5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented: -
Conciliation and Arbitration, &c. - Report on proceedings taken under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1911, from 15th December, 1904, to 31st December, 1912; under the Excise Tariff Act 1906, during the time the Act was in operation ; and under theArbitration (Public Service) Act 1911, up to 31st December, 1912 -A. M. Stewart, Industrial Registrar.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if the statement regarding yourself which appears in to-day’s Argus has been authorized by you, or is the newspaper so sure of your vote that it anticipates with confidence how it will be cast?
– The honorable member is not in order in asking a question founded on a statement in a newspaper, I am not responsible for what appears in a newspaper.
– I merely asked if you were responsible for it.
– I am not in any way responsible.
– Is it not an insult to ask Mr. Speaker such a question ?
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs what qualifications are possessed by Mr. Sowton to justify his appointment as Divisional Returning Officer for Hindmarsh?
– The honorable member knows that at a time like this it is not usual for the Ministry to answer questions. I do not mind answering the question just asked, my answer being that the honorable member should address himself to the Public Service Commissioner. I know nothing whatever about the appointment.
– As a matter of urgency, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he is aware that many persons are still suffering from the effects of the enforced vaccination to which they were subjected during the last small-pox outbreak, and if he is prepared to institute a thorough investigation, so that the public may know the actual results of vaccination ?
– No questions can be answered until the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply has been disposed of.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16th April(vide page 86), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to by this House: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed address: - “but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– In order to facilitate the business of the country - to quote the language used by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday - that righthonorable member has moved an amendment on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply which can have no other effect than to delay that business. His action is a reply to, and a proper commentary upon, the statementthat has been continuously made throughout the recess from almost every platform in the country, that the Government is not anxious to do business, and that it is not anxious to go to the country to redress the balance of political parties in Parliament. “ If Ministers want to put matters upon a firm and proper footing,” asked the Leader of the Opposition, “why do they not do so?” His action yesterday supplies the answer. The right honorable member prevents us from doing it. By every means in his power he tries to make it impossible. Why does one who professes to be dying to get to the country to make an appeal to the electors which will sweep this Government out of office, and restore him and his henchmen to power, thus delay public business?
He says that we are not “ conserving the interests of the country.” What does that mean? Any one could make that general statement at any time about any action taken by any individual. In substantiation of this marvellous accusation, the right honorable member yesterday delivered a speech with which the public is already quite familiar. We heard in part yesterday the speech which during the recess he delivered all over Australia, which I have read in the newspapers published in every town that he visited, from Melbourne to Adelaide, and then right back to Rockhampton and south again.
– Did the honorable member read them all?
– I followed the Leader of the Opposition for the whole 4,500 miles that he travelled. Indeed, I was so busily engaged in reading over and over the same old speech that I had not time to check his mileage, so that there may be perhaps half-a-mile too much reckoned up. This speech has done good duty, and it is time now that it was thrown on the scrap heap. If it contains all that can be urged against the Government and its administration, Ministers have every reason to congratulate themselves. I shall make a brief reference to its statements because I have to do it; though when I bowl the right honorable gentleman over in regard to any one of them, he gets up and repeats it again.
Before dealing with the statements that he actually made yesterday, I wish to call attention to a singular omission from his speech. Although accusing me of having slandered Australia, he omitted all reference to the interview published in the Morning Post. Why did he take that lie all over Australia and not use it again here yesterday? Every one knows that the whole matter was cleared up during the last session of this Parliament. Out of his own mouth that was admitted.
– I said so.
– Then why did the right honorable member repeat the slander throughout Australia?
– I did not. I said that the honorable member had allowed his colleagues to repeat it.
– Then every newspaper has misrepresented the right honorable member !
– The Prime Minister allowed his colleagues to repeat the statement over and over again, though he had denied it himself.
– Is that the charge now? Does the right honorable member accuse me of having slandered Australia by saying nothing ? It is what I have not done that makes me a slanderer of Australia. It is a fine way of slandering people when one does nothing at all. What does the right honorable gentleman mean? However, let us dismiss that matter, because every one here knows that it was an empty statement with not a tittle of justification for it ; every one knows that it was, speaking vulgarly, blown out in the Chamber last session, on the admission of his own followers. But the right honorable gentleman still maintains that we are slandering Australia. Of what does this slander consist? He tells us that it is what I did not do that makes me a slanderer of Australia, but, in addition, yesterday he said that I had said at Parramatta that our first duty was to cleanse the rolls. “ You slanderer,” he says, “ to suggest that the roll requires cleaning up.” Now, I wish to say that, in the exercise of that responsibility which the right honorable gentleman all the while insists, and properly so, upon my taking for every act in the Home Affairs Department, I and the Government are endeavouring to get a clean roll ; and there is no more urgent necessity at this moment. Yet, forsooth, for essaying to do this, we are slanderers of Australia.
– The evidence has not proved that there is no more urgent necessity at this moment.
– Does it not? I am not making any empty statement here, I hope; in a moment I shall make a slight reference to some evidence taken in Perth in the presenceof the honorable member, concerning matters which the honorable member deprecated as well as any one else; and then he will notsay that the administration of the Electoral Act has been perfect.
– Nothing is perfect; neither you nor I am perfect.
– The honorable member can speak for himself.
I should be very sorry to make any statement not in accordance with facts, but here is one fact which the Leader of the Opposition cannot explain away, no matter how much he may work himself into a furyabout it - it is a statement over the signature of G. H. Knibbs: At the last appeal to the people of the Commonwealth there were 2,585,000 people entitled to vote, and there were 2,760,000 actually on the rolls. To say that this is slandering Australia is of no use. The slanderer in this case would be Mr. G. H. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, and I am merely quoting figures that show that our rolls are in an imperfect condition to-day, not by any wrong-doing on the part of any official - God forbid that I should make such a statement - but on account of the inherently ineffective machinery by which our operations are being regulated to-day. That is my statement. If it be a slander on any one it is not a slander on the people of this country, but it is a reflection on the administrative and legislative incompetency of our predecessors. That is where the slander lies, if slander there be.
– Do you think the rolls can be purified in anything less than two years ?
– Here is another slanderer of Australia ! How dare you say the roll cannot be purified, and say, by implication, that it is not pure to-day? “How dare you, you slanderer of Australia? “
– The honorable member must address the Chair.
– Here is an honorable member saying worse than I have ever said about the rolls, yet I do not hear his leader chiding him.
I should like to call attention to one or two facts, not facts of ancient history, but facts that are current and are coming to light to-day, and are being reported to the Electoral Department. This is a report to the Department -
There have been reported to the electoral authorities the following cases from South Australia: - For signing claim cards as a witness and not seeing the claims signed by the applicants, 5; for signing the name of another person, 2; for obtaining enrolment before being eligible as regards age, 57.
These cases were sent along the other day from Adelaide. We have only just taken on this business. There were fifty-seven cases of young people in Adelaidewho had obtained enrolment before they were eligible as regards age. The report says -
Of these, twenty attained their twenty-first birthday before polling day.
Evidently they were young bloods filled with great political ardour who wished to get their votes in time.
– Hear, hear!
– It looks as if they had been well m entored and well coached and looked after, and as if every attention was paid to them, so as to get them on the roll in time, so that they might vote.
– Good luck to them !
– Here is an illegal practice, yet thehonorable member for Brisbane says “ Good luck to them.” Here are fifty-seven cases of illegal action, indictable action, yet the honorable member says, “ Good luck to them.”
– Hear, hear! I say it again.
-This report, dealing with these South Australian cases, further says -
For not having been in Australia the requisite time to obtain enrolment, that is, six months, 170. Of this number, 104 had been in Australia six months before polling day arrived. The balance (66) had not. Three prosecutions were instituted for enrolling before they were twenty-one years of age, when the parties charged wore fined £7 each, and £1 10s. costs. Some others were brought up andfined in a lighter degree. These prosecutions were instituted and carried out by the Electoral Department under section 206 (ff) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which places all legal proceedings under the control of the Chief Electoral Officer, advised by the Crown Law authorities.
