3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30- p.m.’, and read prayers.
– In the interest of the people of the Commonwealth, who, I believe, wish to read true reports of the proceedings of Parliament, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, which of two reports of something which took place in this Chamber yesterday, both appearing in to-day’s Age, is correct. In its leading article the journal says that a request made by the Prime Minister had never been refused before, and that yesterday it was refused ; while, among its political comments in another column, it states that the leave he asked for was granted.
– The honorable gentleman will see that I have nothing to do with the reports which appear in the press.
– The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that, upon the issue of a proclamation, females over the age of sixty years may be paid pensions. Is it the intention of the Government to issue such a proclamation, and-, if so, when?
– The question will’ be? dealt with when the Amending Bill, now on the notice-paper, is being proceeded with.
Mr.FOWLER. - It was stated recently in an Australian magazine that the children of a gifted Australian poetess, who went to England a few years before her death, are now in an English workhouse. Will the Prime Minister inquire whether this is so, and, if the statement is correct, will he grant a sum to rescue these children from their position?
– I shall inquire into the matter.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper: -
Navigation Bill - Further correspondence (27th November,1908, to 31st March, 1909), between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
.- I move -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
– I submit that the motion is not in order. I raise the point now to prevent its being taken perhaps three or four da.ys hence, when, if it were upheld, so much time would have been wasted. Standing order 21 says -
No business except of a formal character shall be entered upon before the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s opening speech has been adopted.
The Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s opening speech has not been adopted; the discussion of a motion for its adoption was adjourned last night. I submit that the only business which can be taken before that motion is dealt with must be of a purely formal character. The motion just moved is obviously not a formal one. I am aware that, according to May, in the House of Commons, and also in the Canadian Parliament, it is permissible to move 1. motion of this kind before the adoption of an Address-in-Reply. But our first standing order declaresthat -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders, Tesort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland in force at the time of the adoption of these orders, which shall be followed as far as they can be applied to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.
The case with which we are now dealing is provided for under standing order 21, and I submit that, as the motion just moved does not come under the heading of formal business, it cannot be proceeded with until the Address-in-Reply has been adopted.
– The honorable member was kind enough to tell me, shortly before the meeting of the House, that he intended to take this action, and I am obliged to him for his courtesy. But before he saw me I had considered the point, and had come to the conclusion that, as it is by no means unusual, during the discussion of motions for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply, to debate and determine the fate of a Government, this motion is on all fours with such procedure. If I were to so interpret standing order 21 as to prohibit the putting of this motion for the discussion of. the administration and policy of the Government, I should have had to similarly prohibit the putting of the motion moved by the Prime Minister yesterday for the purpose of setting forth the Ministerial programme. Notwithstanding standing order 21, the motion just moved is in order, in accordance with the practice which we have followed since the first meeting of this Parliament.
– The motion which I have submitted is, as you, sir, have rightly ruled, couched in the form usually adopted on occasions such as these. I believe that it would have covered the ground better had it set forth that in the opinion of honorable members, the Government hot only do not possess the confidence of the House, but in no way represent the majority of the people of Australia. I feel it to be my public duty, as I have said on many platforms, to avail myself of the first opportunity - and of as many as offer in the ordinary course of parliamentary procedure - to compel the Government to submit themselves at the earliest moment to the electors.
– Perhaps they will oblige the Opposition.
– It is a matter of indifference to me, politically or otherwise, but it is of the highest importance that the integrity and the public promises of public men should be observed in this House. We find allied on the Treasury bench, and sitting behind the Government, a number of honorable members who went to the country on diametrically opposite programmes, and who made absolutely different promises to their constituents. It is an aggregation of honorable members that cannot be justified on the ground of public policy. Even the right honorable member for East Sydney stated, when leader of a party in this House, that coalitions were immoral, and could be justified only on the ground of national emergency or danger.
– Surely such an emergency now exists.
– The only national danger now existing is that entertained in the minds of honorable members opposite, who are afraid of losing their seats if they go before the electors.
– That is very rough on the honorable member’s own side.
– Honorable members on this side of the House, I venture to say, will speak for themselves, and will vote for a declaration that will enable the Parliament to be dissolved, and the people of Australia to be consulted regarding the combination that has now been brought into existence. I feel that in making such a statement, I am in no way exaggerating the facts. It is a grave reflection on the Prime Minister and leading members of his Government that on the very threshold of the existence of the Commonwealth they should have brought about an unholy combination to protect, not the interests of the public, but their own seats. Honorable members opposite have declared they should not be expected to continue to support principles in which they believe, if at the same time they run the risk of losing their seats. In other words, they have asked, “ Why should we do that which we have promised to do while our seats may be in danger?” That is not the position which an honorable member should take up, especially when we are only on the threshold of the existence of this young Commonwealth.
– I should think that if the electors did not agree with their views their seats would be in danger.
– Exactly. I have lived long enough in public life to have heard hurled at the party to which I belong the taunts of those who are so fortunate as to have behind them, not only a majority, but all the influence of the press and all the influence that money and monopolies can give. 1 have heard honorable members in such circumstances asking the members of our party, “ Why not consent to go before the electors?” Why is that attitude not taken up now? Why is it that a body of honorable members who can claim the support of the metropolitan, and of a great proportion of the country press - who have behind them all the great landed interests and all the influence of monopolies and of monied power - instead of being anxious to have the new combination consummated by a verdict of the electors, desire to follow their own devices ? Why do they wish to proceed with a mere policy of negation - a policy of ‘ ‘ diddle, ‘ ‘ to keep themselves in power for a little time, during which they may endeavour to smooth over their difficulties? Only yesterday, some of us, with the greatest courtesy to the Prime Minister, consented to his request that he should have leave to make a statement to the House.
– We granted his request without any demur, and the Age lied about us.
– We agreed to that request on the understanding that the statement would be debated, in accordance with the ordinary practice. It was our desire, not only that I, as leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Hume, as the leader of another party on this side of the House, should be allowed to speak to the motion, but that it should be open to debate by honorable members generally. What followed? The right honorable member for Swan smiles. The Prime Minister read a document - a copy of which I hold in my hand - without a word of explanation, and, although that action was entirely contrary to the Standing Orders, no one took exception to it.
– The honorable member for Hume, when a Minister, used to read his speeches.
– Is that the best defence that can be made by the Minister of Defence? I make no complaint of the Prime Minister having been permitted to read his statement, for there are times when, in my opinion, privileges should be granted to the leader of any party. If it was necessary in the opinion of the Cabinet to so tie down the Prime Minister that he could not utter a word beyond the statement that had been written for him, by all means let him read that statement, and so protect the other members of his Ministry.
– Every one knows that the Prime Minister could not speak for himself.
– lt was a question, not of the Prime Minister speaking far himself, but rather of the desirableness of his submitting a statement that had been prepared for him by the Cabinet, so that he dared not go beyond it by offering even a word of explanation. It was the first time in my parliamentary experience that a Ministerial statement had been submitted in that way. If I may be permitted to use a phrase employed in the public press, I may describe it as a policy speech made on behalf of the Deakin-Cook Ministry. There can be no doubt that it was a policy speech, and a more vague statement on grave matters of national concern has never been submitted in any Parliament. But that is a matter that can be well left on one side. During the recent adjournment of the House, the Government took a step which was not justifiable from a constitutional, parliamentary, Australian, or Imperial point of view. The Prime Minister- was interrogated regarding the views of the Coalition Government on the question of presenting a Dreadnought to Great Britain during the adjournment, but he declined to say “ yes” or “ po “ on that question. He had stated emphatically on many platforms in the country that a Dreadnought must be presented to Great Britain. No one could make any complaint about that, for he is entitled, as every other honorable member is, to express his opinion. If any one is entitled to do so, he should be, because of his long parliamentary experience, the beauty of his language, the clearness of expression that he is a master of, and that genial character which permits him to do things and be excused for them that, perhaps, no other honorable member in the House would be excused for. He may express any view that he pleases, and at that time he emphatically stated to the country that a Dreadnought must be presented to the Mother Country. If, then, he was clear on that point, he ought to have stated, in answer to the question to which I have referred, not only out of courtesy, but from a sense of public duty, that it was the intention of the Government to make such a presentation.
– He never was clear on anything.
– That is not my point. My point is that the Minister of Defence, the honorable member for North Sydney, and a number of others complained of the action of the Government of which I had the honour to be the head in deciding, in
February last, on what we considered ample evidence, to order three torpedo-boat destroyers for the nucleus of an Australian Navy.
– After a promise was given to the House that that money was not to be used without Parliament being consulted.
– I am under no obligation for a promise of that kind. I gave no such undertaking: I said, when the question was being discussed, that that vote was an earnest of the intention of Australia to proceed with its own defence. What happened ? The amateur critics of the Government at that time stated that our proposition was bad so far as regards administrative procedure, and that the policy itself was faulty. They said that we were not proceeding on right lines to provide for an Australian Navy. They persisted with those arguments for a few days, until a scare arose in Great Britain through a difference of opinion in the Imperial Cabinet as to whether there should be a big or a little Navy. Then the very members who were criticising the Government for taking action in a case where we had the actual money in hand to carry out our proposal to construct those boats, turned round and asked the Government to join with others in proffering a’ Dreadnought to Great Britain without parliamentary authority, and so incurring a financial obligation pf not less than ^2,000,000. Where is the consistency there? Large meetings were held here, attended by people who, from patriotic motives no doubt, considered it necessary to rush to the aid of the Mother Country with their advice. Those meetings carried resolutions denouncing the Government, and myself particularly, because we were not inclined to take of the situation in Great Britain the hysterical view that they took. But as soon as that spasmodic feeling had’ subsided or been allayed, the present Government of all the talents, with seven lawyers out of ten - two solicitors, and five barristers. - came along and said, “ During a short adjournment of Parliament we shall promise to the Mother Country a Dreadnought or its equivalent as a gift from the Australian Nation.” It is not usual for a gift to be promised in that form. When the firsthysterical outburst took place it was, in the words of many ‘of them, to be “a Dreadnought or nothing.” Because I said at the time, in answer to Ihe demand that we should promise a Dreadnought ow behalf of the Australian people, that that was not a policy, but a mere spectacular display, one leader of religious thought in this city stated at one of the public meetings that my refusal to speak on behalf of the Australian people was “ cheered in Berlin “ ! That is an instance of the state of mind of certain Melbourne people when the matter was being discussed. Then, after a dead calm, after it had been discovered that the feeling of alarm in Great Britain had been allayed, that the parties there knew that it was only a political move, and when it was absolutely established that Great Britain was not in danger, but was happily able to successfully rebuff any enemy that might attack her shores, the present Government of the Commonwealth, without the authority of Parliament, and against all constitutional usage and constitutional principles, virtually pledged this country to a gift equal in value to £2, 000,000. They did that without the authority of Parliament, although Parliament was in session. There are times when such acts might be justified, but this is not one of them. There was no urgency, and the matter ought to have been submitted to Parliament. It appears to me that the Government acted more like children than leaders of a great country like this. Apparently they said - “ We promised to do it, and we shall do it. We shall keep our promise whether it is constitutional or not.” The Prime Minister, even if he was under certain restrictions yesterday, might very well have outlined in a little clearer language what the Government meant by “ an equivalent.” The preceding Government had an actual policy on the question of naval defence, and the Prime Minister must, by looking at the documents, know exactly what that policy is. Matters of that kind should not be discussed in public, and certainly negotiations between the Imperial authorities and a young Commonwealth like this ought not to be made public, for party purposes. I am glad to see that the Minister of Defence agrees with that view. What, then, was the statement made regarding the reception by the Imperial Government of the proffer of a Dreadnought or its equivalent ? For three days the press of Australia announced that the Home Government had received the offer with many thanks and great enthusiasm for our loyalty in support of -the Mother Country. Then it was quietly intimated in one of the Sydney papers that the reply of the Imperial Government was not nearly so en- thusiastic as the press had been previously led to believe.
– I suppose it was all arranged.
– Whether it was all arranged or not, the reply is now in the hands of the people ; and what did it mean ? It meant that the Imperial Government would be glad to consider the matter at the pending Imperial Conference. The Prime Minister agrees as to that ; and now I ask what advantage was to be got except a political display for the advantage of a party that was on its last legs, and desired to keep on the road long enough to get over their temporary difficulty ? I feel that the action of the Government has done great injury to the development of national feeling in the Commonwealth. The Government have taken away the mind of young Australians from their own defence and turned it to the defence of the Mother Country, where help is not nearly so much required as it is here. They have indicated to the youth of Australia that we are not competent to defend this country, as the citizens of the United Kingdom defend their country. In the position I occupied at the time, and as a former citizen of the Old World, I had imperishable, loving recollections of the Mother Country ; and it would, indeed, have been a, delight to myself to present a Dreadnought, had I thought such action of service to the Empire and Australia. But the Government felt with me that tb present a Dreadnought would not help the British Empire, and would certainly do a grave injury to the defences of Australia.
– And lose the support of the outside Labour organizations !
– That may be the idea of the honorable member.
– It is the idea of a good many others !
– The suggestion is not worthy of the gallant member in this House, and, if he were elsewhere, only one word would be a suitable reply. The honorable member does not know what courage is. I have stood against organizations again and again, and I did not wait until the organizations were consulted - I did not wait a day or an hour, because I knew exactly my position on the question. This was an hysterical movement from the beginning - a party move from the very initiation, both in Great Britain and here.
– The honorable member made it a party question from the beginning.
– Did I? I never made, nor shall I ever make, the defence of the Empire or of Australia a party matter. When we find men who have honoured names in the Commonwealth, truckling to a little spasmodic, hysterical fear, born, in the first instance, perhaps of a reasonable patriotic wish to help the Mother Country, we may despair of some of them ever taking a national view. May I’ remind the honorable member for Laanecoorie that, previous to this outburst, the Labour Government had announced a programme that meant the construction of our own flotilla, after the first three vessels had been sent out, and the training of our own people. At the very time that so much anxiety was shown to present a Dreadnought we could not provide arms and ammunition, nor find sufficient money to permit the cadets to go into camp. After eight years of another Government, that was the state of the defences ; and I may remind the honorable member that he was a supporter of that Government. At the present moment, the expenditure per capita on the defences of Australia is only id. per head more than it was twenty years ago in the aggregate of the States ; and yet we have this defence question discussed again and again, and we are told that Australia is in danger. What were the reasons given for offering a Dreadnought? The first in the minds of the people was, perhaps, that Great Britain was in need of such assistance. But I am happy to say that, financially, Great Britain is in the best position in the world ; and there we find larger accommodation for building vessels and other machines of destruction than can be found elsewhere. There we find tens of thousands of mechanics capable of constructing these engines of warfare, and desirous of being so employed ; and that is the country to which it was suggested Australia., without any defence machinery at all, should offer a gift, borrowing the money from her in order to do so.
– The same argument was used against sending men to South Africa.
– Was it? There are men on this side, as well as opposite, who did not merely talk about going to South Africa, but went there although I understand that everybody who promised to go did not do so. That, however, has nothing to do with me. Why was this gift said to be necessary ? It was said to be necessary to prove our loyalty to the Mother Country. Is there a single member here or of the community who believes that? A loyalty that has to be buttressed with gifts is not a loyalty to rely on.
– It was the gift of gratitude.
-It would be, if we had the gift to bestow ; but where would we seek the moneys to provide the gift? The people who advocated the presentation of a Dreadnought suggested that we should borrow the money from the Mother Country for the purpose; but surely that is not a state of affairs to be desired?
Mr.Frazer. - Did not the Treasurer say that we need not worry about the money until we knew whether the gift would be accepted?
-It was not the Treasurer who said that. If the Minister of Defence were here I should comment upon the fact that when he announced the intention to present a Dreadnought, the newspaper reporter asked him where it was proposed to find the money. I can imagine the honorable gentleman, with a wave of the hand, saying, “ That is a matter for consideration afterwards.” A number of people think that the danger to Great Britain is in the North Sea ; but, as is always the case in international and diplomatic affairs, no one can say where the next trouble will arise, because, such trouble breaks out in most unexpected places. Here we are in Australia, without a single ship or gun to enable us to defend ourselves against our near neighbours. We are forty days from the aid of the great British Fleet, whereas with our own fleet and means to construct vessels, we should be able to make some kind of defence on our own account. Some of the ships we have here are absolutely out of date, while the armament is obsolete and useless : and yet, before we begin to provide ships for our own men,we are asked to make a gift which the Mother Country does not need. I need not refer to the land defences, because, if I understand the policy of the Government, it is somewhat nearly allied to that announced by Senator Pearce, as Minister of Defence of the previous Government.
– Just as that is allied to the previous scheme of the honorable member for Richmond.
– If the Prime Minister claims that our naval defence policy is his policy, I challenge his statement. I wish to direct his mind back to the year 1903, when the question was raised on the discussion of a proposal for a naval subsidy. I and others, who were at the time under the leadership of the honorable member for South Sydney, then declared against the granting of a naval subsidy to Great Britain, not as wrong in itself, but because we thought there was a better way of spending the money, by providing a navy of our own. The honorable member for South Sydney, when Prime Minister in 1904, submitted a scheme for an Australian Navy, and when the present Prime Minister said that that was a policy which he had previously inundated, the honorable member for South Sydney challenged the statement, and said that the only naval policy which the honorable member for Ballarat had engaged himself to was the sending out from Great Britain of a second or third class obsolete cruiser for the training of our own men. [f he doubts my statement, let him look it the Hansard reports of the debate. The Honorary Minister has been interviewed by a representative of the Melbourne Herald regarding his views on naval defence, and this is the account of what took place, published in that journal on the 10th of this month - “ In regard to naval defence,” continued Colonel Foxton, “ every Australian has a natural aspiration to see his country make a beginning in the construction of a local navy. In the fullness of time Australia may be able to boast that she has a navy which must be taken into account by other nations. That, as I have said, is a national aspiration.”
He was asked by the reporter -
You would continue the subsidy to Great Britain at the same time as the Australian Navy is being built up ?
To that the honorable member is reported to have replied -
Seeing that the subsidy we are paying £200,000 a year) is such a small one in comparison with the immense expenditure of the Mother Country on her Navy, and is really of very little consequence, as has been frequently said by leading British statesmen in Great Britain, I think we could better serve the interests of the Empire by turning our attention to the building up of our Navy. There are reasons, however, why a subsidy should be continued, and I would’ not for a moment reduce the present amount which we pay. I would rather increase it.
In conclusion, he says that he would bring these two forces together in one harmonious whole, under one supreme command. I understand that the Prime Minister has challenged that position. The gentleman who is to represent the Government at the forthcoming Defence Conference has stated that the Australian Navy, in his opinion, is to be under Imperial command at all times. At any rate, that is the view taken by a leader writer of the Herald, who says -
On the command question, chief of all, Senator Pearce is in perfect accord with Mr. Deakin, while apparently Colonel Foxton is not.
– The Age has said the same thing.
– I mention the matter now so that the Prime Minister may tell us whether the Admiralty is to have absolute control of the Australian Navy at all times, or whether this Navy is to be owned, manned, and controlled by our own people, except in certain emergencies. I should like him to say what the position is.
– Does the honorable member think that the Honorary Minister has been sent to the Conference to make definite arrangements? Is not his mission merely to report to and advise us?
– We do not know what the position is.
– The Conference is a secret one. I agreed with the Imperial authorities that it should be secret, and do not trespass on the credulity of members when I say that the Government of which I was head had some little share in the arrangements for it. I think that it is absolutely the right kind of Conference for the discussion of matters affecting defence. Such matters should be discussed in private, . with the assistance of experts, so that the defences of all portions of the Empire may be made to dove-tail into each other, and there may be co-operation in times of emergency. I do not think it necessary to enlarge further on this matter, and address myself now to one of the first administrative acts of the new Government. When Ministers came into power, they found that some of the defective administration of the late Deakin Government had been remedied. The scandalous system which that administration permitted to continue, under which large users of the telephone were given an advantage over small users, was stopped. But, instead of remaining firm in support of this reform, the new Ministers have yielded to the pressure brought to bear by deputations from Chambers of Commerce, the Employers’ Federation, led by the honorable member for Fawkner, and the newspapers. Although the Postmaster-General at first said that he did not think that he would be justified in making any alteration, the Ministry hauled down its colours when this pressure was brought to bear. Every one must admit that the flat rate system favours large users of the telephone at the expense of small users, and yet the Government has reverted to that system to all intents and purposes. If those on the flat rate are allowed to choose between remaining on that rate and becoming toll subscribers, they will naturally consult their own interests. Where a firm’s calls are very numerous it is cheaper for it to remain on the flat rate system, but occasionally it is advantageous to change to the toll system. Therefore, the Government is keeping in existence a mode of charging which benefits the large user and penalizes the small one. Never was there a more flagrant instance of yielding to pressure. That pressure was brought to bear by the powerful journalistic and monetary interests which made the present combination of parties possible, and Ministers accordingly yielded like lambs. How different has been the action of the Government in regard to another matter. For six years the important question of New Protection has repeatedly engaged the serious attention of this House, though nearly every member of the anti- Socialist party has spoken of the scheme put forward for the protection of the workers as a madcap scheme. How has the present Government treated the matter? Has it treated it as one of urgency?
– How did the honorable member’s Government propose to treat it? By asking for a dissolution, which would have deferred its settlement for three years.
– We would gladly have appealed to the country, and are ready to go before the electors now or at any time. Ministers have not shown the readiness to deal with New Protection which they exhibited when pressed by the Chambers of Commerce, the Employers.’ Federation, and the newspapers, to revert to the old telephone rates. They have not shown any readiness to assist the workers, notwithstanding the solemn pledge given by the last Deakin Administration when the Tariff was under consideration.
– The pledge was given by the honorable member for Hume.
– If the Government of which the honorable member for Hume was a Minister did not intend to make itself responsible, its head should have stated at once that he was not bound by it.
It would not be honorable for the Prime Minister to say now, “I am not committed to the promise which was made.”
– Our proposal, involving an alteration of the Constitution, was laid upon the table.
– The Labour Party put out of office the Deakin Administration which had made that proposal.
