism.
Although it may be convenient for the party in Parliament to hide the socialistic objective as much as possible, the Brisbane
Worker does not take that view. There is evidently a feeling among the Party’s candidates that the votes of die people would not be obtained if Socialism were made too prominent ; but the Worker declares that the objective must not be lost sight of ; and there is no doubt that Socialism is the objective of the Labour Party, notwithstanding all their cunning devices to disguise the fact. I have now to refer to some of the proposals made by members of the Labour Party before the present Government took office. The party were then red hot for such ideas as the nationalization of the tobacco industry, which, indeed, was one of their trump cards. Some little time ago a member of the party was instrumental in securing the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate this subject, with a majority of Socialists appointed as members of it, and the recommendation made was that the idea should be carried out. Another proposal was the nationalization of the sugar industry; and in another place, in 1905, a motion was actually carried in favour of that step. Further, there was a Royal Commission to inquire into the nationalization of shipping ; and the honorable member for South Sydney, speaking at Redfern, said -
It was time they intervened by nationalizing the shipping industry.
It must be remembered that while the Watson Administration was in, office an attempt was made at something like a realization of the socialistic ideal in connexion with borrowing money, the Government proposing to force the banks to give the Commonwealth a loan of £8,000,000 without interest. Then the honorable member for Melbourne proposed the nationalization of coal mines ; and the nationalization of the milk supply was suggested in New South Wales. We have only to look at the business-paper to see how many notices of similar socialistic motions there are in the names of members of the party. At the present moment some of these members are now Ministers who have the power to bring in legislation, and have the ball at their feet. These notices include the nationalization of Inter-State shipping, of the tobacco industry, of commercial trusts, combines, &c. Further, we cannot dissociate the State Labour Party from the Federal Labour Party, for the reason that both have declared .themselves one, with the same aims anc objective, only acting in two different spheres ; and the State Labour platform embraced the nationalization of land, the nationalization of any industry which becomes a private monopoly, the production by State mines of all iron used by the States, the nationalization of coal mines, State iron works, State woollen mills and clothing factories, State mills for sugar, grain, and other products, and the establishment of a State Export Department. Yet again the honorable member for Herbert a few days ago said the Party was going in for “ more Socialism and of a more pronounced type,” and the Labour Women’s Convention has just declared that the time has come to move in the direction’ of “ the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” In the face of all this evidence, it is idle for the Labour Party to attempt to throw dust inthe eyes of the people, and declare that they are being falsely accused of being Socialists. Since the late Prime Minister has thought it necessary to come to the rescue of his recent allies, who kept him in office for so long, it will be interesting to remind him of some utterances which he made not very long ago bearing upon a situation similar to that which has now arisen. At a meeting held at Ballarat on the 2nd August, 1904, the honorable member said-
– I think that that speech has already been quoted.
– I do not think that it has been quoted in this debate. At the meeting in question the following motion was submitted -
That the time has arrived when it is imperative upon members of the general community to take steps to protect the Commonwealth against the sectional aims and interests which” tend to subordinate the public welfare to their own, and that this meeting approves of the formation of a National Political League, which has for its object the combination of all leagues which are opposed to Socialism.
That motion was moved by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– It was quoted by the right honorable member for Swan, who dealt with it extensively.
– I was not aware of that; but I think it may well be referred to again since the situation to-day is exactly what it was when the honorable member for Ballarat supported it, and proposed to bring about a. combination against the party which he is at present deliberately keeping in power. It is well to remind that honorable member that he is the one man in this House who is responsible for a Social istic Government being in power to-day. He told us in this House only a few days ago that no Government could occupy the Treasury bench without the consent of himself and his party. That is perfectly true. As soon as he chooses to withdraw that support the Government must go to the wall, and that must be the position if only half-a-dozen members of his party withdraw their support from it. The honorable member for Ballarat, if he chooses, can put an end to the situation to-day ; this very hour. Instead of that, however, he announces his intention to support the present Government. To what extent that support will go I do not know. Speaking on the 1st July, 1905, with regard to the pledge taken by honorable members of the Labour Party to abide by the decision of the majority, and to that extent to be responsible, not to the electors, but to the caucus, he said -
The man who is not fit to be trusted on his spoken word is not fit to be trusted on his written word. And what is the object of that I ask you? The object is not to tie the candidate down to his constituents but to forge another link in the chain which binds him to the wire pullers and brings him under the thumb of the local committees.