Every one knows how one has to be certain before proceeding with prosecutions of this kind. When, therefore, we find an independent authority so sure of his ground as to prosecute in all these cases, and to bring to light these serious offences against the Commonwealth Electoral Act, we may be sure that everything is not right in the state of Denmark. I hope I am not slandering Australia in making this simple statement of fact.
My right honorable friend said yesterday, warming up to his work with that audacity which characterized his whole speech, “ You investigated the whole of those cases in Ballarat, and you did not find a single case of fraud.” What are the facts about Ballarat? The officer who went to Ballarat gave the following evidence : -
Was it open to you to make any inquiries into any of the charges which you had previously read in the press ? - No ; my business was with Mr. Wright, and it was confined to his giving me a list of thirty-five electors inBallarat East, and some others who were in outside places.
This man investigated thirty-five cases in Ballarat, and, on the strength of that, we are told that there was not a single case of wrongdoing in the whole of the electorate.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to say there was?
– I believe there was; and I believe there were casesin my own electorate, though I am not able to prove them.
– The Prime Minister ought to be able to prove them. Let him ask the Liberal organizers, and they will tell him !
– My impression is that the Liberal organizers are not “ in it” with othersat this kind of thing; that is my experience. TheBallarat electorate extends for many miles, and this man spent two days there.
– He dealt with the names given by the Liberal party.
– I know that a few of the names were given by the Liberal party, and I understand that they have hundreds of others in connexion with which there was what looked seriously like wrongdoing.
– Do not slander !
– It is necessary to assure the Leader of the Opposition that everything in the world is not quite perfect yet, and will not be so long as the human nature which operates either political party, and humanity generally, is current in the community.
I am reminded by the interjections of the honorable member for Ballaratof another matter. It seems that in Australia a man may live for years out of his own town altogether, and yet be able to vote as an elector of that town. The honorable member was at Broken Hill the other day, advising the people, whatever they did to take care to keep on the Ballarat roll.
– Hear, hear! That is when their homes are in Ballarat. There is nothing wrong about that, seeing that those people are only temporarily away from their homes.
– The honorable member advised them to keen their names on the Ballarat roll so that they might return him.
– -It would be wonderful if a man could not vote for’ the place where his home is!
– I am not complaining; and I dare say that if I had been in the honorable member’s place, I should have done precisely as he did. I suggest, however, that there is surely something defective when a man i8 entitled to vote for a place he has left years ago. As things are, the honorable member is entitled to make full use of the advantage; and I congratulate him on having done so at the cost of so much travelling and inconvenience.
– I know the Prime Minister’s friends are doing the same!
– It is quite right that a man should vote at the place where his home is.
– May I ask the right honorable gentleman one question ? Why is it that when any mention of a clean roll is made in this House, he goes off on a tirade of abuse? Is he afraid of a clean roll?
– No one is.
– Then why a tirade of abuse when any one expresses a desire for a clean roll? Methinks they do protest too much over there about the cleanliness of the rolls.
– “By implication the Prime Minister says that it is honorable members on this side who are responsible.
– I say nothing by implication; I merely mention the fact that the rolls are dirty, and require cleansing; that they are overloaded, and that more perfect machinery and better administration are needed. Both sides should be eager to assist in this work, and not indulge in a tirade of abuse whenever the subject is mentioned.
– It is the allegations of the Prime Minister to which objection is taken.
– The honorable member knows, just as every other honorable member knows, that on the roll in his electorate, as in other electorates, there are hundreds and hundreds of names that ought to have been taken off long ago.
– I did my best to purify the rolls.
– And I hope the honorable member will assist us in the purification of the rolls generally, and that he will condemn his leader for abusing all and sundry who speak at any time about cleansing them.
– Any man who condemns clean rolls is not doing right.
– One begins to be suspicious of a man who is constantly girding at others who present facts, as we all know them to be, and accusing as a slanderer of Australia any one who dares to say that the electoral machinery is not quite perfect. Really, it was touching to hear yesterday, the statement from The Round Table, which I know to be a brilliant journal, exercising a great deal of influence. May I say that the writers, so far as Australia is concerned, are not unkind to my right honorable friend.
– It knows his ability, whereas it does not know the Prime Minister’s.
– We must all acknowledge, I think, that the honorable member for East Sydney is the one judge of ability in this House.
– I am dignified, and that is more than the Prime Minister is1
– I wish to present another fact to honorable members; and I invite the honorable member for Melbourne to listen to this, because, I believe, he was at Perth when the facte were elicited. Mr. Walter Buckley Castieau, a witness before the Electoral Commission at Perth, said there was no control over the ballot-boxes whatever; that people could put what they liked into the ballot-boxes, and that he himself remained in a booth for five hours. Another witness said that the officers were wearing the Labour party colours all day inside the booths, and were directing people to the Trades Hall to get’ the numbers on the roll.
– What is the Prime Minister quoting from?
– From the evidence obtained by the Electoral Commission in. Perth. It was published in the daily press.
– Then I suppose I am at liberty to quote any evidence given before the Commission?
– Certainly; so far as I am concerned.
– Then I shall quote the reply of the Returning Officer to the evidence of this man.
– Let us have it.
– The Returning Officer proved that that evidence was absolutely false.
– I shall be very glad to see that evidence, because I have not seen it yet. We must remember that now we have only the bald statement by the honorable member before us, and it is for him to produce the evidence.
– Who won the seat where all the corruption was?
– I have already called several times for order, and must remind honorable members that it is grossly disorderly to interject immediately after the Speaker has called for order. Every honorable member will have an opportunity to speak, and can then refute any statement to which he objects. An occasional interjection is often allowable, but when interjections become general, disorder must necessarily arise.
– I am dealing with this charge of slandering Australia, and should like to ask who are the real slanderers of this country? The Leader of the Opposition in one of his public speeches recently dealt with the position of non-unionists, and declared that “ Nonunionists are mostly the sneaks of society.” There are, in Australia, 1,154,812 employes twenty years of age and over, and of that number 433,224 are returned as unionists. That being so, according to the right honorable member, the number of sneaks of society must be 721,588. That, I suppose, is not a slander? Does not the right honorable member know that there are, in this country, hundreds of thousands of men who cannot be in a union because there are no unions convenient for them to join ? All these, he says, are sneaks.
– If that is so, they cannot be affected by the principle of preference to unionists.
– I am referring, not to preference to unionists, but to the statement that non-unionists are mostly the sneaks of society.
– Will the honorable member quote what he himself said about non-unionists some years ago?
– Yes. I was speaking then of a system of unionism which is as unlike the unionism of to-day as chalk is unlike cheese.
– The Leader of the Opposition was perhaps referring to the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is one of those mushroom politicians who know all things. He has been thrown on the political waters for a moment or two.
– He is here, and is going to stay here. I invite . the honorable gentleman to come down to my electorate and fight me. If he does, I shall get a bigger majority than ever.
– I have something better to do. But let me tell the honorable member that we are going to send along, to oppose him, an excellent man, who has a greatdeal more ability and much better manners than he has.
– I will admit that he has better manners than the honorable gentleman.
– He has a great deal more political experience than the honorable member, and yet he did not have half as much to say, by interjection, in this House as the honorable member has.
– Can not the honorable gentleman give us a fuller description of this man?
– I believe that there is no man in this House who does not respect the Honorable George Fuller.
– But why eulogize him at this stage ? Why indulge in this electioneering?
– Because of the challenge of this great Goliath of the Opposition corner. I do not desire, however, to quarrel with the honorable member for Illawarra, if he will allow me to proceed.
– I take it all as a compliment.
– I am sure of that.
If anybody has slandered Australia with respect to electoral matters, the slanderers are to be found on the Opposition side and not on this side of the House. Who does not remember the slanders of the honorable member for West Sydney on the women of Australia with respect to the postal vote -
The abolition of the postal vote he described as an attack on the cajolery and undue influence which money had hitherto been able to bring to bear upon many voters. They had den red to wealth and; to tlie influences which wealth had, the power that it had freely exercised before of manipulating votes.
Here the right honorable member was te’fl-ing the’ people of the world that the votes of the women of Australia could be bought. He, surely, is a slanderer.
– From what is the honorable gentleman quoting?
