3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took, the chair at 10.3a a.m: [Quorum formed.]
Mr. Speaker read prayers.
– In the speech which he made yesterday, the honorable member for Herbert said ‘ that I have already raised the sectarian issue in my electorate, I give that statement the most emphatic denial. It is true that the sectarian issue has been raised, but if has been raised by a member of the Labour party. To prove that that is so-
– In making a personal explanation, the honorable member is, of course, entitled to reply to any misrepresentation of his own conduct’, but he may not put forward a charge against some other person.
– It is stated in the columns of the press to-day that I have raised the sectarian, issue, and one speaker has said that the Batman constituency is represented, not by a white coon, or by ‘a black coon; but by a yellow pup. That is absolutely incorrect.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Papua - Ordinance of 1909 - Native Regulation.
Debate resumed from 15th July (vide page 1263), on motion by “Mr. Fisher -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
Mr. ROBERTS (Adelaide) [10.35).- I was pleased a moment ago, when Ministers had not the number present necessary to form a quorum, to hear the honorable member for Parramatta, the chief lieutenant, publicly avow that the Labour party is unable to play political tricks.
– I thank the honorable member for the statement to which I am referring, he being well qualified as an expert, I “presume, to express an opinion in regard to political trickery. The honorable member for Lang, while the quorum bells were ringing, interjected, “ Let us have. a count-out, and finish this senseless talk.” He wishes to finish the debate now that he has delivered himself of a speech lasting two hours and a half 1 When, last night, at the request of the. Ministry, I got leave to continue my remarks this morning, I was dealing with the utterances of the right honorable member for East Sydney the previous evening.I pointed out how illogical it was for him to say that’ he did not intend to dive into the past, and at once to do so. His position seemed as absurd as that of a Mr. W. S. Bromhead, described in the press as one of the originators of an association entitled the Empire Builders -Limited, who arrived in Melbourne by the German mail steamer- Zeiten. This gentleman, while adjuring others to build up the Empire, assists German trade at the expense of English trade by patronizing German mail-boats. .The honorable member for Batman is as illogical as . the right honorable member, for East Sydney. His speech showed the awkwardness of the predicament of some of the Ministerialists. He made an attempt to justify his action in voting against the Fisher Ministry by the statement that, of the nine Ministers who composed it, four were Free Traders. Yet he brought into power, and is now supporting, a Government in which five out of ten Ministers are Free Traders. ‘ Of these we have the Minister of Defence, the champion of Free Trade, who declares, not merely that there shall be no more Protection, but that, when the opportunity offers, the present Tariff must be undermined. The honorable member for Brisbane is another.
– The honorable member for Brisbane a Free Trader 1
– This is another instance of the ‘cuteness of the Minister of Defence. He knows that I was not a member of the House when the Tariff was being discussed, and therefore seeks to make me think that the honorable member for Brisbane is a Protectionist.
– He is a strong Protectionist.
– He is a Free Trader.
– Honorable members generally say that he is a Free Trader, and they are supported by the Hansard record of debates and divisions. ‘
– The honorable member, would say anything after that
– I have not, like the honorable member, arrived at that stage. Mr. SPEAKER. - The conversations which are taking place all over the chamber amongst parties- of twos and threes, and the interjections which are flung from one .side and the other, must be very . disconcerting to the speaker. I ask honorable gentlemen to remember the Standing Order, which expressly prohibits these interruptions.
– The Minister of Home Affairs is another Free Trader. The Minister of Defence is not merely the first lieutenant of the Ministry, he is also its navigating lieutenant, and the pilot who takes control when dangerous ground is being approached.
– Does the honorable member forget that the maintenance of Protection is a plank in the Government platform ?
– I shall be pleased indeed if the honorable member will show me that that is so.
– It is- so stated in the programme agreed upon by the fusion.
– There is to be no interference with the Tariff.
– I shall come to that’. In the meantime I shall be glad if the honorable member for Wimmera will show me any printed statement of the Government programme, or of the fusion agreement, wherein it is declared that the maintenance of Protection is the policy of the Ministerial party or of the Ministry. Protection has been sold, lock, stock, and barrel.
– Are there not’ fortyseven Protectionists in this House ?
– Can the honorable member show me that there is a similar plank in the Labour platform?
– I shall presently deal with this matter, and, in the meantime, respectfully suggest that the honorable member should bring forward some evidence in support of his assertion, which, so far as I know, cannot be substantiated. If he does so, I shall be pleased to withdraw any remarks on the subject to which he may take exception. We were assured by the right honorable member for East Sydney that only amiability had come from the Labour party. I was, however, led by some of his remarks to think that he was fishing for something more than amiability from the Labour party ; and, judging from the appearance of Ministerialists, and especially Ministers, they were concerned about the same point - as to whether the right honorable member was not asking, in that peculiar political method so characteristic of him, whether there was not an opening from the Labour side for more than amiability. There was, I noticed, a sigh of relief that could be heard all over the House from Ministers, when finally the right honorable member said, “ Despite my belief in the. leading features of the policy of the Labour party, and despite my objection to the leading planks in the Ministerial platform, I intend to support the Government at the present time.” I -could only arrive at the conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that, notwithstanding the manner in’ which the right honorable member has been denounced by the “head of the Government, notwithstanding that even yesterday the Minister of Defence was prepared to bite at his ex-Leader in order to save his present chief by interjections of a sharp character, which had to be checked by the Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney is contemplating something more than amiability from this Government.
– Hear, hear; what is he after?
– What is he after? What is the understanding? What is the agreement? It must be something of a strong character.
– Is it a promise?
– It must be forceful indeed. There must be something more than amiability when the right honorable member, after bitterly denouncing in unmeasured terms the conduct of past Ministries with which this Cabinet must, of course, be associated on account of its Leader and several of its members, still said that he intended to support the Government. I wonder what it is that is to be more than amiability for the right honorable member for East Sydney. Could the three gentlemen who were prominent in bringing about the fusion, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the Treasurer tell me-
– I could not tell the honorable member anything. I do not understand what he is driving at.
– Could these honorable gentlemen tell me whether these three gentlemen, the chief conspirators - oh, no; that is too harsh a word; the chief schemers in the fusion; I will put it that way - whether they have any understanding or knowledge of what is to come from the Ministry in addition to amiability ; whether they have an understanding with the right honorable member for East Sydney ? Whether his support is given in lively anticipation or expectation of something to come I do not know; but I remember the words used by the Prime Minister himself in the book which I hold in my hand - David Syme, the Father of Protection in Australia. In the introduction which’ he wrote to this volume, the Prime Minister, speaking of Mr. Syme and his relation to Victorian Ministries, said -
He enjoyed their confidence in and out of office, shaping their programmes from time to time, governing their selection of colleagues as incoming Premiers and enjoying afterwards a knowledge of the inmost secrets of Governments often undisclosed to many of the Ministers within them.
When I remember those particular words, I am led to believe that possibly three Ministers have, at present, some secret that they have not disclosed to other members of the Cabinet ; and that possibly there is a gentleman enjoying the knowledge qf that secret, which assures him that something more than amiability is to be bestowed upon him at the particular moment when it will be most satisfactory to the Government
– The honorable member ought to have been called Isaiah, the prophet.
– I am not prophesying ; I am merely asking ; and I notice that Ministers do not care to give a definite reply.
– To what?
– To the question I have put. I will refer again to the subject of the dividing line . between the Labour party and the Ministerialists. On the one side are the friends of private enterprise, and on the other the persons who, according to the right honorable member for East Sydney, believe in State monopoly, which, however, I define as State regulation. Yesterday I dealt with some of the phases of private enterprise in its successful forms. I may add a little to what I said last night before altogether dismissing the subject. I was asked what the Ministry were to infer from some remarks which I made - meaning whether it was to be inferred that every member of the Labour party, or the party as an organization, was opposed to private enterprise. I have never heard a member of the Labour party offer any objection to legitimate private enterprise! I have never heard any objection raised to the ordinary trader.
– But I have. I have heard members of the honorable member’s party describe private enterprise as private robbery.
– Private enterprise in some of its successful forms - rings, trusts, combines, “honorable understandings,” rebates, and such like - is robbery.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– And the honorable gentleman who interjects helps them all the time.
– I am pleased to have that agreement. I come back again to the remark I was making, that the particular interjection which I quoted tended to give a tone . to my remarks by suggesting that some members of the Labour party say that private enterprise generally is private robbery. Now, that statement, without qualification or without explanation, is not justified.
Mr. -Joseph Cook. - As I heard the remark made, the interjection ‘ was quite justified.
– It is not fair. I am sure that the remark has never been made without some kind of explanation. I say again, from an inside knowledge of the Labour party - and it is peculiar that persons outside our ranks profess to know more than those inside it-
– Especially those whohave been inside.
– The most peculiar feature to those outside is the way in which the members of that party keep running away from their programme since they became politicians.
– Really, the honorable member ought not to lead me to make remarks in a direction that I do not desire to pursue; but he ought to be the last to talk about running away from programmes or parties. I say again that I have never heard a member of the Labour party raise the slightest objection to legitimate private enterprise. I have never heard them raise objection to private enterprise as portrayed by the farming community, for instance. On the contrary, we stand to-day. as the one party, with a definite proposal by which this country could be peopled by primary producers, by which the number of our producers could be materially and successfully increased. We stand as the one party in that direction; and consequently there is no objection on our part to private enterprise of that description. Neither is there the slightest objection toprivate enterprise as pursued by the ordinary trader, the shopkeeper, and others who facilitate the general working of the business of our nation. But there is, and I hope there always will be, an objection on the part of our party to that form of private enterprise which even the Minister himself, by means of a catechism, has been obliged to admit is robbery of the people. But there was no definition yesterday. Private enterprise in all its manifestations and all its phases is to be supported, according io the right honorable member for East Sydney, by the party on the Minis- terial side of the House; and the policy of State regulation is represented by the party to which I belong. May I give emphasis to our view of private enterprise, by quoting a statement made by Sir William Crookes, one of the leading scientists in England? He gave an address before one of the learned societies some time ago, in which he exposed gambling on the wheat exchanges, which, as we know, portrays private enterprise in its most successful aspect. Sir William Crookes described the wheat exchanges of the United Kingdom and of the world as gambling dens. He said, in effect, that the world’s wheat crop was gambled for in the form of “ futures “ and “ options,” and he deplored the fact that the food of the world should be made the subject of this kind of excessive gambling. He pointed out that it was to the interests of the gamblers that the market should be depressed at. one time and inflated at another. He went on to say-
If this gambling element could be eliminated the risks of the trade would n’ot be nearly so great. What did this gambling spirit spring from? Not from a desire to render service to the people, but to obtain something for nothing. Just as parasitism was dangerous to physical health, so parasitism was dangerous to social health. If a cancer grew it was at the expense of the organism in which it was incorporated. If a gambler succeeded it was at the expense of some one else. If a farmer succeeded it was because he exploited Nature ; if a wheat farmer in ordinary competition succeeded it was because we had assisted the farmer to exploit Nature; but if a gambler succeeded it was not because he had assisted somebody else to ex.ploit Nature, but because he had exploited sometody else.
Gambling in wheat is one form of private enterprise, indulged in to an extent that is positively appalling. Will the Minister of Defence favour me with an interjection as to his opinion about the delicate way in which private enterprise was exemplified only a few weeks ago in America, where the leaders who are concerned with this kind of speculation were gambling with the foodstuffs of the people? Although here and there a farmer occasionally received a slight increase as the result of that gambling, the great body of the consumers were robbed in a shameful and shameless manner. What have we already in Australia in this direction? We have a salt ring. Honorable members on the Ministerial side claim to be the especial friends of the farmers. The farmers are particularly interested in this phase of private enterprise. An unfortunate farmer who kills a pig must, before he can salt it down, buy his salt at a price determined by the ring. Private enterprise represented by residents in the cities, takes from him a share of his earnings included in the price of the little bit of salt that he requires for that operation. We have a timber ring operating very cruelly, at any rate, in South Australia, with the result that prices are 30 per cent, higher than they would be under honest trading. We have a banking ring. I do not wish to deal with that just now. One phase’ of its operations was exposed yesterday by the honorable member for Balaclava, in a manner that reflected the greatest possible credit upon him. We have an insurance ring, fortunately broken through’ by the Government in New Zealand, but not elsewhere. We have a coa] vend. We have a flour combine, a sugar combine, a tobacco combine, a shipping combine, a cable combine. All these things represent private enterprise in its successful phases; and I say now, that unless we have State regulation of some description it is inevitable that here, as in America, every form of private enterprise will be concentrated in the grasp of a few manipulators who will continue to filch from the people of Australia at large, as they have been filching from the farmers and the general workers. The Ministerialists are welcome indeed to the fact that they have been dubbed as the protectors of private enterprise in that respect. I am sometimes amazed that ordinary traders, shopkeepers, and especially the farming community, should be found supporting what are now known as Ministerialists, whose policy is to uphold combines which would squeeze from them the cream of everything which they possess. Let me touch upon another point in the remarks of the right honorable member for East Sydney. I had not time to deal with them last night. The right honorable gentleman said that the management of the Post and Telegraph Department had been a lamentable failure under Federation. If that be the case, and no member of the Ministry ventured to deny the statement, who is responsible? None but Ministerialists of to-day. Except during two brief periods totalling something like ten months, when the Watson and Fisher Ministries had control, the present Prime Minister has either himself been in office, or had in office a Ministry of his own creation - the Reid-McLean Ministry. Honorable members now congregated on the Ministerial side have at one time or another been directly responsible for the lamentable failure in the management of the Postal Department, to which the right honorable member for East Sydney referred. I am given to understand, however, that, despite the fact that to. the order of the newspapers huge concessions have been granted in the carriage pf newspapers, and that, to the order of Chambers of Commerce, reductions, to a large extent, have been made in telegraphic and cable charges, the Postal and Telegraphic services are- revenue-producing. But the telephonic service is not revenue-producing. Immediately the Fisher Ministry took office, they endeavoured to put that branch of the Department on a business basis. Their proposals in this connexion met with the strong disapproval of the Chambers of Commerce, and of the Employers’ Federation. Possibly those proposals assisted them in the work of fusing the various parties represented on the other side, so that they might have to deal with a Government over which they could exercise greater control than they could possibly exercise over a Labour Government. I think” this is proved by a statement which recently appeared in the press. I find in the Age of 14th July, a reference to a progress report of the Executive Committee of the Council of the Victorian Employers’ Federation, from which I quote the following: -
The report noted the success achieved by the deputation from the Employers’ Federation to the Postmaster-General, protesting against the extreme telephone charges imposed by the La*bour Government, and which resulted in the appointment of two expert accountants to go into the financial side of the question; while, for the present, subscribers remain under the old terms and conditions.