– The honorable member is anxious to secure a refuge behind the man whom a short time ago he was condemning. I have heard him say things about the late Deakin Administration which I have not thought it necessary to say myself. The reasons why that Administration left office are to be found in Hansard. The Prime Minister knows the facts, so that it is not necessary for me to parade them now. The public statement made was so full, and so amply covered the whole of the circumstances, that I need not repeat it. I wish to point out, however, the agility with which the Government are now proposing to cater for the big interests. In 1907 a memorandum was presented to the House by the Deakin Government, in which it was stated -
The method by which it is intended to secure the payment of fair and reasonable wages is, as already indicated, an exercise of the taxing power. Excise duties will be imposed on certain classes of goods, which enjoy the benefit of a sufficient protection, and an exemption from the duties so imposed will then be made in favour of those in the manufacture of which fair and reasonable wages are paid.
– Then the High Court declared that to be unconstitutional.
– I shall be glad of any correction as to facts, for I do not want any misstatement of fact to occur. My point is that the first memorandum issued by the Deakin Government proposed the Excise system of providing for the payment of fair wages. In the meantime, the employes of Mr. McKay took proceedings in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, with a view of obtaining an award providing for the payment of better wages in the harvester industry. The case came before Mr. Justice Higgins, who made an award providing for a scale of payments considerably higher than had been observed by Mr. McKay. The Government were then called upon under the Excise Act relating to the manufacture of harvesters to collect Excise. The case, however, was taken, on appeal, to the High Court, with the result that the award made by Mr. Justice Higgins was set aside on the ground that the Act was unconstitutional. Since then practically nothing has been done. A new memorandum was submitted by the Deakin Government, but they did practically nothing to protect the employes. The workers in the harvester industry were called upon to bear the expense of bringing their case before the Court, and it was my intention, as Treasurer, to place on the Estimates an item to repay the unions the expenses so incurred. The proceedings were taken to protect, not only the interests of the workers, but the revenue of the Commonwealth. Had they been successful, Excise could have been collected from the firms who had violated the law, and therefore I think that the men are entitled to be recouped their expenses. Although they failed because of a constitutional flaw in the Act to secure the advantage that Parliament intended they should receive, the fact remains that, as the result of their action, Mr. Justice Higgins laid down a new charter of the rights of the toilers - a charter which will stand for all time as a credit to him and to Australia.
– A new charter !
– It may suit the Minister of Defence to smile.
– I have heard this said so many times.
– It may be stated a thousand times without giving cause for jeers. The award made by Mr. Justice Higgins will stand for all time as a charter of the rights of the toilers, ana I should like to know whether there is in this House any one who condemns it. The learned Justice declared that the remuneration to be paid to the workers should be sufficient to enable them to keep themselves, their wives, and their families in a reasonable state of comfort as human beings living in a civilized community. Is there any objection to that declaration? Only a few days ago, Mr. Justice a’Beckett, in the Supreme Court- of Victoria, was called upon to make an award as to wages under the State law. He said, however, that the law was so worded as to prevent his con:sidering anything more than the wage necessary for the subsistence of the worker himself. However much he might desire to do so,, he could not, in making the award, take into consideration what was necessary to provide for the maintenance of a man’s wife and family. Surely no honorable member desires the continuance of such a, state of affairs? Do the present Government propose to remedy it? They are going to remedy it, I presume, by taking such action as will defer indefinitely the settlement of the matter.
– We are going to try to do something, and not merely tochatter about it.
– May I remind .the Minister of Defence of what has been done in this House by the Labour Party? His interjection shows the extent of his intellectual ability to deal with big questions. When I submitted a motion some time ago, calling upon the Government of the day to take immediate steps for the payment of old-age pensions, the honorable member spoke of the motion in the most off-hand” and contemptuous way, declaring that nothing could be done - that I was simply submitting a display motion, as nothing could eventuate, he said, until 1910.
– And had the matter been left to the honorable member nothing would have been done.
– A few weeks later, when the terms of my resolution had been carried into effect, the honorable member made a diametrically opposite statement. Such is the record of the honorable member, who, in the Coalition Government, is “equal in all things” with the Prime Minister. I come now to the second memorandum, dealing with the New Protection, which was submitted by the Deakin Government in 1908. It opened with the statement -
When Parliament -was considering the Tariff it was clearly understood that the benefits to the industries affected were to be fairly shared between the manufacturer and worker.
That was a statement of fact by the Government of the day, but since then nothing has been done. The memorandum continued -
It has now been decided by the High Court that the Constitution does not warrant the duties of Excise thus imposed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that, unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage earners, the policy of pro- otection must remain incomplete.
Was that the statement of the honorable member for Hume? Can it be denied that it was a memorandum submitted by the Government of the day ?
– Are the Government now trying to thrust on the honorable member for Hume the responsibility for that’ memorandum ? .
– An honorable member sitting behind the Government has declared it to be merely a statement by the honorable member for Hume, who worked as no member of the Deakin Government did to secure the passing of the Tariff now in existence. In this memorandum the declaration was made that the policy of Protection must remain incomplete until we have the New Protection.
– Does the Prime Minister deny that that was his policy?
– I am not going to discuss the question.
– The honorable member is simply belaboring an interjection.
– I want the matter tobe cleared up. In this second memorandum the Deakin Government submitted that power should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for an effective system of New Protection. But no such proposal was made in the Government statement so carefully prepared and read yesterday by the Prime Minister. So far from any proposal being made for an extension of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, it is sought now to whittle them away. We are to appeal to the States to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to do this and to do that. The whole matter is to be delegated to a Commission, so that it will be absolutely impossible for the workers to fight their own cases. When they can reach a tribunal such as the High Court, it is open for them to do something ; they- can secure finality, although the process is expensive. But it is now proposed that the whole matter shall be delegated to an Inter-State Commission, which is to work with the consent of the States to safeguard the interests of the people. That is an absolutely impossible proposal. It is humiliating that an honorable gentleman who took so large a part in framing the Constitution under which we are working should now go back on one of its basic principles of justice in regard to people who are most in need of justice being done them. Surely, in such circumstances, something has gone wrong with the representation “of the people in this Parliament. That is one reason why I submit that” the Government should agree to go before the electors as early as possible. If the system proposed by the Ministry is merely to provide for subsidiary Courts, it will not give the worker the requisite protection. This second memorandum contained one statement to which I took exception. We find in it the following paragraphs -
The object of the proposed amendment of the Constitution will be to endow the Parliament of the Commonwealth with a grant of power to do economic justice in protected industries, with due regard to the unity of the Commonwealth, and the diversity of local circumstances.
The electors will be invited to empower the “Commonwealth to determine the employment and remuneration of labour in protected industries in view of the protection granted to the manufacturer under the Commonwealth Tariff. In some industries the existing protection may enable the payment of fair and reasonable rates of wages. In other industries not sufficiently protected to enable the full standard of remuneration to be paid, the payment of at least a minimum wage can be required, pending the enactment of effective protection. Unprotected industries will ‘not be .affected.
I take serious exception to the last clause. The Commonwealth of Australia has no use for industries that cannot pay fair and reasonable wages. A country abounding in natural wealth ought to be able to pay fair and reasonable wages such as were proposed by Mr. Justice Higgins. In the days when we heard the-cry of “ fire low and lay them out,” we were told that the workers should go to Parliament to obtain justice. They came to Parliament. They obtained the verdict of the people, and now a constitutional difficulty stands between them and justice. Consequently, little is done for them. The Government say : “ Let us put the -question away; there is no hurry.” In other words, they want to attend to the man who needs no attention. What can be thought of a situation in which the manufacturer has his industry protected against foreign competition - and he is a man who has a month’s or a year’s food supply in front of him, whether he earns a penny or not - while the men who are fighting day by day for their bread, many of them with not more than a week’s or a month’s provision in hand if they lose their work, have to compete with one another without any protection at all ? That is the policy of the Commonwealth, but I am sure that the electors do not wish it to be continued, and they certainly do not wish any Government to continue in power which desires to shelter itself behind that kind of position. If there is to be protection, let it be protection all round. Here, may I remind the honorable member for Maribyrnong that on the Friday before the House adjourned, and before the resignation of the late Government, he stated that I voted nine times out of ten against protection. I would ask him to look the matter up at the earliest opportunity and make the necessary correction.
– I said in regard to the first Tariff.
– I have nothing more to say on the subject. Honorable members have their own way of doing things. If the honorable member wishes to do justice he will’ do it ; if he does not, he will not.
– I do not wish to do an injustice.
– I corrected the honorable member at the time, but he persisted in making the statement.
– I shall be glad to know that I was wrong, and to apologize if I am.
– My view of the question of industrial protection has always been that if the people of the Commonwealth desire to amend the Constitution they should be allowed an opportunity of saying so. Our Government certainly intended to appeal to the country, not to delegate that power to an outside body, but to give direct and full power to the National Parliament to protect the worker as it now has power to protect the employer. I think that is fair and just, and anything less would not be doing justice to the people of Australia. The supporters of the Prime Minister claim the Old-age Pensions Act as part of the great Liberal programme. They assert that the Liberal Party initiated the old-age pensions principle, and finally made it law. All I can say is that the Prime Minister can state, if he is willing to admit it, that that matter was urged upon him by the Labour Party. Immediately I became the leader of this party the introduction ‘ of old-age pensions was urged upon the then Government, and pressed on Parliament. I do not wish to claim credit for anything for this party, but it shows the paltry character of the representation behind the present Prime Minister that it should be thought necessary to claim all these things as being due to their efforts. The guides, philosophers, and friends of the present Coalition Party -their mentors, the press - are now busy telling us that the head of the present Government has been forced into his position by the action of the Labour Party. No honorable man can be forced into a position of that kind unless he is willing to go. No one can compel a man to act against his convictions, and no man can be compelled to violate his pledges to the people. There is always an honorable way for a man out of public life. That road is always open to him. Others may choose other ways, but there is nothing dishonorable in being defeated. Most of the men that do things have that honour thrust upon them at times. But those who always try to avoid taking any course that is likely, to bring them into conflict with the people, axe men who seldom achieve anything in any public capacity. We, as a party, have been perhaps, more militant than others, but I hope we have shown that courage which is necessary at times to carry out political principles. In the memorandum which the Prime Minister read yesterday, the intentions of the Government regarding the Old-age Pensions Act are set out. I think the Prime Minister will admit that that is a legacy.
– Part of it.
– All these points were discussed previously. The question of naturalization was discussed and agreed to between myself and the Under-Treasurer, as were also the question of reducing the residence limit from 25 to 20 years, and a number of subsidiary amendments. I do not say that the present Government are not entitled to some credit, but if there was one measure of which the details were set out very specifically in our programme, it was that one. The matter was discovered early, and dealt with as it ought to be. It is not perhaps always a desirable thing to do, but I should like in passing to pay a compliment to the Commissioner for Old-age Pensions for the manner in which he has tackled this great and difficult question. There have been complaints about the manner in which the work has been done, but, at any rate, it has been done in a most sympathetic way, and with an intention to assist every one who is entitled to the bounty that the Commonwealth intended to give, with as few embarrassing conditions as could be helped consistent with carrying out the will of Parliament. I gather from the memorandum ox speech that has been laid upon the table that the Government intend to initiate a- borrowing policy. I hope that is not true. I hope there will be no borrowing by the Commonwealth in the true sense of the term until some arrangement has been made with the States regarding the consolidation of the States debts. It would be a pity, if not a disaster, that the Commonwealth, which was brought into ex,istence, first for defence purposes, and secondly for financial reasons, should enter the London market as a seventh borrower for Australia, instead of there being, as was intended, only one borrower to represent this country. It is intimated that the borrowing is to be only “ for reproductive works.” I have heard that phrase again and again, but what has it amounted to?- Immediately the borrowing policy is begun, it extends to indefinite limits, with the result that the country is saddled with an obligation that is burdensome to the people. I do not deny that many useful works have been done, and might be done, by means of borrowed money, but I state emphatically that a loan policy is a faulty position to take up at this moment. This is a time when the Common wealth should proceed cautiously on its way. Had the party led by the honorable member for South Sydney not prevented the first Commonwealth Government and the first Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir George Turner, who, I am glad to say, is still well and hearty, from entering upon a borrowing policy, the Commonwealth would have borrowed by now from ^20,000,000 to ^”25,000,000, and we should probably not have been able to see where the money had been spent. Fortunately, the prevention of borrowing has led to great economy, and while some of the services might have been more efficient than they are now, it would have been disastrous for the Commonwealth to have entered the market as a seventh borrower. I trust the Government will hesitate before they launch the country at this juncture on a borrowing policy. Let the financial arrangements between the States- and the Commonwealth be first settled on constitutional lines. The Prime Minister characterized my financial statement as vague, but I do not know what term he would apply to his statement on the financial question.” I, at any rate, gave a clear outline of the proposals of the Government. People might, or might not, agree with them, but they were quite understandable. Every one who wished to understand them understood them. The present Government ought to make a clean breast about their financial proposals before they attempt to alter the settled policy of this Parliament regarding borrowing. I would ask honorable members and the country, how many of those sitting behind die Prime Minister have authority from the electors to enter into a borrowing policy for any purpose whatever? Nearly every one of them pledged himself against borrowing, and yet the present Government have no hesitation in making proposals of that kind. I can promise them that, whether the money is to be used for subsidiary or other works, until some settlement has been arrived at of the financial relations of the States anal the Commonwealth, I shall consider it my duty to do everything possible to prevent the Commonwealth launching out on a borrowing policy, even if it is for a Dreadnought.
– This House passed a resolution that the Commonwealth should not borrow.
– The honorable member will see that unless honorable members have absolute authority from their electors to do so, they have no right to begin a borrowing policy. They must go before the electors again before they take so important a step, which must be fraught with grave consequences to the Commonwealth. I see that the Treasurer has, in racing parlance, “ got off the mark “ very quickly on the question of silver coinage. I am entirely with him in that matter. I would not object if he went further, and took the whole of the currency into the hands of the Commonwealth, as it ought to be.
– He did have a Bill of that kind.
– I will say this for the officers of the Treasury Department, that when I was there, I neither saw nor heard of that Bill. Until the question was brought up in Parliament recently, I did not know of the Bill. The whole of our currency should be in the hands of the Commonwealth at the earliest possible moment. To show the effect that a few advanced ideas can have, even when simply submitted to the public, I may mention that I am advised to-day that the banks are considering the question of doing away with the exchange charge on notes between State and State. Do honorable members think that those financial institutions would have been worrying about that if there had not been any discussion on our proposals to nationalize the currency? What made them so anxious and vigilant in this matter after our currency proposals had been announced - and denounced by people who knew nothing about them?
– Would! the honorable member mind explaining his proposed note issue now?
– I have done so before. As to the principle involved, I shall simply refer the honorable member to a number of works. If he consults any writers on currency, he will find that they almost invariably declare that the only authority that shouldbe permitted to issue currency is the Government.
– Would the honorable member institute a national currency without a national bank?
– Yes. The honorable member must know that silver and copper are currency.
– But would the honorable member have a national paper currency without a national bank?
– Yes. At the present time, gold, silver, and copper currency is entirely under the control of the Crown. Silver and copper coins are simply tokens, their intrinsic value being nothing like their face value, and paper currency, in a lesser degree, is in the same position.
– Gold is actual value, whereas silver, as a legal tender, is limited to£2.
– And so would the paper currency be limited to the extent that it would have to be redeemed by the Treasurer whenever the holder desired. Where silver would be legal tender up to £2, notes would be legal tender only as between persons other than the Treasurer, who would have to redeem them whenever they were presented.
– By a combination of the financial institutions, the Commonwealth might be made bankrupt in a single day !
– The honorable member takes, the view that, because a number of subsidiary and private companies, who are making profits out of the business, may enter into a combination, the Government are to be frightened - that the Government are to hesitate to take a step in the interests of the people because of the combination of institutions, who may fail, and have failed, and left people with their paper money at much less than its face value. Personally, no threats of that kind would influence me, because the Government can protect itself againstany such combination if the people have the opportunity to elect representatives who understand the question. . I know what the financial companies tried and failed to do in Queensland. They made efforts in the direction indicated, but they found that the State was the stronger, and, at the present day, there is in Queensland 50 per cent. more paper money in circulation per capita than the average circulation of the rest of Australia. This clearly shows that people have confidence in a paper currency guaranteed by the Government; and the convenience is obvious from every point of view, seeing that the paper money would be legal tender wherever presented. I should now like to read an extract from the monetary and mining column of the Melbourne
Argus of yesterday, as follows: -
The announcement of the intention of the banks trading in New South Wales to exchange one another’s notes, no matter where issued in Australia or New Zealand, up to a reasonable amount -
That is very good - “ up to areasonable amount ‘ ‘ - free of charge to the person presenting them, has forestalled a similar intimation from the banks doing business in Victoria. This will probably be made ina fewdays. Therefore the complaint of the casual visitor that he cannot go into an Australian bank with the note of another institution and get value for it without payment of exchange, will disappear. This concession to the public will be highly appreciated. What is more, it will take from the labour leaders one of their objections to the existing note issue. Irritation has certainly existed, especially in the back country, at the charge made for cashing notes of rival banks. It is because of that irritation that the advocates of a Federal note issue have been able to get a more sympathetic hearing than would otherwise have been possible.
The Government appear to favour the whole of our policy except that portion which is concerned with direct taxationexcept a tax on unimproved land’ values. They apparently think they can sail on for ever, and make progress, without imposing a tax of the kind, although nearly everybody else in the community, and most economic thinkers, whether conservative or otherwise, have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when? every honest representative of the people in a progressive community, should endeavour to prevent the growth of unearnpd increment. I could quote from leading conservative economists, who dread the accumulation of wealth on the one hand, and the increase of poverty on the other, and regard it as the duty of public men not to follow the line of least resistance, and talk nonsense, but to face the question boldly. I feel that the Government have been partly brought into existence by the clamour and assistance of the great landholders. The Prime Minister has stated that he is a great enthusiast in regard to immigration ; but I noticed that in his Melbourne speech, hedid not say much about where the immigrants were to be settled. Heindicated that, perhaps, the great Northern Territory, about which he talks so much, would be able to absorb them ; but I think that, while that Territory should be protected in every way, there ought to be an unimproved land value tax to provide revenue for defence, the social needs of the country, such as old-age pensions, and all the public services. In addition, if incidentally the larger estates are brought into cultivation,’ a great service will undoubtedly have been rendered to the people.
– Is the first element not the “incidental” thing?
– As to what people in other parts of the world think in regard to this matter, I should like to quote the following from the Manchester Guardian, published in April last : -
There is little room to doubt that Mr. Fisher, the Labour Premier of the Commonwealth, has hit the popular demand by putting a Federal land tax in the forefront of his programme. Australia is hungry ‘for more people, but until there are lands to put them on it would be doing more harm than good Fo admit immigrants in large numbers. What is first wanted is that the lands now locked up in the possession of the large ranchers should be thrown open for settlement. This Mr. Fisher proposes to do by his land tax, which will be so graduated that, while it will hardly be felt where the land is properly cultivated, it will be a serious chaTge upon fertile and well-situated lands that are being used merely as sheep runs. It is true that Mr. Fisher has not a Labour majority in the Federal Parliament, but in this matter he is almost certain to have Mr. Deakin and his followers with him. In fact Mr. Deakin has alreadydeclared for a graduated land tax, and his irraction in office was inexplicable by his conviction that this is a problem for the States themselves rather than the Commonwealth to solve. But the futility of expecting anything in this direction from certain of the State Legislatures, composed as they are at present, is now so generally realized that few objections may be raised to Federal action.
I omitted to refer to a matter when speaking of old-age pensions, and I should like to do so now. On the 19th March, 1908, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, in this House, spoke as follows: -
Ministers say now that if the Conference of Premiers agrees to their financial proposals, they will provide old-age pensions at once, but if that scheme is rejected, we must wait until the Braddon section expires.
– That is so.
That interjection is a statement by the Prime Minister; and, in view of the fact that subsequently we were able to pass an old-age pension measure, Icommend the statement to those who are prating about what the Government intend to do.
– If the honorable member looks at a later report in Hansard, he will find that I quoted and qualified that statement, and pointed out a misapprehension.
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman had an opportunity to make a qualification. I should now like to quote from a speech made by the late Sir Henry Parkes, just before Federation was accomplished ; and I do so, because I think that the action of the present Government - quite apart from the political views I hold, contrary to those submitted by them - has done, and must do, great injury to the development of Australian national ideas. The youth of Australia is as competent as any other citizen of the Empire; but there is an indication in all the Government proposals that we ought to go to the Mother Country for this, that, and the other thing - that the Australian is not equal to the son of the Empire, born at the heart. But such is not the case, and honorable members know it. This idea, however, has been encouraged by people who have made their money in Australia, and gone to reside at the centre of the Empire, where they have slandered this country ; and I speak the more freely, seeing that I am not a native of the Commonwealth. The quotation from the speech of Sir Henry Parkes shows that years ago there were men who understood what national ideals meant, and what the citizens of a young nation were capable of if full effect were give to their aspirations. After speaking of the advantages of a High Court, and Federal defence, Sir Henry Parkes went on to say -
There are even higher objects than these, waiting to be achieved by an Australian Government, a Government that can appear everywhere, as representing the whole people ; a Government to which the doors of every Court will be thrown open, and before which no nation would appear wanting in respect and appreciation, of its present and future importance. . . . There is a higher object still - the object of national influence. What influence have these detached Colonies? It is surprising that they have so much ; bat the influence of the proudest - we will say Victoria - is nothing to the influence of an Australian nation, an Australian Government. She would be able to influence the destinies of civilized men, in all parts of the world. Who can doubt that our national power would Be incalculably increased, by its being exercised by one strong, intelligent head? And there is, highest of all, the object of national honour. Why should not the name of an Australian be equal to that of a Briton? Why should not the name of an Australian sailor be equal to that of ‘“a British sailor? Why should not the name of an Australian citizen be equal to that of the citizen of the proudest country under the sun?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Those who indorse the sentiments which I have read, cast a reflection upon the proposals of the Government. Our athletes can meet those of any ether part of the world and prove themselves their equals. Our inventors can do the like. The other day, when Lieutenant Shackleton was controlling an expedition to the South Pole, he gave to a citizen of South Australia sealed orders instructing him to take command should the exploring party of which he was leader be lost. Lieutenant Shackleton left the command of his expedition, not to his first officer, but to a young Australian who had joined at the last moment, and was taken because of his capacity, daring, courage, and ability. Yet honorable members say that Australians should occupy only a secondary position, that we should get men from other countries to train our people. I say, give Australians the opportunity, make -dockyards, and ship-building slips, and Australia will, in the words of a dead statesman, take its place amongst the nations of the earth.