Later on, he said -
Every party has its caucus, and I have not a word to say against it. But no caucus except that of the Labour Party seeks to compel the minority to vote against their convictions and their good judgment.
Notwithstanding that emphatic condemnation of the methods of the Labour Party, the honorable member now proposes to support them.
– Possibly he has since found that that condemnation was not justified.
– That is not so; he has repeated it in various forms since.
– It is a matter for regret that he should repeat an incorrect statement.
– I do not know whether it is an incorrect statement but it is his statement, embodying his opinion only. I presume we are right in assuming that he believed it to be correct when he made it.
– If the honorable member does not know whether it is true or not, does he think it fair to quote it?
– It is perfectly fair to quote it as the opinion of the honorable member who made it, and who is now supporting a party which has adopted a method that he says ought not to prevail. If that is not sufficient for the honorable member, let me quote a still more emphatic declaration by the ex- Prime Minister -
A leading member of the party told us three years ago that the .party was up for sale to the highest bidder. The oiler was made by_ one for the whole party, who were to follow his bidding. i ask you, could a more demoralizing bargain be transacted in any public body or in any great institution. It is a perfectly fair thing to make concessions for the purpose of. carrying on the practical business of the country. That is done by all parties. But no party that ever Australia had known had offered itself as a whole in this public manner. There is only one name for it - it is utterly demoralizing.
I find it difficult to understand the present attitude of the ex- Prime Minister if he still adheres to the opinion which he then expressed. If he has altered his views, the country and the House has a right to be so informed. He also said -
We have a state of things which threatens the early arrival of the “War Boss,” as they call him in America, and the caucus inside. What is left for the representative and what is left for the man the representative is supposed to represent? He first takes instructions from the “ War ]Joss,” and then votes as his caucus bids him. . . . What will be the inevitable result? If we are to see the political machine dev sloped, as it seems to be beginning to develop, in these directions, at last the rest of the community stung to exasperation, might probably resort to the same methods. I am not here to plead for it. I am here to oppose it. I would not light even the machine with another machine. I am fighting the machine with freedom, conscious of all its advantages. My plea to-night is not a plea to exasperate it ; it is a plea to the minds and consciences of those who listen to me, asking if there is not a better way in politics than the political machine. It is all right when the man dominates the machine, but with the Labour Party the machine appears to dominate the man.
If that statement was true then, it is equally true now, and it is thus all the more difficult for any person of ordinary reasoning powers to understand what could have induced the ex-Prime Minister to take up his present position. The Labour Partyturned him out of office practically without warning, without ceremony, and without explanation a few days after having expressed by vote in a division its entire confidence in him and his Government, and he is now calmly supporting them. He is supporting a Government which has not put forward its own policy, but is simply proposing for the present session to complete a portion, and only a very small portion, of the work which its predecessors had in hand at the moment of its retirement. We have had no satisfactory explanation of the honorable member’s attitude, and whilst this farce of responsible government is being enacted, we have simply to look on until, in the fullness of time, such developments are brought about as will enable us to unite on one common platform of a democratic, progressive, liberal, and humane character, the parties in this House opposed to Socialism. We require such a programme as will embrace all the essentials to human progress - all those essentials which make for the betterment of industrial conditions and of social life, and which exclude the objectionable elements of the enslaving and tyrannical system of Socialism. We have at the present time such a party in existence, but, unfortunately, owing to a want of cohesion, we are unable to present a united front to the advocates of the socialistic policy. In conclusion I express the hope that in a very short time we shall have a healthier condition of affairs in regard to our parliamentary government - a party commanding a majority on the Ministerial side, and a united Opposition on the other.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [3-46]– I should not have risen had I not desired to refer to a matter immediately affected by the motion which the Prime Minister has submitted ; but while on my feet I cannot help mentioning one or two matters which other honorable members have spoken upon at length, and probably more forcibly than I could- I have to complain, and I think the country will complain, that no satisfactory reason has been given for the recent silent change of Government. The Prime Minister might have been expected to commence his policy speech with a statement of the reasons actuating his party in withdrawing its support from the Deakin Administration. We have not been informed in what respect that Administration forfeited the confidence affirmed by the Labour Party only a few weeks ago.