This is some indication that the Employers’ Federation exercise a control over the present Ministry. They saw that as soon as the present Ministry came into office, they would be likely to continue the deplorable management of the Post and Telegraph Department, and they were able to destroy the business-like basis on which the Labour Ministry proposed to place the Department. They were able to force the present Administration to so use their power that the members of the Employers’ Federation should receive a monetary benefit, and that at the expense of the general community. They were able to so exert their influence as to give the right honorable member for East Sydney a further opportunity to assert emphatically that the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department is lamentable, and has been a distinct failure. I feel it my duty to point out that that failure is entirely due to honorable members of the Ministerial party, as it is now constituted. In the present Ministry, and behind them, are the persons who are directly and indirectly responsible for all the failures which have occurred in the management of the Postal Department. I point out also that there can be no real desire on the part of the Employers’ Federation and the Chambers of Commerce to establish the Department on a practical working basis which would be satisfactory to the people generally, or they would not have sought an alteration of the telephone rates proposed by the Fisher Ministry, which, if adopted, would have had that effect. The right honorable member for East Sydney included the Defence Department as one of the great Departments of the State which had been a’ failure under Federation. Here, again, the Ministry and their supporters must, of necessity, take the whole blame. They must now accept added responsibility for having placed in charge of the Department a gentleman who has shown bitter antagonism towards anything in the shape of a reasonable Australian defence, and a life-long antagonism to any reasonable working scheme of defence. By placing that honorable gentleman in charge of the Department, they have, I think, cast a reflection upon the whole of the Military Forces, that is, if we are to accept statements made in this House and not denied; it seems but yesterday since the present Minister of Defence was a red-hot Republican, shouting, “ Down with the Monarchy ! “ Now we find him in charge of the Military and Naval Forces of Australia. But yesterday, in the political life of the Commonwealth, the .present Minister of Defence as a Republican, was altogether opposed to our present form of Government, and we know that during his career in the Federal Parliament the honorable gentleman has always been found in bitter opposition to the adoption of anything like a reasonable scheme of defence. The Prime Minister has to-day shown a disregard for an Australian defence of a reasonable character, by placing that honorable gentleman in charge of the Defence Department. This shows that the Ministry have no wish that a reasonable scheme of defence should be adopted, that no attempt will be made to place this im- portant Department on a basis which will meet, with the approval of Australia, and that it will continue to remain in the deplorable condition in which it is found today, and which has justly met with the severe condemnation of the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– Perhaps the honorable member will sketch his scheme of defence. I shall listen most attentively.
– I fear that, although the honorable gentleman might listen, he would not approve, because none of the various schemes put forward up to the present time have met with his approval. We find the honorable gentleman in the position of Minister of Defence without so far having suggested any scheme which meets with his approval. We shall wait eagerly for such a scheme. I noted in the press a little while ago, a statement made, that because of the debate which is now proceeding, great national questions are being delayed. What are these great national questions? The great national question of defence, so far as the present Ministry is concerned, is the raising of the age .at which boys shall be drilled, from eighteen to nineteen years. If we are to believe two of the daily newspapers, according to the- agreement - signed and sealed, I hope, as otherwise its permanency must be doubtful - the present Minister of Defence has barely conceded that there shall be some increase in the age at which cadets shall be drilled. The honorable gentleman has conceded so much from his previous opposition. When I look back to the alleged superb scheme put forward by the Deakin Ministry a little time ago, under which we were to advance from a force of about 30,000 troops, including volunteers, to a force of 800,000, although the expenditure was to be increased only from ^800,000 to £1,200,000, that is to say, that for an increased expenditure of ^400.000 a year we were to increase the effective Defence Force of Australia from 30,000 to 800,000, and when I remember the speech with which the then Minister of Defence, the honorable member for Richmond, introduced his Defence Bill, and find that all his grandiloquent proposals are now watered down to increasing the age at which cadets should be drilled from eighteen to nineteen years, I am justified in saying that the Ministerial party have no intention to place the Defence Department on a reasonable basis.
I am justified also in saying that the published statement that the great national scheme of defence is Being delayed by the debate at present proceeding, is merely an endeavour to mislead the public in a manner discreditable to those who are responsible for it. I look forward with some degree of interest to what the present Minister of Defence will propose. I hope it will be shown that his present views differ materially from those which he held when, us a railing Republican, he was shouting “Down with the Monarchy !” all forces, military and naval, and everything else that would restrict his liberty and freedom to do and to dare. I should like here to say that during the six and a-half months that Senator Pearce occupied the position of Minister of Defence, his administration of the Department met with the unqualified approval of every military man in Australia. I never heard- of any objection to the manner in which the honorable senator conducted that Department; but, on the contrary, I heard expressions of approval on every side, not merely of his administration, but of his practical proposals for the future. Having taken a somewhat active interest in military matters, I beg leave to say that never previously in the history of the Commonwealth has any Minister met with the approval of the Military Forces to the extent that Senator Pearce did, and, with all due respect to the present Minister, that honorable gentleman must understand that the Military Forces cannot view with any degree of confidence his acceptance or retention of the office of Minister of De fence.
– What reorganizing work did Senator Pearce do?
– So far as reorganizing work is concerned, I may tell the honorable member for Wimmera that the policv submitted with respect to our Military Forces by the Fisher Government, although not quite what I would personally approve of, was nevertheless of a decidedly practical character, and met with the approval of the military men qualified to express an opinion on the subject. There is another matter which shows how curious must be the mental condition of a man who supports the present Ministry, while denouncing all their leading proposals. On the question of immigration, the right honorable member for East Sydney deprecated the present method of decoying immigrants to Australia. He himself repudiated any responsibility, and would not indorse the policy; in fact, he castigated the Ministerial side of the House lor their laxity in one direction - for the deceptive advertisements that are still appearing in various newspapers
– Is the honorable member now referring to the Clarion ?
– I have not had the pleasure of reading the Clarion; but if the Minister will point out any deceptive advertisements therein, those concerned will no doubt be pleased. The right honorable member castigated the Ministry for the manner in which they are leaving the question to the States. Some of us had fondly hoped that the Federal Parliament would control immigration, being given that power by the Constitution; but, apparently, the control is to be left still with the States; and if there is one State more than another that ‘is guilty of deception in their methods of obtaining immigrants, it is the State of New South Wales. In that State, immigrants, when they land, are left without much means of support, and without too great a prospect of obtaining work, although they had believed the flowery advertisements and plausible sophistries of immigration agents, to the effect that if they went up country they would receive work at the splendid remuneration of 5s. per week, with board and lodging thrown in, I presume, as a little gift.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that is a description of the general method adopted in New South Wales? If so, it is an infamous suggestion to make !
– I had supposed that no man would regard it as an “ infamous” statement ; but if that language is congenial to the Minister, he is welcome to use it.
– It is an absolutely incorrect statement !
– Such language has no serious affect on me as an individual ; because I can sympathize with the mental condition of the Minister when he can be led to use it. Apparently, the honorable gentleman desires me to go over the ground again ?
– If the honorable member pleases.
– I said that deceptive advertisements are appearing in the English press, with a view to attracting immigrants to New South Wales. Is that an infamous statement ?
– I said, in addition, that immigration agents are indulging in plausible sophistries.
– Speaking generally, that is an incorrect statement.
– The honorable gentleman has had his interjection, and, although it is repugnant to me, I am going over the ground again at his pointed request, so sure am I of the ground I am taking. I said that immigration agents are indulging in plausible sophistries for the purpose of attracting immigrants to New South Wales. Is that an infamous statement?
– It is an incorrect statement.
– It is not incorrect, because immigration agents to-day are making those statements, and deceptive advertisements are appearing in the public press, that the honorable member knows of - advertisements distinctly and cruelly false.
– Are they State Government advertisements?
– I do not know ; but I know that the societies responsible for the advertisements are subsidized out of the public revenue.
– The question was raised in the Queensland Parliament only last week.
– At present, I am confining myself to methods in New South Wales, and the interjection of the Minister of Defence. We have it recorded in Hansard that one of those societies has received a subsidy from the Federal Government, in addition to the subsidy from the New South Wales Government; and to the extent to which the societies are subsidized, the Government must accept a pro rata portion of the responsibility.
– To what society is the honorable member referring?
– I think it is called the Australian Immigration Society.
– Is that Dr. Arthur’s society that the honorable member for South Sydney blessed.
– I am not sure of the name of the society ; and the Minister of Defence will not cloud the issue so far as I am concerned. I knew full well, when the honorable gentleman asked for the name of the society, what interjection was to follow, because the statement has been repeated ad nauseam by him. The . third statement I made was that when immigrants land in Sydney, they find, some of them-
– “Some of them” - the honorable member did not say that before.
– Yes. I did. When some of the immigrants land, there is no employment for them j and we have had instances recorded in the public press of their” being found sleeping in the Domain. Of course, if the press is wrong, the statement must be withdrawn ; but, as the press is favorable to attracting immigrants, it would not unduly expose the difficulty that immigrants are met with when they land. Further, I said that there are advertisements appearing in the newspapers to the effect that when immigrants land they may, if they like to go up country, earn 5s. per week, and, possibly, board and lodging added to that munificent salary. Is there anything infamous in that statement?
– The honorable member indicated that that was the general condition of affairs in New South Wales.
– I did no such thing. The honorable member must not make my speech for me, clever as I admit him to be, with all the knowledge he possesses, consequent on having been on every side of politics during the last twenty years. The honorable gentleman cannot make my speech for me ; meagre as may be my ability, and limited as may be my power of speech, he must not presume to put words into my mouth. I related actual facts, which the Minister cannot now deny, despite the condition of mind to which he has been raised. I ask, again, whether there is anything infamous in the statements 1 have made? If not, was the honorable gentleman justified in throwing the insult he did at another member?
– I said it was infamous to suggest, as the honorable member’s statement did, that that was the general condition of affairs.
– To repeat the interjection after he has had time for consideration, is an indication of mental obliquity to which he is welcome, but which, I hope, will never disgrace this side of the House.
– Yom are a plum !
– Now the honorable gentleman has recovered what I hope is his normal condition. I notice that during the last few months he has been -smiling more than usual ; ‘ and, though it may be presumption on the part of a young member,
I can assure Turn that he does himself a great deal more credit when he smiles than when he scowls.
– I do not like to hear the honorable member slandering mv State.
– If anything I have said can be reasonably construed into a slander, no one will be more ready and eager than myself to offer full and ample apology, because slander is repugnant to me, both political and otherwise. When the Minister of Defence interjected, I was about to say that the present Ministry, in my opinion, has been brought into existence very largely by the pointed aid of the Employers’ Federation and other gentlemen in a similar social sphere, because of their fear that a graduated land values tax might be imposed. They fear a form of taxation that would tend to do one of two things - open up opportunities for bond fide farmers to secure suitable land, which they could work themselves, or on which they could place their families, or, failing that, the monopolists will haw to contribute taxation, which, to the extent it assists the revenue, may be devoted to the proper and necessary defence of Australia. With that fear imminent, they are congregated behind the Ministry. They are a section of the community which has ever opposed taxation of this description ; though they are prepared at all times to place the bulk of the burden on the community in any shape or form, they are never prepared to submit to the direct taxation of the wealth that they have accumulated in this great country. We had from- the right honorable member for East Sydney a denunciation of large estates ; and it was a denunciation to which the Ministry ought to reply. In the Government programme . we find no proposal for land values taxation, or to deal with the evil of land monopoly; and we must come to the conclusion that the present state of things is satisfactory and congenial to Ministers, and that they intend, so far as their power goes, that the evil shall continue.
– Why “must” the honorable member come to that conclusion ?
– If I were walking down the street, and saw the Minister of Defence standing close to some child which was in great danger of being run over, and the honorable gentleman walked calmly on, taking no notice whatever, and allowed the child to be run over, I must come to the conclusion that he had no objection to the occurrence.
– Such is logic, according to Roberts !
– Is it not logic?
– It is absurd !
– If the honorable gentleman saw and understood the danger of the child, and took no action to effect a rescue, but walked calmly on,- with that indifference which he has outwardly developed - because inwardly he is not cool - I should be forced to the conclusion that he had no objection whatever to the child being injured, and that his blood continued to run cold. And he knows the injury that the evil of land monopoly is inflicting on Australia. He has heard the right honorable member for East Sydney’s denunciation of it; yet, he and his colleagues sit in their places as calmly as possible, with not the slightest intention of doing anything to remedy the position. I am forced, in the circumstances, to conclude that the evil meets with no objection on their part; that* they have no desire to remedy it; that the farmers’ sons seeking for land may go further afield if they please ; that the land monopolist is to continue to revel in the luxuries which he enjoys at the expense of the rest of the community, and that the Government have no intention of providing revenue for an effective scheme of defence. I can come only to this conclusion, and regret it very much because of the evil that exists and of the necessity to remedy it. I was pleased, indeed, to learn that the right honorable member for East Sydney held the view that that form of private enterprise was an evil, and that it ought to be taxed or resumed out of existence. The method of resumption which he suggested, was to pass an Act of Parliament, to the effect that such estates were a public evil.
– The Minister of Defence once held that view.
– I do not know whether the right honorable member for East Sydney changes his views as quickly as does the Minister of Defence.
– I think that they are an evil yet, when the land is wanted for other purposes.
– Note the qualification. The honorable gentleman says that he thinks such estates are an evil yet ; but only when they are wanted for other purposes. I accept that statement by the honorable gentleman. The farming community are told deliberately, from the Ministerial bench, that they do not want land. That is what the honorable member’s statement amounts to - that these areas are not wanted for farmers ; that the Ministry intend that it should be monopolized; that the farmers’ sons may go to some other country if they desire land, and that the land monopolists may continue their monopoly because, in the opinion of the Minister of Defence, these areas are not wanted for any other purpose.
– After that, 1 shall go out and buy the honorable member a primer on logic.