– In congratulating the leader of the Opposition upon the clear ‘and concise manner in which he has stated his case, let me relieve him of his evident anxiety as to my being, as he suspected, tied down to the statement to which the House was good enough to listen yesterday afternoon. I shall not be revealing Cabinet proceedings which should remain secret in saying that the proposal to read a written memorandum, so that I might not be diverted bv interjection into the undue development of any part of our programme, and thus prolong discussion, was my own, rather reluctantly adopted, by my colleagues on my advice. My experience is that, however interesting a debate by interjections may be at such a juncture, it frequently obscures the issues submitted. So far from having been limited by my procedure, I was- able to place before honorable members a statement of policy equivalent to the speech which the Governor-General would have delivered had we met the House on the assembling of Parliament.
– Knowing the unkind things which members of the honorable gentleman’s own party have said of him, he should not be surprised at some suspicion on their part.
– I should be the last to suspect the honorable member of even thinking unkindly. The leader of the Opposition placed in the forefront of his challenge the action of the Government in offering to the British authorities a Dreadnought, or its equivalent. As I think he was informed at the time - the fact has escaped his memory - Ministers were only sworn in shortly before the meeting of the House. They had not time to hold a Cabinet before taking their places in the Chamber, and had not considered this or any question before the announcement of their acceptance of office. Although the Honorary Minister had been chosen early in the forenoon, two hours’ search failed to procure his attendance at the swearing-in ceremony at which his colleagues were present.
– Ministers could have met next day and made an announcement.
– Yes; but it was after the meeting of Parliament that we held our first Cabinet. This was one of our first decisions. I take an unusual course in replying to this charge in order to indicate to honorable members that my own view of this7 great issue is not arrived at with a view to meeting the exigencies of to-day’s situation. In April last - my speech is reported in the Ballarat Courier of the 24th April - I addressed myself to this issue when present circumstances were unforeseen.
– The honorable member was then on the track of a coalition.
– That had been my effort for the previous six months. I sought for union, having stated on a score of platforms that policy must be put first, and party considerations second. Union at that time seemed no nearer.. Speaking at Ballarat, I said -
It has been a true instinct which has prompted the offer to the Mother Country of a Dreadnought from the Commonwealth of Australia. The superficial criticism which hasbeen directed to this proposal can, most of it, be easily swept away. We offered to contribute a Dreadnought because at the moment that type appeared to be most desired and dominant. You may call it the Invincible, the class, I believe, of the latest type, if you prefer. You may alter the type of vessel” altogether. It would alter neither the spirit nor the intention of that proffer, which was’ to offer to the Mother Country, whatever might. be chosen as an addition to her own most efficient weapons of naval warfare. In the same manner we should brush aside an imputation that the motive of the gift was one of display. I believe, myself, that was the least of all the elements that went to that proposal. It was tendered as an earnest of our affection and gratitude, as a pledge of our loyalty and fealty. Nor need we admit the issue to be sophisticated by the pretence that we are called upon to choose between the steps which Australia should take to preserve her own self respect and any gift she might think fit to offer to the Mother Country; it is not a question between an Australian flotilla or a battleship for the Mother Country ; it is a proposal for an Australian flotilla and a battleship for the Mother Country. When we sweep away these various films of faction which are introduced in order to obscure the issue, we come at last down to the plain and simple truth. The offer of the battleship is an acknowledgment of the depth of our obligation and of our sense of the fact that all our future is linked with the fortunes of our nation and our flag. I deeply regret that our Australian Ministers should have taken the narrow view; but no one questions their freedom or their - right to form a deliberate judgment upon this or any other question of public policy. We are entitled to receive from them the benefit of their honest opinion upon this or upon other matters; but I believe our people and our Parliament ]lave taken a broader and sounder view of national duty and national policy. They have realized, as all thoughtful men and women must realize, that in view of the present emergency, which is not an emergency of the moment, but is the result of years of labour among the competitors and the possible enemies of the Mother Country, who are proceeding with increasing rapidity to multiply their powers of striking deadly blows in any part of the high seas, that, in view of all these facts, the act proposed not only wise and generous but politic. The Government are entitled to protect themselves and their opinions by expressing them and putting them on record. Having done that, they have discharged their obligations in this connexion. It rests upon them, notwithstanding their opinions, as a duty to take every necessary step when once Parliament has declared its opinion, and to give effect to the will of the people and the will of Parliament. They may, if they like, decline responsibility for their action. I believe the Australian people will be glad and proud to accept it. I believe and hope . we shall do everything possible to prevent this from being treated as a party issue. Nothing ought to drag it down as a question between the ins and the outs. On a matter of this kind we should put aside the ordinary platforms of parties so far as they have been specific in this regard hitherto. I should not be surprised if they become more specific from this onward ; but at present they have not much touched this specifically as a party issue, and I hope there will be no need for it in the future. The effort will be to enable Australia to speak with one decided and Imperial voice, perfectly apart and free from our local differences upon other matters on our programmes. We wish, above all, that this gift shall go from our hands unsullied by the possibility of any meaner motives. An action, an Imperial aim of this kind is, in itself, so lofty that we must pledge our best efforts to endeavour to maintain it at that height.
– That is distinctly different from the honorable member’s present proposal.
– No. Those who share my opinions cannot be said to be neglecting Australian ideals or Australian impulses. There is nothing here to indicate the putting aside of any of our proposals for local defence j the offer of which I was speaking was and ought to be treated as something extra, due to an emergency realized by a very large and important section of the professionally and technically educated opinion of the Mother Country.
– Let the honorable member mention one authority for that statement.
– I could mention admirals galore, and leading statesmen of both parties in the Mother Country.
– Did not the British authorities tell the honorable member when he was in England that they did not need assistance of this kind ? Let him name one admiral who supports his view.
– I have just received a full report of the speech of the Minister for War. There the urgency and emergency, of the present situation is stated in as strong terms as have been used by any one who has spoken on the subject. I regret that, for the information of the honorable member, I have not brought with me this last expression of the views of a responsible Cabinet Minister. It is one of the most recent and emphatic utterances on the subject. Mr. Haldane takes the gravest view of our future vulnerability. In no craven spirit, in no nervous manner, with no trembling attitude, he seeks to impress his fellow countrymen with his conviction that a great crisis is before them which will need every effort on their part to maintain British prestige.
– What does Admiral Beresford say?
– I believe he shares this opinion generally, but thinks that defence cannot be provided by the construction of Dreadnoughts or vessels of the improved Dreadnought type. He considers that our naval force should be increased by the construction of vessels of other types and in other ways.
– What is his view in regard to the offer of a Dreadnought by Australia ?
– I understand that he is of opinion that any Australian gift can be best utilized in Australian waters by Australian effort. If he can convince the Admiralty of the. soundness of his view there will be no difficulty here in giving effect to it. The Conference is to enable the best, most skilled, and experienced judgment of the most capable men in the British navy and army to be collected for the purpose of advising the Empire on national defence. It is because of that Conference, and of the high value which will attach to its findings and suggestions that the proposal of the Government took the form of an offer of a Dreadnought or its equivalent. It is for the Conference, not for us, to say whether the Imperial need of the hour will be best met by the gift of a battleship, or of vessels of another type to serve in these seas. That is a matter for expert opinion. The question for us was whether, in what appeared to be an hour of need and alarm, we, in return for our immunity for so many years from any contribution of this kind, should not give proof of our sense of kinship and of gratitude by making the offer. Our answer was an emphatic “Yes.” Let me now allude to another matter touched upon by the leader of the Opposition, which may well be cited in this connexion. I held the strong and clear conviction that the special defence fund of £250,000 voted, only after urgent request and pleading by our Government, and on the condition imposed upon us that it should not be spent in any way until Parliament had an opportunity of discussing and deciding the type of vessels to be constructed, could not be spent honorably until Parliament had been consulted. I refrained from giving utterance to that opinion when the late Government chose to take action without fulfilling the condition. I believed that probably they proposed to justify themselves directly Parliament met, and that they had in their possession information other than that which they gave to the public, that had led them to do that which in ordinary circumstances could not, in my opinion, be excused. I refrained also because I believed that in building vessels of some approved kind, and making some badly-needed preparation, they might be ableto show that they were doing what the House would indorse. I refrained, when informed of all the facts, then, andshouldhaverefrained now, from referring to the matter, but for the refer ence made to it by the leader of the Opposition. The fact that I acted thus shows how wholly friendly my attitude is, and always has been, towards a development of Australian naval defence.
– But that does not excuse the late Government’s violation of the distinct promise given to the House.
– Is the condition referred to by the Prime Minister on record?
– It appears in Hansard over and over again. I had to plead with a number of honorable members opposite to allow the vote to be passed even on the condition imposed upon us.
– But we did not agree to it.
– The next count in the honorable member’s indictment related to the recent action of the Government in regard to telephone charges. There he has fallen a victim to the fairy tales that occasionally appear in the public press. So far from our having yielded to outside pressure put upon the new Postmaster-General, the fact is that the Government at its first Cabinet meeting decided that the PostmasterGeneral should be asked to make a further investigation of the scheme that had been fathered by the honorable member for Barrier, in order to inform us whether he could defend that proposal in the Cabinet and in the House. The matter was remitted to him for immediate inquiry before he had received a single deputation on the subject. Probably, like many other honorable members, I did not read a word of the reports of the deputations referred to, and did not know who took part in them. The only question we had to consider was whether we could justify to’ Parliament the scheme that the honorable member for Barrier, on the advice of the departmental officers, had authorized by regulation. After a careful and searching examination of the officers who had advised the honorable member, and having confronted them with the various problems that suggested themselves to my honorable colleague, the Postmaster-General, he satisfied himself that the charges that ought to be made could not yet be decided. He came to the conclusion that there was not in the Department sufficient evidence to justify the honorable member for Barrier’s scheme, or to justify him, as the present Postmaster-General, in adopting any other scheme. There was, in fact, no means of determining, except by an expert accountancy examination, the actual costs and working expenses in order to allow of a fair charge, and not more than a fair charge, being made for the services rendered. I make no complaint against the late PostmasterGeneral for having accepted the advice of his officers. It was only when it became possible to show even to those who were not experts, that the basis of the scale adopted by them was assumed, and not founded on figures which could be proved, that we saw that before anything could be done the’ fundamental facts, at all events, should be determined - not by officers who might be supposed to be prejudiced in favour of Government charges, but by accountants, who would be perfectly free from such influences. In these circumstances two accountants have been appointed to make a professional investigation. After they have made a report, and a proper basis has been discovered, a regulation will immediately be made authorizing the levying of a. fair rate, whatever it may be, for telephone subscribers.
– - Even the rate I proposed ?
– Whatever it may be.
– When will they report?
– Within three months.
– And they are to make an examination of the system in all portions of Australia?
– They will examine only typical portions. We have had the figures, so far as they can be obtained, collected from all the States, so that there will be very little travelling. The leader of the Opposition complained of a return to the flat rates having been authorized by the Postmaster-General. In that he was in error. In regard to the flat rates, there is no option left to any new subscriberor to subscribers who have registered under the new system. For all others, there is simply a return to the status quo - a return to the system in existence prior to the regulation made by the honorable member for Barrier.
– The state of things which was existing continues, and will exist until the end of this month.
– That is so. There was a retention of the system already in existence, and which has been in operation for some time. No one is satisfied with it, but no one is able to prove how it should be amended. In the circumstances, therefore, the fairest course for usto adopt was that which any body of business men would have taken. Pending the acquirement of knowledge that will enable us to fix a fair rate, we revert to the old charges.
– Not revert to, but continue, the old charges.
– I thank the honorable member. We did not “revert,” because the change had not been made.
– The change had been made in the case of new subscribers.
– Yes ; they are now under the old system.
– So that there was a reversion of policy, and the honorable member is only quibbling.
– If the honorable member chooses to call it a “reversion of policy,” I doubt his knowledge of the facts. It is simply a reversion to the policy that was established before the honorable member for Barrier’s proposal was made. The policy that was then pursued has been maintained unaltered, and the proposed change has not been carried out. The next count in the leader of the Opposition’s indictment related to the new protection, though in this relation his Ministry made no proposal at all. In regard to that, two propositions were brought forward by former Governments of which I was a member. In the first an Excise proposal was made, but necessarily it had to be set aside when the High Court declared it to be unconstitutional.
– The High Court is a very convenient place in which to shelve all the honorable member’s problems.
– No; it raises more problems than it shelves, because by each of its determinations it casts upon us the responsibility of finding some other means of giving effect to our desires.
– And the honorable member never faced the situation.
– Only because of the opposition of the honorable member’s party. As a matter of fact, we laid before the House a proposal for an amendment of the Constitution which honorable members now sitting in Opposition hastened through their leaders, to attack and disavow.
– Because it meant nothing.
– Had we continued in office we should have put that to the test. The evidences were, however, that with the opposition of the Labour Party we should not be able to give effect to it. In’ the circumstances, what have we done? We are bringing forward a third proposal, which we believe we can carry in Parliament, and in support of which we think we can obtain the approval of the requisite majority of electors.
– A scheme recommended by Joshua.
– It was not recommended by any private person. It was elaborated by members of the present Government and by some members of the party with which we are associated who are not in the Government.
– The party which the honorable member declared he could never be associated with.
– Inasmuch as they are prepared to adopt this substantial advance, [ am not only willing, but proud, to act with them-. Here we have a project that can be carried out by two means. We intend to endeavour to use either. First of all, we have communicated with the States asking them to transfer to us the power they possess to control their own industrial enterprises and tribunals under certain circumstances when conditions become unfederal. We have asked them to vest that power in the Commonwealth. When that is done we shall exercise our right under the Constitution to create a tribunal to which appeals will lie from local industrial tribunals all over Australia, and, in particular, from the Wages Boards that are now being rapidly multiplied in several States. One can then foresee the probability of a large increase in these Wages Boards throughout the Commonwealth. The result of the adoption of our scheme will be that, wherever unjust competition exists between those engaged in the same industry in two or more States, it will be open to any Board in that industry to appeal as a local tribunal ‘ to the Federal tribunal, in order that by being placed on a Federal basis unjust competition may be prevented. It is not intended to enforce absolute uniformity all over Australia without regard to place or conditions. Whenever Inter-State competition becomes unfair, the State in which the better conditions as to employes obtain would naturally suffer. That State industry would then be entitled to be, and would be, protected against unfair competition by the decision of a Federal tribunal, requiring an adjustment of rates in the other State or States.
– The honorable member knows what has been our experience of voluntary arbitration.
– We know what has been our experience of the Wages Board system in Victoria, and that in other States this system has grown remarkably during the last few years. All over Australia it is being recognised that whatever may be the virtues of Arbitration Courts, it is possible to have a sphere for both bodies, and that in the practical sphere, at all events, Wages Boards adapt themselves more readily to the varying conditions of industry. The result of this knowledge will be the multiplication of Wages Boards and the building up of industrial organizations all over ‘Australia, whose decisions can be fo’cussed as far as is necessary in order that they may be federal when operating in a Federal community. If that is achieved, it will mark a most distinct advance in the industrial development of this country as a whole. It will be for the first time a Federal development ; and at the same time it will encourage instead of retarding or destroying industrial development in the several States.
– Is that the New Protection we were promised ?
– It is a distinct advance in the direction promised. If our industries pursue the course of creating fresh State Wages Boards, as they are doing now, it may cover them in, not only in all protected, but also in all unprotected, industries.’ There is no obstacle to the admission of unprotected industries. This proposal is not limited to protected industries, but applies to all industries throughout the Commonwealth. It says to them, “ The creation of Wages Boards by the States is to be followed up by linking them together under a Federal tribunal to prevent unfair competition.” Until we perform that task, which the Commonwealth alone is capable of accomplishing, our industrial development must be more and more hampered, as Inter-State trade expands.
– Even, if the States granted that power, could they not revoke it at any time?
– No. There is no fear of that; and there is every hope that they will grant it. One of our principal objects this session is to obtain this authority from the States, or, failing that, to consider a proposition of our ‘own for amending the Constitution in that direction. That can only ,be accomplished if we obtain sufficient time to give the States an opportunity of saying whether they will unanimously take this action, or, if not, that will enable us to proceed ourselves. All this must be lost if the proposition to do no work this session is insisted on.
– Can the honorable member point to any provision in the Constitution that the States have no right to revoke any such grant of power?
– I cannot point to a specific declaration to that effect; but can tell the honorable member ihat at different times opinion has been taken on the question. Although the opinions are not unanimous, there are excellent grounds for the belief that, in effect, it will be practically impossible for the States to withdraw. Of ‘ course, it has not been judicially decided.
– Is it not all a waste of time, seeing that the New South Wales Premier has already stated that he will refuse to grant the power?
– I assure the honorable member he is in error. The leader of the Opposition alluded to the measure upon the statute-book providing for old-age pensions, and another measure by which it is intended to amend it. I not only agree with him that his party is entitled to its full share of credit in connexion with both proposals, but say that, in this matter - the only matter in the Federal Parliament of which it can be said- every party is entitled to the same credit. Practically, there was no opposition to the original Bill, and I am sure there will be none to the amending Bill, from any party or section of the House. On °this one question, we are able to point to the three parties in union. I now come to the honorable member’s warnings against a suggestion that a proposal may be submitted for dealing with reproductive works by means of loan money. I did not understand that the honorable member takes any exception to dealing with those or other works by means of a. currency issue ; and, to my mind, the difference which separates a currency issue from borrowing is not wide. In their nature, they are similar. Both have to be redeemed, or require to be able to be redeemed. The principal advantages possessed by the currency issue are, of course, well known, and we propose to take advan tage of them, so far as silver is concerned, as soon as possible, in the measure . which has been laid before the House. The profit from that for the time being must range from £40,000 to .£50,000 a year.
– More than that.
– We prefer rather to under than over-estimate it. To preface the next part of my reply, let me say that when the honorable member contends that the difference between the programme of his Government, put forward in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, and our measures outlined in the memorandum which the House was good enough to allow me to read yester- :lav, 1 is confined to the question of direct taxation, or, to be more specific, to the question of land taxation, he is wholly in error. If he refers to his own Governor-General’s speech, he will find that the differences, are much more numerous. Let me admit that, like many others, I for some time misunderstood the honorable member’s intentions in regard to the issue of paper money, which he spoke of for some time as a note issue. I think it was only after his Newcastle speech that he referred to it as paper currency, a reference which I did not see for some time. So far as I could follow him, for a considerable period he referred only to note issues, and to a profit of ,£100,000.
– I think the honorable member is wrong. I will see.
– Search has been made, and I am informed that this is the fact. As he pointed only to a profit of ,£100,000 a year, or afterwards of £170,000 a year, or thereabouts, from this source, naturally one did not understand that he had in his .mind a large issue of one or two million pounds of paper money. The Government, of course, would have, the use of . that sum, less the amount of gold that it might be necessary to hold against it. They would put this to their credit without paying interest or providing for anything but renewal of the currency. That project! only ‘appeared,, so’ far as I was concerned, very late in the Prime Minister’s utterances. Without that clue, in the very general references that he made “ to other sources of income, and the fact that no one had made, or could make, an estimate of the returns from his land tax which could be accepted as in the least degree authoritative, it was impossible to comprehend the financial scheme that he put forward. He may have had it clearly in his own mind, but it was not so conveyed to his critics, that any of them understood it for a considerable period. Even then, those who took the precaution of putting the figures together as I did found themselves considerably at a loss. We have consequently no evidence that the financial proposals which the late Government would have submitted - and which in the form that the honorable member indicated would have been of a serious character and required some important changes - could have been accepted by the House. On the contrary, we have good reason to believe that the House would not have regarded them favorably.
– There is no evidence that anything will be accepted.
– The honorable member’s proposals were so nebulous that even members of his own party did not understand them. I admit that every financial statement has to be in nebulous detail when made in anticipation of a coming Budget. That is true of his statement, and it is true of ours .at present. But in his statement he went into a ‘ large number of calculations, the result of which was to present particular proposals which could not be accepted bv this Parliament. There were indications that he thought so. Then came his substitute for the new protection amendment which we were proposing. He seeks to annex for the Commonwealth the whole of the industrial authority of Australia. The honorable member proposed to take it all into Federal hands, providing the power were conferred upon the Commonwealth as the result of a referendum of the electors and an absolute majority of both Houses. I take leave to doubt whether that would have been possible in either House of this Parliament, so that the project would have been postponed for an indefinite time. N
– Where does the honorable member find the honorable member for Wide Bay making that statement regarding the taking of all the industrial authority of Australia?
– I find it in several of his speeches, and in the Governor-General’s speech itself.
– He did not propose to take away the power from the States.
– I will deal with that in a moment. These are the words in the speech -
Proposals will be submitted to you for the amendment of the Constitution to enable Parliament to protect the interests of the consumer and insure a fair and reasonable wage to every worker in the Commonwealth. In protected and unprotected industries this will be secured through such ‘extension of the industrial powers of the Parliament as may be necessary.
That means the endowment of the Commonwealth with absolute authority - the administration of all the industrial affairs of the whole of the immense area of Australia, and its scattered populations, from a Federal centre, and radiating to the extremities.
– What more did we want?
– You could not “ want more. There was no more to be got. The scheme was not only politically improbable now or in the future, but executively impossible at any time. It would make upon Federal organization a demand that cannot be paralleled by anything that has been seen here, or, so far as I know, anywhere else. You would have to gather to one centre, and from one centre administer and govern every industry throughout Australia.
– That is what it means. That is what it says. You are to deal with the interests of the consumer. The consumer includes every one who is an Australian citizen. You are to insure a fair wage to every worker, no matter what industry he is engaged in. In those categories you take in practically every man in the Commonwealth, and as consumers, all the men, women, and children of the Commonwealth.