– From a speech delivered at the Town Hall, Sydney, by the honorable member. Here is yet another statement made by the honorable member in this House -
Under cover of this Bill it will not be the sick in bod or the women in bed who will vote, but those who in one way or another come under the influence, and cannot get away from the influence, of those in high places. The power of money to-day cannot be exaggerated. . . There is that insidious influence which is so effective and so hard to resist.
That is another slander upon the women of Australia: that money is buying their votes.
– That report does not show that I said so.
– It does. There could be no other inference.
– There is another inference.
– I am drawing the only inference that can be drawn from the statement. I shall, however, say no more on this question of slandering the people of Australia, and I trust we shall hear no more of it from the Leader of the Opposition. Meanwhile, let me tell him that, in spite of his castigations we are going to do our very best to clean up the electoral roll, which is overloaded, is in a shocking condition, and must be remedied, if possible, before the next appeal is made to the people of Australia. I hope that honorable members opposite will assist us to the fullest possible extent to get a clean roll, so that we may have a fair, square appeal, when next we face the country on the tremendous issues that will then be raised.
The Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to the position of the Treasurer with respect to the note issue. My right honorable colleague will speak for himself later, but I should like to refer to the accusation made against him by the Leader of the Opposition that he had taken from the States from £1,000,000 to £1, 200,000 in order to put the money into the Commonwealth coffers as a backing for the note issue. The right honorable member ought to have known, better than, to make a statement of that kind. He has held office asTreasurer, and may be presumed, therefore, to know something of what goes on in the Department. If he knew anything at all about the matter, as he ought to do, he would be aware that at the particular time to which he was referring there is always in circulation nearly £1,000,000 more notes than at other times. The moment the harvests have been moved the notes come back again for redemption. The gold goes out and thenotes come in. So far as I am aware an extra million is not being taken from anyone. The head and front of our offending seems to be that we are maintaining the basis which the Leader of the Opposition himself declared to be necessary after consultation with the bankers of Australia. When submitting his Notes Bill the right honorable member, after referring to the fact that a Conservative like Sir Hugh Nelson had adopted a similar course, said that he had consulted with the bankers of Australia, and had inserted these provisions in the Bill. There was to be a reserve of 25 ‘ per cent, of gold against the note issue, and if the issue exceeded £7,000,000 a sovereign was to be retained for every pound note issued in excess. That is all we are doing - sticking to that bargain, and now he tells us that the bargain that he made, and the Bill that he passed and fathered after consultation with the experts of Australia, amounts to a wasting of the money of the States, and that this gold ought to be given out, and not kept there at all. We must take that statement on the one side, and another statement on the other side, which .1 am about to quote. It is, I believe, a fact that everywhere in the world to-day the banking experts are increasing their gold reserves. Speaking of the money market in London, the other day, Sir Felix Schuster, Chairman of the Union of London and Smith’s Bank, at the . halfyearly meeting, said -
Gold reserves of the great European banks, hare been augmented considerably during the past year. Germany has added £20,000,000 toiler stock of gold. The Bank of France hasraised her holding of the yellow metal by thirteen millions. Reserves of the Bank of Eng- land have increased largely, and many of the joint stock bunks have augmented their own holdings.
We have to take these authorities, these menwho are manipulating theworld’s money markets, and looking after the world’s business, so far as finance is concerned, on the one side, and theRight Honorable Andrew Fisher on the other. This Government prefers to do what every one else is doing, to see that a substantial gold backing is put behind these notes, and kept there.
Yesterday the right honorable gentleman referred to a contract entered into by my colleague a little while ago with Mr. Teesdale Smith, and which he criticised in all sorts of derogatory and depreciatory language. Everything about it was wrong. The penalties were inadequate for a contract like this, amounting to from £25,000 to £30,000.
– The honorable member knows it is more than that.
– I am speaking of the contract which was tendered to the Minister, and on the basis of which the penalties were made. Is that not a fair thing ?
– The contract that exists to-day is a long way more than that.
– I know it is.
– It was£50,000 or £60,000.
– That statement is not correct in any particular.
– That is the official information given about the contract.
– It is wrong, then. The honorable member gets his information from interested sources.
– From your Honorary Minister.
– He has never told the honorable member anything of the kind. The honorable member did not read the document. That is the trouble. The complaint is that an inadequate penalty is provided for this contract, which is a very small one alongside the total of that huge railway expenditure, but the right honorable gentleman imposed no penalty whatever in the case of a contract for £500,000 worth of sleepers. He did that political job through the side door, and yet he criticises a small contract like this because of its inadequate penalties.
– One contract was with a State, and the other was with a “boodler;” that is the difference.
– Is Mr. Teesdale Smith a “boodler?”
– The honorable member ought to know by the price he has given him.
– I have never yet met the gentleman, and do not know him. My honorable friends appear to know him.
– The honorable member ought to have met him.
– The right honorable gentleman yesterday knew where he was at a particular moment of time. He told us so. How does he know all the movements of these great capitalists? I do not know them. I have never seen them. How is he so intimately acquainted with them all as to know exactly where they put their footprints at a particular hour of the day ? There was no mistaking the particularity of the right honorable gentleman yesterday. He knew that Mr. Teesdale Smith was at a particular spot at a particular time, and a third person was there. We know nothing about these matters, and no Ministerhas seen Mr. TeesdaleSmith more than once in connexion with this contract, and then only in company with Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders. Does the right honorable member impute corrupt motives to Mr. Deane?
– No. I impute corrupt motives to no one.
– Then what does the honorablemember mean by his statements about “ getting in at the side door ?” If that be not an imputation of unfair dealing, I should like to know the meaning of the word. What, then, is the charge? .
– Wilful, deliberate extravagance. That is my charge.
– Is that all? That could go on through the front door, I should think, as readily as through the side door. If the honorablemember, like his leader, knows all about theside door, perhaps they will tell the House a little more about it.
When this Government took office it bolted and barred all side doors into all offices. The side doors were open before; they have never been open since.
– The honorable member knows that that is untrue.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Cook to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it, as it is unparliamentary.
– What are the facts about this contract? As I know them in their broad outline - I am going to leave my colleague to deal with the matter later, and he will have a complete answer for the House - all that was done was to accept the advice of the two men in the Department who naturally were the most competent to give him advice - Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders. Both advised him for urgent public reasons to accept this contract without tender.
– Did they advise you to go in for contract as against day-labour on that line?
– What has that to do with the question ? It is entirely irrelevant. We can come to it at some other time, when we have cleared away these foul charges that the honorable member’s party have been making all over the country. Who appointed Mr. Deane, the officer who made these recommendations? Was it not my right honorable friend? Who appointed Captain Saunders? Again, it was my right honorable friend. Does he say that they have been getting into the Minister’s side door with interested contractors? What a reflection upon men whom he backed solidly for two years! If they have been doing wrong things lately, is it not a fair assumption that they did wrong things before? I do not say that they have done anything wrong. I know that they have not. I believe Mr. Deane to be a perfectly honorable man. I believe Captain Saunders to be an upright, honorable man, too.
– He is not a capable man if that is the case.
– Why not? Why then did you keep him in office for nearly three years, and give him £1,800 a year? Were you not throwing the public money away?
– Captain Saunders is the more capable man of the two.
– Is he? Listen to these gentlemen, now that they are on the other side of the chamber castigating their own administration. They now tell the House that the late Ministry kept incompetent servants, who are in receipt of high salaries - men who they say introduced contractors who charged extravagant prices by the side door into the Minister’s room. What a reflection upon their own administration ! Really, they do protest too much about this matter.
These officers were their officers-
– And is that any reason why we should neglect to criticise them ?
– I wish to say a word or two regarding the front door and the side door. At the front door, 1 understand, all are equal, the side door being used for those who are specially privileged. The special privileges were recommended by officers of the right honorable gentleman’s own creation - by men who were paid high salaries to be men of integrity and honour. He says that these officers brought Mr. Teesdale Smith by a side door into the Minister’s room for some illicit and ulterior purpose.
– Leaving out of consideration the question of the side door, is the Prime Minister prepared to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into this contract? We cannot settle the matter here.
– If the right honorable gentleman will make any charges in reference to admission by the side door, he can have a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter.