– I hope that the honorable member will not leave the chamber, for 1 have more to say to him. I should like very much to read a leading article that may appear in the Age one of these days in regard to the Minister of Defence on the point that the large estates in Victoria are not wanted for any other purposes than that to which they are now put. It would be of a scathing character, and, notwithstanding that the honorable gentleman appears outwardly to care nothing for that newspaper, I am confident that the publication of such an article by it would have a’ very serious effect upon him. In regard to this no-confidence motion, we are solemnly informed by one section of the Melbourne press that as Labourites we ought to support this Liberal Ministry. ‘We are solemnly assured that between the policy of Labour and that which the Prime Minister expounded a few weeks ago, there is little or no difference in essential principles ; that because of that, the Labour party should have continued to keep the Liberal party in office; that there should not be any difference of opinion between them; that the Labour party should never have sought Ministerial office, and that they should have continued in the relationship they bore to the Liberal party during the last three or four years. May I endeavour to give my reply to that phase of the question? Let me ask honorable members- to hark back for a few moments to the year 1891, when Labour members for the first time entered a Parliament in Australia. At that stage in the history of most, if not all. of the States, Conservative Ministries were in office. If they were not actually in office at the moment,’ there had been played, prior to that, a kind of in-and-out game. At one moment, the Liberals were in office, at the next a Conservative Ministry was in power. Advancement in the matter of legislation beneficial to the general community was not a material consideration. At some odd moment, when one party desired to dish the other, it might be prepared to take a step ahead. Just as the Conservative element in England a few years ago enfranchised a million in order to dish the Liberal Government under Gladstone, who proposed to extend the franchise to a little less than half-a-million, we then saw in Australia a Conservative Ministrytaking a step ahead, or a Liberal Ministry doing the same, merely with the object of defeating its opponents. But when either one section or the other had the support of a powerful majority, the records prove conclusively that they were guilty of almost criminal inaction. It was only when a general election was looming ahead, or when thev found the people incensed at some neglect of duty on their part, that they took action. But what was the first work of the Labour party - a work which it has continued practically up to the present moment? They supported Liberal Ministries. During a long series of years in all the States, to such an extent was this done, that there ensued upon the inandout game previously played an era of permanent administration, never before known. We had what were, termed longlived Ministries. There came over the political atmosphere a complete change. A three-years’ Ministry was scarcely known in Australia until 189T. when Labour entered Parliament. Ministries existed, perhaps, for ten or eleven months, or perhaps for only a few weeks, change following upon change with kaleidoscopic rapidity. With the advent of the Labour party, however, we had long-lived Ministries : the Kingston Ministry in South Australia, the Turner Government in Victoria, and the Reid Ministry in New South Wales. For the moment, I cannot recall the names of others. We can scarcely include Western Australia in this illustration, because there two or three families ruled, and the total votes in the electorates which returned them scarcely numbered 500. While the Liberals were in the majority Labour supported them. The Liberals did not always give what Labour members wanted ; they had often to be prodded to do the work that they had promised to do. Nevertheless, they did a certain amount, and the Labour party supported them. The conduct of Liberal Ministries was not always pleasing to the various Labour parties, but, on the principle that it was the best obtainable for the moment, and that the Liberals were in a majority, whilst we were in a minority, we supported them.
– But Labour itself forsook some of the planks in its platform at that time. It asked then for things which it afterwards admitted were not necessary.
– Why does not the honorable member prove his assertion? Let him give a case in point. Mr. SPEAKER-Order!
– Personally, I accept the statement of the honorable member for Laanecoorie.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has not had much political experience.
– He has evidently in mind something that occurred in one State, whereas I am making a general statement, and, therefore, accept the honorable member for Laanecoorie’ s assertion. I offer nothing in extenuation of it. It may be that in their political infancy the Labour party made suggestions which were perhaps crude, and which, on reflection, they deemed to be unnecessary or inadvisable in the best interests of the country. I am not dealing so much with the actual policy of either party as with the fact that, numerically, the Labour party was the smallest at the time in question, whilst the Liberal section was the strongest, and that Labour supported Liberal Ministries. At the present time, however, and particularly so far as this House is concerned, Labour is in a majority. Its strength is nearly double that of what was known as the Liberal party, and the two parties together could still have a Ministry of one or the other. A mixed Ministry is not advisable, but it would be possible for either party to retain the Ministerial Bench with the support of the other. There are no two other parties in the House which could maintain a. similar situation.
– It is much easier for the Labour party to go to the full lengths of Liberalism than it would be for the Liberals to go to the full length of the Labour platform.
– That is a matter of individual opinion. Personally, I do not share the honorable member’s views, and perhaps, later on, shall be able to elaborate the point to his entire satisfaction. The position now is changed. The Labour party are in the majority, and it seems to be reasonable that we should say to the Liberal element, ‘ ‘ You do now that which we have done since 1891. You find yourselves in a minority, therefore support Labour. The Labour party supported you when the positions were reversed. Our policy may not be all that you like, but your policy was not all that we liked. We might desire to go a little further than you think necessary, but you certainly lagged much further behind than we considered desirable when we were supporting you.1’ The positions are entirely reversed, and I think that we take a reasonable stand when we say to the Liberal element, “Do to us as we have done to you.” I wish for no bargain or compact ; I ask for no fusion, alliance or coalition. I do not even ask that the Liberal party should support any proposal of the Labour party with which they do not agree. I simply suggest that in general they could have left the Labour party on the Ministerial benches, just as the Labour party left them there for this, series of years that stand on record. We -ire assured by no less an authority than the Agc, the newspaper mouthpiece of the Liberal party, that there is little difference in essential principles. Is then a Ministry to be turned out upon the minor matters?
– Not on essential principles, but on the practical part of the programme.
– I am unable to see the difference between the practical side and the essential part of a programme. We are told then that there is little difference between, the policies. In such circumstances, why should we not be supported as we supported others when the positions were reversed? If there happens to be any proposal of the Labour party that does not meet with the full approval of the Liberal party, they are at’ perfect liberty to oppose it, to seek to alter it, or even to join with the Conservatives t’o defeat it. But surely, when there is no essential difference, according .to some authorities, between two parties, it would be better that the Liberals should support Labour in office than that they should sink every Liberal principle, and throw themselves into the arms of the Conservatives, as they have done, merely for the sake of putting out of office men whose principles they aver largely agree with their own. It has been brazenly put forward that the one reason for which this has been done - policy does not come into the question - is that the seats of certain Liberals were in danger. If the principles held by any individual are not sufficiently strong to retain for him his seat, he ought to lose it. If the opinions that he holds, the work that he has done in the past, and his proposals for the future, do not meet’ with the approval of a majority of the electors in his district–
– The honorable member does not suggest that he should lose his seat to a minority ?
– That would have been the result in this instance.
– I am quite prepared to admit that there should be some system of majority rule. There may be some Labour members who are present as the result of a minority vote. I am not certain upon that’ point, but I have been informed that there are gentlemen on the Liberal side who certainly are here as the result of such a vote. While I do not ask that any man should lose his seat on a minority vote, nevertheless his principles, his work, and his proposals should be of a character to commend him to a majority, or otherwise he ought to lose his seat. If honorable members are prepared to sink their principles’, to be on one day active co-operators with the Labour party in the essential principles of that party’s programme, and the next day - merely, in order to retain their seats - to fuse with a section of the community that they have openly admitted to be in bitter antagonism to them for years past, it portrays a feature of politics which is not overedifying, and which certainly ought’ not, and I believe will not, commend itself to the electors when they have the opportunity of considering it in the immediate future. The course I have indicated would have been preferable to the action of the Liberals in fusing as they have done, for up to the present the one excuse put forward is the possibility of losing their seats. The Labour party or any other party have a perfect right to contest whatever seats are vacant. It rests with the electors whom they shall elect, and it ought not t’o lie in the hands of honorable members here to be able to make compacts with their fellow members in order to gain support, irrespective of political principles or of their previous professions. If that is permitted, if it is indorsed by the electors, we shall find politics degenerating into a positively appalling condition, for the electorates will be controlled from inside the Legislative Chambers, and instead of Parliament being a reflex of public opinion and an institution to do the will of the people, it will become an institution for the safeguarding of the personal interests of particular individuals, who are so devoid of principle as to form a compact merely to retain their seats, and the emoluments pertaining thereto, in Parliament. That is a feature of politics which I sincerely hope will not find approval in the electorates, but will be met in such a manner that one party or the other, because of its principles, will be returned with sufficient numbers to carry on the affairs of the country.
– Hear, hear; a straight-out fight.
– My honorable friend must admit that up to the present there is no indication of a straight-out fight, so far as that side of the house is concerned. The Liberals, fearing a straight-out fight on the principles that they have hitherto professed to love, have modified them - I will go further, and say that they have formed a compact with some honorable members, not to put into effect any particular proposals, but simply to save themselves from defeat at the hands of the electors. There are in the camp of the Minister of Defence a sufficient number of electors who, finding that he now has practical control of the Ministry, will give their support to certain members who have hitherto been regarded as Liberals, in the hope that they, will assist to keep the honorable gentleman in office, knowing that his retention in that position will be favorable and profitable to their views of political life. 1 wish to go back now to some references to this noconfidence motion. I. believe that the motion should have been moved. Because certain honorable members were prepared to put the Labour Ministry out it does not follow that they are still prepared to support the present Ministry after seeing what it proposes. Between the elaborate programme put forward in the public press and the little affair read by the Prime Minister a few days ago there is a wide difference, and one that ought to be, and I hope will be, noted. The proposals of the Prime Minister as announced in the Melbourne Town Hall on 25th May appear to have been subjected to what might be called peristaltic action - there has been a contraction on all sides, until it now appears in the form of this printed statement. From the programme put forward in such grandiloquent terms as the great national policy that was to save the country, it has shrunk to this thing of mere promises. I am reminded of the old couplet -
Promise, pause, prepare, postpone, And end by letting things alone.
When the Prime Minister read the statement there was a jocular interjection to the effect that he should speak rather than read the intentions of the Ministry, and quickly and pertly there came from the Minister of Defence an interjection, that he intended should be satirical,, that “ Everybody knows that the Prime Minister cannot speak for himself.” Everybody, of course, knows that the Prime Minister can speak for himself. He is silvery of voice and glib of tongue; sometimes eloquent, fluent always, but at the same time everybody must know that he cannot now speak for the Ministry, and that the Ministry were not prepared to allow him to speak for them, notwithstanding his agreement - is it a signed and sealed one?- with them. When it comes to anything of a critical character, he has to read it from a printed statement. In some of his remarks in this debate, I noted several similes from the Prime Minter. They are dangerous things to use - a sort of two-edged sword.
– The honorable member is beginning again after two hours and a half.
– I have not spoken yet for that length of time. We were prepared to let the debate go yesterday, but the Ministry put up the honorable member -for Barker to talk about horse-breeding in Central Australia. I should like to place it upon record that not a member rose in his place, and you, sir, were on your feet to put the motion, whereupon the Ministry and the Ministerialists with one accord said, “ Save us, Livingston, save us,” and “Livingston” arose in all his might and majesty to begin an eloquent classical discourse upon the breeding of horses in the centre of this great continent.
– He uttered some good, strong, horse-sense, too.
– If it was horse-sense from the honorable member, there appeared to be a different stamp of quadruped prompting him. Apparently the Ministry now regret that yesterday, when the motion was about to be put, they and their party were responsible for delaying the business of the House, for wilfully blocking the putting of the motion, and raising up one of their own members positively to “stone- wall.” During the course of his remarks he never once touched the subject of no-confidence or of the policy of either party. It was a most shocking display, a lamentable attempt at “ stone- walling,” a deplorable exhibition of the condition in which the Ministerial party find themselves, and a lasting, standing proof that they do not want this debate to end. They are as anxious as it is possible for human beings to be that it should continue, because presumably they are not yet prepared to bring down those proposals which they and -every one who supports them fear will, when submitted, cause a bursting up of the fusion. I have already said that similes are dangerous things to play with. For example, only a -little time ago the Prime Minister told us that we ought not to be surprised at the fusion which has taken place, because he had been playing “ with all the cards on the table.” His statement, however, was not correct, because he had had behind him the knaves of another pack, and it was not until he produced those knaves, and played them contrary to all rules of fair card-playing, that he succeeded in displacing the Fisher Government.
– There were four aces on the other side.
– We are content to keep the aces, and the honorable member is welcome to his association with the knaves. I repeat that it was not until the knaves of another pack of cards were produced that the present Prime Minister was able to remove the Labour Government from the Treasury benches. Personally, I was not surprised at his action. The cards were not all on the table, and I regret very much that he should have found it necessary to take the picture cards, not merely from two, but from three packs, before he could succeed in his game of bluff. Another dangerous simile was used by him, when he likened the Minister of Defence, the PostmasterGeneral, the Minister” of Home Affairs, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and others to the wreckage of all the lost causes. To-day the Prime Minister finds himself amongst that wreckage, and I wonder what portion of it he represents. To me it seems strange that he should steer the barque of Liberalism amongst it, that he should leave it a derelict upon the troubled political sea, a danger to the successful navigation of progressive parties, and that he should class himself under the heading of “ wreckage.” I can imagine the honorable gentleman amongst that wreckage, with one hand convulsively grasping an old hen-coop, as he is being washed upon an inhospitable shore, and with the other waving spasmodically in the air, whilst he shouts “ Protection, Protection !” He will, of course, get Protection from the honorable member for Parkes, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the other Free Traders. They have forced him into their net to such an extent that he has absolutely sold the Protectionist cause. Still another dangerous sim’ le was employed by the Prime Minister, when he declared that the right honorable member for East Sydney resembled an aboriginal who had clubbed a sylph in the person of the right honorable member for Swan, in order to force him into matrimony. I should like to ask him who is the sylph today? Who has been successfully pursued, and who was the pursuer? The principals have changed, it is true, so that, instead of the right honorable member for East Sydney, the Minister of Defence did the chasing, effectively clubbed the sylph into submission, and took her into his aboriginal lair - I might almost say his harem. That, in itself, would not be so bad, but for the fact that the Prime Minister has taken five or six others with him. I think it was Lizzie Stofel, in “ Struck Oil,” who, whilst protesting that she was going away because her face was turned from her lover continued to walk backwards. That circumstance irresistibly reminds me that the Prime Minister was careful to walk backwards, so that he might receive the club upon his head, and be subjected to the embraces of the Minister of Defence. I repeat that that would not beso bad, but for the circumstances that he has taken seven or eight other sylphs with him into the harem. The honorable member for Maribyrnong is one of them. There is no honorable member in this House who is more uncomfortable than he is, and the five or six others who have been taken into the aboriginal harem. And, although they may protest that they were taken there against their will, it is well known that escapees from a harem are never received’ into respectable society. The honorable member for Maribyrnong is welcome to his laugh in such circumstances, because I feel convinced that the laugh will be in another direction as soon as the electors have had an opportunity of thoroughly understanding the situation. I now wish briefly to deal with the history of this fusion. Despite all their experience, the leading parties to it were unable, at first, to agree amongst themselves. They returned to their respective States, admitting failure. Tt was not until outsiders were either brought into or thrust themselves into the negotiations - it was not until the Employers’ Federation became prominent in those negotiations - that the fusion succeeded. Therefore, we are justified in the jibe that the Employers’ Federation is behind it.