– That is not half so all-embracing as the Inter-State Commission as proposed, which is going to be another Government.
– I will make reference to that in a moment. Even honorable members opposite do not yet appear to have realized what the actual meaning of this industrial proposition to which they are committing themselves is and must be. There is no escape from it. It means the introduction of a new system of Federal organization, starting from a Federal centre, and governing the whole of Australia, and it means, if Parliament thinks fit, the absolute displacement of the whole of the State organizations. It would be extremely difficult to carry out that Federal organization, and link it on to the State organizations. ‘ Let me put the difference between that proposal and ours clearly. Our proposal is to start from the industries themselves and the already existing ‘ Wages Boards ,and State tribunals, and build up through the Constitution to a Federal centre, which will govern them sufficiently to pre- vent unfair competition between the States, or enable it to be adjusted. Our scheme is to build on to the existing foundations, without any fresh creation of ours except a central authority for appeal on Federal grounds. Their scheme was to begin at the other end, by creating a new central authority having unlimited power over all workers, and authority to protect the interests of ali consumers.
– The difference between protecting a few employers and protecting many workers.
– Not in the least; it is the difference between interfering with the business of everybody throughout the country by a Federal authority, and providing’ a tribunal to adjust equitable wages in every industry, for which, in any State, there exists a Board, which believes itself imperilled by unfair competition in some other State. In addition, we should have under the Labour proposal to face the existence of double sets of laws - a law in every State passed by that State, and a supreme law capable of being operated at the same time in the same area. Every industry would be governed by two sets of laws, with all their possibilities of conflict ; and though, of course, the supreme Federal power must ultimately override the State law, the supremacy would have to be discovered and tested by a series of actions.
– That would apply to the Government’s proposal in precisely the same way.
– No ; when the honorable member reads in Hansard what I have stated he will see that the Government scheme does not require that duplication, and, in fact, does not permit it.
– Is the Government scheme to which the Prime Minister is referring different from the one outlined in the memorandum? Has. the Prime Minister changed since yesterday ?
– No; I stand firm on yesterday, and all its previous yesterdays to the beginning of my first recorded p61itical time.
– Will the Prime Minister say how far he could have gone under the second memorandum ?
– - Not so far in range. In the first place the proposal applied only to protected industries, while the scheme, as outlined, was drawn especially so as to interfere as little as possible with State industrial tribunals.
– Has not the Prime Minister said that his present proposal would deal with unprotected as well as protected industries ?
– Yes; through the State tribunals, and only on appeal to the Federal tribunal. To turn “from that to another vital difference between ourselves and the Labour Party, although attention .was called to the fact that the leader of the Opposition, in his speech at Gympie, dealt in a very curious fashion with the whole fiscal issue, he has never thought it necessary since then, even in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, to put himself more in line with the opinion which I myself, and many other members of the House, hold very strongly. In his important policy speech the honorable member alluded in the most indifferent way to protection as having been adopted, “rightly or wrongly.” He altogether ignored any reference to preferential trade developments, and passed over, without a word either there or here, the reciprocity treaties to which a large section of the House attaches a great deal of value. In view of the criticism of us that is being offered by those protectionists who are sitting on that side of the House, it is very remarkable that, on this question, the late Government remained what one of their number once termed himself - a fiscal atheist. Yet behind them, and in support of them, are rallied those who profess themselves alarmed for the fate of protection. It is extremely remarkable that all reference to this omission should be to this day excluded from the speeches of the honorable leader of the Opposition, and his protectionist supporters, after the pointed attention drawn to it. Then I notice a change of which I do not comprehend the purport. In the speech at Gympie a proposal was made to nationalize the iron industry only, but in the GovernorGeneral’s speech the iron industry disappears, and, instead of it, we get that blessed word Mesopotamia - “ the nationalization of monopolies,’-‘ whatever they are or wherever they may be. I do not know whether that includes the iron industry or not - whether the iron industry is dropped out and a number of others taken in, or what is meant. No light has been afforded on the point.
– We were gagged.
– We have not only had three or four consecutive days of exposition of the iniquity of closing the debate, but at the same time a repetition of all the good things we should have had if the debate had been allowed to proceed. I do not think we have fallen short of a full exposition under the circumstances.
– There is a good deal more to come!
– That is not an encouraging interjection. Why I lay a little stress on this matter is that the main body of the proposals, which have been before Parliament during recent years, have a great deal in common, at all events so far as their subjects are concerned, though there may be variations as to treatment ; indeed, in many instances, the treatment is much the same. This proves, as I said in Tasmania long ago, that after all our discords and differences there appears to be a development of something that may be called a Commonwealth policy. It is not all that any party has striven for, but it represents the net result of the debates and conflicts in Parliament during the Tast nine years. To a large extent we have got, or are getting, on much the same basis.
– Has the Prime Minister made any sacrifices?
– We all live by sacrifice, commencing with self sacrifice.
– I thought that to mention the nationalization of industries once was sufficient.
– Does that mean all industries ?
– All monopolies.
Mr.Watkins. - That is near enough for the Prime Minister.
– Quite; so long as I understand what is meant. I was saying that all parties were getting to a common basis of policy. Now it is, perhaps, worth mentioning that honorable members opposite, much to my surprise, have made certain complaints about my action and attitude. That appears bewildering.
– Exactly ; that is how it appears to us.
– So far as I am concerned, the Labour Party could not have had fairer treatment. I have been playing with all my political cards on the public table for the last six months or more. If honorable members turn to the last sittings of the last session, they will remember that I called attention, in an unofficial programme, to the measures that ought to be dealt with, and pressed for an early meeting of Parliament. Then, no sooner were the Christmas holidays over than I had to attend various gatherings. For instance, the leader of the Opposition and myself were at the great Australian Natives meeting in Melbourne, where, again, in his presence, I took the opportunity to discuss my complete programme of proposals ; and throughout Tasmania and the other States I discussed it together with all the other questions now before us. Practically all the subjects that are in our programme have been discussed in many parts of Australia in the fullest way by myself independently, both before the then Prime Minister spoke and after he spoke. After Gympie my expositions were coupled with criticisms of portions of his speeches in which he was reckless enough to diverge from myself and even to entertain differences of opinion. I have from the very first frankly and freely indicated my divergence from the honorable member’s policy speech, in practically all the points that I am indicating to-night. What could anyone do more? All this was in the light ofday. In a whirling, changing world, honorable members will find me the one stable, consistent person, with a steadyview of my own policy, and a frank criticism of theirs, consistently continued throughout ; the variations of my variegated friends opposite are a source of surprise to me. When I was diverted to this pleasant little personal digression, I was referring to the fact that the leader of the Opposition had singled out only his direct taxation proposal as marking the difference between our two parties, while I have mentioned a number of other grave differences to which attention must be called. On the land tax question honorable members opposite are following exactly a parallel course to that proposed in reference to Australian industries. They intend at one stride to take under control, and to levy on, the whole of the lands of Australia. Of course, there is an exemption up to £5,000; but the proposal is that the Federation should step at once into the field by taking control and levying, subject to that exemption, on the whole of the alienated land of the continent. That is an immense proposition. Here, again, we cannot escape from the fact that already, in most of the States, indeed, in all-
– In all.
– In some States the taxation may be of comparatively slight extent, but, subject to that, there are in all the States taxes on land, State and municipal, and some of them on unimproved values. So that, whatever may be said, the Labour proposal introduces, as in the industrial sphere, a double rule of legislation - two sets of laws - to which the land-holder must look. By consequence there are introduced inevitable inequalities of taxation. In one Statethere may be a heavy land tax levied in addition to the Federal tax, while, in another State, the community may be rich and fortunate enough to do without a local tax. Legislate as we may, while the States retain their power of taxing land, there must be created un-Federal inequalities by a Federal tax.
– That is an argument against Federation.
– No; nor even an argument, from my individual point of view, against Federal land legislation in connexion with settlement - legislation aimed solely at settlement, and not at finance - if it should prove that the States will not exercise their powers and responsibilities in this regard. Speaking for myself, and with, I think, the support of a large number of honorable members of this side, I believe that, if Australia is to be faced with the choice between an imperfect and insufficient settlement of our rich lands - depopulation, in fact, and national weakness - or Federal legislation in regard to land laws, Federal legislation will come.
– Is Australia not faced with that choice now ?
– No ; it is impossible to tell what this tax is aimed at. It was to raise a large sum, but how much or how little, no one knew ; and it was to be raised in a most inequitable fashion. Apparently, the plan had been devised without sufficient previous study of actual conditions. I was able to gather in Queensland that a grazing estate there which, being connected with another estate nearer the seaboard of considerable value would have to pay in tax alone twice as much as the rent at which the same land next to it across the fence was burdened. The tax was more than twice the annual value without regard to municipal rates.
– That could not be ascertained without an assessment.
– I was informed of the value of the two properties by the owners, who are substantial people, in regard to whose word there is no question. I understand that in Queensland there is an unimproved land values tax for municipal purposes.
– Will the Prime Minister give us details of the case he has mentioned ?
– I have given the details.
– What were the values of the estates?
– Speaking from memory, from £50,000 to £60,000, taking the two together. I was told that it is customary in Queensland to work land in the interior subject to an intermittent rainfall with better watered land elsewhere; that this is the only way in which the grazing land of the interior can be utilized, the rainfall being insufficient for its permanent settlement. Would the honorable member wish that land to remain barren and idle? Would he tax it at twice its annual value?
– One tenure must have been leasehold and the other freehold.
– Both were freehold. I have stated an actual case. Again, if the Commonwealth now levied a land tax, it would depart from the practice of this Parliament, and from the anticipation which prevailed when the Constitution was accepted by the people. Since we have control of the means of indirect taxation, we should seek to satisfy our necessary and legitimate needs by that means, leaving to the States, which cannot impose duties of Customs and Excise, the field of direct taxation. We should weaken our case in respect to the redistribution which must take place when the Braddon provision ceases to operate, and diminish our claim on the Customs and Excise revenue which we control, should we adopt a policy involving double direct taxation, and at the same time increasing the financial difficulties of the States. Such a step would be injudicious for us and injurious to them. In the more populous States - New South Wales and Victoria - measures of land taxation are now foreshadowed, and it is anticipated that the tax will be imposed on unimproved values.
– In New South Wales the land tax has been abandoned.
– I have read a speech, delivered by the Premier of the State within the last ten days, which seems to point to the probability of the introduction of a land tax.
– I can quote a speech which is definitely opposedto further land taxation.
– The speech I read was published in extenso in the Sydney newspapers.
– When does the honorable gentleman expect the Victorian land tax to be proposed?
– Next session.
– And when will it be passed by the Victorian Legislative Council?
-I make no forecast, but believe that the state of public opinion in Victoria is such that the imposition of such taxation will not be delayed. The leader of the Opposition has associated land taxation with immigration, and the questions are properly dealt with together. The honorable gentleman, however, made his projects for immigration depend wholly upon the passing of a Federal land tax as a preliminary, putting on one side State legislation, present or prospective. He carefully avoided criticism, though his attention was continuously called to it, of the offer we had made to the States to provide all immigrants, for whom they would undertake to find land or employment. Why should not that offer have been repeated ? It put on the States the responsibility of determining their natural demands for new settlers, and of dealing with them.
– With whom does the responsibility of defending Australia lie? Was that put on the States, too?
– No. The offer which we made was pressed on theStates, and should have been repeated. But the Labour leader ignored, and still ignores it. Our responsibility in this matter must be shared by the States. We should add to the numbers of those who earn incomes as well as to the citizens who pay indirect taxation. Thus the benefit would be mutual. It is a matter of surprise that the late Government did not press our offer. Passing from that, the argument of the leader of the Opposition to-day seemed to lack its usual clearness when he referred to the stress laid on the fact that candidates of his party are opposing members of our party in the constituencies.
– The complaint which has been publicly made by honorable members opposite is that they are being challenged in the constituencies by Labour candidates.
– Exactly. The honorable member does not seem to recognise the force of that complaint. His party was in a minority, and his Government could be maintained in power only by the support of members of our party. These members were asked to support it at a time when his Labour organizations were threatening them in their constituencies.
– A similar position obtained when the Labour Party was supporting the late Deakin Administration.
– No. If it were proper for honorable members who were not Labour members to maintain a Labour Government and its policy, it was surely proper for the Labour Party to support those without whose support it could not continue in power, or give effect to its policy. It should have supported those who were supporting it.
– Has the honorable member been promised immunity from the opposition of candidates of other parties?
– Although the Labour Party has been seeking for three months, it has not yet been able to select a candidate to oppose me at Ballarat. My withers are unwrung, so that I speak dispassionately. To me, a Labour candidate would be preferable to any other.
– The honorable gentleman sought for and obtained immunity from the Conservatives last time.
– No. When it was found that the third candidate could not win, he was withdrawn.
– Upon a specific promise from the honorable gentleman.
– Upon no promises not made on the public platform, and all fulfilled. If the honorable gentleman looks up the returns, he will see that it would have made no difference to the result had a third candidate stood. But was it reasonable, fair, or decent to say to other members of our party, “ You must support us and our policy, although by so doing you will raise up against you opponents who are not of our party, while we at the same time bring forward other opponents who are of our party and of your policy, so that whatever your acts or policy may be you are sure to be defeated ‘ ‘ ?
– That is the treatment which the protectionists meted out to us.
– No. That treatment should have been meted out to you in New South Wales at the last election, but it was not.
– It was.
– It was not. Had it been meted out, a number of those who are now Labour members would not be here.
– Many of those now sitting behind the Government will not be in the next Parliament.
– I have again to call attention to the fact that honorable members must not address each other across the chamber. It is impossible for the speaker to proceed in the face of such interruption. Sometimes three or four members are interjecting at once, in loud tones.
– As I have called attention to the many grave matters upon which we were and are at issue with the late Government, it seems proper now to refer to the new proposals in the memorandum which I read yesterday. Of these the first and most important is for the appointment of an InterState ‘Commission. The constitutional importance of such a body is hardly recognised. May I so far trespass upon the patience of honorable members as to read, in this connexion, section 10 1 of the Constitution, which says -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
The widest power under the Constitution is the control of trade and commerce. That and all powers thereunder may be exercised by the Inter-State Commission whenever thought beneficial. A preceding section defines trade and commerce as including navigation and the management of State railways. It seemed to us, therefore, that, in order that the Federal authority might be used in a strictly constitutional manner, an Inter-State Commission should be created, its members to have the tenure of office required by the Constitution, which would insure their independence. We think that the time has arrived when, with great advantage to the manifold .interests concerned, that Commission should be brought into existence. Of late years, largely owing to the energy of that brilliant politician, Mr. Winston Churchill, and his equally brilliant and able predecessor, Mr. LloydGeorge, the functions of the Board of Trade have been growing at a marvellous rate. It used to be ‘said that the policy of laissez faire was supreme in British Departments. This has ceased to be true of the Board of Trade, which is pushing its inquiries into all the ramifications of trade and industry, employment and unemployment. A measure which will enable it to do this more authoritatively is now before the Imperial Parliament. That Board of Trade seeks to afford advice and assistance to both employers and em-, ployed, and of late it has been endeavouring to bring them more closely together. Therefore, in regard to the proposed establishment of the Inter-State Commission, while the great difference be-“ tween the two countries, in situation and population, must not be lost sight of, we have the precedent of what is being done by the Mother Country. In most continental countries, and in Germany more particularly, we can point to Boards under various titles, pursuing similar work. By the creation of the Inter-State Commission we shall obtain the services of an expert body not in any sense above Parliament. It requires to be created by Parliament. Parliament will fix its powers, and determine the conditions under which those powers are to be exercised. Having been created by Parliament, it will be a non-party body, to which can be submitted with confidence a number of industrial problems for inquiry and advice from men whose everyday business will put them in touch with the actual industries of the country, and those concerned with them. It will be the duty of the Commission to search for new markets abroad, to study markets and production at home, and the exchange of information between the different parts of the Commonwealth. Associated with it we shall have, naturally, as a sort of sub-branch, the labour bureauwe have long needed. That bureau will be able to take up and advise upon evidence such as has just been furnished by Sir John Cockburn in one of those valuable reports on industrial questions for which, the Commonwealth .is much indebted to him. This will enable us, not only to have what may be called a clearing-house for labour, so that knowledge of surplus of labour in one place,, and of work in another, mav be circulated; but more especially to take in hand the everlasting- problem of unemployment -which has long confronted the’ Old World, and is appearing even in the New. We can make an effort to provide insurance against unemployment such as has been satisfactorily made in one or two European countries.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the Inter-State Commission can have larger powers than the Parliament possesses?
– No. It will be created by the Federal Parliament, which will determine its powers.
– If the High Court has said that the Federal Parliament has exceeded its powers in this regard, how can we give the Inter-State Commission powers that we do not possess?
– We cannot ; but we have in the Constitution a charter of powers that we are authorized to grant to the Commission. Those we can grant.
– The Government propose to amend the Constitution to enable additional powers to be conferred on the Commission ?
– I am advised that it will not be necessary to have an amendment of the Constitution to carry out any of the purposes mentioned. They are not in conflict with State law, or outside the limits of our own very wide powers. It is difficult to say what “ trade and commerce” does not cover in the life of Australia.
– Does it cover railways?
– Railways are specially covered in the Constitution.
– It is safe to say that the “trade and commerce” provision in the Constitution does not cover industrial matters.
– Industrial matters are a branch of commerce whose control will be beyond its powers, but they will come to a large extent under the review of the Inter-State Commission.
– New Protection is, so to speak, a branch of”trade and commerce. ‘ ‘
– Yes, for inquiry. The subject is full of great opportunities, but I shall not discuss it further.
– Does not the honorable member think these expensive Commissions will eventually make protection top-heavy?
– No. Although I look in vain in the Governor-General’s speech for any reference of a fiscal character, the brief Ministerial statement that I read yesterday includes allusions to the New Protection, to the anomalies in the existing Tariff, and to the usefulness of the operations of a Board of Trade, in connexion with the Tariff when dealing with many vexed questions of detail that come before us with conflicts of interested evidence. All those questions and others relating to Preferential Trade and Reciprocity can. be referred to this disinterested and impartial body well qualified to measure the strength of evidence, and the character of the several industries with which it has to deal. I am able to show, at all events, a prevision of the importance to the Commonwealth of these fiscal and industrial matters, and our preparations for dealing with them. Nor do I find in the Governor-General’s speech a reference to the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau, in respect to which I think all parties are agreed.
– Will that also be connected with the Commission?
– Yes; in a very useful way.
– Is all this work for one session?
– And plenty more. Let me remind honorable members that only last year we took a new step in this direction, when, at the request of the pastoralists and shearers combined, ‘ whose representatives waited on the Government with which I was connected, we granted a sum to enable an investigation to be made with a view to determine when wet wool might profitably be cut without endangering the health of the shearers. That is a matter that has given rise to numerous industrial disputes involving great loss of time and money, both to shearers and their employers. The inquiry has been concluded, and one of the professors of the Melbourne University connected with it was able to inform me the other day that it appears to have solved the vexed problem. He said he believed it had been settled by the simple process of an impartial scientific inquiry. A Federal Agricultural Bureau will not need to trespass upon the functions of the Agricultural Departments of the States. By means of scientific experts, it will be able to connect their labours, and put them on an Australian basis. That is one illustration, small though it may appear to those unfamiliar with the losses that have occurred, of the manner in which a Bureau of Agriculture is likely to prove of the utmost value to those who need every assistance - the people who are making a great fight “out back.” Honorable members will find that in the matter of cable charges, and the development of the mail services, we are actively moving. The Treasurer has given notice of his intention to bring in a Bill with reference to silver coinage, the agreement as to which we have just con- cluded. The possibility of undertaking reproductive works has already been alluded to by me. Then there is a further proposal in our memorandum of the first magnitude. As the suggestion to attempt in the short time at our disposal this session to prepare an amendment of the Constitution, if that were necessary, or even to pass a measure embodying a final and permanent settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, would be beyond our powers, even if we had nothing else except an Appropriation Bill, an interim arrangement must be made. We need the most careful and thorough investigation on all sides of this problem, especially when it is taken in connexion with the existing loan obligations of the States and the financial future of the Commonwealth. In order to meet this difficulty, and to allow an advance towards a final settlement, a scheme is being prepared by the present Treasurer that will enable us to make an interim arrangement for a period as long as will be necessary to permit the vaster financial problem to be studied.
– How long ?
– Five years, I should think, will be the shortest time within which the question in all its aspects can be studied by both the Commonwealth and the States, and, if necessary, submitted to the people of Australia at the general election after next.
– In the meantime where are we to get the money for necessary works ?
– We shall make a new proposal, to bridge the intervening period, altering the financial conditions under which we have been carrying on up to the present.
– The Government are going to borrow.
– What is to be done will be settled only when the full figures of the Budget are before the Treasurer.
– The evil day is to be postponed.
– I do not regard it as an evil day.
– Why not fix the interim scheme for three years?
– It will be for Parliament to determine how long it shall prevail. I have mentioned five years from the present time, to allow the whole problem to be fully discussed, and remitted finally to the people at a general election. That will allow a margin of time to put the scheme into form.
– What do the Government propose to return to the States ?
– The Treasurer will deal with that subject. The honorable member does not expect me to introduce it now.
– Will the Government’s interim proposal indicate what they definitely suggest as a solutionof the permanent difficulty?
– Not necessarily. It has yet to be shaped by the Treasurer; we have not seen it.
– Why does not the honorable member say that the Government intend to propose a loan ?
– If I were certain, I should say so. I can assure the House that the desire will not be to borrow. We have particularized a little in respect of some of our defence developments; the full scheme will come with the Bill. In the meantime, the new institutions which it is desirable to launch with the least possible delay, are the military college, with a musketry school, and a primary naval college. We hope in this connexion that by getting into touch with the Naval and Defence Conference, we shall be furnished with valuable information presently.
– What about the trans-continental railway?
– That is a subject the flowers of which I ought not to pluck before the Treasurer has had an opportunity to display them.
– The report of the surveyors is not yet to hand.
– But there is a casual reference to it in the Ministerial statement.
– That is because the report is expected within a few weeks.
– Is the Federal Capital Bill to be a Government measure?