– All we declared was that we did not desire to have the right honorable member for East Sydney in power.
Colonel FOXTON.- As the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, the Labour Party, a few days before the change of Government, had affirmed its satisfaction with the financial proposals of its predecessors, and particularly with its proposals in regard to old-age pensions.
– That was merely the formula upon which we voted.
Colonel FOXTON.- At any rate, those who voted against the motion declared their confidence in the Government of the day. The Attorney-General, when taunted on the subject, boasted that the Labour Party is in power because it commands the support of a majority in this House. I draw particular attention to that boast, since it has been alleged by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and others that the Opposition was responsible for the change of Government. The test of the matter is this : Axe those who sit behind the honorable and learned member ready to give a vote to displace the Labour Party? They are not. He has told us unmistakably that the wreckage of the party which he leads - to use his own phrase, because the whole of his former supporters are not now following him - will support the Government, at all events for this session. He says that the Opposition made a tactical blunder in connexion with the recent proceedings of the House, and that had it taken other action the result might have been different. I presume he means that another Government would be in power. The members of the Opposition are not political babes. Although the honorable and learned member has announced, three weeks after the event, that in any case he intended to resign, that was not known at the time. If, on the announcement of the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Labour Party would withdraw its support, the honorable and learned member had declared his intention to tender his resignation to the Governor-General, the course of events might have been different. But he did not retire until a specific motion had been carried against him. Had the Opposition taken such action as he now suggests they might have taken, it would have again found the Labour Party supporting the Ministry, and the position would have been “As you were.” The position would have been different had we known that the Prime Minister intended to resign under any circumstances. We had no justification for believing that the honorable member would resign, even though supported by the Opposition. Our experience during the last couple of years was not such as to lead us to suppose that the Government would seek the first opportunity of resigning upon receiving a rebuff. These matters are worthy of consideration in view of the taunt levelled at the Opposition from the Government corner that we are responsible for placing the Labour Party in power. What we voted against was the unholy alliance, and the improper exercise of power without responsibility. I, for one, notwithstanding the statement of the honorable member for Ballarat that it has been the one desire of the Opposition to keep the Labour Party off the Treasury bench, say emphatically that I verymuch prefer to see the Labour Party there than the continuance of the unsatisfactorystate of affairs which existed up to a fortnight ago. The position of the present Government is their own. affair. I have said that I expected an intimation whether any particular portion of the policy of the late Government, or its neglect to carry it out, was responsible for the change. Next to the question of getting safely into recess, and being in a position to see out their six months’ notice to quit, of which we have heard to-day, the two questions that appear to be most urgent for the consideration of the present Government are, “ What is the least we can do without incurring the condemnation of the leagues outside?” and “ What is the furthest we can go without forfeiting the support of the wreckage of the late Government Party?” How are they going to steer between those two beacons? I suppose we shall see next session.
– The honorable member is the last man who should talk about hanging on.
Colonel FOXTON.- I do not know what the honorable member alludes to.
– His past experience.
Colonel FOXTON.- I fling the insinuation back upon the honorable member and challenge him to prove what he imputes. Does he mean that I clung to office? The honorable member occupies next to you, sir, the most important position in the House, and has flung at me, not by actual words, but by insinuation, a charge- of hanging on to office, apparently, I presume, for the sake of emolument.
– Order ! I am sure that if the Prime Minister recognises that the remark is offensive to the honorable member for Brisbane he will withdraw it.
– Certainly. The honorable member has just said that our principal business was to get into recess.
– At the sacrifice of principle.