– I do not think that that body had anything to do with it.
– I will withdraw the remark if I am assured that the four gentlemen, including Messrs. Beale and Joshua, who were admitted into the room where the negotiations for fusion were proceeding, were not members of the Employers’ Federation.
– Thev represented the Protectionist Association.
– I accept the statement of the honorable member for Mernda. But I think he will admit that it is possible for a man to be simultaneously a member of the Chamber of Manufactures and of the Employers’ Federation.
– Mr. Joshua is not on the executive of the Employers’ Federation, and the officials of that body are opposed to the fusion.
– I am astounded to hear that statement, in view of the fact that the President of the Employers’ Federation is an enthusiastic supporter of the Government.
– It may seem strange; but it is -nevertheless true.
– I venture to say that there is no more happy man on the Ministerial benches than is the President of the Employers’ Federation. His face has been wreathed in smiles ever since the fusion was consummated.
– He came into this House bound to advocate that fusion.
– Yet, I am assured that the officials of the Employers’ Federation are opposed to it.
– That is so.
– I cannot understand the statement of the honorable member, in view of the fact that the President of that body is the most happy man on the Ministerial side of the House, and that he has approved, in every possible way, of the fusion. Is the honorable member for Mernda a member of the executive of the Employers’ Federation ?
– I am not.
– Would he mind telling me his authority for the statement which he has made?
– The honorable member may accept mv word for it.
– I have seen statements in the press to the effect that the Employers’ Federation is of opinion that Commonwealth legislation and administration will be much more in accord with its views now that the present Government is in power, than they were when the Fisher Ministry held office. In its last report, which was published in the press only three or four days ago, the Federation approved of the fusion.
– That does not affect the question. I am telling the Honorable member the truth.
– I have no doubt whatever that, according to his belief, the honorable member for Mernda is speaking the truth.
– I speak from knowledge.
– The prime officer of the Employers’ Federation-
– He is not an official.
– Is he not the President of it?
– Yes, but he is not an official.
– That, I am afraid, is a mere juggling with words. Then, so far as knowledge is concerned, I produce the official report of the Employers’ Federation.
– By whom is it signed?
– It states that the council of the Employers’ Federation met ; that Mr. E. Kemp, the vice-president, was in the chair ; that the progress report of the executive committee dealt with certain subjects - new Protection, telephone rates, and such like - and that they approved of the conduct of the Ministry. - Mr. Harper. - That may be, but the honorable member made the statement that they promoted the fusion. They did not.
– The Employers’ Federation promoted the fusion–
– They did not.
– And that I conscientiously believe.
– The honorable member gave us the proof that two men were not in it.
– Because of my information to the effect that the gentlemen who were called in to assist inthe fusion which previously had failed are members of the Employers’ Federation.
– They are not members of the executive, and I do not think they are members of the Employers’ Federation at all.
– What a juggling with words that is ! The honorable member might just as well say that because the honorable member for Barker was not a member of the Ministry it was in no way responsible for his. talk last night on the horse-breeding racket. Is it not possible for the executive of the Employers’ Federation to efface itself for a moment and to allow some private members to do the work which it does not desire to be officially associated with?
– The honorable member is quite wrong in all his assumptions.
– It is not an assumption to say that members of the Employers’ Federation were called in to consummate the fusion movement, which previously had ignominiously failed.
– They were not called in.
– What members were called in?
– I gave the names of two of them, namely, Mr. Joshua and Mr. Benle.
– Mr. Joshua is not a member of the Employers’ Federation.
– Is not Mr. Joshua a -member of it ?
– No, he is bitterly opposed to it.
– That is a curious thing.
– Yes, it is very curious.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Mernda wishes to speak he can do so later.
– It is a curious thing that we find them in unison in politics in every shape, and that when we come down to specific points there is a repudiation in every direction.
– Because the honorable member is making a mistake.
– There is a repudiation of those persons belonging to the Employers’ Federation with whom hitherto they have been bound up in all their politics.
– That is not so.
– It seems to me honorable members are fearful of being branded with the support of the Employers’ Federation because of the political caste of that institution, and that they will resort to different methods of removing the odium which they believe will thereby attach. They would lead us to believe that some of the leading opponents of labour, who hitherto have worked in conjunction with the Employers’ Federation in all things political - that is outside their fiscal beliefs - do not now approve of the fusion which took place - that outsiders were brought in to an extent which is deplorable, and that that does not reflect creditably, upon the persons chiefly responsible; that they, with all their knowledge of politics, could not bring about a fusion of the parties until certain persons - not the electors generally, not their electorates, not even their ordinary electoral committees, but the officials of different organizations and other outsiders - came in and directed them what to do. Presumably the discussion proceeded somewhat in this fashion : that they were assured that so far as the influence of Mr. Beale, Mr. Joshua, and the other gentlemen were concerned, no matter what the outcome of the fusion might be in matters of legislation or administration, and provided, of course, that it was suitable to them, the persons taking part therein would be supported by them at the coming election. It was a case of buying for different sections of this House the support of persons who previously had not given their countenance to those sections. It was literally a buying of support not to put in effect any proposals, not to legislate, but to save their seats. I regret very much that the fusion came about in such circumstances ; but I am not surprised, at any rate, so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, though some members of the public may be. At the last general election he entered into a compact to do what he has done, and therefore, there is no occasion for surprise, and those who express surprise cannot have followed as keenly as some have done the trend of political events. I noticed that when at the last general election the honorable member for Ballarat was confronted with the opposition of a Reidite candidate, he entered into a compact - which, it seems to me, was dangerously near to an interference with the electoral law - to permit of that candidate being withdrawn from the field, and which bound him to do all in his power, as soon as the Tariff was out of the way, to enter into a fusion of the character that has been accomplished. It will be remembered that at that time the National Political League was brought into existence by the honorable gentleman to check the honorable member for Parramatta and his party. It was reported in a Melbourne newspaper - the Age, I think - that at a joint meeting of that League and the Women’s National League, the following resolution was carried -
That in view of the assurances of Mr. Deakin of his full acceptance of the platform of the National Political League, and that he will use every effort after the fiscal question is settled to bring about a fusion of the parties m the Federal Parliament opposed to Socialism, Mr. Kirton’s candidature should be withdrawn.
– On what date was the resolution carried?
– It was carried just prior to the last general election.
– The Prime Minister denied that.
– I have not seen his denial.
– I can assure the honorable member that he did.
– I saw the resolution, and know that Mr. Kirton was withdrawn, and that the Reidite or Women’s National League support was given to Mr. Deakin, and that the events of the last two or three weeks have brought the arrangement to fruition. What the honorable gentleman then guaranteed to do he has done so far as the fusion is concerned, and if he has denied it all the facts are against him. We have it on record that according to these two Leagues he gave assurances and entered into a compact. Now we know that the fusion has been formed, and in circumstances which justify us in saying that he has thrown to the four winds of the earth every shred of political principle that he previously held dear. I now want to deal briefly with what, led up to the reading of a statement’ to the Souse by the Ministry. We were given no less than three different versions of the agreement. I will not read what appeared in the Argus, because it was practically the same as the other version. On the 25th May the honorable member for Ballarat put into writing his views respecting effective Protection, and they were discussed by the conferences . of the various parties. Referring in general terms to the agreement, the Age of the 26th May said -
It has been definitely ascertained, however, that it embodies practically the whole of the Deakin Liberal policy. Practically the whole of the principles of the Liberal party’s solution of the financial difficulty were embodied in the finance plank.
Let me now quote from the Argus, to show how the two newspapers agreed or disagreed. This is what it said in its issue of 31st May -
The most difficult question of all to settle was that relating to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. In that vital matter the simple and common-sense plan has been adopted, deferring a final settlement until experience has provided further information to guide Parliament.
The Age assured us that the fusion accepted in full the national proposals of the Liberal party, and practically at the same time the Argus assured us that that difficulty was easily got over by deferring it for five years. Suppose that the time for holding an examination at a school had arrived, and the father of a student said, “ Do you think you will be able to pass the examination, my boy;” and the reply was, “Oh, yes, dad. There is a simple and effective method of passing the examination by putting it off for five years until I have had more experience.” That illustrates the situation so far as this Ministry is concerned. The Argus was right. I would not like to believe the Age was correct when it said that the putting off of the question for five years was the policy of the Liberal party with respect to the financial situation. The Age of the 26th May went on to say -
The fiscal plank is very specific - for it acceptsProtection as the settled policy of Australia, and makes it clear that the work of the rectification of anomalies in the Tariff is to be attacked by the future Government in accordance with that settled policy. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that the major portion of the Liberal programme was adopted.
This is what was put out to the public. That presumably is what captivated the- honorable member for Wimmera.
– What does the agreement itself say?
– The agreement is noncommittal. It does not say anything, but that is what the Age put forward on the- 26th May, and what I presume induced certain honorable members in the Protectionist camp to merge themselves into the fusion, namely that the policy of the Liberal party was accepted. I am going to show presently out of the mouths of members of the fusion that that policy has not been accepted- that its leading features have been rejected, or, at all events, that- its consideration has been postponed indefinitely.
– Read the agreement itself.
– That is noncommittal, though I shall read it presently, if the honorable member desires. The Age of the 27th May said, in reference to it -
We are able to give the wording of the first, the Tariff plank-
I presume that it spoke thus definitely on the strength of information supplied ito it by the Prime Minister. I judge from the Life of David Syme that the Age would be in the confidence of the Prime Minister to such an extent that he would divulge to it what he would not tell his own party-
No interference with the Protectionist policy of the present Customs Tariff, unless to rectify anomalies.
That was not the correct reading,” however, the true reading being published two days later -
No interference with the Protectionist policy of the present Customs Tariff, or in rectifying anomalies.
The Argus of the 31st May says -
I( is pleasant to be able to turn to a consideration of the basis upon which it has been arranged that business shall in future be car-
Tied on - assuming, of course, that nothing unexpected intervenes. The terms upon which the fusion has been effected are now, before the public, and they show clearly that by mutual -concession any sacrifice of principle on either side has been avoided.
How can Protectionists and Free Traders work amiably together without a sacrifice of principle on one side or the other?
– The honorable member ought to know. It has occurred in the Labour party since the beginning.
– Members of the Labour party are elected, not as Free Traders or Protectionists, but as Labour men. The members of the other parties, however, are chosen solely because of their fiscal professions.
– At all events, the Ministerialists have a definite Protectionist policy, which the Labour party has not.
– I shall deal with that in a moment. To show that the Argus was wrong, misunderstanding the situation, or that it was trying to mislead the public, let me quote the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, speaking in Sydney at the time -
Personal predilections and prejudices had to be put aside and sacrifices had to be made.
The Argus says that no sacrifice was made. The report of the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta continues -
Further, the agreement means that should a proposal to rectify anomalies be presented to the House, each member will be free to decide for himself what an anomaly is.
Every Free Trader will be free to act as he thinks- fit in reference to the Tariff. But let honorable members listen to what the right honorable member for East Sydney said at the time, when interviewed in Sydney -
The basis of the alliance is limited to a few great questions. Even on these we have not much more than a skeleton.
You cannot breathe life into a skeleton, or galvanize It into a semblance of life, though you may clothe it so as to make it look like a man at a casual view.
– The Labour party puts enough life into its platform. Surely it could put life into a skeleton?
– I have seen the right honorable gentleman very lively on a platform, but it is not in his power to breathe life into a skeleton. On Wednesday he nearly shook the life out of the Ministry. Ministers waited with bated breath for the words which fell from his lips, fearing that at any moment he might look to the Labour parly for something more than amiability. To continue ihe report of the interview -
I think the negotiations were wise, and I think the basis is one on which the members of the old direct Opposition can congratulate themselves.
Can the Liberals congratulate themselves? Is the fusion so peculiar that both Liberals and Conservatives can congratulate themselves upon it, apart from the congratulations in respect to the accession to office?
– Senator Sir Josiah Symon says that the old Opposition has had to give up everything.
– I did not gather that from his speech. He upbraided the late Opposition for having accepted the leadership of the honorable member for Ballarat. I do not remember that he said anything to indicate the belief that the late Opposition had abandoned its political programme. His attention was directed almost solely to a severe, if not bitter, criticism of the present Prime Minister.
– He spoke from the personal, rather than the political, point of view.
– The gravamen of his charge was personal, .because the constant changes of the Prime Minister have met with his disapproval. He rebuked the old Conservative party for accepting the leadership of a man who had so cruelly denounced it in the immediate past. The right honorable member for East Sydney seems to think that the Conservatives can congratulate themselves upon having caught the Liberal flies in their web. The report from which I am reading says further -
Every Free Trader in the fusion is left at liberty to fight for his convictions if any proposal is brought forward which he thinks will raise the fiscal controversy.
Surely that is clear enough for the honorable member for Wimmera?
– I am quite prepared to trust to the Ministerial policy.
– In the Labour party, Free Traders* and Protectionists have perfect liberty of action in regard to the Tariff.
– I have explained that they are elected as Labourites, not because of their fiscal views. The report continues -
This is a great climb-down for those who talked of admitting us into the ranks of the Liberal party.
He makes it clear that the Liberal party had to climb down to meet the Conservatives.
Silting suspended from 12.4.5 to 2 p.m.
– The words of the right honorable member for East Sydney which I have quoted suggest to me, Mr. Speaker, that he was not merely saying what he knew to be correct ; but was deliberately “ rubbing it in.” Either his statement was incorrect, or the Ministerial members of the fusion party have not been making statements of an accurate character. They assert that in the fusion, Protection is safe; while the ex-Leader of the Free Trade party asserts unmistakably that the agreement, so far as it refers to Protection, is a great “climb down “ for the Liberal party. No more effectively could the fusion party be denounced than out of the mouth of one of its present supporters; and when he asserts that the Liberals have been guilty of a great “climb down,” we can count it as a gain for the Conservative or Free Trade section.
– In all parts of the world outside Australia,” the Conservative party is the High Tariff party.