– Probably, We shall read the report and see what light is thrown upon the present proposal.
– What about the Northern Territory?
– Notice of our intention to introduce a Bill providing for taking over the Northern Territory has already been given. Let me remind honorable members of the Bills we have already before this Parliament. We have the Old-age Pensions Bill, the Bureau of Agriculture
Bill, the Northern Territory Bill, the High Commissioner Pill, and Bills relating to currency coinage, the use of telegraph lines in times of emergency, Norfolk Island, Bills of Exchange, Marine Insurance, Parliamentary Elections, the Audit Act, the Australian Industries Preservation Act - an anti-trust measure - Compensation to Seamen, Patents, Lighthouses, Navigation, and Conciliation and Arbitration. The last named is a measure in private hands in the Senate, part of which will be supported by the Government, with probably some additions. Owing to the confused proceedings yesterday, notice was not given, as was proposed, of our intention to introduce the Defence Bill. It will be given presently. Then we have the Inter-State Commission Bill, and Bills relating to a Labour Bureau, and possibly a proposal as to reproductive works. If necessary, at a later stage, there may be proposals in regard to the’ New Protection, although I am hoping that State concurrence will render them unnecessary. ‘ There may also be proposals in regard to some anomalies, and some other matters of the kind requiring attention.
– I notice that the Western Australian railway is only to be “ borne in mind.”
– The report of the survey has not yet been received. Would the honorable member care to say more until he had read the report as to costs and probabilities ? Those measures represent our bill of fare for the session. I think there are about twenty of them, and I should say that fifteen or sixteen appear, although some of them in a. different form, in the Governor-General’s speech. Consequently, if the Governor-General’s speech had been adopted, at least that number of measures would have been before us, and possibly some others of which we have not yet heard. There is an abundant bill of fare, therefore, for the session. Some of the measures it is almost idle to expect to be passed in an ordinary session. They are Bills which it is thought desirable either to table or bring forward in order that before the general election honorable members and the country may be sufficiently aware of them to indicate their intentions for the coming Parliament. A measure which one can take as typical of these, and the most important of them all, is the Navigation Bill, which has already been some time before the Senate, is likely to occupy them for a considerable portion of this session, and would therefore arrive in this Chamber, in all human probability, too late to permit of its being dealt with before the close of the session. There are one or two other long and complex, but valuable, measures, which may prove the subjects of fair parliamentary criticism to such an extent as to prevent their passing this session. Of course, I am alluding to the specific measures, as, for instance, Bills of Exchange, that I have mentioned. I am not alluding to such proposals as those with regard to the nationalization of monopolies, or for the industrial amendment of the Constitution, or even the suggested land tax, which I think would require far more time than would be available. This is the series of measures which I have not included in my calculation of the fifteen or sixteen, because they are obviously not for this Parliament, but for the country or the next Parliament. We had, therefore, from the late Government, and we have of our own, a very large bill of fare.
– The honorable member denounced it in the late Government.
– I pointed out that there were certain proposals obviously included for reference, discussion or electoral reasons.
– Now the honorable member says that many of his own measures are notoriously there for the same purpose.
– So far as I know, not one of the sixteen need be held over. It is possible that some of these codifying laws will be shipwrecked if honorable members choose to revise their details, although such measures are ordinarily accorded the ready support of both Houses. They are in our programme, as they were in that of the last Government, but -they do not trespass bounds as do the schemes for the nationalization of monopolies, or the complete industrial capture of the Commonwealth, or the land taxation of the whole of Australia. How much of this programme are we to get? How much is to be passed? My question has been answered in anticipation by the leader of the Opposition, who opened his remarks with the very important and - in his official position, and with his natural Scotch caution - the very serious statement that every proper parliamentary means was to be employed to prevent the transaction of business in this session.
Opposition Members. - No.
– To send this Parliament to the country in the shortest possible time.
– The latter part he did say, tout not what the honorable member attributed to him first.
– The sense of the remark, as I understood it, was that it was not intended that this business, or any practical portion of it, should pass.
– What he did say was that the alliance was so unholy that the Government ought to go to the country at once.
– He said more. Other members of the party, who are not official, have said quite as much as I am now saying, and more. Official members of the party outside the House have even gone so far as to say that we shall not dot an “i” or cross a “t” this year. In these circumstances, it becomes a very serious question for honorable members how far a legitimate and praiseworthy desire to go to the country is consistent with doing justice to the country’s business. In this Parliament we occupy a different position from any Parliament that has preceded us. We are here under a lengthened tenure of existence, on purpose that future elections which must occur with regularity shall fall at the particular time of the year found most convenient to the electors of Australia. At the last general election an amendment of the Constitution was submitted and carried with three-quarters of a million votes in its favour, and bv a majority of over 600,000, fixing the date for future Federal elections in about March or April of next year, and each third year succeeding. This Parliament lasts, I believe, to the end of March.
– To 20th February.
– That will enable the elections to be held in April or May. That is the only amendment of the Constitution that has yet been passed. It was agreed to by the electors at the same time as they chose the present Parliament.
– They did not anticipate the fusion.
– Nor do those who are proposing a hasty dissolution before that time realize that by so doing they destroy the whole effect of that amendment of the Constitution. Any new House can last only three years from the date of its calling together. Consequently the effect of the action proposed will involve the rejection of the amendment of the Constitution as to election time solemnly made by threequarters of a million of our electors, and by an overwhelming majority. That circumstance requires at least to be taken into consideration.
– That is a plausible cry to be allowed to remain in office !
– Is it a plausible cry to ask that the deliberate will of the people shall be given effect? The late Government took no steps, as they might have done, to give us a longer period for work during this session. They might have met us earlier. They did not do so, and they evidently intended, when they did meet Parliament, to be prepared for emergencies, because several of their leading Ministers spent a large part of the recess in conducting a preliminary electioneering campaign. That did not show a plan of operations involving a protracted or busy session.
– They could not be found in their offices.
– This attention to the electors, coupled with the shortening of the session, became still more significant. They took early opportunity, whilst still in the country, and before this session had begun, and before, as far as I remember, any serious hostile step had been taken outside of it, to talk about a dissolution. The references of the late Prime Minister to a dissolution were constitutional, but his colleagues were not only near the line, but very much over it, in their unconstitutional references. These amounted to threats of a dissolution. That did not indicate an intentionto spend a busy session on practical work. I have now obtained a copy of the official report of what was, I think, the first sentence of the speech of the leader of the Opposition this afternoon, my recollection of which was challenged just now. As I said, words coming from him have greater weight than those coming from any other honorable member on that side, not only because of his official leadership, but because he weighs his words. This is what he said -
I feel .it to be my public duty, as I have said on many platforms, to avail myself of the first opportunity - and of as many as offer in the ordinary course of parliamentary procedure - to compel the Government .to submit themselves at the earliest moment to the electors.
– Hear, hear.
– I interpreted those words as meaning that the honorable member intended to use our parliamentary. procedure to prevent the transaction of the business of which I have been reading a list to the House during his absence.
– My words have no such meaning.
– 1 am happy to hear it. It would have been a wicked thing to destroy the session’s work and deny the country’s needs. We may hope that a fair proportion of the measures to be submitted to the Chamber, will be dealt with on their merits, and passed into law after necessary discussion, though not more than is necessary in the public interest.
– Who is to judge what is necessary ?
– In some matters I should be willing to take the honorable member’s own judgment. Here is a programme consisting of a number of measures, not of very great length, but some of pressing urgency, and most of real urgency.
– Is the New Protection of pressing urgency?
– That is of pressing urgency.
– I do not see it in the programme.
– But the honorable member has been informed of the course that has been followed. We are in communication with the States, which may render an amendment of the Constitution unnecessary.
– Will honorable members behind the Government support a real New Protection scheme?
– I am satisfied of it.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to abolish the Federal Arbitration Act?
– I do not. But I am relieved of the necessity of pursuing this contention. The interpretation of the words which the leader of the Opposition has just given relieves me of the obligation of pressing the argument in relation to those measures, and the importance which they have for the country at the present juncture. I was more than justified in taking my reading of his words in the light of the numerous references outside which I have mentioned, and which seemed beyond all possible doubt the formal official announcement of extravagant intentions.
– No one makes my words for me.
– I do not insinuate otherwise, but read the words in the light of state ments made by various honorable members associated with the leader of the Opposition. Above all, in regard to the measures we hope to pass, arid some of those which may not pass, it is in the highest degree desirable that they should, at all events, be sufficiently understood to permit the country to give clear directions upon them at the next general election. Whether the election comes, as I suppose it will, at the ordinary period, or whether, owing to some unexpected, altogether unforeseen! and imperative demand, at an earlier date, I agree with honorable members opposite in considering that it will be probably the most momentous contest yet witnessed in Australia. The preparations which the Labour Party have made and are continuing to make show that they have realized that fact. I am not sure yet that the public of the whole of this vast Commonwealth have realized it; and it is very necessary that they should have an opportunity of judging their present representatives by their work this session, and those who propose to take our places by the policy they will seek to substitute. As I have shown, there are about half a dozen proposals either submitted or outlined in the Governor-General’s speech to. which we on this side offer a resolute resistance, and rather more than that number of our own measures which we intend to propose, and for some, if not all, of which a mixed reception may be expected on the other side. The country will require to choose; and to do so in the light of an entirely new situation. Hitherto, parties in this House, except the party which is now sitting opposite, have been separated by vital differences on questions of immediate urgency to the Commonwealth as a whole, and have been in strenuous and persistent opposition to each other. Those questions have either passed discussion, have died down, or, under recent legislation, are postponed for the time being. On the questions that remain, members on this side, speaking generally, have arrived at an agreement. The principles of that agreement have been laid down. They admit not only the proposals before us, but their natural development, if, as we believe and hope, they take root and command the confidence of the country. Under the circumstances, what will be seen on this side of the House will not be a coalition - will not be a mere union for a Parliament, but a permanent union of the people of this country who are content, by Liberal means and Liberal methods, to foster a Liberal policy.
– Under Conservative domination !
– The interjection has been several times made that there is a Conservative backing to this Government.
– The Prime Minister said so himself.
– I ‘ am glad to get a Conservative backing. I hope, but do not expect, that what reasonable people would call, a Conservative backing, will continue to this Government, especially when ‘ we have had time to feel our feet and develop our own proposals. If it does, it will be because the Conservative Party realize, as they ought to have realized before, that the Liberal proposals submitted by us are their only safeguard against more dangerous measures. Honorable members opposite are associated with proposals which aim directly at benefiting one portion of the community at the expense of another, not simply on lines of justice or fair play, but as the booty of a successful raid. We say that our Liberal proposals now submitted with regard to taxation, industrial affairs, and finance move as fast forward as it is. safe to go, and that with injustice to nene. We contend that the proposals which honorable members opposite submit are too” crude to be dealt with in present legislation, and that, even if they could be carried into effect, would injure the energy, stamina, and progress of the community as a whole for temporary and unreal benefits to a section. It may be that the Conservatives have already summed up the situation, and realized that the only permanent hope of the country is in the Liberal Party and Liberal principles. But if I were to seek certain forms of Conservatism in its most intense parliamentary form, I should seek it not among them but on the benches opposite. That is where I should look for methods of control which they cannot alter and dare not try to alter - methods which impair the usefulness of honorable members in the House and their relation to their constituents. They make anything possible.
– It is marvellous how the Prime Minister has just found these things out !
– Let the honorable member re-read my Ballarat speech of four or five years ago, in which he will find my opinion on this question stated with the utmost clearness and emphasis.
– The only time we ever heard anything like it was when the Labour Party was in opposition to the Prime Minister. We were everything that was good when we were supporting’ him !
– Some of the honorable members were, but not all ; there are flyspecks even on the Labour Party.
– I admit I suspected the Prime Minister long before I could convince some of my party.
– I am not reflecting on members of the Labour Party as individuals, but speaking of the conditions under which they appear here; individually they have my sympathy. As I have ‘said, the next general election will see, not only a new party, but a new situation ; honorable members opposite will be required to justify the extreme proposals which they have ventured more or less openly to introduce into their platform. All that is reasonable, timely, and effective in their platform was, and is, to be found in ours. Nothing but their extravagances will remain to distinguish their policy. But since these reckless nostrums may be inflicted by a sudden caucus decree hereafter attention will be specially riveted on the improper and unnatural restraints which are imposed on those honorable members by the* conditions of the organization to which they belong. I can testify that their constituents need have no apprehension but that if they return the bulk of the men I see opposite as free men they will receive absolutely, faithful and upright service, and fidelity to promises, without the restraints now imposed on them. The indignity of requiring honorable members to submit their judgments to the organization is absolutely unnecessary from the point of view of the Labour electors themselves. I hope that even those who have grown accustomed to their chains will take advantage of the opportunity to help to make a situation new on both sides. We should then be separated only by those principles which must certainly divide us in regard to the most important questions of the day. The verdict of the electors may be given, it is said, with vested interests on our side, but I hope not with the vested interests of prejudice and ignorance, calumny and misrepresentation, which have been and are now being relied on by the Labour Leagues. Honorable members opposite complain that they are not heard in the daily metropolitan press; but they have a press of their own, seen by few of us, though it is the only press read by numbers of people, which for reckless misrepresentation is the worst in Australia. It often expresses the belief of men who are sincere, but so absolutely blinded to the possible merits of everyone ranged against them that they do not hesitate to employ any means in order to defame an opponent. As for our party, whatever may be its fortune at the next election, we will bow to it, not only because we must, but because we trust what we hope will be the deliberate and decisive verdict of the people. Among us there is no illegitimate coercion in or out of the House. At all events, whatever those with me may feel, I will not, do not, and cannot, regret the step recently .taken. It was the only step left, if Liberalism and Liberal principles were to be preserved. For the time being, there must be some mutual sacrifies ; but now, so far as I am concerned, those sacrifices have not been serious; if they had been, they might have deterred me. So far as my colleagues are concerned - and I think I can understand their position - their sacrifices are not serious. There are some differences among us on this side, but I believe that, in the face of the situation, in the face of the threatened! attack from honorable members opposite, and in the face of .the withering influence of their organization, which prevents their free development as representatives of the people, there will be a rally of the thinking community of Australia from end to end. This will bring to our ranks many whose sympathetic support the Labour Party has hitherto been fortunate enough to obtain. This time principles will be laid down plainlythere will be little question of persons but much of questions of principle. The liberal principles, proclaimed by representatives who are Liberal, and free to develop their Liberalism towards its natural ideals, will then win an overwhelming sanction from the electors of Australia.
.- I feel myself at a disadvantage in following the Prime Minister; first, because of the length of his’ speech, no doubt quite excusable under the circumstances ; and, secondly, because the state of my health prevents me from doing justice to what we must assume to be the best presentation of the case for the fusion. The honorable and learned gentleman, we are rejoiced to learn, has not lost that power of speech which, in these recent days, we have had reason to think had gone from him. Even no later than yesterday, he dared not venture to do more than read a statement from a paper. Now happily he« has quite recovered, and he has dealt with his case in characteristic fashion. The charge against him being breach of his word, abandonment of his principles, and the sacrifice of the Liberal policy, he favoured us with a pathetic dissertation upon the iniquitous methods of the Labour Party, and expressed his sincere regret that upright and honorable men like ourselves should be so unhappily circumstanced ; he announced to an amazed House that he had now discovered a new and better way to the industrial millennium, which awaits us. It would be a hopeless task to follow the honorable gentleman throughout his speech, and I shall not attempt it. The leader of the Opposition has formulated a charge against the Ministry. He declares that it has not the confidence of the House, and has expressed his belief that it has not the confidence of the country. I propose to show why it should not have the confidence of the House, and why I am sure that it has not the confidence of the country. The Prime Minister, in his peroration, made a number of statements which I am sure were not the result of impromptu effort, but were constructed with that deliberate care which has enabled him to leave, in every speech, the way-out which he has discovered to be in his case absolutely necessary. First he told us that the cause of Liberalism is absolutely safe.
– Not quite, but nearly.
– The honorable gentleman said that what had been done was the only way to save Liberalism. A cause which, to be saved, has first to be betrayed, and then destroyed, is in a bad way. I propose to quote, by way of antidote to the honorable gentleman’s statements, what the Age has said about those with whom he has allied himself. I have never realized so thoroughly as of late the power, prescience, and usefulness of that great journal. Recently its columns have been enriched with such a store of philosophy, wisdom, strong common-sense, and abundance of pregnant and damning facts as to make this journal the essential equipment of every legislator and citizen in the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister says that the cause of Liberalism is safe, and that he does not regret the step which he has taken. I quite believe him. The right honorable member for Swan is another of the non-regretful brigade. His emotions are incapable of translation into words. Wreathed in beaming smiles, he is inarticulate, but, nevertheless, as sincere in his unaffected joy at the position as is his new leader. On the 4th March last, the journal which has made the Prime Minister, explained him, excused him, maintained him, and, in the end, will write his fitting political obituary, published of the Opposition led by the honorable member for Parramatta - a gentleman who for eleven years it has been my fortune to have had to listen to - an infliction tempered in my case by Providence -
The Opposition have not for one week or one day intermitted their opposition. It has been an opposition not merely upon the Tariff, to which they were opposed in every detail and in every principle. But it was upon every important item of policy. They were hostile to the protection of Queensland sugar by bounty, to the safeguards of a White Australia’ in Immigration Acts and Shipping Acts. They lied themselves black in character over the six hatters and the Petriana myth. They opposed alike the Old Protection and the New Protection. They exhausted themselves in favour of imported harvesters. They ridiculed with all the power of their small wit the policy of Imperial preference. They insisted on continuing the objectionable policy of the Imperial Navy subsidy, and could never see any force in an Australian defence policy of self-reliance. On all these points the Opposition Conservative party was totally opposed to liberalism, and on the States rights question it was more opposed than in all else. If it were merely simulating an opposition, which it did not feel, so much the worse for its sincerity. We can have nothing tn say about that. What we do know is that Mr. Cook and his followers have been consistent enemies of all the vital points of that policy which Mr. Deakin proclaims as the national policy of Australia, and which has to be maintained.
And now the Prime Minister has allied himself with .his converted enemies under circumstances almost without parallel in our history. He does not ‘regret this step ; in fact, he rejoices in it. I wish to call the attention of the House and the country to the exhibition which we have had this afternoon from the Prime Minister, who is charged with the gravest crime - I use the word deliberately - of which a politician can be accused. If we may draw a distinction between political offences and crimes, then he has committed the greatest political crime, not tinctured with personal dishonesty, of which a politician could be guilty. One would have imagined that he would have met this charge in a dignified and serious manner. But we have been treated to a. flippant display of the ingenious and tortuous means that are ever at his disposal to evade and elude. He takes pride in his ingenious shuffling, evasion, and equivocations. When charged with having made certain speeches, he replies with jaunty effrontery, “ I made those observations because they seemed necessary at the time.’- No doubt he will go on during the ages, or so long as he is permitted, making similar observations. To-night he will say one thing, to-morrow night another. We had a right at least to expect an explanation or excuse, but he gave us none. The leader of the Opposition stated that the Prime Minister had given it as one of the chief reasons for the fusion that the seats of his followers were in danger! A more outrageous admission of the real reason for his action could not have been made. He says that we asked his party to stand behind us because without them we could not live as a Government, and that, although we expected their support, we intended to oppose them at the election. I pity a man who can make such an excuse in justification for treachery to his party and his principles. Let us again turn to the Age, which on the 31st October, 1907, says -
The Ministerial programme, as laid before the electors, is almost entirely on the lines of the Labour programme as far as it went. Consequently in supporting the Government, the Labour Party was supporting its own measures.
On the 13th January last, it said -
There cannot be any rational doubt whatever that a working agreement between Mr. Fisher’s party and Mr. Deakin’s party would enable a policy to be mapped out, and executed, that would place the Commonwealth Government in a strong lead. The Federal Liberal Party and the Federal Labour Party are natural allies. . . The issue rests with him (Mr. Deakin), he is told. “ He has only to hold up his finger in order to command the joint forces of all the non-labour elements of the House.”. … It is a statement full of allurement, but it is a piece of sophistry as full of falsehood as sophisms usually are. . . Equally impossible is it to imagine any sturdy Liberals, such as Messrs. Mauger, Salmon, Hume Cook, or Wise ranging themselves in the ruck of the Conservative party…..
It is perfectly clear, then, that when we asked the honorable member and his friends to support us we asked them only to do what they had pledged themselves to their constituents to do. But because we proposed, if we could, to defeat them at the poll, as we had a perfect right to do, they declined to carry out their pledges. I am not considering the question of whether or not it was a friendly or an expedient course to take, since that has nothing to do with the question. I would remind the House, however, that the Prime Minister, whose every breath of official life has been drawn by virtue of the support of our party, has never given us one hour’s support that he has not grudged, nor ceased from intriguing against us. We only asked these honorable members to be true to their principles, and their reply was that they could not afford to think of their principles, for if they did their seats would be in jeopardy. They have sacrificed their principles and have retained their seats. The position at the next general election will be that the honorable member for Bourke, for example, will have the support of a newspaper that he has never been tired of denouncing, but which is now evincing the liveliest and almost paternal interest in his welfare. It is supporting, not only the honorable member for Bourke, but the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for Batman. All these honorable members are now under its special protection. It is, indeed, an inauspicious day that has dawned on these honorable members when they have to depend on the support of sucha newspaper. At the last general election the honorable member for Bourke declared that there was no room for an anti-Socialist candidate in that electorate.
– That was quite true; the anti-Socialist candidate lost his deposit.
– And the honorable member is now the Argus candidate for any electorate for which he chooses to stand. The honorable member was asked to stand by that to which he had pledged himself, but because we threatened his seat he went over. The honorable member for Ballarat has told us that this does not affect him. He has a lofty air of contempt for such trivial matters as Parliament and office. He is like Jove on Olympus, and does not concern himself with matters which threaten to overwhelm the honorable member for Bourke. He is far above such things. He is entrenched like a god, and no man can shift him, although I have heard rumours of a certain midnight meeting in the honorable member’s electorate at the last general election. The honorable gentleman imagines himself in one of those ancient seances in which he was wont at one time to take part.
– With a mask.