– If he will formulate his charges we will give him any inquiry that he wants, and as much of it as he wants. But when we are inquiring into this matter, would it hot be only fair if at the same time we opened the whole field to inquiry? Let us have an inquiry into the whole administration of this railway.
– Hear, hear; I am satisfied to do that.
– What is the complaint? That tenders were not called in connexion with this particular contract. Were tenders called for the supply of those 100,000 sleepers - for that £35,000 contract which was given to the Powellising Company inMelbourne? By what side door didMr. Gorton enter when he obtained that con- tract from the late Minister of Home Affairs, without any tenders whatever being called?
– The same Mr. Deane was responsible for that, too.
– But honorable members opposite did not discover anything wrong in Mr. Deane then.
– I take the responsibility, not Mr. Deane.
Mr.Fenton. - That is something like manliness.
– I call attention to the difference between the treatment which was meted out to the late Minister of Home Affairs and that which is being meted out to the present Minister. The late Minister did what I have said he did. We knew about it. Yet we never accused him of all the sins in the calendar. We never spoke here of any side-door entrance. I have a profound contempt for any man who makes these insinuations all over the country, but has not the manliness to formulate a charge.
– I charge the Prime Minister with wilfully wasting the public money.
– That is a very much smaller charge than is contained in this dirty innuendo that the honorable member’s leader has thrown out all over Australia, which he has never withdrawn, and which he repeated and emphasized yesterday. If he is a man at all, he will formulate his charges and give us an opportunity of meeting them, instead of whispering them all over Australia in innuendoes. Anyhow it is a fact that when he was in office he did everything for which he is blaming the present Government. He let contracts without calling for public tenders, contracts of a doubtful character, contracts which could not be fulfilled, contracts which had to be cancelled, and he let them without any of the safeguards usually attaching to such contracts. His Government required no specifications, no penalties, no deposits, no anything - except a private arrangement made through the side door. I. wish to say that that kind of thing has ceased since the advent of this Government to office. Instead of making these insinuations all over the country, the right honorable gentleman had better stay at home and look after things here a little better than he has done. It does not lie in his mouth to accuse this Ministry of that kind of practice. I have never in my life seen Mr. Teesdale Smith, and I believe that my colleague has seen him only once.
– One colleague or two colleagues.
– One colleague.
– He should not have seen him alone.
– He never did see him alone.
– The Prime Minister himself ought to have been there when an issue of this kind was being dealt with.
– All I know is that Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders came with Mr. Teesdale Smith to see the Minister - a perfectly proper proceeding, and one that takes place in every Public Works Department in the world. It is a proceeding that is necessary at times to clear up matters in connexion with any contract. Yet this perfectly innocent proceeding has been taken hold of by the Leader of the Opposition, and all sorts of insinuations have been woven around it for dirty political purposes. Instead of doing that all over Australia, the right honorable gentleman had better stay at home, and see that his own hearthstone is cleaned up. May. I remind him that there was a little contract involving the expenditure of £35,000 for the supply of timber for this same railway which was let without any tenders whatever being called ? That contract had to be cancelled. Shall I say anything about the wireless business, and as to how every bit of wireless material, during the late Government’s term of office, was. obtained without tender from one particular person in Australia? What about the side- door in that case? We have stopped that by calling for tenders for all material in connexion with wireless matters.
– And the Government have accepted the tender of a defaulter.
– I was not aware of that.
– The tender of the man who “ rooked “ the Customs.
– I do not wonder at the right honorable member for Wide Bay talking about the side-door, seeing that, during his Government’s term of office, that door was always open. It was the side-door, for instance, through which Brother Chinn walked in.
– He was a good man.
– Of course he was a good man. Did not “ dear George Pearce “ say that he was a good man at the previous election ? He found an entrance through this side door into the presence of my honorable friend who represents Darwin, and got a good billet for his trouble.
– He was tried, and found straight.
– Then, I suppose that the right honorable member for Wide Bay had in his mind that same private side door through which Brother Ryland walked into a good billet in the Northern Territory.
– Another Christian.
– Now what does the honorable gentleman mean by “the side door “ ?
– I mean the side door by which the political friends of honorable members opposite secure positions in the Public Service at high salaries, and are put over the heads of men already in the service. I hope that is plain enough.
– It is evidently quite a different side door from the one the honorable gentleman has taken himself.
– The honorable gentleman is on strike to-day.
– No; I am but making a few remarks on the questions raised by the honorable member’s leader. The right honorable gentleman got a good start. He has been all over Australia with these things, and I am trying to show the people that what the rule of the present Government has done has been to stop the very practices which he indulged in when in office.
One singular reason why we are failing to safeguard the interests of the people, according to the right honorable gentleman, is because of something I said in the Town Hall in Sydney some five years ago. That is one of his serious indictments. He says that we Have taken his naval scheme. That is a complaint which he has made all over the country. “How dare they have anything to do with this naval scheme of ours?” The right ‘honorable gentleman says that it was his. Hesaid, “They talked Dreadnoughts.” So we did, and the Dreadnought is in Sydney now - the very same Dreadnought. .. It cost £2,000,000, or more money than all the right honorable gentleman’s little cockleshells wouldhave cost together. We can afford to dismiss that. It is too futile and frivolous to be made the subject of a serious indictment at this time of the day.
Then the right honorable gentleman wishes to know what we have done about the high cost of living in Australia. That is another of his indictments. He says that the cost of living is towering up, and he asks what this Government is going to do about it. That is a perfectly fair question to address to us. It is a fair question to put to any Legislature, because it is about the most serious matter which the working men of Australia have to deal with to-day. Our honorable friends opposite say that the trusts are forcing up the cost of living in Australia. The ex- Attorney-General is never tired of saying that the trusts are forcing up the cost of living. That might apply to the time when our honorable friends opposite were in office, but it would seem that it applies with much less force to the time when the Liberals are in office. Somehow or another, the trusts seem to be able to get in their best work when Labour is in power.
– On two items alone we are paying10d. a week more in our house now.
– I should like to remind the honorable member that nominal wages are increasing.
– I am not talking about wages, but about the operations of trusts.
– I am talking about wages.
– I am talking of the Oil Trust.
– Has it anything to do with the fall in revenue?
– Possibly it has. The administration and action of the present Government are restoring confidence in the community, and are leading to many things in the nature of change, which are all expressed in the betterment of the workers of Australia. That is the point I want to make. When we came into office, our friends opposite told the people, “ They will lower your wages. They will take your pensions. They will take your liberties. They will do- “ I do not know what. In spite of all their prognostications, wages have gone up. Mr. Knibbs says so. The effective wage has gone up. Mr. Knibbs says so. The nominal wages paid by Governments have gone up. I say so, because I know it is a fact.
– They went up yesterday in the Court.
– Of course, they did. Who appointed the Court? Is the Court thecreation of a Labour Ministry? Why, the only proposition made the other day by the Labour Premier of New South Wales was that he might be allowed to rid his hands of his industrial legislation. He seems to have worked his claim out. He said, “For Heaven’s sake, let the Commonwealth take it over. Take it out of my hands, I have had enough of it.” Mr. Holman might have said, “ I came into power to bring industrial peace, and ever since I have been in office trying to get industrial peace there has been more industrial strife than at any previous period. Take the whole thing over, I am sick of it. I have tried everything - Wages Boards, penalties, conciliation. Take it off my hands, and let me be done with it.”
– The honorable gentleman wishes to return to the methods which have failed.
– No, I do not want failure at all. I do not admit failure. Here is the fact, and it cannot be said to represent failure : Since this Government came into office nominal wages have increased all over Australia, and, what is far more important, the effective wage, the value of wages, has increased to every worker in every part of Australia.
– That is the unions.
– I see; then this Government cannot be injuring the unions. But honorable members opposite say that we are trying to injure them, and that weare their enemies. They say in the next breath that the unions are flourishing better than ever since this Government came into power. The fact remains that the effective wage which had gone down in Australia during their régime has gone up since this Government took office.
– It goes up and down with the revenue.