Colonel FOXTON. - I said nothing about the sacrifice of principle. The honorable member is putting words into my mouth. I had no intention of imputing any motives whatever to the Prime Minister or any member of his party. If there is anything at the back of their minds that causes them to think that what I have said is offensive I have much pleasure in withdrawing it. Of course, not being in their confidence, and not knowing their modes of thought, I am not responsible for the interpretation which they put on what I say. To deal more particularly with the matter about which I rose to speak, there is upon , the business paper a Bill which has been read a first time, and was down for its second reading a few days ago. I had hoped that it would be read a second time before this. I refer to the Representation Bill. It is a most important measure which proposes to amend the law in such a way as to enable any increased rights of representation which any State may acquire to be brought into operation before the next general election, and, thereafter, prior to the ensuing general election without waiting for the quinquennial enumeration day. That is a matter of the most vital importance to the States, and must certainly be” at least as important as any of those which the Prime Minister has mentioned as necessary to be dealt with in the promised amendment of the electoral law, because it affects the proportion of representation in this House to which the various States are entitled. We have democratized our institutions as far as we can, and have gone one better than any other country in this matter. It is, therefore, extremely desirable that the representation should be as complete and up to date as regards numbers as it is possible to make it. If the motion now before the Chair is carried, that Bill will necessarily practically disappear from the .business paper, and there will be no chance of its becoming law in time to enable its benefits to be felt at the next general election. There are two States which will be materially affected by it, viz., Queensland and New South Wales.
– It ought to be taken up. by the Government.
Colonel FOXTON.- I rose principally to ask whether the Prime Minister, especially as he is the sole representative of Queensland in the Ministry, could see his way to embody the provisions of that Bill in the amending Electoral Bill which he proposes to submit to the House.
– It is peculiar that on a motion to prevent private members from bringing their business forward, and to expedite Government business in order that the session may be closed in a fortnight or three weeks, two full days should be taken up in unearthing all the things that have taken place during the last ten or fifteen years in State and Federal politics. To me, whatever has taken place in the State Houses has nothing to do with the Federal Parliament, and so I always leave it severely alone. There are, however, two or three items with which the Prime Minister has not dealt in a way that I would like. ‘A few weeks ago I was told that the Quarantine Act, passed last session, would be brought into operation at an early date. The Prime Minister announced on Wednesday last that .it would not be brought into operation during this financial year. As one who has taken great interest in our quarantine regulations for a number of years, and who knows the difficulties of dealing with this important question in the various States, I was anxious that the Federal Act should come into operation as early as possible. I was, therefore, considerably disappointed with the Prime Minister’s statement, especially after the assurance that I received from the late Prime Minister that the Act would be brought into operation as soon as the representative of the Commonwealth returned from Western Australia, and arrangements had been made with the States. I do not know what has occurred to cause this serious delay, but if it was possible for the late Government to bring the Act into operation at an early date, 1 should think it would be just as possible for the present Government to give effect to it, as early as their officer returns from Western Australia and the. necessary arrangements can be made. I see from the newspapers that the Royal Commission on Insurance has been appointed ; and, while I do not know whether the Government have carried out the decision of their predecessors, I remember that when the question was discussed here, the opinion was freely expressed that the Commission should be one of experts, assisted by some members of Parliament. It now appears,, however, that the Commission is to consist of Mr. Justice Hood; and there is no doubt that a commission of one is always most unsatisfactory. An individual, no matter how clever he may be, must always regard a question from one point of view; and we shall have merely a written report, dealing probably with only legal points, while there will be no member of the House capable of explaining various questions which may arise. This matter is of vital importance and interest to the general public; and the Commission ought to have consisted of, at any rate, an expert in insurance, ana some business man or men quite apart from the legal profession. I have, of course, nothing to say against the gentleman who has been appointed ; but he has not had that large business experience of which some honorable members of the House have had the advantage. In the High Court we have five Justices to deal with questions of law, and yet a Royal Commission of one has been created to deal with a matter which affects every member of the community. As to the change of Government, I do not care what party is in power, so long as measures are introduced which I consider to be for the welfare of Australia. Instead of airing our petty grievances and quarrels, and filling Ilansard week after week, and year after year, we ought to study the interests of the whole of the people of the country. I fully sympathize with the appeal made by the honorable member for Kooyong last night for unity for the common good ; but that honorable member was followed by the honorable member for Barker, who declared that the late Government had done no business, and that there had been no beneficial results from the eight years of Federation. If all honorable members were like the honorable member for Barker I do not see how we could expect much result, seeing that he was absent last session for sixty-six days. In any case, I should like to know whether the honorable member has studied the history of other Federations, and ascertained what was done elsewhere in the same period of time. My anxiety is to reach the consideration of the Estimates and to deal with them thoroughly and without haste, because I regard them as the most important business of the Parliament.