– But I am not dealing with parts of the world outside Australia at present. When it is represented by the one section that Protection is provided for and safeguarded, and when it is asserted openly by the other side that there has been a great “ climb down “ on (he part of the Protectionist party, we on this side of the House naturally ask: Which of the two is correct? Who is making the true statement ? Both cannot possibly be true. What is more, I attach exceptional importance to the words of the right honorable member for East Sydney, because I remember that only a few days ago, speaking at Ballarat, and giving advice to voting men, and I believe young women also, he said that it was not sufficient for a person to be able to use words ; but that he should understand the meaning of every word that he used. Every word, according to the right honorable member, should speak for itself. It was not good enough to repeat them parrot-like. Each word should have a definite meaning. And so, when he says that the Liberals have been guilty of a great “climb-down.” we must assume that there is a special meaning attaching to his- language ; and to the extent to which we attach meaning to it, we must refrain from, at any rate - to put the matter mildly - believing the repeated assertions of the members of the Liberal party that they have safeguarded their Protectionist policy, or, in fact, any portion of it. The meaning of the situation has been very clearly explained to mean that the fusion involves nothing less than a complete suppression of Liberal principles, while the Conservative Free Trade element stand to-day triumphant. Evidently there is a fear in the minds of some in Victoria who previously were looked upon as the fathers of Protection, for the Age of 1st June, in a leading article, refers thus to the subject -
The free utterances on the fiscal question of the two Sydney Free Traders, Messrs. Cook and Reid, are not such as will inspire comfort in Protectionist minds. They have given their own version of the agreement, which has been come to touching Protection. And certainly those versions do not agree with what has previously been put forth - that all necessary corrections of the Tariff have to be made from a Protectionist stand-point. Mr. Cook says, and Mr. Reid agrees with him, that every Free Trader, and what amounts practically to the same thing, every Protectionist of the “corner” stamp is to have an entirely free hand to deal with Tariff amendments, by raising or lowering the protective duty, as they think fit.
If that is safeguarding Protection, I should like to understand what the result will be when the Tariff issue comes to be raised. The Age went on -
Should any future Government propose to rectify any Tariff anomalies, every man of the party is to be at liberty to deal with such instances according to individual convictions, and not from a Protectionist stand-point. . . Certainly, that is not the spirit of the compact as it has been given by the Liberal Leader. Protectionists have understood from the Town Hall speech, that the settled fiscal policy of Australia is to be frankly recognised in the new party. “ And then,” says the same article - another element of uncertainty comes in. What is to be the nature of the new Protection? Mr. Cook whittles it down almost to vanishing point.
That is a part of my complaint. That is one of the many reasons why I am voting against the present Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister. He deliberately, . in the Town Hall, on the 25th May, made an assertion to the effect that the. Liberal policy, with regard to Protection, new Protection, and defence in particular, were to be prominent, and were effectively safeguarded. At that very moment, or, rather on that very day, and for two days previously, he had been in conference with other honorable gentlemen, and had agreed that new Protection should be thrown to the four winds, that defence should be relegated into the hands of the honorable member for Parramatta, who has been opposed to anything like a reasonable scheme of defence for years, and that Protection itself should be . submitted to the tender mercies of the Conservative Free Traders. Mr. Speaker, we do not, as a rule, set a fox to safeguard a poultry yard ; and when the Prime Minister asserts that Liberalism is made safe by putting it into thekeeping of the enemy, he does, in fact, place over his poultry yard a fox of a peculiarly cunning character. I venture to think that that has been practically the outcome of the fusion up to the present time. I do not, however, intend to deal at length with that aspect of the case. I should like briefly to say, in conclusion, that, if asked for an indictment of the Ministry, or of its leader - for when we indict him we indict the whole Cabinet - I should say this : Though claiming that Protection should be the first and chief plank of this country’s policy, and though denouncing the present Leader of the Opposition for not making it a more prominent feature in his programme, the Prime Minister has deliberately placed it in the hands of the honorable member for Parramatta; that the honorable gentleman has rent the Liberal party in twain, with an utter disregard for those members who would not obey his behests; and that he is prepared that his party shall do now what he deprecated onthe part of Labourites, that is, contest their seats for the one and only reason that they will not obey him and go over into the Conservative camp. 1 should indict the honorable gentleman, in addition, on these counts: that, whilst speaking in grandiloquent terms about the necessity for a scheme of defence, he has thrown the matter’ into the hands of the honorable member for Parramatta; that whilst telling us that an alteration of the Constitution was desirable and necessary for the purposes ofthe new Protection, he at the same time has himself indulged in that trick of all Ministries - and apparently “age cannot wither nor custom stale” that method - of turning the matter over to a Commission, the work of which, I venture to say, will be of so stupendous a character that the workers of this country, who are dependent upon a new Protection scheme for some assistance to them in the earning of their livelihood, will derive no help whatever from it for the next fifty or eighty years. These things having been done, I am justified in making the assertion that the Ministry is completely in the power of the honorable member for Parramatta. In the Town Hall speech we were told that there was to be assured Protection. Under the agreement, Protection is absolutely pushed into the back-ground to such an extent that the Government dare not open the Tariff question. They dare not attempt to rectify anomalies. But yesterday the Tariff was said to teem with anomalies. To-day, in the Ministerial statement, it is said that anomalies, “ when discovered,” will be dealt with. Ministers now say that they have to discover them ! They dare not attempt to do it. If they did. the result would be to break lip the fusion. The Minister of Defence said that there is to be no scheme of defence such as a few months ago was put forward by the Deakin party ; and there is not to be. He said that there was to be no further Protection ; and there is not to be. He said that on the question of anomalies in the Tariff, his party were to do absolutely as they liked : and they are to do as they like. He said, in addition, that there should be no new Protection ; and there is to be no new Protection - absolutely none. He said that the finances of the country were to be dealt with in accordance with the wishes and desires of the States; and the settlement of our financial relationship with them is, therefore, to be left over for a term of five years.
– Where does the honorable member get that statement from?
– Is it not in the printed statement of the Ministry?
– Where does that statement say anything about’ leaving the settlement of the question over for five years?
– I find that in the speech of the Prime Minister. All these things I find to be true. The Minister of Defence has admitted that we are confronted by a difficult financial situation. But instead of meeting it as men should meet a difficulty that presents itself, there is to be a term of years - a sort of interregnum during which nothing of a decisive character shall be done. The Government are going to wait for more experience. We have had sufficient experience during the past eight years. The Government “are going to relegate the question of new Protection to an Inter-State Commission, which is now to be brought into existence. We have had- power to establish that Commission ever since Federation was consummated, but nothing has been done; and I venture to say that the Commission to be established will not touch the subject of new Protection for many years to come. Consequently, every proposal which the Prime Minister put forward at the Town Hall, Melbourne, in such terms that he captured the Liberal element of Victoria for his policy, has been whittled away to mere nothingness, whilst everything which the Conservative party said should be done is about to be done. We find the Victorian Conservatives leagued with the Victorian Liberals, and it is only bv such means that thev have been able to consummate a union which in itself involves the sinking of every principle. This has been done merely to put -mother section on those benches without desiring to achieve anything of a character which will be beneficial to Australia. T do not feel able to complete m.y remarks in the manner in which I intended, and I therefore now thank honorable members for listening to me as thev have done.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Another “ stone- wall “ ?
– It is not necessary to suggest that I am raising a “ stonewall.” My honorable friends opposite may think that we have not the numbers in the House at present to enable us to go to a vote; but I shall not pass any opinion on that. I listened to the commencement of this debate with a considerable amount of amusement. I think that the Labour party, in taking the stand that they have taken, have convicted themselves of the basest ingratitude. The object aimed at in placing them in the position which they now occupy was the fusion of certain parties in this House. Honorable members who comprised the Corner party before the fusion took place were returned solely to bring about a fusion of parties, in order that in the Federal Parliament we might establish the twoparty system of government in the interests of the whole of the people, and not of a section only. Let me tell honorable members opposite that honorable members on this side are not bound by a pledge or agreement in any shape or form.
– The honorable member can speak only for himself.
– I speak for every honorable member on this side when I say that we are all free men, unlike the honorable member for Yarra, who is tied down by a pledge which controls the expression of principle.
– What about the written pledge on the other side?
– No pledge, ‘ written or printed, has ever been submitted to me or any other honorable member on this side. When honorable members on this side voted to displace the Labour Government, their object was to bring about majority rule in the interest of Australia, and to aid the development of our industrial resources. ‘I say that the Labour party have shown ingratitude. They knew that they had no right to be seated on the Treasury benches, because they number only one-third of the members of this House, and represent only one-third of the electors of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, they had no right to expect that they should be allowed to control the Government of the country.
– I heard the honorable member say from this side that he would give” the Labour Government fair support.
– I did say so, and I gave them fair support as long as it suited me I took as keen an interest as any member of the House in the fusion of parties intended to displace the minority from the Treasury benches, and I am satisfied that my electors approve of my action. If we went to the country, I am sure that honorable members on this side would be returned with larger majorities than those by which they entered this House.
– Why do not honorable members opposite allow us to go to the country ?
– We do not desire to do so at this stage, because we have our duty to the electors to perform. We have to give effect to a certain political programme, and do not wish to waste time as honorable members opposite have done.
– What is the honorable member doing now ?
– Honorable members opposite said that if they lost the confidence of the House they would take their places in Opposition without whining and crying, but we know that they have done nothing but whine and cry since they were displaced. They are still whining arid crying to get back to the Ministerial benches. I have no desire to come into conflict with members of the Labour party. I appreciate labour as much as does any member of this House, and I have myself laboured as hard as any man to attain my present position. I think that the Labour party are doing themselves an injustice by striving to prevent majority rule in the Commonwealth Parliament. I repeat that honorable members on this side are not bound or fettered by any pledge or by the action of any caucus. Honorable members opposite must all be bound by a majority vote in their caucus. I am satisfied that the electors cannot approve of the action, which is now being taken by honorable members opposite. If they had the interests of the country at heart they would cease their efforts to prevent legislation. As the Whip of the Labour party challenged honorable members on this side to go to a vote, I am now willing to resume my seat if honorable members opposite will agree to divide. Do they wish to take a vote now ? I recognise that the country must be sick and tired of this debate, and I would like to know if I have the assurance of the Whip of the Labour party that if I resume my seat now honorable members will take a vote on the motion before the House.
– I said nothing to the honorable member. Let him take his own course.
– The honorable member admits that he has been wasting time.
– I am speaking in the interests of my constituents, and not in my own interests, as the honorable member for Cook does. Honorable members opposite have referred to the farming community, and have expressed a desire to impose land taxation. They will admit that the questions of land taxation, immigration, and defence are of very great importance to the Commonwealth, but by their obstructive tactics they are delaying legislation upon these questions. We have heard that Labour and not Conservatism is the natural ally of Liberalism. We have no such thing in Australia as Conservatism in the sense in which the word is used elsewhere. Most sensible men recognise that Conservatism so called in Australia is Liberalism tempered by caution and experience. We study Liberal schemes, and if satisfied that they are in the interests of the country, and that means can be provided to give them effect, we are prepared to approve of them. Honorable members opposite have said all through that they desired that the Labour party should be isolated. They say that they do not want the members who are described as- “ as good as Labour members” - that they must be prepared to sign the Labour pledge. What have they done since their isolation? ‘We know that they never had the slightest hope that the motion of want of confidence would be carried.
– The debate will show the country how the fusion was brought about.
– It will show the country how some honorable members can waste time. Honorable members opposite wish to impose upon the Commonwealth government by a minority, whilst we desire that the whole of thepeople, and not merely a section of them, should be represented in the Government. I am informed that it is possible that honorable members opposite are prepared now to go to a vote, and to enable them to do so I am willing to close my remarks, though I had a good deal to say about the tactics of the Labour party in delaying legislation intended to promote the industrial development of Australia.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Where is the “stone-wall” now?
– It was not ray intention to intrude at this stage of the debate, but for the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I feel that I should not be doing justice to my constituents or myself if I did not say a few words on the motion before the House. I wish to preface my remarks with this quotation -
Tell the boys to take courage. You will have your ups and downs, but the Labour cause is the cause of humanity. It is a just cause, and must eventually win.
That is a message to the Labour party. It is something more. I have quoted the dying words of a man who did much for the Labour party in Australia and much for the cause of humanity. I say that the party - and I do not care what party it may be - that can produce such men must influence the life of the Commonwealth and live in the history of politics in Australia. The words I have quoted were sent as his dying message to the members of his own party, and through them to the members of the Commonwealth Labour party by the late Premier of South Australia, Mr. Tom Price, and I am proud to belong to the party to which that gentleman belonged. I am proud to stand in this chamber and support a party and objects which called forth such words from a man like Tom Price. During his political fight he had to meet the same kind of criticisms and imputations on his honour and integrity that are cast on the Labour party in this chamber - the kind of criticism and imputation given expression to a few moments ago by the honorable member who preceded me. In days gone by, when the fight between those who have and those who have not was waged in such bitterness and intensity, misrepresentation did not end with the grave. Men who fought for their principles and for humanity, not only had a terrible up-hill battle during life, but had their honour besmirched after they had descended into the grave. I am glad, however, that we have advanced beyond that stage, and, that, while adverse criticism and misrepresentation may be hurled against us in the arena of active politics, the fight practically ends when the grave claims its own. The justice which was denied to Tom Price when in the heat- of the fight is done to him now ; and
– Does the honorable member think that there are men like Tom Price in the Labour party now?
– Yes, I do. While we regret the loss of Tom Price”, and owe much to him, I believe there are in the ranks of the Labour party, both inside and outside Parliament, men who take no second place to that very eminent man. The Labour party has been subject to considerable criticism in reference to their actions during the present debate. The honorable member for Grampians told us that our party had no right to govern, because they represented merely a minority in the House. But, up to a very recent period, the Labour party represented a majority of the parties, while the present Government can get a majority only by the combination of minorities. To what extent that combination is substantial, and how long the present fusion, or confusion, will continue, is a problematical matter, in regard to which even the honorable member himself- does not seem to be very sure. Why is there all this hostility towards the Labour party ? A number of honorable members opposite came here pledged to their electors on matters which were regarded as of vital and basic importance; and yet, without any appeal to the electors, those gentlemen are prepared to sink principles and overcome the many personal and political differences which, in years gone by, have divided them from their present colleagues. Moving together under a Fusion leadership, honorable members opposite claim to represent a party that holds the principal power within the House. In politics there are sometimes great and striking changes; but I undertake to say that for a long time past, either in Colonial or British politics, no change has been so radical and marked as that which has taken place in the opinion and attitude of honorable members who have brought about this fusion. It would be bad in the interests of pure politics and the representative form of government, if there were much repetition of this kind of lightning change; because, if there is anything that tends to shatter the popular estimate of the sincerity of politicians, or belittle politicians in the eyes of the people, it is such experiences as that we have had here recently. Unfortunately, the words” and pro-‘ mises of politicians are not held in too high esteem by the electors generally ; but the fusion of opponents into one party, without, apparently, any particular programme to put before the people, is just one of those instances that’ help to justify a low estimate of politicians. The Fusion, party and Government would, in my opinion, be very well advised to appeal to the electors for an indorsement of their change of attitude and of the new programme it is proposed to submit. The Opposition would be unfaithful, If not to their own party and principles, at any rate, to the electors, did they not challenge the Government, and thus afford an opportunity for that appeal to the country, which, for the. reasons I have stated, is so desirable.