– Oh then, it is something else now, is it? It was not the revenue when our honorable friends opposite were rolling off their facts all over Australia at election time. They told the electors that Australia enjoyed prosperity owing to the career of the late Government. It was not the revenue then, was it ? It was the Government then. Now, when we have scotched the downward tide that had set in during the regime of. the late Government, and an unmistakable jump up in the value of the workers’ wages is recorded, they say it is something else. It is the revenue. It is the unions. Why do not my honorable friends agree? The honorable member for Oxley says that it is the unions. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, says it is the revenue. Will not somebody else now say that it is something else? Here is the fact, and my honorable friends have to explain it away, that during the Liberal régime the effective wage in Australia has begun to rise. Clearly if the trusts had been working all those depredations in former years the present Government must have put a scotch in the wheel, and if the trusts forced these things up in former years the honorable member will surely not say that the trusts have brought them down again.
– You say there are no trusts.
– I have never said that. I read in the press this morning of the doings of the Shipping Trust, in which my honorable friends opposite are interested equally with the employers, and that Trust has just decided that the public must pay more for all labour in connexion with shipping. I am not complaining, but it is nota bit of use talking about the trusts pushing up the price of things, because prices must always be governed by the cost of production.
– And profits rise twice as quickly as wages.
– I am not going to deny that. I say that, under the present condition of affairs, it is imperative that that should be so. The workers force up their conditions, and the capitalists pass the burden on to the consumer. It is the consumer who to-day is paying the increase, and it expresses itself in the prices of his products and the effectiveness of his wages. I repeat there must have been more profits made during the régime of the Labour Government, seeing that the effective wage of the worker is more, and not less, to-day. The probabilities are that the worker to-day is getting a bigger share of this increase which is passed on to the public than he did before. But whatever may be the explanation, the figures prepared by Mr. Knibbs show the facts to be as I have stated them.
In accordance with the argument I have been putting forward as to the effect of this Government upon the labour market and the general industrial condition of the workers of Australia, I should like to make one or two references to what we have done. As honorable members know, a strike is in progress along the route of the transcontinental railway. That fact is to be deeply regretted, and I say it would have been much better if members, instead of addressing private meetings and insisting that the press should not know what transpired, had conducted those meetings in the open light of day, and advised the men not to strike against the Government, but to appeal to the Government and Parliament.
– I, personally, did advise the men not to strike.
– I am prepared to believe the honorable member did so; that is just what I should expect the honorable member to do, but there remains the fact that those men have gone out on strike.
– Did any member advise them to strike?
– The honor able member has misunderstood what I said. My statement was that, instead of addressing them in private, so that nobody outside the meeting knows what took place, it would have been better if, in public, members had told the workers to trust the Government and Parliament to give them fair play.
– How do you know they did not do it?
– There is no evidence that they did.
– I say, positively, that they did.
– They acted differently at the Kalgoorlie end from the way in which the honorable member acted. He has given the fullest publicity to the facts of his case, and the more publicity we can get as to the facts of industrial disputes the better, for, despite all that we may say as to penalties and everything else, the great potent force to day is the force of public opinion. What are the facts? Those men at the Kalgoorlie end were getting11s. 8d. per day, and we haveincreased their wages to 12s. 6d. per day. I know all the disabilities associated with their being so far away from Kalgoorlie, and we have done bur best to remedy those disabilities as far as possible.
An Honorable Member. - Did you give them that increase because they earned it?
– Of course.
An Honorable Member. - Then there is no compliment in the action.
– No Government has a right to pay any section of the community compliments, or to give them any sort of preference.
An Honorable Member. - Then what are you skiting about ?
– I am simply defending the Government against a charge of incompetence. We increased the wages of those men from11s. 8d. to 12s. 6d., and we increased the wages of the running staff, engine-drivers, firemen, guards, &c., by1s. 6d. per day. At the Port Augusta end, we have given the workmen an extra1s. 8d. per day, and the engine-drivers and firemen an extra shilling. I never could see any reason why there should be any very great disparity between the work at the rail head at Port Augusta and that at the rail head at the Kalgoorlie end ; 200 miles away from home is much the same at one end as at the other.
In addition to paying them those increased wages, here are some of the things which the Government are doing for the men - perfectly proper and just things to do; there is no compliment in them, but at least they show a desire on the part of the Government to treat those men fairly. The Department insists that stores shall be made available along the line at town prices. The workman at the rail head therefore gets his groceries and all his requirements at exactly the same prices as he would have to pay at Kalgoorlie, and the provisions are carried along the railway free of charge to enable that to be done. We also move along the line a portable boardinghouse, a bakery, a cordial factory, and stores of various kinds, all free of charge, so that the men may get the benefit of them, and be as comfortable as possible in the circumstances. There are at the rail head good ambulance men and equipment, and arrangements are now being made to get a medical man there with a temporary hospital providing accommodation for several patients. Owing to the nearness of other hospitals, it has not been necessary to take this step hitherto. Only the other day I was suggesting to the Engineerin Chief that, instead of allowing the men to live in humpies with bags over them, that he might see if he cannot get a collapsible tent for them, and house them in a proper and decent way. These men, who are working hard, may not be expert builders of habitations - some of them are, and some are not - and it seems fair that under the conditions obtaining we should see that they live decently. It is not wages alone, but all the circumstances, that must be taken into account in considering their conditions. Why they do not go back to work I should like to know. They have no reason for remaining out, not a scintilla of reason, so far as I know. A contractor is there putting his men to piecework, and driving them on or out if they do not do what is required of them, and because the contractor is giving his men just a little more, our men say that they should get the same increase of pay. On the other hand, we say that the Government rate cannot far exceed the rates ruling in the district. The taxpayers have to find the money which we spend, and it is not just to the working men at large, who have to pay the taxes, that they should have to find money to give certain Government employes considerably more than they can earn themselves. The Government must do some sort of rough justice in these matters, and I claim that we have treated our men liberally. I shall be very glad, indeed, to know that theyhave gone back to their work.
– The public do not wish Government employes to be sweated.
– Does the honorable member say that these men are being sweated?
– Has the Government imposed similar conditions on Teesdale Smith?
– I do not know what he is paying, but he is. getting his work done, I believe. There is not much encouragement for a Government to do its best for men if, notwithstanding what it does, its men leave their work without sending so much as a complaint to headquarters as to the grievances which they profess to labour under. That is no way for men to better their status. These men are not under a rasping, grasping contractor, who would wring the last ounce out of them as is said - they are under a considerate Government, and there is no justification for them striking as they have done. I hope that the strike will end as soon as possible, for the sake of the men themselves, and for the sake of the work.
I have not time now to deal with the powellising contract. Suffice it to say that the preliminaries are finished. All the gold spade work has been done, and the steel spade is now at work, 150 miles of line having been constructed within nine months.
– Soil is being scooped out with scoop and plough at 7s. a yard.
– My information is that the prices paid are reasonable. If they are unreasonable, it is a pity that the last Government, in making appointments, did not appoint experts who would assess the value of the work reasonably. All our troubles, it seems to me, have come from trying to deal fairly with the appointees of the last Government. I hope that there will never be a time in the Works Department when a Minister will decline the advice of expert officers. Officers who have proved not to be expert should be got rid of, and experts put into their places.
It is alleged that we are not “ safeguarding the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. Does that charge relate to what took place at the recent conference with the Premiers? We are not told in what respect we are not safeguarding the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. Here is one instance in which I assert that this Government has safeguarded those interests. I refer to the making of the agreement which will enable irrigation settlements to proceed in three States of the Union, thus solving a difficulty which has not been found capable of solution during twenty years, despite all the efforts of previous Governments. Now, the three States concerned have settled finallythe question of riparian rights. They have agreed to raise contentious matters no more. Each isto get on with the work of developing the interior, and the utilization of the waters of the River Murray will make what are now desert places blossom as the rose.
– Is the arrangement to apply to every other State that has a river that can be dammed and used for irrigation and navigation ? Will it get a pro raid subsidy from the Commonwealth ?