– I have no complaint to make of the criticism which has been levelled at the Government, and so long as I have the honour to remain in my present position I shall appreciate all expressions of opinion, severe or otherwise. I do, however, appeal to honorable members not to insinuate that the members of the Ministry are any worse than honorable members who sit in other parts of the House. I have a vivid recollection of the leader of the previous Labour Government being accused of an endeavour to obtain another day of office; and any suggestions of that kind would undoubtedly be quite as unfortunate as offensive. I hope I am not misinterpreting what was said by the honorable member for Brisbane.
Colonel Foxton. - I never intended any offensive meaning.
– I confess that I should feel keenly any personal insinuation ; but any political criticism will be freely accepted, and met by us as far as possible. As to the Bill referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane, I shall give it consideration, although at present I cannot say I take the view he puts forward.
Colonel Foxton. - The Bill, as printed, is not complete, but requires further amendment.
– I shall be glad to have any information on the subject. The complaint as to delay in taking over quarantine administration can hardly be sustained on the evidence. The ComptrollerGeneral, Dr. Wollaston, has visited four States. Since we came into office he has visited one of the States, and there is still another to visit. In addition two conferences are to be held, and I remind the honorable member for .Bass that it was during my term of office as Minister of Trade and Customs four years ago that quarantine was proclaimed, and, apparently, we are asked to do, during our few days of office, what it has not been found passible to do during those intervening years. In regard to the appointment of Mr. Justice Hood as a Royal Commissioner on Insurance, I may say that it was, and is, the intention of the Government to associate with that gentleman Mr. Knibbs, the Government Statistician. At the time the Commission was issued some difficulties were in the way of the appointments, but these have been surmounted. Mr. Justice Hood will be chairman, with a casting vote if necessary, and Mr. Knibbs will be junior Commissioner, the report to be presented before the 30th June next.
– Were these gentlemen not practically decided on by the late Government ?
– Whatever was decided by another Government does not concern me. The better answer to the question, is that the time at our disposal did not at first permit us getting the necessary authority from the State to allow Mr. Justice Hood to act, and for the latter to arrange to undertake the work; but, as I say, those difficulties have now been surmounted. The other points raised during the discussion scarcely need, I think, to be referred to.
– Would the Prime Minister mind telling us why the Labour Party turned the late Government out?
– I can tell the honorable member that the first intimation I got was that the late Government had resigned. Having received from the Governor-General a commission to form a new Administration [ dutifully undertook the task, and, I am glad to say, with some success. I thank honorable members very heartily for the consideration which they have extended to us in the early days of our existence as a Ministry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. BATCHELOR laid upon the table the following papers -
Papua - Ordinances of1908 -
No. 8. - Supplementary Appropriation,1906-7, No. 2.
No. 9. - Supplementary Appropriation,1908-9.
No. 10. - Supplementary Appropriation, 1908-9, No. 2.
Order of Business - Purchase of the “ Bronzewing “ - Personal Explanation.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to learn what business is to be taken on Tuesday next?