– There ought to be a Minister or two here to look after the business of the House. There is not one present !
– I suppose the Ministry are preparing their programme in view of the fact that they will probably be asked to submit something tangible at no distant date. Had honorable members opposite come from the electors with certain definite proposals, and pledged to certain lines of policy, there might be some reason why their position should remain unchallenged; but on reference to the pre-electoral addresses of a number of them we find that, while they are widely separated from members of the Labour party, they are equally as widely separated from one another in matters of vital principle. Honorable members opposite came to this House from the electors divided on the question of Free Trade and
Protection, and they say that we too are divided upon it. It is true that we are, but the great point of difference between the Labour party and the Fusion party is that we have never made the fiscal question a basic principle of our political programme. Every member of our party is at liberty to vote either for Protection or for Free Trade. He is asked only to definitely pledge himself to larger questions of political reform, concerning which we are all in agreement. Any member of the party may, if he pleases, pledge himself to the electors to support either Free Trade or Protection. Some have not pledged themselves to support either policy. They have declared themselves to be fiscal atheists, and to be unprepared to give a pledge on the fiscal issue. Others, again, have declared for Free Trade, and still others for Protection. But after all the fiscal issue is only a matter of secondary importance so far as the programme of the Labour party as a party is concerned. On the other hand, we find on the Government side of the House honorable members whose chief principle since their entry into political life has been that of Free Trade or Protection. They have been returned after making the fiscal issue not a minor but a major question.
– It was a “ Mauger ‘ ‘ question.
– Quite so. “ 66 Bourke-street “ is noted as the home of Protection. We now find that honorable members opposite have sunk their fiscal views without seeking the indorsement of the electors to whom they stand committed to regard it as of primary importance. We find that strong Protectionists and equally strong Free Traders are now associated.
– That may be said of both sides of the House.
– The honorable member is overlooking the point which I emphasized, that fiscalism is not one of the planks of the Labour platform, whereas honorable members opposite used to regard it as being of such importance that it divided them into opposite camps. With the advent of the fusion, however, we find the Protectionist member of it resting upon his oars, and telling the electors that he has obtained for them all that he thinks necessary in that direction. And so with the Free Trade members of the Fusion party. The only reservation is that the two parties to the fusion will join in rectifying any Tariff anomaly that may be disclosed.
– They are not agreed as to that.
– Yes; they are agreed to the rectification of anomalies on a Protectionist basis.
– The honor-
Able member for Batman, who is an authority on this question, admits the correctness of my statement, but amplifies it by declaring that the rectification of anomalies is to be made on a Protectionist basis.
– The honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Wentworth say that that is not the agreement. ‘
– When we find the right honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Lang declaring that that is not a correct interpretation of the understanding, we must all recognise the confusion of the fusion as to the agrement actually made. I fear that when Parliament is invited to deal with anomalies, this difference of opinion will be still further emphasized. The point that T wish 10 make, however, is that the Labour party, as a party, has not sacrificed its principles. It has stood by and fought for its programme. Despite the lightning changes that have taken place from time to time, and which have culminated in the fusion - a majority obtained bv the amalgamation of minority parties in this House - the Labour party has stood firmly by the first principles that underlie its programme, and has remained true to the pledges that it gave to the electors. The Government and their supporters, however, cannot claim to have stood loyally by the pledges that they have given the electors from time to time. The electors feel that before entering into a coalition, the parties to it ought to have consulted them, and that some honorable members under the fusion agreement are not carrying out the pledges that they gave at the last general election. I do not cavil at the change which has taken place. Men. as individuals, are at liberty to change their views if they think fit to do so. It is only a fool who, believing that he has been on the wrong track, refuses to retrace his steps, and to seek the right one. Apparently, honorable members opposite, however, have come to the conclusion that throughout their political lives thev have been on the wrong track, and, as fusionists, they propose to join hands and follow what they believe to be the right path. Whilst no exception can be taken to an individual change of opinion, there is something more than a change of personal opinion involved in the fusion that has taken place, and the members of it owe it to the electors to consult them. If they felt that such a radical change as has been brought about was necessary, they should have taken the electors into their confidence, and have given them an opportunity to say whether or not they consider’ themselves to be properly represented under the new arrangement. AH that the Labour party asks in submitting this motion is that the rights of the electors in this regard shall be honorably recognised and honestly respected. How is it that honorable members opposite, whose political opinions are as far apart as the poles, have suddenly found it possible to join forces? Not long ago. the parties to the fusion hurled at each other uncomplimentary epithets, which they now unite in applying to the Labour party. How is it that they have suddenly discovered that their political career has been one gigantic mistake : that thev have been fighting friends, believing them to be enemies ; that they have wasted a great deal of time, energy, and intelligence in fighting those with whom- they ought to have been associated ? Not long ago, the right honorable member for East Sydney, then Leader of the Opposition, and the present Minister of Defence were engaged in keen political warfare against some of the members of the present Ministry. They were opposed to the party with which they have now joined forces, and their remarks with respect to their political opponents then were far from complimentary. Those statements were replied to from the other side with equal force and vehemence, and in equally strong and defiant language. The honorable member who now leads the fusion referred to the members who were then over here as a conglomeration of the wreckage of all the parties of the Commonwealth. Now, under the fusion arrangement he has, .in the persons of his own small numbers, added another wreckage to them, and has blossomed forth as the leader of the wreckage of wreckages. Surely this condition of affairs, which was not the result of a gradual re-approachment between members, but which arose out of a sudden- understanding, was not brought about without some strong compelling force. We see sitting side by side the strong Free Traders and the strong
Protectionists, who but a few years ago were at each others’ throats. We see the socalled Liberals, the gentlemen who believe, or profess to believe, in Liberal principles, joining hands with the great opponents of Liberalism, and of everything that pertains to it. If ever there was a party that represents the wreckages of all parties, from the black labour party to the White Australia party, the extremes on the fiscal question, the extremes on social and domestic legislation, from the uttermost extreme of Conservatism down to that of Liberalism, as it is represented here, if is exemplified in the conglomeration now known as the fusion party. Those honorable members must be credited with having at one time held strong views on the questions which threw them into different political camps, and caused them to hurl criticisms at one another from public platforms, and from opposite sides of this chamber. If asked to do sp, I could readily put my finger upon the key of the problem of the unseen force that has brought about the fusion - a problem which has puzzled many who have been trying to account for it. The great force that has compelled gentlemen holding such extreme views to come together for the time being is not only the presence of the Labour party in politics, but its growing power in the electorates. When you, sir, were called upon to preside over the deliberations of this Chamber in the first Commonwealth Parliament, when the great question of Free Trade and Protection had been the dividing issue presented to the electors, the Labour party numbered . sixteen in this Chamber and eight in the other, or a total of twenty-four out o£ iri. Since then political’ education has taken place, organization has been pursued along legitimate lines, and the electors who chose the first Parliament have largely changed their views. At the election before last our small total of twentyfour was raised to the substantial number of thirty-nine, of whom twenty-five sat in this House and fourteen in the other. It was that solid increase in our membership that laid the foundations of the movement which has brought about the results that are represented opposite tb-day. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then Leader of the Free Trade cause, saw that if the fight were to continue on the old lines of cleavage between the other parties, the time would not be far distant when the Labour party would have a majority, while the other parties, being in a minority, would have to sit side by. side over here whether they liked it or not. He therefore decided, with the co-operation of some of the strong opponents of the Labour movement - and they were mostly to be found among the custodians of vested interests and special privileges outside - to change his tactics and his programme. He thereupon instituted, at the last general election, the cry of anti-Socialism. Although among public men there were still many, including the present Prime Minister, who could not see their way to throw in their lot with that campaign, or to make anti-Socialism the one great objective in the appeal to the electors, yet the fight made against the Labour partywas one of the severest that any party has been engaged in in the Commonwealth, or even in the States. It was, in many of the constituencies, a life and death struggle; and political forces were called into play, and devices were resorted to that, fortunately, had seldom found expression at previous elections. But, in spite of all that, and in spite of the fact that the great metropolitan press throughout the Commonwealth was on the side of our opponents, instead of our numbers being diminished, and our party being crippled, as was hoped, we returned to this Parliament with the respectable total of forty-two members, comprising twentyseven in this Chamber, and fifteen in the other. That result appeared to those who were divided on the fiscal issue, on the White Australia question, and on the issue of extreme Conservatism versus diluted Liberalism, as the writing on the wall, and was the origin of the force which has resulted in the fusion of all those who now sit upon your right hand. I am glad that this position has been arrived at. We have now reached a stage in our evolution as a party that compels other parties, and the electors outside, to take notice of us. Previously, as a small party of only sixteen members, with two strong part;es opposed to us. we had to wedge our way towards the front against great obstacles. The keen and seasoned politicians on both sides put forth supreme efforts to divide us and_ conquer, as they had divided and conquered other forces inside and outside of Parliament in years gone bv. We were, therefore, compelled to walk warily. We were often put into compromising positions which were not of our own choosing; but all the efforts put forth to bring about the defeat and ultimate annihilation of that little people’s party failed. To-day, after the lapse of less than eight years, that small, insignificant body which sat in the first Parliament has become a great power, which has compelled the two large parties that then existed to sink their individualities and their politics, and to endeavour to erect a last barrier against our progress by the fusion of their numerous elements. The issues at stake are so momentous, the interests involved are so large, that the fusion which has come about, despite the great difference of individual opinions and the apparent diversity of interests among its component parts, is going to stand. The only thing that could, resolve it into its original elements would be the disappearance of the ; Labour party from its present position of power. As far as I can judge, the Labour party has sufficiently established itself in the affections of a large number of ‘ electors to insure that it shall occupy a permanent place in this House. The Opposition are perfectly prepared to appeal to the electors now, and to abide by their verdict. As far as the Labour party are concerned, its members cannot be charged with having been false to their principles. They _will not face the electors with the knowledge that they have broken the pledges which they gave to their constituents at the last general election. We maintain that honorable members opposite do not occupy a similar position, and in the interests of political integrity, we hold that they should afford the electors an opportunity of indorsing the great changes which have been effected since the last appeal was made to them. The Labour party representing His Majesty’s Opposition would be unfaithful to itself and to the people if it did not challenge the position of the Government, and give them the opportunity of saying whether they are prepared to face their masters at the present time. I wish now to say a word or two in reference to the party to which I belong, for the purpose of clearing away the misrepresentation which has been indulged in by honorable members opposite and by the press. One objection which has been urged to the Labour party is that it is unpatriotic and disloyal - that it is animated by a number of principles which are detrimental to the best interests of the community.
– Labour members are not a bad lot if they would not talk so much.
– I will undertake to say that we would be a verymuch better lot in the opinion of the honorable member and of his friends if we did nothing. It is not so much the talking as the doing to which they object. The Labour party is here to take advantage of all the legitimate means at its disposal to give effect to its principles and its programme. Honorable members opposite fear that if the Labour party becomes a little stronger, it will be able to give effect to that programme, and that is the compelling force which has caused the honorable member for Franklin to find a seat alongside the honorable member for Brisbane and the honorable member for Maribyrnong. The objective of the fusion party is the annihilation of the Labour party in Australian politics. The objective of the Labour party is - ^
The fighting platform which will be submitted to the electors at the next election embraces the following nine primary planks : -
New Protection is explained as meaning “!the amendment of the Constitution to insure effective Federal legislation for new Protection and Arbitration.” In other words, it seeks to insure that those manufacturers who receive the benefits of Protection shall be required to carry on their industries under conditions which make it possible to build up a patriotic and selfreliant young Australia. Instead of their factories being dens of sweating, they are to be so conducted that their employes shall receive a fair remuneration, and shall be required to work only fair hours and under proper conditions. On the other hand, Parliament, having practically given to the manufacturers control of the Australian market, our party also seeks to insure that the interests of the consuming class shall not be sacrificed, and that those conditions which obtain in the highly protected countries of Europe and America - where the manufacturer sweats his employes without remorse, whilst charging the local consumer onethird more for his goods than the price at which he sells them to the foreign purchaser - shall not be repeated here. In giving effect to the new Protection, the Labour party desire that none of these anomalies shall obtain in bur community. Personally, I am not prepared to limit legislative control to protected industries. I say that sweating should not be permitted to obtain in any industry, irrespective of whether it is protected or not.
– That is where the scheme of the honorable member’s party fails.
– So far as I am aware, the honorable member has never submitted a scheme which promises a greater measure of success. If he has such a scheme, I can assure hun that it will command our support. What have we presented to us to-day by the fusion party ? First of all, we have a kind of half positive, and half -negative paragraph. We are told that there is to be no interference with the Protectionist policy at present established, except to the extent of rectifying anomalies. And in respect to industrial legislation, we have a paragraph which is couched in a very negative and hazy manner. At the beginning of this Parliament, the Prime Minister came down with a measure in which, I suppose, he believed. Presumably, it embodied well-thought-out principles. At any rate, it commended itself to the members of this party, with the result that it was passed, but it was disallowed on a constitutional issue when it was submitted to the test of High Court criticism and decision. Instead of that provision, we have another proposal, under which an Inter-State Commission is to be established, and the whole question of Federal control and Federal desire to do justice by the working men engaged in factories, and by the consumers, who have to use their products, is to be tied up indefinitely, and subjected to something like an agreement amongst State Premiers. We might as well expect from the fusionists on the other side an agreement on principles other than that of putting the Labour party out of politics, as expect from the State Premiers an agreement on matters of such vital concern as these. For the reason I have stated, if for no other, I think that honorable members who, by the force of circumstances and the fear of the Labour movement, have felt themselves compelled to sink their principles and join together in a fusion party, should, in honesty to themselves and their constituents, invite the electors either to indorse their present action or to express their disagreement with it. And, in order to enable those honorable gentlemen to do the honest thing by themselves, and the fair thing by their constituents, I propose to vote, for the motion.
.- Notwithstanding the complaints which have been made, I -think that the country will justify, at a very early date, all that has been done by tabling a motion of this kind at the present time. It has afforded an opportunity, not only to the members of the party which I have the honour to lead in Opposition, but also to those who previously belonged to the party of the honorable member for Ballarat, and now sit on this side, to express their opinions to the House and to the country; not only that, but it has also afforded to the latter an opportunity to take sides in the new division of parties, which, for many reasons, will be historical. I also think that many of the speeches delivered on each side will compare favorably with the best addresses which have been uttered in this Chamber. I feel, further, that honorable members having spoken in that way, and debated every phase of political thought in Australia in a competent and enlightened way, it is quite unnecessary for me to go over the arguments which have been submitted by them. But I must say that, regarding matters generally, I regretted to hear the Prime Minister state that he had been negotiating for this fusion for six months. I understood that I had his absolute confidence when continuing the late Government in their position. To me that is a remarkable fact, and it confirms, if confirmation were necessary, a statement made last night - I think by the honorable member for Batman - that on the 4th December the honorable and learned gentleman gave notice to the Government I had the honour to lead that he had withdrawn support on that date. This is the first time that I knew that. The honorable member for Swan came to me one night, and stated that we would have to do certain things. He knows that I told him that I would not do so, either for him or for any other member of the Chamber.