– That does not follow. The States do not ask us to subsidize their irrigation schemes. They wish us to assist in keeping open a navigable river, so that each State may use its fair share of the water of that river for the purposes of irrigation. As the Commonwealth is charged by the Constitution with the care of navigability of rivers, it had a right to see that the navigability of this river was preserved, and, in the interests of Australia, to make a contribution to the tremendous and beneficial projects in hand. The right honorable member may challenge what we have done; I hope that he will if he does not agree. Let us have no more innuendoes. If he has anything’ to say, let him say it plainly. We are giving £1,000,000 for the locking of this river, so that the three States concerned may get on with their irrigation schemes. This will pay the Commonwealth handsomely. An area of 1,500,000 acres is capable of irrigation, and only awaiting the locking of the rivers. When the schemes are carried out, there will be an additional 500,000 or 750,000 settlers in Australia, each of whom will pay over £3 a head in taxation, so that in one year we shall get back more than we pay. That is a very good bargain for the Commonwealth.
I have no time to say how we are conserving the interests of the taxpayers in the Northern Territory, though there is a tate to tell there.
– Why was Mr. Ryland dismissed ?
– I think that Mr. Ryland had gone before I was aware of his dismissal.
– Hear, hear. I acted on my own responsibility.
– Whatever has been done has been done by the Minister in charge of the Department.
– Surely the members of the Ministry know what each is doing.
– Each Minister is1 responsible for his own Department.
– I understand that Mr. Ryland and three or four others left the service because it was not possible to find them useful work which warranted the high salaries that they were receiving. Mr. Ryland was a very good fellow, I believe, but he was not cut out for the billet he was put into, and, I am told, he was serving no useful purpose. I suppose my colleague consulted the officers of the Department, who were able to inform him on the matter, and I am sure that no honorable .member would believe that he acted in any other way but the right one.
Shall I speak of the way in which we endeavoured to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth in the matter of the railway gauge ? For the first time in the history of Australia we have that matter now on a definite - basis, and we have the State Governments committing themselves in a responsible way to the investigation of this subject with a view to a working proposition being formulated, including the allocation of costs, and everything concerned in this very serious matter. The whole thing has gone to the Inter-Stat’e Commission for report.
– Save us from the enemies of Australia.
– Here again there is a sneer by honorable members opposite at an office of their own creation.
– But the gun misfired in this case.
– Was it not time the late Government were dispossessed of office ? There is not a thing they did at which they are not sneering and jeering to-day.
– What is the joke?
– Will some honorable member tell this Scotchman what the joke was ?
The question of the transfer of State debts is sensibly nearer than it was, and I hope that before long a concrete proposition will be evolved which will enable us to tackle that very difficult problem, and so help the people of Australia in regard to financial matters. Also, may I speak of immigration ? I am hopeful that my colleague, the Minister of External Affairs, will fix up a working agreement soon that will add to the immigration to Australia without in any way sensibly augmenting the increase to the cities. I have laid down two points, viz., that the States shall not do less than Chey are doing, and that they shall make provision in the interior for the settlement of these immigrants when they come.
Then, as to the Commonwealth Bank and the Savings Bank. I ask the pardon of the right honorable gentleman for even daring to speak of this bank, his own pet creation; but I hope he will let me say a few words about the Savings Bank side of it. The Liberal party went to the people of the Commonwealth at the last election telling them that we hoped at an early date to stop the costly and unnecessary duplication in regard to Savings Banks. We have tried to bring this about, and at the Premiers’ Conference, we made an arrangement with the States which, I trust, will lead to a bigger and stronger national bank than exists at the present time, that will lead to a truly national bank doing truly national business, while leaving to the States that handy money of theirs to deal with their own development in their own way. On the other hand, the States will give us far more than we give them. If ever a good bargain was made, I submit it was in connexion with the Savings Bank, and the quid pro quo to which they have pledged themselves. Any wellwisher of the Commonwealth Bank - and it has great national functions to perform - will wish it to grow and increase its resources as the years go by. I can conceive of nothing that will be better for Australia than for that institution to have large resources with which it can lever the financial world in London in the matter of favorable loans for Australia.
– What about Senator McColl now? Why did he run down this national institution?
– We have not much of a national institution to-day. The bank has still to be shaped and put upon a proper footing, and when things were afoot in this House honorable members would have done much better in this respect had they paid more attention to the proposals of the honorable member for Darwin. I should like to give more details, but my time has nearly gone. These are some of the matters we have tried to do in order to conserve the interests of the people of Australia. If we nave not done more it is because of our political limitations, which we freely ad mit. Ministers are here to do the best they can under very difficult circumstances. One thing is outstanding, namely, that in a House composed as this is we cannot carry through any large measure of political reform which has the slightest party tinge. The Senate has just closed its doors for three weeks.
– At the request of the Ministry.
– At the behest of Caucus.
– It was never mentioned in Caucus.
– At that very lively meeting honorable members opposite had the other night - it was a very lively meeting, because from the lobby, when I went across to the Ministerial room, I could hear honorable members - I presume senators were present assisting in the deliberations which have resulted in this waste of time in this chamber at the present time; and having done what they did in the Caucus, of course they could not do other than they did in the Senate, thus indicating the intention of this Opposition pretty plainly that at least three weeks’ time is to be spent over the debate on the motion submitted by their leader. Senators have gone home for three weeks. Clearly, therefore, no self-respecting Government can stay in office to have the doors closed in their faces in another chamber in that way.
– Ha’ve_an election.
– The honorable member says, “ Have an election,” but at the same time his leader submits a motion in this chamber which prevents the possibility of getting nearer to an election for at least three weeks. Ministers desire to have an election which, when it does take place, will be an effective one. We seek to apply a political solution to a situation that has become intolerable for every party in this House, and the sooner we get that decision of the people the better, and I hope that when we make this appeal to the people-
– You will commit suicide.
– If we commit suicide we shall not be found squealing. I desire to see at the earliest possible moment an effective programme of electoral reform put through, so that we may get the definite opinion of the people, once and for all, on those matters on which we are not getting it to-day. With a clean roll and effective electoral machinery, let us consult the people in all those matters, and ask them to give one side or the other a definite mandate to do the people’s will. We have a right to ask this, and the people have a right to give it to us.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney) [12.10J. - The Prime Minister, in reply to the charge or charges made against him by the Leader of the Opposition, has put forward what he conceives to be a full and satisfactory defence. In reality, it is as satisfactory as if a signalman, charged with having grossly neglected his duty in allowing a train to go from the main line into a siding, were to plead that he had kept his signalling instruments brilliantly bright and clean. The honorable gentleman does not seem to see the gravity of the charges that have been laid against him; for he devoted the most of his time to a capitulation of many excellent petty reforms which he alleges have been made under his regime. In order that I may disturb that feeling of comfortable satisfaction that apparently has been stealing over my friends on the other side, as they heard the case presented by the Prime Minister - in the only way they consider it should be presented - I propose to make a broad general statement of the position as it appears to me.
The Government, in the words of the Prayer Book, could truly say, “We have ‘ left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health” - political or legislative - “ in us.” This is a very broad charge - a very serious charge, and I propose to support it by an appeal to facts. What is our present position ? Here is this National Parliament confronted, it is admitted, with all the materials for a grave national crisis. In the history of the world there never was a time which called for the interference of legislation, and) the best efforts of the! legislators, like the present. The world is humming like a hive with industrial unrest, and the Prime Minister has taken particular delight in emphasizing the fact that industrial unrest is growing. If we were to put all the problems that confront humanity into the scales - if we were to put industrial unrest, and all that causes industrial unrest, on one side, and every other problem on the other, industrial unrest would outweigh them all, and cause the beam to kick the ceiling. There is not the slightest doubt that to-day, throughout the civilized world, in Great Britain itself, notwithstanding those problems, national in their nature, that are temporarily occupying the screen of the political cinema, it is those great problems that manifest themselves in industrial unrest that are engaging attention and will sweep all those other mannikins from the screen, and compel every effort for the solution pf this problem. This problem affects us in common with the rest of the world; and at our peril it must be faced and solved.