.- I have received from the Minister of Home Affairs an assurance that the papers relating to the purchase of the steam yacht Bronzeiving, recently in Sydney, will be forthcoming, and I desire to ask that they be laid on the table of the Library. I have received from a gentleman of standing in Sydney a letter stating that this yacht which was purchased by the Government for £1,700, was under offer to a client of his in its then condition for the sum of £1,000, and that on being asked to report upon its value he decided that it was not worth the money. I feel that in the circumstances I am justified in asking that the papers be laid on the table of the Library for examination by honorable members.
ColonelFoxton. - Does he not also say that it was then in better repair?
– He does.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. On the 27 th October, in the course of the Budget debate, I referred to the deportation by the British Government of some 8,000 or 10,000 Frenchmen from Nova Scotia, United States, and elsewhere in the year 181 5. I find that in making that statement I misread my note, and that the year mentioned should have been 1756.
– I should not like it to be thought that honorable members of the Opposition generally concur in the view expressed by the honorable member for Wentworth that the Bronzewing is worth only £800.
– I did not make that statement.
– It is very similar to a yacht which I see almost daily when at home and which cost £5, 000. I should be ashamed to peruse the papers relating to the purchase of so magnificent a yacht for so small a sum as £1,700.
– Would the honorable member object to others perusing them?
– No; but I wish it to be understood that I do not support the request of the honorable member for Wentworth, who is apparently prepared to take notice of any statement that a correspondent chooses to make.
– I think that it is time that the papers relating to the purchase of this yacht were produced.
– Hear, hear. No one objects.
– Personally, I know nothing of the value of the yacht; but a good judge of such matters whose name I do not think I am at liberty to mention, told me the other day that in his opinion it was worth about £800 or £900.
– Did not an expert of high standing in New South Wales report upon its value?
– I think so. I have also been informed that the gentleman who first offered it to the Commonwealth Government as agent for the vendor completed the negotiations by becoming the agent of the Commonwealth Government.
– That is true.
– There ought to be no difficulty in such circumstances in making a deal.
– I should think that in that case there would be a willing buyer and a willing seller. I know nothing about the matter, but think it well that the papers should be made available to honorable members.
– There is no objection so far as I know to the production of the papers relating to the purchase of the Bronzewing. The purchase was made riot in haphazard fashion, but on the recommendation and approval of some of the most trusted officers of the Commonwealth. I believe that the Director- General of Works, whose capacity to form an estimate of the value of the yacht will not be questioned by the Opposition, recommended the purchase, and considers that a reasonable price was paid. There is absolutely nothing to conceal.
– The Director-General did not recommend its purchase for Customs purposes.
– I apprehend that the Director-General was thoroughly aware of the purpose for which it was intended.
– He stated in his report that the Department of Trade and Customs must take the responsibility of deciding for what purpose the launch was to be used.
– I have not seen that statement, but the report will be found among the papers. I have not had time to go very fully into the matter; but so far as my investigation went I discovered nothing” wrong in the transaction, and am perfectly satisfied that the late Government as well as the present Administration have nothing to hide in the matter.
– The papers relating to the purchase of the Bronzewing will be available for perusal by honorable members at their convenience. It is our desire to afford honorable members the fullest information relating to any public matter, and to allow them to inspect all save confidential documents which may be in the hands of the Executive. Opinions as to the value of this vessel differ con siderably. We propose on Tuesday next to proceed with the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, which I trust will be passed with expedition. The proceedings of a Committee axe being delayed because it does not possess the power to compel witnesses who are summoned, to attend, or those who attend to answer questions which they regard as inconvenient.
– It is proposed to modify the provisions of the Bill ?
– Yes. Afterwards we intend to proceed with Supply, and on Wednesday or Thursday - Wednesday, for preference - the second reading of the Seat of Government (Yass-Canberra) Bill will be moved.
– It would be well to fix the day definitely.
– Then I say Wednesday.
– What about extra sitting days?
– We propose to sit on the ordinary days next week, but in the following week to sit on Monday and Saturday as well, and I ask honorable members to keep that in view in making their arrangements.
– Why not sit on Saturday week ? If we sit on Monday week we cannot go home at the previous week-end.
– Some honorable members may desire to go home next Friday, and return on Sunday night or. Monday morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081127_reps_3_48/>.