– Yes, the mask of joviality and affability that has stood him so well. Any one who takes the trouble to look at the honorable gentleman, however, will see, on tearing aside the mask, the real man. If it had not been for his .agreement with the anti-Socialist candidate at the last election it would not, perhaps, have gone so well with him. At the next election, however, all will be well with him. He will have the Liberal and the Conservative support. But I would call the honorable gentleman’s attention to what the Age says about the present position. It is true that its power has now disappeared, that it now merely echoes that which the Argus declares. Still, he ought not, in common gratitude, to repudiate it. On the 17th May last the Age wrote -
The one single satisfactory outcome of Senator Sir Robert Best’s conference willi the Freetrade leader in Sydney is to prove how very far apart are conservative and liberal views. . . However, Sir -Robert Best . . . has not been able to conceal from the whole political world that there exists a yawning gulf of difference between the conservative and liberal view of future policy.
It also reported the present Minister of Defence as saying -
I am glad there is going to be a struggle on the State rights question….. I am a staunch opponent of any attempt to whittle away State rights.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When, we adjourned; I was producing proof of the irreconcilable differences of policy in. the party led by the Prime Minister and in that led by the Minister of Defence. In the Age of 17th May last, there appeared this statement in reference to Senator Best, who was the Prime Minister’s ambassador in these negotiations -
Is it that he wants to help Mr. Deakin to beguile his party into an alliance with Conservatism on secret terms ?
That seems a most appropriate remark -
What is there to conceal, if the negotiations are honest and above board ?
Here is a Daniel come to judgment ! The article continued -
Thanks to the contemptuous frankness of Mr. Cook, concealment in the Liberal leaders served no purpose. . . . He has shown that no union can take place with Liberalism except on the basis of a great surrender on the part of the Liberal Party. Indeed, the price of that union must be the annihilation of Liberalism as a progressive force.
Yet the honorable member claims that he entered the coalition to save liberalism; that there was no other method by which it could be saved. What an amazing declaration ! What a brazen attempt to hoodwink the people. The new doctrine of political salvation is, apparently, that if a man wishes to be saved, he must first be damned. It will go hard with the Prime Minister if ever his doctrine has to be enforced in respect of his salvation in the life to come. No doubt we see on the Government benches typified the political purgatorium. In this for a thousand years they dwell before they are purified sufficiently to enter the political heaven. The honorable gentleman makes the statement before a deliberative assembly, and the country generally, that the reason he has abandoned his principles and his party, and has done that which the Age and every sensible man in the country denounces,’ and cannot palliate, is that he wishes to save the Liberal cause. It would appear, then, that we can best promote sobriety by an alliance with drunkards; that property and life may best be safeguarded by the police forming a permanent alliance with the criminals of the Commonwealth ; that the best way of stimulating chastity is by promiscuous intercourse, and that we can best get honesty of word and of purpose by allying ourselves with thieves and scoundrels. In short, it would appear that the best way to promote good is by an alliance with evil. If the honorable gentleman had been a preacher of religion instead of a preacher in politics, and had lt been his lot to go out as a missionary to the heathen, his idea of promoting Christianity would have been no doubt to ally himself with heathens- The honorable member must have a curious type of mind if he thinks that a statement which would not be accepted even in an infants’ school will go down in this country. It is usual for men who have done things similar to that which the Prime Minister has done to take refuge in incredible excuses. No doubt a man put upon his trial for horse-stealing might come forward with the defence, “It is true, your. Honour, I stole the horse ; but there was no other way of preserving its life. Had I not stolen it, it would have been taken by a gang who would have prevented it starting in the race for which it was entered.” A man charged with the larceny of a watch and chain, which was found in his pocket, might plead, “ I took it to preserve it for the owner.” Or a man who had been found standing over the body of a woman with her throat cut, might plead, when charged with murder, “It is true that I took the woman’s life, but I did itto save her honour.” Yet none of these absurd defences would be more useless than the specious and ridiculous excuses put forward by the Prime Minister for an action, the real reason for which, on the face of it,, is self-evident. Let us again quote the Age of 14th May last -
One thing is abundantly clear - that any Government formed by Sir John Forrest and Mr. Joseph Cook must of necessity be Conservative.
There can be no doubt about that -
There are those who say that the difference between a Cook and a Deakin are slight as compared with those between a Deakin and a Fisher. But that is just the reverse of the truth. The reason why the Deakin Government was able to hold office so long by the help of the Labour Party was just because on nine points out of ten the Liberal and the Labour policies are the same.
One could not have written better articles one-self. We come now to the excuse of the honorable gentleman, that he brought about the coalition in order to save his own seat, as well as the seats of his friends in Parliament. The Age saw the possibility of such an excuse being made, and brushed it aside as a specious and trumpery one. It wrote in the article to which I have just referred -
It is, of course, exceedingly difficult to induce Liberals to support a Labour Party in the House when that party is sapping and mining all the Liberal seats in the country. This is really where the political shoe pinches. And in the irritation it produces we must have very much sympathy with the Liberal Party and its leader. Still, when all these allowances are made, and even when such considerations are emphasized, they do not suffice to excuse the Liberal Party permitting itself to be absorbed in a combination of Conservatism and anti-Socialists, where it must become a back number, without gower, without influence, and only a disappointed spectator of the drift of high purposes. In this time of stress and strain, when all kinds of influences are being employed to submerge the Liberal Party and its leader, it is the duty of that party” more than ever to stand firm in its integrity ; and the decision of Mr. Deakin to efface himself as leader means the virtual effacement of the party whose fortunes were entrusted to his care.
In the face of all this, will the honorable member contend for one moment that his action was due to a desire to save the Liberal cause. I cannot recall one instance in the past nine years where the honorable member for Parramatta has not opposed the legislation brought in by the present leader of the Government.
– I have been a long while trying to separate him from the Labour Party.
– I am not saying anything at all aboutthe honorable member. I think he is in his right, place as Minister of Defence. It is very proper that he should be upon his defence. No man, God knows, ought to be upon it more. When I look at the honorable member, I see that he is now only separated by that which intellectually is negligible, but, corporally, is only too visible - I mean the right honorable member for Swan - from the Prime Minister. They are only too well matched. The one begins where the other ends. The honorable member for Parramatta started as a Protectionist. He may live to finish there. He started as a Republican. He may live long enough to end there. He started as a land nationalist. He is the champion now of the interest which cries : “ Keep your iconoclastic hands off the lands of this country.” He started as a man who denounced in the most unmeasured terms the proposal to pay a subsidy to the British Navy.
– Is he the honorable member who at one time talked about cutting the painter ?
– There is not a doubt of it. I will not say that he would be an artistic painter, but he would be a man with plenty of paint that could paint the honorable member’s record over.
– It has been more consistent than that of the honorable member.
– I admit that monotony is the curse of life, and it has been my unfortunate lot to be attached’ to one party throughout my political career. I joined it, spurred on by the determination to make my honorable friend toe the scratch. The party to which I attached my early political fortunes was then not one to which a man would attach himself who wanted to do well in this world. I have been there all the time. I am there now, and all that can be. said against me is that I have been foolish enough to stick to my word and my party. No man can accuse the honorable member of that.
– He was with the honorable member in the beginning.
– I did not know the honorable member in the beginning, but when I heard of him first he was the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales, and now he is the real leader of the new
Liberal Party, which is the old, old, Conservative Party. The close association of the honorable member for Ballarat with the Labour Party was such as to draw down from the honorable member for Parramatta the most extreme denunciations. He declared that the honorable member for Ballarat was under our thumb. As for the right honorable member for Swan, I am always trying to express ray opinion of him, but I cannot do it. For him the ordinary political code does not exist ! He isnot immoral, he is only unmoral. He reminds one so irresistibly of those chubby-faced boys one sees who have been guilty of some escapade, robbing an orchard, or depriving some struggling widow of. a fowl, and rejoicing with such uncontrollable delight in his naughty action that I am robbed of all power of expression. The Minister of Defence has denounced for nine years the present head of the Government because he has been under the thumb of the Labour Party, and now the honorable member for Ballarat claims to be the leader of the great Liberal Party, and to have been compelled to ally himself with the Conservatives in order to save the Liberal cause. It is as if a man said he had to cut his throat in order to save his life. What is the programme of the Liberal Party? Happily, it is here. At the 1906 elections it comprised Protection, New Protection, Maintenance of a WhiteAustralia, Effective Defence - Naval and Military, including a torpedo flotilla and some cruisers, Preferential Trade, OldAge Pensions, Immigration, Anti-Trust Legislation, Union Label, Navigation Bill, providing for coastal trade being confined to vessels observing Australian rates and conditions; Finance, including surplus revenue, and so on. On every one of these measures, except Old-age Pensions, the honorable member for Parramatta was opposed to the leader of the Government. The honorable member for Ballarat says that he has done this thing in order to save the Liberal Party and in order to give effect to that industrial legislation of which he is and always has been so eloquent an exponent. He is carrying the banner of the White Australia policy, arid the piebald’ hand of the coloured labour party is holding it up. On the 20th October, 1908, the honorable member said regarding the then Opposition, that they comprised the wreckage of the coloured labour party, the antiSocialist party, and of every other party in the House. It is to maintain the White-
Australia policy that he has enlisted the sympathies of the honorable member for Parkes - a man whose ideal is expressed in the pious hope that the Japanese will some day be met by us on an equal footing, and welcomed to Australia. The honorable member brings forward his New Protection under the sinister auspices of the president, past or present, of the Employers’ Federation. Who is better able to protect the worker than the honorable member for Fawkner? That triumvirate, the honorable member for Batman, the honorable member forMaribyrnong, and the honorable member for Bourke, of whom I see only one now present, appear in the most perplexing way in the columns of the daily press as connected with some mysterious association known as the Anti-Sweating League. They propose to put down sweating, and to do so they have allied themselves with the Employers’Federation ! Evidently the way to put down sin is to shake hands with the devil, sit alongside him, and go to bed with him. We are sure to get the New Protection now. There is absolutely on the face of it such an irreconcilable difference of opinion between those honorable members who followed the honorable member for Ballarat, and those who are now sitting behind him, that even now, when they are all arrayed on one side, there is not one who would trust the other out of his sight - not for his immortal soul. Why is the honorable member for Parramatta here, instead of beyond Fremantle, on his way to England ? Because lie would no more have trusted the honorable member for Ballarat for six months out of his sight than he would have attempted to fly. There are honorable members sitting on that side who, if they were permitted to express their feelings on the fusion, would be able to make a speech compared with which mine would be tame, flat, and unprofitable. They want none of their present leader and they are only waiting for him to do that which they know he will do if they wait long enough.
– The honorable member is a bad prophet. He said it could not be done, and it has been done. Now he says it cannot last.
– It is, no doubt, very much to my discredit that I thought men were honorable and straightforward, and I am a fool because I did not believe other men to be rogues. That is the singular defence now put forward - that I have lost the right to criticise, because the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has not carried out what he said most positively that he would carry out. On the same process of reasoning, if a man, being warned by another that his trusted friend proposed to rob him and refusing to believe it, states his determination to trust him absolutely, and is then robbed by that trusted friend, he loses his right to denounce the crime, to condemn the man, and punish him for it. Surely not ! The fact that, although we had the most positive assurance that the fusion would not come about, it has come about, only aggravates the spirit in which it should be regarded. The Prime Minister to-day put forward a pathetic little plea that the measures in the programme which the Government have submitted might re ceive from the House the attention that they deserve. That is really the most humorous incident in the whole of this business. The man who deliberately prevented one solitary measure of the Fisher Government’s programme from receiving consideration now comes forward, after deliberately breaking his word to us and betraying his principles, and asks the House to give him consideration for his measures ! So far as I am concerned, I say without reservation, qualification, or equivocation that I shall give every consideration to this Government’s measures, but to the Government itself I will give no quarter.
– They want none.
– Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.” They ask for consideration which they themselves never gave to any human being. They ask for it after having committed an action of which I believe they are all, excepting perhaps a few in the front row, heartily ashamed.
– They are ashamed, too.
– Although I bow to the honorable member’s superior knowledge, I am bound to say that some of them exhibit no traces of shame. I come now to the programme submitted yesterday by the Government. I venture to say that on their memorandum or “ brief statement of business,” if on nothing else, the Government ought to, and must be condemned. The Prime Minister this afternoon gave us a running comment on the chief measures set forth, and from this it appears most unfortunate that for the last eight or nine years we have not had the benefit of his comprehensive and masterly exposition of the methods of dealing with the most complex questions before the. country. For years, the honorable gentleman has had the opportunity in the House and the country, to show us the better way ; but only tonight we hear it for the first time. It would appear that the unemployment question, which is agitating every country in the world, and which imperatively demands settlement, is, after all, a myth - there is no unemployment ; it is merely a matter of arrangement. The remedy suggested is a Federal Labour Bureau; and it is noteworthy that this memorandum is full of bureaux, including a Bureau of Agriculture. When in the future the people of this country say that they have no employment, they will be told that all that is necessary is to go to the Bureau and everything will be well. If a man in the Gulf of Carpentaria has nothing to do, is he unemployed ? Not at all ; there is a job for him on the other side of Basis Straits. A man wanting work on the goldfields of Coolgardie would go to the Bureau and hear of work in far-off Sydney. A storekeeper short of customers will be told that there are any number of customers, only, unfortunately, they are 300 or 3,000 miles away. We are assured, in short, that this difficulty, which we had thought radical is, after all, only geographical ; that all that need be done is to bring the customers to the tradesman or the tradesman to the customer. If this childish, utterly inane proposal were sufficient to deal with this problem, it would have been settled long ago. If the unemployment problem was only that in one place men were wanting employment, and in another place employers were wanting men, it would have been settled long ago : for it would have settled itself. For it is a law to which there is no exception that supply follows demand. When money is dear, money byandby comes in and the price goes down ; and the same Jaw applies to wheat and other commodities, and to even labour. Whereever there is a demand in one place, and a supply elsewhere, the supply goes to the demand. To say that this proposal is an honest, comprehensive, and sensible method of dealing with a great question, is to trifle with the intelligence of the House and the country. The Prime Minister informs us that he had no assistance in drafting this memorandum ; but, as a matter of fact, in this very proposal, we see the hand of the Minister of Defence. It may have been second sight or telepathy that enabled the Prime Minister to propose this method ; but, at any rate, the fact is as I have stated. Then we find that all the orations which the Prime Minister used to deliver about New Protection were mere hot air. For he told us to-night that before New Protection could be carried into effect there would be required an organization so intricate as to be quite impracticable. We learn for the first time that the Board of Trade of Great Britain is a means by which fair and reasonable wages may be accorded to every man ; and the Prime Minister pretends to see in an Inter-State Commission some likeness to the Board of Trade. What we are going to have is a series of Federal Wages Boards, which are to carry on their work under the aegis of an Inter- State Commission or Board of Trade. Here, again, we have the pure, uncontaminated proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta. Every party to the fusion is represented in the memorandum. As the honorable member for Parramatta is one who insists on having his own way when he can get it, I looked for his handiwork in the memorandum, and I find it. Then the proposed Agricultural Bureau was exhibited to us during the life of the last Deakin Government; but it never got beyond a speech by the Minister of External Affairs ; and, naturally, under his auspices it got no further. Then, we are told, that anomalies in the Customs Tariff are to be “ examined, classified, and dealt with in due course.” The prospect is very alluring. By whom are the anomalies to be examined and classified? There is something almost epigrammatic about the phrase. “ examined, classified, and dealt within due course”; it is quite typical of this fusion ; but how, by whom, or when the anomalies will be dealt with, the deponent knoweth not. An active policy of immigration is to be undertaken. For years we have heard the silvern voice of the Prime Minister picturing the salvation of this country by immigration. There was to be a mighty army attracted to these shores, and teeming millions were to be found where unused lands now meet the eye. But not one human being has reached these shores in consequence of the honorable gentleman’s orations. And the reason for this is clear. There is no land available. At the last election, his attitude on this question was shown in these words -
I have collected for twelve months past figures showing that there are more applicants for land in every State than any State has land for. I have shown that there are Australians without land seeking for land, and I have asked ‘the Stales how I can advertise in London or through Great Britain that land is available for settlers from the old land, when we have not supplied enough to place our own people on the land. . I have made it a first condition of my communication with those Premiers that they should make so much land available; that, first of all, the Australian demand should be ^supplied.
From that day to this no land has been made available. On the 4th May, 1909, the Prime Minister said : -
He had always regarded an equitable land tax as a legitimate source of taxation, and a valuable means of encouraging settlement.
Yet this afternoon he told us that we ought not to indulge in direct taxation, because that had been understood as the special prerogative of the States. Yet according to the memorandum the active policy of immigration will be undertaken and expanded in the light of the knowledge made available by the Commission and the Bureau, and with, it is hoped, the co-operation of all the States.
But all .these proposals are merely bubbles, and I now come to something tangible -
The appointment of a High Commissioner in London with a well-equipped office will be necessary for, among other purposes, our financial interests, the supervision of immigration, and co-operation with the Inter-State Commission in fostering trade and commerce.
I do most thoroughly believe that the Government intend to appoint a High Commissioner.
– Who is he?
– Although the Government do not say. I feel sure there is an understanding as to who the High Commissioner shall be, and I am equally sure that the appointment, together with that of an Inter-State Commission, are measures on which the Government, I do not say will stand or fall, but will be prepared to be very resolute. One gentleman will be required as High Commissioner, and about three others as Inter-State Commissioners, and the appointments will be pressed on to the end ; so that, at any rate, from the long programme we can disentangle two proposals about which the Government are in earnest. I should like now to say a word about the Navigation Bill. The main contentious point in this measure is connected with the coastal navigation, and in regard to that there is a distinct cleavage of opinion between the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. I know that, at any rate, the Minister of
Defence and the honorable member for North Sydney are not in favour of confining the coastal trade to vessels that pay coastal rates; and I challenge the Minister to say that that is not so. I say emphatically that it is intended to deliberately sacrifice the -great maritime interests of the country. The Government is about to put aside the policy which its leader at one time declared to be fundamental, whereby the coastal trade of Australia would be conserved to the Australian mercantile marine, and to vessels paying Australian rates of wages. If it is not proposed to put aside that policy, the honorable member for Parramatta and those who sit with him have been declaring for the last six years that which they no longer believe in. I do not for a moment think that to be so. If there were nothing else for which to condemn this Government, I should to the end condemn it for its abandonment of the interests of the Australian mercantile marine. Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister has committed himself more than a score of times to the prevention of competition whereby our seamen and Australian ship-owners are forced to maintain an unequal struggle, . nothing is to be done. The late Deakin Administration went so far as to appoint the honorable member for Hume and myself representatives to a Conference which considered the matter. But now the great mercantile marine interests of the country are to be sacrificed. The fusion, and the Liberal principles of which we have heard so much, have done for them. As a set-off, Ministers propose insurance against unemployment, so that unemployed Australian seamen, whose 1 places are taken by coolie and cheap white labour, will be provided for. But surely there will be no unemployed when their Federal bureau is in working order. How could there be any when all that will have to be done will be to register the unemployed, and to notify the employers that there are men wanting work? Everything will be as simple as it is to run water out of the city mains. Now we come to another matter of first importance. Upon the subject of national defence, the Prime Minister has always been most eloquent. There are four great measures which he still professes to regard as sacrosanct - the naval policy, land defence, new protection, and old-age pensions. The basic principle of the naval policy of the Deakin and of the Fisher Governments was first propounded by the honorable member for South Sydney ; universal training and land defence were advocated by me six years ago, and have been brought under the notice of honorable members every session since; new protection was suggested by the honorable member for Boothby; and, had not the honorable member for Kalgoorlie been insistent in his questions, while the honorable member for Wide Bay suggested a proposal for the allocation of surplus revenue which was given effect to by the energy and determination of the honorable member for Hume, against the strong opposition of the present allies of the Prime Minister, there would be no old-age pensions to-day. Not one of these measures would ever have been passed had they been left to the late Opposition. Yet it is . to those members that the Prime Minister has turned to maintain the principles of Liberalism. The honorable member for Corio, who is a Liberal, and has joined the Conservatives to uphold the principles of Liberalism, appeared before his constituency the other night to explain his attitude. I have not read a verbatim account of his speech, but I understand that he was left explaining. What defence policy is the Government putting forward? It has offered a Dreadnought or some alternative. The alternative will be whatever the Imperial Defence Conference suggests. That Conference was railed into existence at the suggestion of the Fisher Government.
– Perfectly correct.
– To the best of my knowledge and belief, the cablegram from this Government was in England days before that sent from Canada. If my statement is not true, I withdraw it. At any rate, the Conference was the outcome of the suggestions of the Fisher Government and the Canadian Government, and this Government will carry out its resolutions. Leaving defence for a moment, let us see what the fusion proposes with regard to finance. We were told this afternoon, most calmly and deliberately, that the proposals of the Government involve the extension of the principle of the Braddon provision for another five years. I did not dream that the present Prime Minister would make such a statement. Nothing can more effectively display his character and his recent actions. This champion of the rights of the Common wealth, whose Government passed the Surplus Revenue Bill despite the opposition of the States rights party, has deliberately aban doned the national cause to that party. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that he is the champion of States rights, and clearly he and his party have won. It is in this that the cause of nationalism is being upheld. We are to have the Braddon blot, in a modified form, for another five years. There is not time, so we are told, to arrange anything else, since only a few months of the life of thisParliament remain ! Whose fault is it that we have not time? Who has just wasted a month? The leader of the Government ! He complained that the programme of the Fisher Government was too long, and got the gag applied to permit of a consideration of the situation which has lasted ever since. And now he proposes to sacrifice the national ideals to the narrow parochialism of the States rights partv. He ousted the Fisher Government because its programme was too long ; to-day he comes forward with a programme containing twenty proposals !
– Does the honorable member think that the honorable member for Ballarat thinks that we believe it?
– If those with whom I have been associated in various ways for many years believe the honorable member for Ballarat, I shall regard them as suffering from softening of the brain. I do not think that one man in this House believed him. When he said to-night, “There is our programme,” the honorable member for Parramatta laughed. Anything that will make the honorable member for Parramatta laugh must be the most humorous thing on earth. To enable this Government to come into existence, the honorable member for Bendigo voted against the Fisher Government. He did not tell us why, butwe can discern the reason. This is what he said on the 21st October last -
I was returned to this Parliament as an Independent member to sit on the cross benches; and I promised my constituents that I would give any Government that might be in power a fair trial and fair consideration of their measures, whether it was a Deakinite Government, a Reidite Government, or a Labour Government.