This Government came into power fully seized, as they said, of the importance of dealing with these great questions ; but they have been in office now since June last, and they have literally done nothing. They have filed, in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, a petition in intellectual and legislative bankruptcy. The like of this document, I venture to say, has not hitherto been seen, at any rate, in this Parliament. The only precedent I can recall of one in any way resembling it was the famous Speech of the GovernorGeneral when Sir George Reid was in power. That Speech consisted, I think, of four lines, and was regarded by that honorable gentleman as, if not an epitaph, at best a sort of slogan or battle cry; it was avowedly intended to do nothing more than to prepare the way for a speedy appeal to the people. If .it contained nothing, it at least did not pretend otherwise. On looking at the Speech of the Governor-General laid before us on this occasion, I find myself totally unable to agree with anything in it except the first paragraph and the last. When I read a formal declaration by His Excellency that he is leaving Australia, with regret, I reciprocate with all my heart, and I think the bulk of the people of Australia will be very sorry to learn that Lord Denman is going. Then, when, at the end, His Excellency commends the deliberations of this Parliament to Divine guidance, I agree, for I never knew a Parliament so much in need of Divine guidance as this ‘ one. All that can be said for this Speech is that it has a good beginning and a good ending - there is nothing else good about it. It. is surely significant that in a National Parliament, the Government, in which there are some men of the most amazing capacity, great ingenuity and subtlety of mind, should be unable to cloak their appalling blankness of record by any other phrases than those which catch our eye. There are seventeen paragraphs in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but we must exclude the first and the last paragraphs to which I have already alluded as extraneous, for it is clear, I submit, that just as the Government have no call on the Governor-General, so I must enter my emphatic protest against the supposition that they have any call on the Deity that is, in any sense of the word, exclusive. If we exclude those paragraphs there are fifteen left, and seven of these, and the most important, have regard tq the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference, a body which has no constitutional sanction, and which is an excrescence, and, so to speak, a rival though unauthorized Legislature seeking to exalt the States at the expense of the National Parliament. The Premiers’ Conference meets from time to time as if it were carrying out some great constitutional function. As a matter of fact, it is a standing censure on this National Parliament, . and upon “the Constitution, that it is necessary or permissible for a Premiers’ Conference to do that which this Parliament ought long ago to have had the power to do. If this Parliament cannot do those things which the Conference can do, it is because the Government and its supporters have resolutely declined to allow that amendment of the Constitution which would enable it to be national in something more than name. Yet it is with the doings of the Premiers’ Conference that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech mainly deals. If we exclude these references to the Premiers’ Conference, this document is so appalling in its vacuity that even the audacity o? the. Ministry might surely have stopped short of making a departing GovernorGeneral read it.
Without the resolutions passed by the Premiers’ Conference what does the document contain? There is a reference to a railway from Katherine River to Pine Creek. That is a very fine geographical fact, but, I venture to say, it neither increases our scope of knowledge, nor helps us in any earthly way. We knew all that before. The foundation of that was laid long before this Ministry came into office. Then we are informed that -
The construction of the trans-Australian railway from Port Augusta’ to Kalgoorlie is progressing.
That is another political Queen Anneisdeadism. We knew perfectly well that the construction of the line was progressing. But why is it progressing? It is progressing in spite of my honorable friends opposite. It is progressing because of the initial force which was put into it by the Fisher Government and the Labour party. The railways from Katherine River to Pine Creek and from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta would have remained in the air, and did remain there until the Labour Government put them on the land. And now a whole paragraph is taken up in giving us the information that “ the railway is progressing.” These two paragraphs consist of a mere recital of stale facts, in relation to which the Ministry stand in exactly the same position as did Captain Kidd to the vessels and the property of vessels which he had seized.
Then we have in paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech a most instructive little item, and one which I admit is quite original. I would not rob the Government *of one shred of the credit which properly belongs to it. We are told in this paragraph that -
It is intended, later in the year, tq bring forward proposals for meeting the financial issues which will then claim the serious attention of both Houses.
I lay that at the feet of the people of this country as a gem priceless and almost unique. It would have been positively unique if the Government’s whole record up to now had not been exactly on those lines. Everything is to be done “ later in the year.” Our ears are deafened by the sounding of the tocsin summoning us to an immediate appeal to the electors. Yet we are met with this shadowy mannikin, and told that “ later in the year “ we shall be asked to meet “ to consider serious financial proposals “ ! Then, again, in paragraph 13 - ominous number - we have another historical revelation -
The Inter-State Commission is engaged considering the Tariff question. My Ministers look forward with great hope - “
Hope ! and Faith ! - if they had but Charity they would have everything - to the labours of the Commission in regard to this important and difficult matter.
There is no reference here even to that euphemism for the Greek kalends - “ later in the year.” They merely “ look forward with great hope,” as we all do, to the ‘ final bourne whither we are all going, but which none of us are particularly anxious to reach too soon. They “ look forward with great hope “ to dealing with the Tariff not “later in the year,” but some day. Meantime these honorable gentlemen, who came in because the Tariff was the great question above all others, are spitted on this spearpoint, .and are endeavouring to look as pleasant and as happy as possible. They are going to endeavour to once more delude their unfortunate dupes with such statements as “I moved a motion to the effect that there should be introduced - later in the year - a Bill providing for the Initiative and the Referendum - later in the century.” It is by such means that honorable members opposite, who were returned on the plain, deliberate pledge that they would place the Tariff first - it is by such. a device as this, as clumsy as the tread of an elephant, and as ancient as the hills - that they hope to stave off the evil day.
One more reference to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and I shall finally leave it. In paragraph 14 we are told that -
The defence schemes are both progressing satisfactorily. . . .
That is a statement of fact for which we are all profoundly glad. But tlie two defence schemes, which are “progressing satisfactorily,” owe absolutely nothing to honorable members opposite. They did in their time all that they could to prevent them progressing at all but now claim them as their own. If this had been done by other men, it would be worth while to dwell upon this fact, but said of them it is mere commonplace, and characteristic of their whole career.
I propose now to contrast in detail the record of the present Government with its promises. It came in upon what was alleged was a wave of public feeling. It was to “ restore good, sound, economic, honest government.” Has it done so ? It was to put an end to “ the orgy pf extravagance.” Has it done so? It was to wipe off Che statute-book those foul blots of Labour legislation which disfigured it. Has it done so ? It was, inshort, to introduce business methods and pure, honest, sound, economical government. I look for its legislative record. I look even upon the Governor-General’s Speech, where there is an apology - surely the most abject yet inserted in a Governor-General’s Speech, for the fact that they were unable to do anything at all, and I find nothing. And yet, when the Government came in, the Prime Minister said, “ We are going on with pur programme.” They certainly are going on with their programme - I give them that credit - but they are not going on with the programme with which they told the people they intended to go on. Their real programme, I freely admit, they are going on with. What is their policy? It is to tackle all the great questions of the day, all these appeals by the people for reform, with fine speeches, phrases, ingenious devices; in short, with everything but action. This is the business, the function in life, of this heterogeneous collection of men who have been drawn from the four corners of the political earth, and who are yarded into one pen, howling and snarling at each other, and who have but one common nexus, which is to keep this party out of office. Their programme is to do nothing, and no one can say that they have not done it well.
They came in to effect reform in finance, to decrease expenditure. Have they done it? They came in to reestablish sound responsible government. Reestablish sound responsible government? I am as ready as any man to let bygones be bygones, and to start this session fairly; but if any one will tell me that last session saw “ the restoration of responsible government,” then I shall hail the Red Terror in the French revolution as the finest exhibition of law and order that ever the world saw.
As for legislation other than that which I have spoken of, their record stands revealed in this document. They . have passed two measures which, for some obscure reason, are designated as “ test measures.” What they were a test of beyond a test of brute strength I do not know; they are certainly not a test so far as any great principle is concerned. They are not a test so far as the welfare of the people is concerned.