– The honorable member said that he was not going to be coerced.
– I said that there would be no degradation of the Prime Minister’s office while I held it, and the honorable member knows that.
Question - That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
” No Confidence “ Division - Sale of Warlike Material - Late Sittings : Suppers and Cabs - Pairs - Prohibi tion of Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetables.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to express my regret that, the division upon the no-confidence motion having
been taken earlier than was expected, several honorable members were unable to record their votes.
– 1 am sorry that the Prime Minister thought it necessary to make that statement.
– It is absolutelytrue.
– It is not true.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, in accordance with your wishes, sir, though I think that the right honorable member for Swan should withdraw what he said.
– I am surprised at the utterance of the Prime Minister, though I understand his motive. It was well-known that the division would be taken to-day. ,
– It was not.
– I asked the Opposition Whip yesterday to arrange for a .division to-day, and he told me that he could’ not do so.
– We shall have no agreements _ with the honorable member . except in writing. t
– I shall be prepared to take an agreement in writing, but only a written agreement.
– I can understand the Opposition Whip hesitating to make an agreement with the honorable member.
– At any rate, a majority of seven is good enough.
– Since this Ministry took office discourtesies which are beneath contempt, and petty meannesses have occurred which have degraded Parliament, and were unknown under former Administrations.
– Hear, hear.
– The refusal of pairs, for instance?
– As to the refusal of pairs, is it not well known that two members of the Labour party refrained »from voting in the division because, they had paired with two Ministerialists, one of whom was absent from the House on his own business, and the other visiting a sick friend ?
– Quite right.
– Those pairs were given at once, without consulting any one. Is there any depth to which this Government is not prepared to descend ? I am almost tempted to mention a matter in which ait invariable rule has been broken by Ministers in most discourteous fashion, so as to make it almost impossible to deal with them as with ordinary civilized beings. ,
– The honorable member had better say what he means.
– If I did, Ministers would appear in such a poor light that I am sure they would regret the paltry spirit which they have displayed. I should not have said a word of this nature had it not been for the. statement of the Prime Minister in moving the adjournment. He is welcome to his majority. The press which supports Him said ,that the Government would have a majority of fourteen, reckoning upon four members of the old Liberal party, who, however, have voted with the Opposition. I trust that this will be the last time when the Prime Minister, who is generally courteous, will make such a statement.
– I simply intimated that there were two honorable members on the way to the House who could not vote, because the division was taken sooner than was expected.
– I shall not refer to that incident at greater length.
– Did the Government wish us to keep the debate going longer?
– I would like to know from the Minister of Defence if he has read the statement in this morning’s Argus that arms and ammunition belonging to the Commonwealth have been sold at auction in Sydney, and, if so, whether he authorized the sale. His predecessor gave the instruction that military material must not be sold at auction, or in any other way, without the express authority of the Minister himself. That instruction was issued because of the discovery that rebellious tribes on the Indian frontier were using rifles against British soldiers- rifles originally bought by Australian Governments, and resold. I trust that the rule thus established is not to be departed from.
– The policy to which the honorable member has alluded is still in force. I have directed inquiries to be made into the press statement referred to, though I have been told by the Secretary to the Department that lie does not think that any rifles have’ been sold at the auction in Sydney. What has been sold is old material for which the Department has no longer any use.
– That was not my point.
– The honorable member may rest assured that the rule of my predecessor in this matter has not been departed from, and that there is no intention to depart from it.
.- As honorable members seem to wish to know what the contemptible incident to which the Leader of the Opposition referred is, let me say that, on the night when the discussion of the Supply Bill was extended beyond midnight, some Ministerialists invited members of the Labour party to have supper with them upstairs. It has been customary, since the inception of this Parliament, for the Ministry of the day to provide supper after midnight for all who stay, irrespective of party. The members of the Labour party do not wish to sup at the expense of the Ministry, and are quite ready to pay for the meals which they take . in the building; but it was humiliating to them to be separated at the door of the refreshment room .from other honorable members, we being compelled to pay, while Ministerialists went free. This change of custom is a contemptible act on the part of the Government. It has also been the rule for the Ministry to provide cabs to take home any members who may have remained after midnight. On the night in question Labour members were told by the messengers that the Ministry was not providing cabs for them.
– I had to pay my way home.
– I should not object to having to pay my way always. What I complain of is the attempt to socially ostracize us as Labour members. Certainly, we do not wish to associate with Ministerialists if they do not wish to associate with us.
– They would like to oust us altogether.
– I feel the same in regard to them, but politically only. I know that I have friends on the Ministerial side of the House, to whom I am quite as strongly attached as I am to many honorable members on my own side ; but when a contemptible thing like that is done to any member of my party, I feel it just as if it were done to me personally. The honorable member for Bourke figures prominently in this matter. He is the only man in this House, I will guarantee, who would have done such a thing. There is no other man in the House who would do such a dirty, contemptible thing to any other member.
– Was it the action of the Government, or his own?
– It is for the honorable member for Bourke, not for me, to answer that question. The Age newspaper took him to task with reference to what he did towards the officers of the House. Formerly they were allowed a glass of beer, or a cup of tea or coffee, or anything they wished to have, when the House sat after midnight. But on this occasion they were told that this privilege was stopped also. I do not think that the honorable member did it in the interests of temperance.
– I stopped the liquor two years ago; but tea and coffee could be obtained by the attendants.
– Indeed, I am sure that what the honorable member did was not because of his zeal for temperance, as I am informed that only last week he went to a “shivoo” at Ivanhoe, in connexion with the opening of a new fire brigade station, and when he saw that there were no liquors on the table, he said:. “This will not do; we must have something stronger.” That was certainly not done in the cause of temperance. The honorable member, on the occasion of the late sitting, said: “I know you fellows well ; it must be war to the knife !” and that is the reason why pairs were not given. As for the pairs to-day, I may say this : When my leader was told that a telegram had been received by the honorable member for Richmond about the serious illness of his brother, he said at once: “If Sir Thomas Ewing wants a pair, one of us will stand out. Even if I have to stand out myself, he shall have a pair. Tell him he can go.” Does that look as if we were such a cruel party as some people try to represent that we are? As far as I am concerned, I may state that as long as the honorable member for Richmond is away on such an errand, if no one else will stand out for him, I will.
– - I wish to direct attention to repeated protests from Tasmanian producers and shippers concerning differential treatment in respect of the excessive and prohibitory regulations on the mainland under which Tasmanian fruit and potatoes are shut out of Australian markets. Whilst we all recognise the full powers of the States to police their own ports, with a view to preventing the importation of new diseases, when the regulations are framed with the object of prohibiting the importation of produce slightly affected, other produce affected with similar diseases being allowed to enter a State, I venture to say that such regulations are in contravention of section 92 of the Constitution. I may state that I gave notice of a question in reference to this matter on the day when Parliament met, but the long debate on the no-confidence motion has prevented attention being given to it. The subject is, however, of vital importance to Tasmania, and I hope it will receive the immediate attention of the AttorneyGeneral.
– Order ! The honorable member has himself called my attention to the fact that he has a notice on the business paper with reference to the matter which he has mentioned. That notice cannot be anticipated.
– The notice to which you refer, sir, is not of the same character.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber has himself called attention to the fact that the question is dealt with in a notice standing on the business paper. I cannot, therefore, permit him to proceed.
.- I wish to say two or three words in answer to the honorable member for Maranoa. Three matters have been referred to by him. First, with reference to the question of pairs, I should like to say that the honorable member has been extremely generous to-day, and I personally have no complaints whatever to make with reference to the pairs which have been given. As to the three other matters, I have to say, first, regarding the supply of supper beer to the attendants of the House, that more than two years ago I countermanded the permission for liquors to be given to any of the attendants connected with the House. I did so for the reason that it seemed to me only right and proper that if attendants desired to have spirituous liquors on the occasion of a late sitting, they should pay for them ; and, further, that in case of a difficulty arising, it would not be a proper thing that the blame should be laid at the door of the Government for having supplied attendants with liquors. The suppers, however, they have had, and will still have, when the House sits late. They may also have, if they choose, any kind of liquid refreshment other than spirituous liquors. Instead of this order having been given recently, however, as the honorable member has stated, it was given more than two years ago.
– I went by what the honorable member’s newspaper organ stated.
– The newspaper happened to be incorrect on that point. The honorable member has also stated that I was present on the occasion of the opening of a new fire station at Ivanhoe, and that, as there was no liquor upon the table, I gave the order for something tetter to be obtained.
– Something “better?”
– Or worse, if the honorable member chooses to put it in that way. There are only two things in regard to the honorable member’s statement on that subject which are incorrect. The first is that I gave no such order, and made no such remark; and the second is that I did not do so for the simple reason that I was not present. I sent an apology, explaining that I could not attend. Mr. Tudor. - Was it at Elphinstone, then?
– No, the incident did not occur there, nor at any other place, nor on any other occasion.
– I was so informed.
– I quite believe that the honorable member was so informed. But as I was not present on the occasion referred to, he will see that he has been misinformed. Now, as to the third matter, which is, perhaps, the most important of the three, with respect to the suppers and courtesies extended to honorable members on occasions when the House sits after midnight, I have to say that the courtesies referred to have been hitherto extended by various Governments to all members of the House. It is true that on the occasion to which the honorable member referred the suppers were not so provided.
– They were not provided for a certain section of the House.
– The Deakin Government provided them for all parties when we were fighting the Tariff.
– Yes, I was there then.
– I am quite prepared to answer what was said. An imputation was put upon me personally, which I resent, and which was very unfair and improper. All that I have to say is this : It has been stated that I said there was to be “ war to the knife.” It is perfectly true that I used that phrase. But I used it as a quotation from the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I heard the honorable member for Bourke use the phrase.
– I am not denying that I used it. What I am saying is that I quoted the phrase from the Leader of the Opposition, who said that there was to be war to the knife - and I added “ war to the table knife, if need be.”
– I never uttered such a phrase.
– Where and when did the Leader of the Opposition use the phrase ?
– Is that the honorable member’s idea of “war?”
– Yes, cutting off supplies ‘. Mr. HUME COOK.- The balance of my remarks on the occasion referred to has not been mentioned. It was as follows : - that when the ordinary courtesies’ that had hitherto obtained on the Opposition side in this House were restored, the courtesies extended by the Government to all parties would also be restored. That was the position ; and so it’ now is.
— It was a dirty thing to do, anyway.
.- It is very interesting to hear the Prime Minister at this stage of the proceedings apologizing for the smallness of his majority. Knowing the number of speakers who had taken part in the debate, the honorable gentleman must this afternoon have been aware that its close could not have been far distant.
– He threw a seven.
– It is true that the divi-. sion gave the honorable gentleman a majority of seven, but the press, the Prime Minister, and other members of the fusion Government have claimed a greater majority indorsed by the constituencies.
– What votes did the honorable member’s side gain ?
– With the exception of an honorable member who paired to enable an honorable member on the other side to attend a sick relative, and the honorable member for Gippsland who paired with the honorable .member for Flinders, all the members on this side were accounted for in the division. But there is at least a suspicion that some of the honorable members whose names will not appear in the division list were not very anxious to be seen behind the Government at this juncture. One honorable member who was ab- sent from the division stated on the floor of the House that he was suspicious of the Prime Minister. . .
– The honorable member will allow me. He must see that he is now in fact renewing the debate which has just closed. I cannot permit that.
– I have no desire to reopen the debate, but when the Prime Minister was permitted to make an apology and an explanation for the absence of several honorable members from the division, honorable members on this side might be permitted to suggest reasons for their absence.
– I should not object to that. But when the honorable member goes on to suggest that there are suspicions as to the bona fides of certain members and to suggest reasons of his own for their absence from the division he goes beyond what I ought to permit.
– I only went so far as to say that one honorable member who was absent from the division expressed the opinion during the debate that he was suspicious of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is now clearly referring to an incident of the debate which has closed.
– Passing from that, let me say that some honorable members who were announced in the press as supporters of the Government were not prepared to be here to vote on the motion, of want of confidence. I should like to say something with reference to the remarks of the Ministerial Whip in connexion with a matter which should never have arisen. I can only assume that the honorable member did not act in that matter for himself. I dare say that he was acting on the advice and with the concurrence of the Cabinet.
– The honorable member must, of course, attack the Prime Minister. That is inevitable.
– Will the honorable member for Bourke say whether he acted on his own initiative in the matter? I feel sure that he acted on behalf of the Ministry, and I wish to say that the action taken on the occasion referred to will not affect the course to be pursued by honorable members on this side. We shall insist upon a careful examination of every proposal submitted by the Government.
– Even if we get no supper.
– Really, the action taken in connexion with the refusal of supper to honorable members on this side is too miser able to notice. I am sorry that its meanness should only have been exaggerated by the explanation of the Ministerial Whip. Such action will not affect the attitude of this party towards the Government. We shall continue to endeavour to make them keep their pledges to their constituents and to go to them for approval or condemnation of their treachery.
.- As one who was absent from the late division I wish to say that if I had had an opportunity I should have been here and would have voted for the Government. I was here a minute after the division took place. I was here earlier in the afternoon and went away in the ordinary course at my own risk to pack my bag, that I might catch .the train for Sydney. Believing that the division would be taken some time after 4 o’clock, I made my preparations accordingly. I found that the division was taken before that hour, and consequently I missed the opportunity to record my vote for the Government. I feel it necessary to say this, because as one whose name will not appear upon the division list I do not wish it to be thought that the remarks made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie are in any way correct as applied to me.
.- I should not have risen but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Bourke as to what took place on that memorable night when the members df the present Government took it upon themselves to be responsible for trying to ostracize members of the Labour party - a course of conduct the like of which I never met with in my previous parliamentary experience - either in the Federal Parliament or in the State Parliament of New South Wales. On that night I was taken aback by the meanness of the action of the Government. As I could not believe that any Government would descend to such tactics, I approached the Government Whip and asked him whether what I had heard was true. I got the reply,, “It is war to the knife.” The honorable member has qualified that remark to-day, but he did not qualify it in any way when he made it.
– Perhaps the honorable member did so to himself.