– Quite right.
– We have in the honorable member the absolute embodiment of fair play. He now brings to the direction of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral a gigantic intellect, which for many years has been occupied with multifarious but comparatively trivial mat- ters. The country is now safe. He is to place the telephone system on a proper basis. He insists upon an actuarial examination ; nothing else will serve him. He is silent upon the examination which should have been made into his promise to give any Government fair consideration of its measures. He added -
As far as possible, I have endeavoured to steadfastly pursue that purpose.
Unfortunate man, singled out by destiny, he is unable to fulfil his promise. A cruel fate prevented him from giving the Fisher Government consideration. He felt himself drawn by an irresistible force to the Treasury benches. Providence marked him from his’ birth for the position of PostmasterGeneral, and his solemn promises had to be broken in order that he might fulfil hisdestiny. He finds himself in good company. He sits with others who have acted in like manner. But I do not think that he will be able to persuade his constituents that the excuse with which he satisfies himself is sufficient for them A promise is a promise. He having promised to give any Government fair consideration, what reason has he for not having done so? The position is that the Government is a State rights party. It has abandoned the national policy. The Agc declared that the division list on the Surplus Revenue Bill separated the sheep from the goats, and there were ‘only two honorable members of the then Opposition - the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Wimmera - who voted with us. The rest, to a man, were State rights men. A narrow and parochial view marks them as it has marked them ever since they have been in this Parliament. They are men whose stunted minds are incapable of comprehending great questions of national life, men to whom the mere mention of a national policy excites nothing more than an inane chuckle.
– Quite an appropriate chuckle in the circumstances.
– Clearly the party led by the Prime Minister, whose proud boast it was that it was a National - Party, has now sunk itself, and lies helpless, as the Age predicted it would, at the feet of the reactionaries. On the 20th October last, the present Prime Minister said that the members of the then Opposition, with whom he has since joined forces, were men with whom he could not act now, or at any future time. A fitting mate for the Postmaster-General, who “ promised his constituents that he would give a Deakinite a Reidite or a Labourite Government a fair show.” When they are pinned like struggling worms on a card with their names and their description underneath, what do they do? Do they exhibit any trace of shame or remorse? No ! They laugh just as does the hardened criminal who declares when sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment, that he can ‘ ‘ do it on his ‘ed. “ To these honorable members their sacred word is no more than dicers’ oaths. They make promises only to break them. These are the honorable members who ask, “ Why do members of the Labour Party sign a pledge? “ If I thought for one moment that the signing of a pledge would have any effect upon them I should recommend them to sign one. “ But men who can break their word as easily as they have done, would break a thousand pledges, even though they were written with their life’s blood, or engraved on plates of steel.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I do not know whether the honorable member made that statement in order to get in an interjection, believing that those who read Hansard would think it relevant to something I had said; but lest they should do so, let me say that if I ought to be ashamed of myself for saying that a man’s word ought to always bind him, though it bring him to poverty and political ostracism, then I glory in saying it, and am not ashamed. What is the position of the honorable member for Gippsland? Tie was asked to tread the broad and pleasant way downwards. He was asked to follow other members of his party who have crossed to the other side of the House. He did not know then, and does not know now, whether or not the Labour Party intend to oppose him, but he preferred, even if the Labour Party were to oppose him a hundred times over, 10 go down a man of his word. And I, forsooth, ought to be ashamed of myself because I say that a man should stand by his word ! Nothing that can be said is severe enough in condemnation of those who disagree with that view. But it is now a question, not of saying, but of doing. We ask that this House shall go to the country, because we believe that the position has gone beyond the realms of talk, and has been translated to the realms of action. The Minister of Defence has gone.
One bv one Ministers leave the .chamber. They disappear, moved by some powerful influence. It may be that their drugged consciences prick them to some semblance of shame. It is certainly not my fault that they have gone. I repeat that the Prime Minister and his followers have abandoned the national policy. They are now a State rights party. The Braddon blot, modified for the next five years, is their policy. As to defence I do not know what they propose, and they do not know themselves. One might just as reasonably expect salvation to come out of the mouth of hell as to see an effective defence policy come from a combination whose parts have been at daggers drawn since the inception of this Parliament. There is not one matter respecting defence upon which they are agreed. The right honorable member for East Sydney said, in October last, when dealing with the naval and military schemes of the Deakin Government -
I sum up my attitude upon this subject by stating that I regard these projects as wild and impracticable; as being not founded in necessity or even in prudence, but as arising either from hysterical fear or from a craze for militarism that is foreign to the history and the spirit of the British race.
On every point in connexion with defence the two parties to the coalition are opposed ; so that it is only reasonable to expect that no effective and workable scheme can come from them. On New Protection they are also opposed. Upon the question of finance they were bitterly and fundamentally opposed. Dealing with the question of a White Australia, on the 19th October, 1906, the right honorable member for East Sydney said -
Subject to precautions against strike labour and deceptive agreements, I am in favour of (he repeal of all the provisions relating to white immigration.
When the preferential Tariff with Great Britain was under discussion, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie succeeded in carrying an amendment providing for the employment of only British seamen on vessels carrying goods upon which preference was granted, and the right honorable member for East Sydney said -
The refusal of the Prime Minister to act on my advice and endeavour in a fuller House to omit the condition about British seamen has exposed the wretched sham.
On the questions of defence, finance, and industrial legislation chasms separate the two parties to the coalition. On questions of industrial legislation, we have seen times without number the whole of the late Opposition, with the exception of one or two honorable members, arrayed against the Liberal and the Labour Parties. Yet the Prime Minister has the effrontery to stand in this House to-night, and declare that he is still the bearer of the Liberal standard, and that he has been compelled to leave the Labour Party - his natural allies, according to the Age - a party with whom he was willing to coalesce last March twelve months, and to share portfolios with, and that he has done this in order to save the “ Liberal cause.”
– No. The honorable member for Hume made that proposal.
– I shall give some further information on the subject, and will tell who were to go- out of the last Deakin. Administration to make room for Labour Ministers.
– The- Prime Minister has deserted the party that kept him in office for years, and, in order to save Liberalism, has gone over to those whom he has always denounced. Thank God, Liberalism does not depend upon the nerveless and treacherous support of such men. The principles of Liberalism and Democracy are deep-rooted in the hearts of the people, and long after those politicianswho temporarily obstruct the stage of politics have been swept away, Democracy and democratic legislation will go on. But tosuppose that from such a combination as this any good, can come is monstrous and” unnatural. We find sitting behind the Government the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Fawkner, president of the Employers’ Federation,, and the honorable member for Parkes, who only a few days before the consummation of the fusion, wrote a letter denouncing thePrime Minister for disloyalty. Then we have as an honorary Minister an honorable gentleman who, for eight years, was a member of the black labour Ministry inQueensland. He was a member of a Ministry that deliberately made black labour, as opposed to white, its party cry. In theSenate, the Government depends absolutely upon a black labour majority. Its majority there, I am informed, even while I have been on my feet, has been rapidly melting ; and at the best depends upon deliberateand avowed advocates of black labour. Then we come to the honorable member for Oxley. Is he in favour of a White Australia ?
– I am informed that I he honorable member put up a noble defence for the kanakas in 1902. He is a countryman of mine, but I cannot help regretting that he should have given expression to this brotherly love for the kanaka. The point I am making is that this Government, which now pretends to be a White-Australia-policy Government, depends upon avowed champions of black labour for its daily existence ; that this Government, which postures as a national one in favour of a national policy, is absolutely helpless in the hands df the State rights party ; that the Government which pretends to be in favour of an Australian navy is surrounded by men who have always opposed it, and that, while prei tending to be in favour of industrial legislation, it is helpless and at the mercy of men who have always opposed such legislation, and compel it to put forward that most hollow, specious, and trumpery expedient of a Federal Labour Bureau. The Prime Minister, who excelled himself in his eloquence upon the benefits of the New Protection, now declares that the New Protection was a cumbrous and impracticable way of achieving what he can effect more easily and surely by a Board of Trade. Upon land taxation they are of course opposed. Their reliance upon the States in that matter is most pathetic. They profess to believe that the States will impose a land tax, yet the Prime Minister, at the last election, said he could not go on with immigration until land was made available; but he knows perfectly well that, in spite of all the closer settlement schemes in this State and in New South Wales, the large estates - those of 20,000 acres and upwards - are growing daily. The honorable member gave an illustration of two estates in Queensland where great injustice would have been caused if the proposed land tax were imposed. As he has not thought fit to furnish the House with particulars of those cases, he cannot expect us to regard his statement seriously as an argument against the land tax. That a man should seriously stand, up in this House and say that a land lax ought not to be imposed for the purpose of bursting up big estates, because some man told him in Queensland that it would be a great injustice to his estate, as he would have to pay more than he ought to, is too childish to merit consideration for a moment. The honorable member is well matched now by the honorable member for
Parramatta, who, in earlier and happier days, gave vent to his opinions in these words -
The honorable member for The Gwydir laid down the theory that because he has had to pay for his land every one else ought to do the same. I do not believe in paying for land at all. I believe in1 taxing it, and if we tax it to its full unimproved value we shall have no need to sell it; indeed, no one will buy it. When a man wants a bit of land in this Colony he has to go hundreds of miles back into the bush - behind his strong neighbour, who has picked out the eyes of the country. We ought to tax the strong neighbour for every ounce of privilege which he possesses over the man who proposes to go into the bush. The moment that is done we shall not find men running to the Argentine Republic for land upon which to settle.
Those were the words of the honorable member for Parramatta, as recorded on page 2543 of volume lxi., of the New South Wales Hansard for 1892-3. There we have from the political grave as it were, from over the border, a voice that silences all criticism. The honorable member was prepared to go. not as we are, for a modest penny in the £1 with a ,£5,000. exemption, but for a tax of is. in the ,£1 on all land in the country. He said, “We will tax it all away. I don’t believe in buying it.” It is the most unblushing avowal of land robbery that I ever heard of in my .fife ! It is from such a man as this that in these days I get reminders that “ I ought to be ashamed of myself.” “ Shame was ashamed to sit upon the brow of such a man.” I shall not detain the House longer. What I set out to do, I hope I have done. It was to prove to the House and the country that the Government has-‘ not, and ought not, to have the confidence of the House, and has not the confidence of the country. I believe it has not the confidence of the House, because no House can place confidence in men upon whose word it cannot rely. The gravamen of the charge lies in the fact that they have been guilty of a violation of their most solemn pledges. They stand to-day posturing still. The Prime Minister postures as the leader of the Liberal Party. He says, ‘ I am glad to have the backing of the Conservatives.” Oh ! that a Liberal’ should descend to such a despicable pass as to be driven by way of excuse for his treachery to declare that Liberalism has sunk to such contemptible depths in this country that it has to be held up by the reactionaries, and with whom,, last October, he declared that he could never act ! I set out to prove that the Government had not the confidence of the House or the nation, because it was composed of men of the most widely differing opinions.’ I have shown, by the extracts from the Age, and from their own speeches, that, upon every principle which has been before this Parliament, they are set as widely as the poles asunder. In these circumstances, how can the House have confidence in them? If we take their programme at its face value, what guarantee have we that they will not denounce it in its turn, and abandon that position in its turn, as they have denounced and abandoned every other programme and every other position!? The people can never have confidence in men upon whose word they cannot rely. What shall we «ay of those honorable members who sit there - the honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Bendigo? The one said last October, “ With those men I can never act now or at any other time.” The other said, “ I have promised my constituents to give the Labour Government a fair show upon its measures, and to treat them upon their merits,” while he never permitted us so much as to bring in and consider even one measure. What shall we say to them und those who sit with them? We can only say that so far as men in politics can do it, they have forfeited every Tight to be considered as representatives of the people. They no longer represent the men who sent them here. If the honorable member for Ballarat at the last election declared, as he did, that anti- Socialism was only a stalking-horse, that the right honorable member for East Sydney had promised more and done less than any other man in the country, that he was a reactionary, and that all the men then on this side were reactionaries, how comes he now to sit with them? How can he represent the electors who sent him into Parliament to -oppose those reactionaries? For these reasons those honorable gentlemen stand condemned. I hope and believe that the House will condemn them,’ but whether the House does or not, I am satisfied that the country will.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson)
C9-5]- - I should like at the outset to say that there is very little reason for the tabling of this motion in its present form. The Opposition might well have waited for a . time for something to be done by the Government, upon which a vote could be taken to ascertain whether the House had confidence in them. It is not long since a vote was taken, and the numbers were in favour of the present occupants of the’ Treasury bench. The result of the division upon this motion seems, therefore, to be a foregone conclusion. I read recently in the press that several honorable members who did not see eye to eye with the Government in all their proposals intended to abstain from voting when the division was taken upon this motion. As I am looked upon as one who will not swallow everything that will be proposed by the Government, according to the programme enunciated yesterday, it might be thought that I was one of those six who will be absent when the vote is taken. I should, therefore, like to state plainly now that I shall always vote openly, and that when I am against the Government I shall vote against it But I shall not vote against it because of “the individual members composing the Administration. I shall vote against those measures that they bring forward that I was not sent here to support. The honorable member for Ballarat in his great speech on 25th May, at the Melbourne Town Hall, said that one of the planks, of the new party’s platform was that each member should be responsible only to his own constituency. That is one of the differences between our party and the Labour Party. We are responsible to our constituents, and not to the organizations that support us. We have consequently a liberty of speech that appears somewhat strange to the occupiers of the Opposition benches. When one enters the arena as a critic of the Government with which he is apparently associated, they regard it as a sure sign that he will vote to put that Government out of power. But we are expected to use some reason on this side. We shall be expected to know whether those who would succeed the Government would put forward a policy more acceptable to the people than the policy then proposed. Of two evils, one would naturally choose the less. The policy of this Government is known, and the members of the Opposition think that, because of that policy, some of us on this side will vote the Government out of office. But it is impossible for any honorable member who voted against the Opposition when they were in power to support them now in a motion of want of confidence. If they want to come in again, they must find some other party to move, and they must come in at the tail, and not at the head. I thought there would be some discontent on that side when they began to understand that we are free men here. We on this side are not tied. I intend to use my freedom to the fullest extent. I am sent here to represent the people in my constituency. To them I am responsible. They are the people who alone have the power to put me out, and if I am faithful to them, there is no fear of their doing that. I should like to tell any of those honorable members opposite who think it would be nice to gain my seat, that I beat them by 1,600 votes at the last election, and that the majority against them will be 2,600 at the next. The numbers against them will grow every time. It is because we have freedom on our side of the House, because I take an independent stand, and because in the past I have spoken in opposition to the Reid Government when’ they were in power, proposing what my people did not favour, that I speak freely on this occasion.
– Is it not because the honorable member did not get a trip to England ?
– I was not sitting on the Prime Minister’s door-mat when the offices were filled. I was not within cocee. I did not expect to be called in. I have not been called in, and consequently I am “on my own.” I have stated in public that I think the present Prime Minister has a great many unredeemed pledges; and I am still of that opinion. The honorable gentleman, in his speech to-day, said that he had made some sacrifices, but not many ; and I quite agree with him, because I believe he has made very few. A man in the position of Prime Minister should not make many sacrifices ; in matters of detail he may compromise, but principles dear to him must not be abandoned ; and that is why I take the stand I do. Principles dear to me I cannot abandon.
– Look out that the Prime Minister does not sacrifice the honorable member !
– He will not sacrifice me, because he knows I am independent, as every man on this side is. How is it possible for a Liberal Government with a. majority ever to be put out of power? Only because the supporters are free men, and on some measures are unable to follow the Government. In the case of the Labour Party, once they have a majority, it is impossible to remove them until an appeal is made to the people; that is the difference between being of cast- iron and not being of cast-iron. There being so many unredeemed pledges, the people ought, I think, to be consulted before any legislation is introduced. I am also of opinion that when the Prime Minister gets Supply he ought to put a notice on the door sending honorable members about their business - give the Labour Party a little of their own physic, and see if their constituents will send them back with the imprimatur of confidence. I feel I ought to say so much, because the Labour Party were beginning to think I was one of their followers. I have been a consistent supporter of all liberal and progressive legislation, and a reactionary party, such as the Labour Party, is not one that I could join. As a matter of fact, the Labour Party are going backward, and not forward ; and, as 1 said before, I am a supporter of progressive measures. I am not opposed to a third party in politics; I do not agree with those who say that three parties in public life do not do good.. If we read the history of the Victorian reign, we find that there have always been three or four parties in the British Legislature; and it is when the three parties are of equal strength there is danger, because perfidy will then creep in, and principles will be often sacrificed. But when a third party is small, it can do good, because it can lash the Government up to the fulfilment of their promises, see that the policy of the party is maintained, and that no Prime Minister abandons his pledges. If I were, for instance, a supporter ofNew Protection, I should see that a measure to carry out the principle was brought in, or vote the Go vernment out of power.
– Is the honorable member not a supporter of New Protection ?
– I have never said I was.
– Will the honorable member say he is not?
– I wish to know what the New Protection is. I have read the memorandum of 1907, and I find that the High Court knocked out the new legislation as unconstitutional. The whole of the first and second pages disappear on the decision of the High Court, but on the last page there remains the clause providing that the consumer shall be considered as well as the manufacturer and the worker -
An essential part of the completed scheme, however, is the protection of the consumer by the establishment of machinery to prevent the undue inflation of prices.
That I am strongly in favour of, but this Parliament has placed on the statute-book a law which has made the duties very heavy on the working man, and, indeed, all classes of the community. I do not consider it honest on the part of the Labour Party to go back on their fiscal principles, and Vote for high protective duties on the pretext of getting for the labouring classes higher wages, seeing that the greater number of workers in other industries, which are not protected, can reap no advantage. The object of those who voted for low duties was to make commodities cheaper to the consumer; and if the “old” and new Protection confers great benefit on the manufacturer, worker, and consumer, the problem I have not been able to solve is, who finds the money, if it is not the consumer. If it can be shown that the consumer does not find the money, I shall think that I have been in the dark; but, up to the present, no enlightenment has come. Seeing that the. paragraph I have just quoted’ disappeared from the second memorandum, I take it that the Prime Minister found it impossible to carry it into effect. The proposal now is that there shall be an Inter-State Commission with full control over the administration of the new Protection ; but, in spite of the many speeches of the Prime Minister, we find that the new Protection is whittled away to nothing - that there remains only the old Protection. There is only one form of protection, namely, that which makes articles expensive, and certain lines of industry impossible. That is not freedom, but the very opposite. I do not belong to that school in politics, but to the low-tariff, progressive party ; and I cannot go back on my principles, nor do I think that the party in power expect me to do so.
.- It is a little difficult to find out what attitude the honorable member for Robertson is going to take on this motion. On the 18th of this month, the honorable member stated publicly that the Government had no right to carry on the business in Parliament until they had submitted themselves to the people. His words were -
The programme outlined by Mr. Deakin is a violation of his pledges to Parliament, and cannot be accepted till it has been endorsed in the constituencies. There cannot be fusion upon the unredeemed pledges of Mr. Deakin, who assured Parliament that his New Protection proposals would be necessary complements of the Old Protection. . . .
The last Federal election in this State was a campaign against Socialism. “ AntiSocialism “ was the election cry. The sneaking in of higher duties was not in contemplation. It is but reasonable the electors should betaken into confidence by Mr. Cook, and informed if they are committed to the “ New “ Protection proposals of Mr. Deakin. If they are not, they should be given a definite statement with regard to the heavy duties that are foisted upon them.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Robertson concluded his statement to the press by saying -
The Deakin-Cook majority is small and uncertain ; the members forming it are bent upon faith being kept with the people. Humiliation and defeat may overtake the Government at any sitting. An appeal to the country is the solution of the difficulty.