– I cannot be responsible for what the honorable member says to himself. The honorable member desired by his qualification to-day to suggest that the action taken by the Government on the occasion referred to was due to the action of the Labour party in refusing pairs to. the Government. The’ honorable member in adding such a. qualification merely in order to justify himself showed but very little regard for the dignity of the position he holds. I cannot believe that the honorable member for Bourke took the action he did on his own initiative. I do not think the honorable member would have dared to do so. If he did not do so, then the offence of the Government is only the greater. If Ministers think that by methods of that kind they will force this party to conduct business as they desire, they will find that they are making a great mistake. Honorable members are returned to this Parliament to conduct the business of the country. I know that for years past honorable members on this side have assisted to keep a quorum day after day and week after week whilst other honorable members were away. The people do not expect honorable members to take advantage of the pairing system to shirk their responsibilities, as has been done in the past. Men who have private business to which they attach more importance than they do to the business of the people have no right to be representatives, especially in view of the fact that they are now, in my opinion, handsomely paid for their services. There was a time when, perhaps, in this connexion, some excuse might have been offered, but now it is only right that honorable members should be compelled to attend in their places. Quite apart from any party tactics, we on this side are doing the country a great service when we place a mark on those who do not attend to their duties. The Government have declared war; and, so far as I am concerned, there will be no quarter - I do not mean war to the knife at a supper table, but war to the political end of honorable members opposite, if possible.
.- You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have had nine years’ experience in Commonwealth politics, after some years’ experience in the Queensland Parliament; and ‘I venture to say that, neither in Commonwealth nor State, have you observed Parliament to descend to such a depth of degradation as we have reached within the last quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. As a member of this House, I have no desire to be classed with the free supper brigade; and I do not see why this
Cabinet, or any other Cabinet, should supply refreshments for members, whether supporters or of the Opposition.
– It has always been done.
– I admit that it has been the custom, but I have always regarded it as a cruel charge to be placed on any Ministry. It is well that the public should understand tha.t, in the State Parliaments, charges of the kind are paid’ for by the country. In New South Wales, for a number of years, late trains and trams were run for the convenience of honorable members, at the country’s expense, on occasions when there were late sittings ; and I do not see why any Cabinet should be called upon to provide the conveyances out of the party funds. The only good that may arise out of this discussion is that we may get our work over by, perhaps, the reasonable hour of eleven o’clock, and that, if necessity should arise, and we are detained to a late hour,_ say, at the end of the, session, honorable members may be conveyed to their homes, not at the charge of the Ministry, but at the charge of the country.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir has addressed himself to honorable members with considerable patriotic fervour, and urged the necessity for their giving attention to the business which thev are paid to perform here.
– I did not include the honorable member.
– That I know; and I am speaking in general terms. It must be remembered that members of the Federal Parliament have, some of them, to come from the other end of the continent, and that their position, and that of others who have to travel great distances, is not on all fours with that of a. member of a State Parliament. Many honorable members, like myself, have their private business to attend to ; and, in many instances, attendance here involves considerable sacrifice. I do not think that the people expect honorable members to be constantly in attendance, to the utter neglect of their own affairs and prospects, so long as their votes count, and the business of the country is not neglected by them. In many instances honorable members have to leave their families at home, and it is only a simple matter of courtesy between man and man, and not as between political parties, that it should be possible occasionally to get a pair. Naturally, a very sore feeling is caused if an occasion arises when an honorable member is called upon to absent himself, and he cannot get another honorable member to accommodate him in this connexion. I understand that pairs have been given for what I may term sentimental reasons.
– I got a pair, without any sentimental reason.
– We were given to understand that there were to be no more pairs, but I am glad to hear that that stand has been dropped.
– It has not been dropped ; be under no delusion !
– I sincerely hope that political warfare, to whatever extreme it may be carried, will not extend to personal issues.
.- I have always said that in cases of sickness or bereavement I would give a pair to any honorable member. We have heard a great deal in the press lately about pairs being refused, but during the past fortnight I have paired for two days with the honorable member for Franklin, for one day with the honorable member for Mernda, and for a night with the Postmaster-General; and, therefore, so far as I am concerned, the statements made are altogether erroneous.
– The honorable member is not a member of the Labour party.
– I am sitting on this side of the House at present, and I have no desire to apologize for any one. In the matter of pairs, I shall always act on my own judgment, in the interests of those who have sent me here. As to the new departure in regard to suppers, I have always considered that it was not right for members of an Opposition to partake of the hospitality of those they were opposing. But the provision of suppers by the Government has been the custom, and it should not have been departed from without careful consideration. I suppose, however, the action was taken in the heat of the moment, and, I think, very unwisely taken. One step that was taken, however, I consider altogether beyond reason. If, when a supporter of the Government and a member of the Opposition living at a considerable distance from the city, and in the same neighbourhood, desired to go home after the late sitting, the member of the Opposition has been refused a seat in the cab occupied by the Government supporter, that is surely contrary to all the courtesies of either political or private life ; even a tired dog would be given a ride home, and the position I have indicated is one that ought not to be tolerated for a moment amongst Federal members.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Fawkner) [4.23J.- 1 hope that the outcome of this discussion will be that we shall return to the old way of doing business in previous sessions.
– I hope not - no concessions !
– We cannot expect to please the honorable member for Hume every time. The honorable member has had a good many “goes” at me, and f nave never said a single word. I sincerely hope that we shall not carry these feelings into private life.
– Who started it?
– If we wish to come to an understanding it is never a good thing to ask, “Who started it?” It reminds me of a story of two shepherds, who had been very good friends, but who had a .fight. A. year afterwards they met at the fair, and agreed to “ make it up,” but, unfortunately, one of them said, “Sandy, mon, ve were wrang that time!” with the result that the quarrel was resumed, and they had a worse fight than before. And so I say that if -honorable members wish to make good their differences in regard to this matter the least said about it the better. The work of Parliament is carried on far more satisfactorily if honorable members extend to each other a certain amount of courtesy in the affairs of private life, and if parties occasionally grant one another pairs. It is a reasonable course to adopt.
– The honorable member is not a party. He stands by himself, at last, and does not seem to relish his position. It would seem that he has not even a woman’s following. I hope that the outcome of this debate will be that we shall agree to revert to the old order of affairs. Surely it is not necessary to carry party warfare to the lengths that it has been carried of late; surely it is not necessary to party warfare that honorable members should be denied cabs and made as uncomfortable as possible on the occasions of late sittings. During the time that I have been a member of this House, I think that the business of the country has been well done, and I hope that we shall have a reversion to the old practice. -. Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) [4.28].- The nice little placid speech just delivered by the petticoat member who invariably addresses ladies, and is not game to address a meeting of men, may be all very well, but there is something more to be said. The honorable member, and one or two others sitting in front of him, should be termed’ “the petticoat party.” The absence of certain honorable members from the House during last session, and, in fact, for a long time, has been a disgrace to the Parliament. * The attendance sheet shows how frequently some honorable members have been absent.
– And local men, too.
– My remark applies not only to a number of honorable members who reside here, but to others. We have in this House a class of members who used to be known in the New South Wales Parliament as the “early roosters.” They go home early, and do not attend to the business of the country. I trust that no pairs will be given, save in cases of sickness or of special urgency. I hope that pairs will not be given generally, and that some honorable members^- who get returned, heaven knows how - will thus be made to attend to their duties.
– The honorable member himself is seldom here.
– I have one of the best attendance records.
– The honorable member does not remain long in the House.
– When I am npt actually in the Chamber I am always in the neighbourhood, and am invariably present when a division is taken. The honorable member for Fawkner twitted me with not being a member of a party. I shall show him’ before I have done with him, and a few other backsliders, whether I am or not. I would rather be a member of a party of three or four than belong to a party that has sold its principles, destroyed its policy, and behaved in such a dishonorable way as has the party with which the honorable member is now sitting.
– Is the honorable member going to sign the pledge?
– The honorable member will sign something else before we have done with him. The Employers’ Federation may do its best for hire, but he will never be returned again.
– The honorable member will not get back again unless he signs thepledge.
– Let the honor ^ able member make no mistake about that. I could give him a shaking up if 1 opposed him. The honorable member has signed the Employers’ Federation pledge,, as well as the pledge of the Pastoralists’ Union, so that he should not refer to the subject of pledges. He is the most hidebound Conservative in the Parliament.
– The honorable member is no judge.
– Never mind what I am. I shall teach the backsliders opposite something before I have done with them.
– The honorable member is now threatening.
– I do- not threaten and stand still. I am prepared to do something. I shall take the same course in respect to every backslider. The incident in regard to the refusal of cabs to Opposition members was an unpleasant one. I was not present when they were refused supper, but I should not have accepted anything from the party opposite - a party that I look upon as having dishonoured its policy.
– It used to be the honorable member’s party.
– When I was a member of it no such incident occurred as that to which reference has been made.
– The honorable member, when he was a member of the Deakin Government, once refused to provide me with supper and a cab when the House sat late. -
– I have never refused the honorable member anything.
– I refer to the night when I counted out the House.
– I repeat that I never refused the honorable member anything. He is, however, an insignificant member of the House, and would say anything. I did not play such a dirty trick as that which the honorable member for Bourke played on the Opposition, and I may say at once that had I been a member of the Ministry I should not have allowed it. The honorable member for Bourke has said that some two years agohe stopped the practice of allowing the attendants, when the House sat late, a little refreshment. If he did, it was not with my knowledge. Had I known of it, I should have countermanded his order.
– But the honorable member did the same thing in the case that I have mentioned.
– I did not. It is difficult to refrain from using a hard word in reply to the honorable member. I heard of the supper incident on the following day, and can only say that I regard it as a dirty action, such as only a dirty Ministry
– Order !
– Or a dirty Whip would indulge in.
– Order !
– I rise, sir, to a point of order. It is time that notice was taken of this disgraceful language.
– Similar language has been used frequently in debate, and notice has not been taken of it. If the honorable member takes exception to the remark, however, I will ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I do.
– Then I will withdraw the remark. But it will be in Hansard all the same.
– The honorable member is repeating his remark in an aggravated form.I submit, sir, that the honorable member has not unqualifiedly withdrawn the remark to which I took exception. He has really repeated it in a most objectionable way.
– The words used by the honorable member for Hume may be in bad taste, but I do not know that I can compel him to withdraw them. If the honorablemember takes exception to them, I must ask the honorable member for Hume to withdraw them unreservedly.
– I withdraw the words complained of.
– I understood the Minister of Defence to rise, sir, not to a point of order, but rather to question your ruling. If called upon to debate it, I should say that, whilst the use of the adjective “ dirty “ is not desirable, it certainly is not unparliamentary, and I should vote accordingly.
– I was not in the supper-room when the incident complained of took place, but had I been present. T should have refused to take anything from the present Ministry.
– Because I choose my friends.
– They may say the same.
– They would like to be friendly with me if I would permit them to be. I was told, on the morning after the incident, that when certain honorable members were leaving the refreshmentroom, they were “ cut out,” just as sheep- are “cut out” on a station, There was, so to speak, a dividing gate. The officer in charge of the refreshmentrooms was told, as a Government supporter came along, to say, “ The Ministry will pay, for your supper,’’ but if a member of the Opposition proceeded to leave the room,’ he was informed that his supper would not be paid for by the Ministry. I am sorry that the matter has been introduced, because, after all, it is too insignificant, too cowardly, and dastardly to be discussed.
– I never felt more hurt in my life. .
– One would naturally feel incensed at such treatment. I know that I should have felt incensed had I been subjected to it. I hope honorable members sitting on this- side will never accept anything of the kind from this Government again. They will be studying themselves if they do not. So far as pairs are concerned, if my advice is taken, and if it concurs with the view of the Leader of the Opposition, I hope his party will decide that honorable members should be compelled to attend to their proper duties, and not pair, and slink away, and stay away, as three or four honorable members did last session and the session before, and perhaps before that, for months at a time. That is not the wav the business of this’ great Commonwealth should be conducted. ‘ If pairs are refused, except in cases of sickness, those honorable members will be compelled to attend here, and to show the public that they are taking a lively interest in the business of the country, instead of allowing it to be dragged down into the dirt, as it waslikely to be some timeago.
– I am sorry to know that this debate will make very melancholy reading, and am sure that when the Leader of the Opposition, who has been consistently fair and courteous to myself, comes to read in cold blood the three or four simple words I said in moving the motionfor the adjournment, he will he surprised at his own comments. I knew that the honorable member for Wentworth was on his way to the House, that another honorable member had just left for the train under the impression that no vote would be taken today, and that the attempt to overtake him had failed. I knew that- both those honorable members intended to be here.
– I told the Minister of Defence that a vote would be taken, and it would have been taken earlier in the afternoon, but for a member opposite rising to speak.
– And I told the honorable member that I knew nothing about it.
– At least twenty minutes’ notice was given.
– Ten minutes.
– I do not wish to argue the question. I was alluding to two special cases of members, one of whom has since appeared, and explained that he was absent from the division because the door was closed on him.
– The honorable member will admit that notice was. given. Mr. DEAKIN. - I do not dispute it, though I did not know it, but a mere casual allusion to my knowledge that two honorable members were at the door, or on their way, expressing regret in regard to them, was not an allusion to which any other member can take exception. It indicated nothing except that it was through no fault of their own that those two honorable members were- not present. For the rest. I have nothing to do, and no concern, nor do I desire to say anything about other regrettable incidents just alluded to. But I speak within the knowledge of all here when I say that the feeling displayed to-day has been chiefly generated by obvious attempts of a tactical character to take advantage, of the state of the House during the last two or three days, not only in countings out, but in the apparent inten- tion to take divisions at particular moments which must have involved considerable inconvenience to many members. That has produced a good deal of irritability. On the evening to which allusion has been made, the Government Whip, than whom I am sure no more courteous or considerate Whip has ever been in this House, was acting for Ministers. He was placed under conditions of special exasperation, when honorable members on this side were suffering from comments, charges, and epithets, which we should all have done better to ignore, but which, for the time, were rankling. When all these circumstances are taken into account, it will be seen that this was no wanton or unconsidered action. Far from it. I know from other sources - I did not happen to be present - that great provocation was given to the Government Whip, and to members on this side, and not from them.
– From whom did it come? The honorable member is making innuendoes.
– I am not pointing to particular members, because I know this from information, but when it is taken into account, honorable members will agree that there are some things on both sides that we should all desire to forget.
– The Prime Minister will see that we cannot answer a thing that is not stated:
– Honorable members will agree that what happened, so far from being gratuitous, was the outcome of very painful and unpleasant scenes, such as that which we are now closing.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090716_reps_3_50/>.