To-night the honorable member has found a scarecrow - a nightmare stares him in the face. He has heard it whispered that several members opposite, not being in sympathy with the proposals of the Government, intend to refrain from voting ; and he leads us to believe that he cannot vote against the present Government because Supply has not been granted. He notices that a Bill has been circulated dealing with temporary Supply, and, apparently, that is going to be his excuse for going back on the people of New South Wales, and his own constituents in particular, whom he, within the last week, informed that he cannot support the Government because an appeal to the people is the only decent course. I do not wish to take up any more time in referring to the honorable member’s excuses in order to escape his promise; but I have a word or two to say in reference to the Deakin-Cook combination. There are five headings under which I think that combination is open to condemnation. The first is that thepresent combination have banded together in barefaced violation of their pledges at the last election, are taking an unfair advantage of their constituents, and perpetuating a diabolical act of inexcusable treachery and deceit; secondly, the Prime Minister has practised unprecedented trickery and unscrupulous political fraud, in securing Tariff votes under false pretences. He did this, first, by promising to link specified New Protection proposals, which he now repudiates, with the Tariff, and, secondly, by offering those whose votes he so gained an opportunity for reconsideration in the event of these proposals not being carried and linked with the Tariff. As neither the one thing nor the other was done, the honorable gentleman has not only lost the confidence of all honest men, but, in my opinion, has made himself an object of abhorrence and contempt. The DeakinCook combination has sacrificed1 the policy of an Australian Navy for the protection of our coasts to the miserable conservatism of little Australians. This Government proposes to borrow in order that certain wealthy and influential people may exploit the public service without paying a fair charge for the benefits given to them. Then again, while its members criticised the financial proposals of past Governments, they have put forward no scheme for obtaining the money which is so urgently required to carry on the administration and national necessities of the country. Under the first heading I should like to refer to the proposals put forward by the honorable member for East Sydney just previous to the last election. He was then speaking on behalf of the Reid-Cook party, which is now fused with its ‘former enemies. On the 22nd October, 1906, he announced the policy upon which he, the present Minister of Defence, and other Reidites, who are now fused with the Deakinites, were elected. There was a number of things to which they declared themselves to be opposed. The right honorable member spoke of his opposition to the Anti-Trust Act, the union label, and the Contract Immigrants Act. He said that he would throw open all our gates to white men, who would help us to build a White Australia on something tetter than Acts’ of Parliament, namely, human energy and enterprise. He was distinctly opposed to reciprocal treaties either within or without the Empire, and referred to the present Prime Minister as having covered himself with ridicule by his sham offers of preference. Another thing to which his opposition was specially marked was the attitude of certain honorable members in regard to Home Rule. In the Watchman of 6th October, 1906, is the statement of a Protestant political platform, one of whose planks was opposition to the granting of Home Rule to Ireland. The newspaper published a list of those who had voted for Home Rule, and asked its supporters to oppose their re-election. The following names were mentioned : H. Willis, A. Chapman, R. Crouch, A. Deakin, W. Mcwilliams, P. McM. Glynn, and L. E. Groom, all of whom are now sitting on the Government side of the chamber. The honorable member for
Dalley, who, for years, has lived by raising issues of this kind, and asking his constituents to vote against all who take any hand in these questions, is sitting side by side with them. This shows that the professions of honorable members -opposite are mere hypocrisy and sham, their only object being to get the working men to support political reaction, and thus prevent the landlords of Australia from having to carry their fair share of the cost of government. The anti-Socialist leader also stated in his manifesto that he was against what he called the White Ocean policy, whereby Parliament had decided that, when Australia subsidized! oversea mail services, our fellow countrymen should be employed on the steamers used to carry the mails. He stated that he and his party would attempt the repeal of such legislation. It would be interesting to know what are the measures which those elected on this platform are ready to repeal. The Deakinites, who were partly responsible for them, are now sitting side by side with those who said that if they were returned they would vote for their repeal. It would be interesting to know what the Deakinites propose to sacrifice, or whether the ReidCook combination proposes to swallow these measures for the sake of office. The agreement between them on these matters has not been published. In regard to the Tariff, the right honorable member for East Sydney stated that the honorable member for Ballarat, in drawing attention to the starving industries of Melbourne, was guilty of a flagrant piece of political dishonesty, and characterized his action as the trick- which is played by the professional beggar who has to become blind by shutting both his eyes. The honorable member for Ballarat on his part described the anti-Socialists as an extraordinary political menagerie of fiscal freaks, and said that, while anti- Socialism was a new label, it was the old Free-trade party which was underneath the banner of his opponent. Speaking at Shepparton, in Victoria, he said that his party was engaged in opposing the retrograde conservatism of the party of the right honorable member for East Sydney. In regard to defence, the leader of the anti- Socialists was no less emphatic. In his manifesto he declared that he regarded national defence as of extraordinary importance, -but that he did not favour universal training and compulsory military service. He thought that the volunteer principle should be the leading feature of our military system. It would be instructive to read the proposals of these two gentlemen, side by side. Apparently they have now abandoned the programmes which they put before the electors, without thinking it worth while to refer to them in the matter. In regard to finance, the manifesto of the Reid-Cook party declared that the protection afforded by the Braddon clause to the finances of the States should be perpetually extended, but in a more flexible form. The Prime Minister does not agree with that. It is evident that something is required to make these versatile and irresponsible gentlemen face the electors, and ask for authority for their outrageous changes. Their conduct should be an object-lesson to the electors, who should make them toe themark, and require them, not merely to sign their manifestoes, but to put in written resignations in advance, so that, should they go back on their pledges, they might be brought to book.
– We have not yet descended to the level of the Labour Party.
– The honorable member knows the level to which he will descend when the electors have a chance to declare their opinions. He knows that nothing can save him from defeat, and that he has not the slightest chance of sitting in this Parliament again. I doubt if he would have had any chance under any circumstances, but the present position of affairs is such that he is absolutely done. Like a number of others, he knows that to secure a few months more in Parliament he must vote against this motion, which seeks to take the House before the electors.
– I shall not sign a pledge.
– The honorable member would sign a good many documents if he could thereby save himself from rejection by his constituents. He has teen amongst them, and knows that not one-third of them will indorse his present conduct. If he thinks that he can secure his return, why does he not try to create an opportunity for a general election before his opponents are too well organized ? That he dare not do. Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister whether he had not promised, when the Tariff was being considered, that, in the event of the New Protection proposals which he had put forward not being carried as part of the Tariff, ‘he would give honorable members an opportunity to reconsider their votes.
– Those were not the exact words used.
– I intend to quote specific statements made by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman invited me yesterday to point to some statement he had made on the question, and I shall do so. I have not the slightest respect for him as a man, since I was induced, under false pretences, to give certain votes.
– Is that why the honorable member voted for duties on the necessities of the worker?
– I have never voted for such duties. Whenever revenue duties were proposed, it was left to members of the old Free-trade Party to rally round the Government and save the great landlords from a land tax. The Labour Party consistently voted against duties on the necessaries of life. I was induced, however, to vote for certain protective dutieson distinct promises made by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Hume- - who was then Minister of Trade and Customs- that have been absolutely violated.
– What about the duty on pianos ?
– If there is one duty in respect of which I am pleased, it is that.
– The honorable member took a long while to make up his mind how he should vote.
– That is not so. I venture to say that if the House were again invited to deal with the duty on pianos, the position of Mr. Beale would bemuch worse than it is. I have here a number of statements that were made by the PrimeMinister, and his then colleague, the honorable member for Hume, who, as Minister of Trade and Customs, was in charge of the Tariff, as to the New Protection: The honorable member for Hume is reported, in Hansard, page 1784, to have said, on 13th August, 1907 -
But I wish honorable members clearly to understand that before the Bill dealing with the Tariff is completed, there will be either Excise duties or an improved provision under which there shall be protection insured to the employes, and if possible, to the public, in order to prevent the reduction of wages, and the increase of prices unduly.
The honorable member was then acting for the Prime Minister, who is absolutely bound by his words. On the 8th October, 1907, the honorable member for Hume, as re- ported at page 3986 of Hansard, made the following statement : -
The method by which it is proposed to secure that manufacturers whose manufactures are protected by the new Tariff shall only enjoy that advantage on condition that they pay a fair rate of wages, is in outline, as follows -
An Excise duty at therate of half the duty imposed by the Tariff on imported goods of the same class, to be imposed on all goods manufactured in Australia.
An exemption to be made as to all goods which are manufactured under conditions as to remuneration of labour which are fair and reasonable.
As this scheme involves the imposition of taxation, it can be more conveniently carried out by two Acts, one simply imposing the duties, and giving effect to the exemptions, and the other providing the necessary machinery.
We therefore had first of all a statement by the then Minister of Trade and Customs, acting for the Government of the clay, that the principle of the New Protection would be given effect to in conjunction with the Tariff. Two months later, we had a definite statement as to the form which the New Protection would take. On the 20th November, 1907, the honorable member for Hume, in reply to an inquiry by an honorable member as to the New Protection, said, as reported at page 6188 of Hansard -
He need not be at all afraid about the New Protection Bill. It willbe submitted, and will be carried too, or else the Tariff will not be carried.
The Prime Minister, who challenged me yesterday to point to any specific statement of his own upon the question, on the 20th November, replied to a very pointed question on the subject which was put to him by the right honorable member for East Sydney-
– I think we ought to have a. quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The question put by the right honorable member for East Sydney will be found in Hansard, at page 6230-
I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, in considering the Tariff and the duties fixed from day to day, the House is to regard the system of New Protection as part of the understanding upon which those duties are fixed? In other words, do the Government propose to stand by the duties irrespective of whether or not we adopt any system of New Protection? Will it make any difference to the rates of duty whether the system is applied or not, because circumstance’s may arise which may prevent its application ?
The Prime Minister replied -
The Ministry put forward the matters referred to by the honorable member as a united proposal - the duties on one side, and the New Protection on the other. Of course, if it is considered possible that the House may reject the New Protection proposals-
– It may be ruled that those proposals are unconstitutional.
– If I could conceive that it could be ruled that this House is not competent to make any provision in regard to rates of wages, then, of course, it would be within our power to make such amendments in the Tariff schedule as we may think fit.
– Is it the intention of the Government under such circumstances to ask the House to reconsider the schedule ?
– We should require to reconsider the schedule of duties which this House has approved in relation to the fact that the New Protection had not been accepted, because the duties that are being adopted - as the honorable member for flinders will recollect - are in many instances lower than those which the Government proposed.
That was a specific statement by the Prime Minister, that should the New Protection not be linked with the Tariff, honorable members would be afforded an opportunity of reconsidering their Tariff votes. Oil 11thMarch,1908, as reported in Hansard. page 8816, I put to the Prime Minister the following pointed question regarding the New Protection : -
As a number of members voted for certain protectionist duties on the understanding that the prices of protected manufactures would be regulated, and employes in such industries would secure stipulated wages and conditions of service, will the Government give such members an opportunity of reconsidering their Tariff votes in the event of any circumstances beyond the Government control preventing the New Protection proposals from being introduced?
The Prime Minister replied -
I should be very sorry to admit even by inference, that we ‘think ‘ that the New Protection scheme will be placed beyond Government control. If by any combination of circumstances it were so placed, I believe and hope that the obstacle would be temporary. Until such an emergency arises, it would not be reasonable to make a statement as to what may be done, inasmuch as the particular cause of the difficulty would first have to Be ascertained. No one would look forward with equanimity to once more considering the Tariff; but it was passed by this House with the publicly-announced intention of the Government to supplement it with what is popularly known as the New Protection, and whatever may be the result of present proceedings, the Government is absolutely bound by its undertaking.
The ; Prime Minister cannot say thatthese references to statements made by him as to the linking of the New Protection proposals that his Government had put forward with the old Tariff, are not specific and pointed. On the 28th March, 1908, the honorable gentleman said -
The proposal is that the Excise Board, on the best evidence that is laid before us, shall allow any profit consistent with fair wages and prices. lt will provide for the administration of justice in relation to industrial affairs, and that justice must cover the necessary inducement to manufacturers to manufacture as well as to consumers to purchase.
– Where is the promise that honorable members would have an opportunity to reconsider votes given on the Tariff?
– I have already quoted a specific statement made by the Prime Minister, and also by the honorable member for Hume, who as Minister of Trade and Customs in the Deakin Government, had charge -of the Tariff Bill. On the 13th May, 1908, the honorable member for Hume said -
I recognise, and have always recognised - and I have referred to the fact several times - that the New Protection policy is part of our Tariff proposals, and I venture to think that if I had not given promises to that effect the Tariff would not have been dealt with as expeditiously or as fairly as has been the case.
The Tariff became law on 3rd June, 1908, and all these statements were made prior to that date. I feel keenly on this question. I entered this House as a representative of a very large workingman’s constituency, and it grieves me to think that I should have been betrayed into giving votes on the Tariff by an honorable gentleman who has absolutely no respect for his word.
– Surely that statement is out of order?
– I- say advisedly that the Prime Minister has shown in connexion with the Tariff and the New Protection that he has absolutely no respect for his word. It is one of the most diabolical acts that could be perpetrated, when a Prime Minister-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to follow that matter.
– A Prime Minister whom one looks forward to-
– As the honorable member persists in following that line of argument, I must ask him to withdraw the words that he recently used.
– I withdraw them as unparliamentary, if I am asked to do so. But the Prime ‘Minister has invited me, when I asked him these questions, to present some specific statement of his own. I submit that I have quoted statements of his own, and of Ministers who were acting for him. They came to me time after time and begged for votes to get them out of a difficulty when there were narrow divisions on the Tariff.
– Who are “ they “?
– The Minister who had charge of the Tariff, and who was acting for the Government.
– Did the honorable member vote against his principles, because he was asked by a Minister to do so?
– Certainly I did not. It was my intention to vote for the New Protection, and that could not be given effect to unless the old protection was first introduced, but I voted on the distinct understanding that I would have the New Protection, as outlined by the then Government, or an opportunity of reconsidering my votes on the Tariff. After they secured from me certain votes by this species of false pretences, I was not given the opportunity as promised of reconsidering my Tariff votes, when the New Protection policy, as put forward by them, was absolutely abandoned. The New Protection scheme that we were shown then was to give the employes in protected industries portion of the protection which it extended to their employers through the Tariff. What kind of New Protection are we to get now that the Tariff has been sneaked through under false pretences ? In the statement of principles or abandonment of principles which the present fusion party put forward in the daily press, it was stated that an amendment of the Constitution would be proposed “ to enable a State Wages Board or . Arbitration Court to refer to the Inter-State Commission for adjustment any unfairly competitive rates or conditions existing in another State.” There is no talk there of giving the workman part of the protection afforded by the Customs Tariff, but there is talk about protecting factory owners against unduly competitive rates in .the different States. There is no consideration for the workmen about that. It is a policy based entirely upon consideration for the manufacturer, and it is very fitting that this fusion Government, having gathered around it all the reactionaries of Australia, including the Employers’ Federation and other great Conservative bodies which are now issuing appeals for money to support them at the elections, should be the one to throw Overboard the interests’ of the workmen and devote themselves to the congenial task of saving the manufacturing princes from cut-throat competition one against the other. In another statement of the Government’s New Protection policy I have seen it asserted that the object is to enable the manufacturers of all the States to compete on equal terms, and so to secure uniformity in rates. But there might be uniformity in rates without giving a living wage to the employes in factories. There is not even a guarantee that the workmen in the factories will get a living wage. All that is to bc guaranteed by an amendment of the Constitution is that the manufacturers shall be saved from unduly competitive rates amongst themselves. It is all a question of profits and of saving the factory owners from competition, but there is not a word about the thousands upon thousands of workmen whose representatives have been entrapped by false pretences into voting for certain duties in the Customs Tariff. There are some duties which- 1 should have voted for in any circumstances, but there are others, such, for instance, as the terrific duties upon hats, which I would not have voted for bad I known that after being tricked into voting for them-, I should find that the workmen employed in the factories were to get no guarantee of a share of the protection afforded by the Tariff. The Government appear also to have thrown overboard the proposals for an Australian Navy. The late Government gave orders for three ocean-going destroyers to be built. There is no statement in the proposals of the present Government as to carrying that policy forward. There is no proposition to build another boat either in England or Australia. Previously we were told that the honorable member for Ballarat proposed to have six destroyers built, but now apparently the Government, linked up as it is with the Conservatives of Australia, who do not believe in defending Australia at all, but who advocate dependence on the good old .Mother Land for all the defence that this country requires, is content to split the difference; to be satisfied with the three vessels that the Fisher Government ordered, arid to abandon the original proposal for the construction of six.
– I draw attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– One of the notable omissions from the statement read by the’ Prime Minister outlining the proposals of the Government is that there is no reference whatever to a continuation of the present naval defence policy. The attitude assumed by the Government in their’ cable message to England is altogether contradictory. The cable despatched to London, as printed in the daily press on 12th June, was divided into two paragraphs. The first states that -
His Majesty’s Ministers for Australia take the earliest opportunity, after assuming office, to inform the Prime Minister, as President of the Imperial Conference, that they will shortly submit to Parliament their proposals for the defence of the Commonwealth and its coasts.
In the second paragraph it is stated that -
They now beg to offer to the Empire an Australian Dreadnought or such addition to its naval strength as may be determined after consultation at the Naval and Military Conference in London, at which they will be represented.
As a matter of fact, they have not carried out the proposal outlined in the first paragraph. They have made no statement in the manifesto which they ‘ put before the House regarding the continuance of the naval defence of the coasts of Australia. In that respect their policy is misleading. They did offer the Imperial authorities a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, but in this respect also the Prime Minister has turned another somersault. It was only a very little time ago.r during the life of the present Parliament, that he said at the Imperial Conference - which I understand is called in London” the Colonial ‘Conference - that the Australian people were averse to even the present subsidy of £200,000 a year. On page 273 of the Blue Book, the Prime Minister is reported to have said, regarding the Australian contribution to the Imperial Navy -
In Australia, for reasons which have already been put on record in the despatch which I had the honour of addressing to. the Admiraty about two years ago, the existing contribution has not proved generally popular.
The Prime Minister then, and on his own showing for two years previously, had a strong objection to the monetary form of contribution to the Imperial Navy. He told the Imperial Conference that his proposal was to devote the money to the defence of Australia and its coasts. Yet almost within twelve months he has changed his coat again. He has gone back to the very policy which he said was entirely unpopular in Australia. He did that without any reference to the people of Australia. He now submits an offer equivalent to a monetary contribution of £2,000,000, although so short a time before he stated that a contribution of less than £[250,000 was decidedly against the grain of the people of Australia. That is another question which I submitted to the Prime Minister within the last few days, and which he half repudiated, but [ do not think he can wriggle out of the Statement which he made, as reported in the Blue Book of the Colonial Conference of 1907. As a matter of fact, the gentlemen who are now associated with him were never tired of ridiculing his attitude, and asserting that he should have been cast from office long ago, because at that Conference he misrepresented the feelings of the people of Australia upon that question. Furthermore, the present Deakin-Cook combination proposes to institute a policy of Commonwealth borrowing; and one of the reasons given is that it is necessary to put the postal service in order. That service has got into disorder primarily because certain wealthy nien in the community are enabled to make use of the service without paying for the necessary labour ; and, instead of adopting the honest and manly policy of calling upon these wealthy users to pay for the service they get, it is proposed .to repeal the charges which would have brought about the desired result, and to place the burden on posterity. I -have strong objections to Sorrowing at any time, and would only consent to it in the last resort. Every million borrowed and expended increases the value of existing property ; if it is spent in postal services, telegraphic and telephone lines, or railways, it enhances the value of the property through which the communication is taken, and also the value of the property at the terminal points. I submit that the more statesmanlike policy is to ask - those who reap the advantage from the expenditure of public moneys to provide out of the unearned increment sufficient to cover the expenditure. We are the posterity of our forefathers, and are called upon to pay nearly £[9,000,000 per annum in interest on the public debt of Australia; and at the same time the expenditure of this borrowed money has enhanced the values of country and city properties to a very large extent. It is simply a policy for the “ fat man,” to enable him to reap huge profits and pass the burden on to the rank and file of the people. If the expenditure of £[1,000,000 of borrowed money increases the value of station, property to a considerable extent, and the station owner ” Mr. /. ?1. Catts. puts the money into his own pocket, the more borrowing there is the better he and his class like it, because in the end the money comes out of the pockets of the people. It is very fitting, therefore, that the representatives of the Employers’ Federation and all monopolists who are sitting on the other side of the House should be supporting a Government who propose to relieve them of their present obligations by transferring the liability to future generations. The Deakin-Cook combination shows ils transparent hypocrisy especially in connexion with its lack of financial proposals. After the late Prime Minister outlined his policy at Gympie, where he did make certain financial proposals, the present Prime Minister was never tired of pointing out that the various schemes then set forth could not be financed. We know that it never was the practice of a Prime Minister on such an occasion to say where the money is to come from, though, of course, that is no reason why he should not do so; and the Labour Government, in their desire to put an honest policy before the people, did indicate their intentions in this respect. The present Prime Minister sought to ridicule those proposals, because, in making up the balance-sheet, there was, in his opinion; a shortage. Where are the financial proposals of the present Prime Minister? The only one is to raise a loan for the purpose of carrying out certain postal services, which he calls reproductive. In regard to old-age pensions, a defence scheme of any description, raising £[2,000,000 to present a Dreadnought or its equivalent to the Imperial Navy, the High Commissioner with his gorgeous equipage, and carrying out an almost unending number of proposals, including the taking over of the Northern Territory, which faces us on the business-paper, the Government have not put forward any proposal as to the finding of the money. Honorable members on this side, however, have a shrewd idea where the money is coming from. The Deakin-Cook Party have shown, in a very pointed manner, that they will not support land, taxation or the taxing of absentees in London, who draw nearly £[9,000,000 a year from the Commonwealth ; and there is no doubt that they will fall back on the tea and kerosene duties, and thus place the burden on the back of the working men. The honorable member for Hunter, if that proposal be made before he meets his electors, will be found supporting it ; after- wards, there will be somebody in his place who will object to any unfair taxation of the .working man.
– How does the honorable member know that I will be found supporting the proposal ?
– I judge the honorable member by the company he keeps ; if he were not going to vote for the taxing of the miners and other workers in his constituency, be would not be found in the company of those who repudiate all proposals for direct taxation and the taxing of the incomes of absentees, and of the exploiters of society.
– If the honorable member for Hunter will not vote for taxing the working man, what will he do when the Tariff is before us ?
– He will be the obedient tool of the party to which he belongs. If the whip is cracked, he will be there, because the only remote chance he has in his constituency is to get the big newspapers of New South Wales behind him. I submit that, under the headings I have dealt with, the present Government have forfeited their right to the confidence of the people. They are not trusted in the House; and the Evening News of Sydney, which is a strong supporter of the ReidCook Party in New South Wales, has stated, in its leading column, that the honorable member for Parramatta could not go to London because he was afraid to trust the Prime Minister out of his sight, and that the Prime Minister could not go because of a similar fear in relation to the Minister of Defence. The present Government seems to exist to protect the fat monopolists, and to refuse protection to the worker - to save the wealthy business men against Inter-State competition, whilst refusing to their employes the New Protection which was promised when the Tariff was before Parliament. The Government seem to have as an object the dumping of unemployed in Australia, in order to create a mad scramble for work, so as to reduce wages ; and such a policy will suit the Employers’ Federation, which so stoutly supports them. The Government seem to be a combination to preserve the wealthy banks against the note-issue proposals of the Labour Government, which would enable the people to secure control of their own currency. The Government are also banded together to save the rich landlords of Australia from the Labour Party’s progressive land tax. : Another of their objects is to compel the working men, not only to give themselves, but to find the money, in order to protect the property of Australia, whilst leaving the property owners free from taxation for defence. Further, it is the desire of the Government to erect a barrier between the Labour Party of Australia and the rich absentees in Paris and London, who are drawing, as I said before, something like ,£9,000,000 a year from the resources of the Commonwealth. In short, this combination seems to me to exist for the purpose of safeguarding tyranny as against the clamour for freedom, to help monopoly to better entrench itself, to place the shackles of slavery on the great masses of the people, put them into the hands of exploiters, and prevent them from securing that economic justice which it is their right to expect in a democratic country like Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crouch) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 June 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090624_reps_3_49/>.