Beyond those two measures, what have they done? Nothing. What do they propose to do? They propose to push forward with this programme, these two “ test “ Bills. This is the programme which they propose resolutely to push up to the very hilt. What are these “test” Bills? One is a measure w”hich purports to deal with preference to unionists. I had the honour of dissecting it last session at this table. I said then, as I say now, that it was the shadow of a sham put forward by men’ who have npt the courage to do what they would like to do. If they had their way, not only preference to unionists, but any right or title that the worker of this country has to justice, would go. This Government is composed of men who made their entry into political life as protagonists of unionism, champions of unionism, and men who have all their life denounced it, and they put forward this anaemic compromise, this bowelless creation, this mere semblance of a legislative cadaver,, as an attack upon the great principle of preference to unionists. It effects nothing ; it is a test of nothing ; it proves nothing, except that the Ministry have not the courage of their convictions, and it is because of this that we have handed out to us now this pretended encroachment upon preference to unionists rather than that determined frontal attack which the honorable the AttorneyGeneral would deliver to-morrow if he had a chance.
Then we have the other measure, which, for some curious reason, is called the ‘ ‘ restoration of the postal vote.” It is asserted that it affects a great principle. It affects no great principle. I say unhesitatingly that it was introduced, not to give effect to a great principle, but to serve the needs of the party in office. Let me prove that. As the Bill came back from the other House, it afforded ample opportunity for a bond fide sick person to record his or her vote, but it closed the door against fraud by providing necessary safeguards against abuse of the franchise which the honorable member said was generally resorted to at the last election. But the Government will not accept a provision to enable the sick to vote; that is not what they want. And so they are going to press on with their “ test “ Bills this session.
I come now to their general charges of electoral fraud at the last election. We know what these charges were; we know to what length they went. We know that they were not mere allegations of ordinary electoral offences, but a sweeping charge against the whole electoral machinery, and allegations of wholesale corruption and fraud by the electors. The charges did not even stop there. If anything they went beyond it. They were charges levelled against the nation, or, at least, against half the nation, and not against only a few individuals. Nay f the Honorary Minister in this Chamber sought to attach to us the opprobrium of representing and being supported by the criminal classes of the country ! I leave that as being unworthy even of notice in a National Parliament, but the charge made, with the authority of the Government, was that there had been wholesale corruption.’ The charge was openly made, and was heard, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but abroad. Mr. Foster, a Canadian Minister, was so struck by these charges when on a visit here that he repeated them in Canada, and said that the electoral system of Australia in material particulars opened the door wide to corruption. These were the charges made by the Government, as such, and repeated through the press, and by the rank and file of the party.
Since these charges were made, inquiries, separate and unconnected with each other, have been instituted. One was a departmental inquiry, another wasan inquiry by a Select Committee of the Senate, and the third an inquiry by members of this House. The honorablemember for Parramatta, when addressing himself to this point, endeavoured to make out that the charge had been proven, but nothing could be further from the truth. It utterly and completely collapsed at every point. Thecharge being that there had been wholesale corruption, the facts turn out that there had been no corruption, that the elections were singularly free from any attempt at corruption, and that there never was a fairer election since Australia had an opportunity of recording a vote. There never was a time when the people recorded their votes in such overwhelming numbers. There never was a time when corruption and malpracticewere less frequent. The evidence of the
Committees of Inquiry proves these things absolutely. On Alfred Stephen Burvett, detective, as will be seen from page 40 of the report of the Select Committee of the Senate which inquired into the conduct of the general election, being asked by Senator Needham -
I understand you were appointed by the Government to inquire into some alleged irregularities in connexion with the Federal elections ? he replied -
Yes, I have not the papers with me, but speaking from memory, I went to Ballarat, and I was given by the electoral officer there a list of names and addresses of electors who, it was alleged, could not be found.
I had to get hold of one of the plain-clothes men at Ballarat East to show me round, and, with his assistance, I located these men in a very short time. They were a class of men privileged to vote, but, strictly speaking, they had no stake in the country.
That is to say they were only men - they were not mere appanages of property. The witness was then asked -
Would you care to give this Committee your opinion as to the general conduct of the last Federal elections, or that portion of it which came under your purview? - Nothing came under my notice of the nature of fraudulent practice.
Upon page 41 of the evidence given before that Committee, we find the following -
Having discovered what I did in Ballarat East, I told Mr. Wright I did not propose to inquire into the other ones, and that he would be well advised to obtain the assistance of the local police.
Detective Burvett was then asked -
Was it open to you to make any inquiries into any of the charges which you had previously read in the press? - No; my business was with Mr. Wright, and it was confined to his givingme a list of thirty-five electors in Ballarat East, and some others, who were in outside places. To inquire into these others would have necessitated covering a lot of ground, which, I was quite satisfied, was unnecessary; that is, the local police could do it as well, and Mr. Wright agreed with me.
Nothing was discovered by the local police in support of the charge. So much for Ballarat. Then Divisional Returning Officer Thomson in giving evidence as to the election atFremantle was asked(vide question 414) -
Did you inquire as to impersonation as well as plural voting? - No such cases came under my notice.
Did you advise Mr. Oldham that there were any abuses in your division? - No, I did not; because I was not aware of any.
It has been stated in the press, and probably outside, that,in a certain street in
South Fremantle subdivision each elector voted two or three times; is there any truth in that statement? - Absolutely none.
Is there any justification for such a statement? - None whatever.
Did you have complete control of the last election in the Fremantle division? - Yes.
And the evidence of the Divisional Returning Officer for Perth, Mr. Kneep, is not less conclusive. Replying to specific charges, Mr. Kneep said -
At Wellington-street west the majority of the voters had to go to a private dwelling which constituted a polling booth.
Mr. Kneep’s reply ;
No trouble was experienced in dealing with voters at this booth, and the pre- mises have been used on former occasions without inconvenience.
At the Masonic Hall, Leederville, the box was jammed full before 2 p.m., and not another paper could be got into it.
Mr. Kneep’s reply ;
The ballot-box. referred to was not jammed full of papers before 2 p.m. on polling day. The Presiding Officer states that subsequent to 2 p.m. fully 200 or more ballot-papers were put into the box, and a second ballotbox was in readiness had it been necessary. The Presiding Officer did not run out of ballot-papers, and under no circumstances were ordinary letter-pads used.
And the whole of the evidence taken by the Committees of inquiry, and of the efforts of detectives employed by the Government, failed to substantiate the charge of wholesale malpractice. On the other hand, itis clear that the election was, on the whole, singularly free from fraud and corruption.
I come now to the attitude of the Government towards the great questions of the day, and I wish first to consider their attitude towards the question of industrial unrest in its relation to trusts and combines. Every man who looks this question fairly in the face knows that industrial unrest has a relation to those huge aggregations of capital which to a very large extent control industrial operations to-day, and that if that relation be not causal it is a factor so relevant and important that it is impossible for this Parliament to deal with industrial unrest fairly and adequately, unless at the same time it has power to control those organizations which largely operate the industrial forces of the world. Three years ago there were introduced into this Parliamentsome measures for the amendment of the Constitution. The fate of those measures is well known. But the need for amend ment of the Constitution remains, and is, indeed, greater than ever. It is abundantly clear that at present we have no power to deal with any of the important matters affected by those Bills. It -is perfectly obvious that the Parliament Which has not that power is a Parliament which is national only in name - a Parliament which can only make a pretence of legislation, and which cheats the electors of the country into believing that there is a legislative remedy for every political and industrial wrong. There is no remedy in this country for the greatest ill that afflicts modem mankind, no power to deal with the question beside which all other questions sink into relative insignificance. What is the attitude of the Government towards this vitally important matter ? Everybody knows what was the altitude of honorable members opposite when the proposals to amend the Constitution were before the country. It was not a united attitude, it was not a consistent one. it was not a logical one, it was not one which was even relevant. Indeed, we cannot say that it was an attitude at all. It was rather a series of contortions towards a great question that demanded fair and statesmanlike consideration. I separate the Government and their supporters not into two divisions comprising the sheep and the goats, but into two camps embracing those who sec the light but will not follow it, and those who, dug up from the primeval strata, find themselves in an economic world to which they are utter strangers. The one class sees clearly what ought to be done, but will not do it, whilst the other says there is nothing that wants doing because everything is as it should be in this best of all possible worlds. At the head of those who see the light but will not follow it, I place the Attorney-General, and at the head of that class who’ say that everything is all right I place the Treasurer. I ‘am perfectly persuaded that if by a wave of the hand we could go back 150,000 years, and interview the cave man on this great question, we should find his views so strikingly analogous to those of the right honorable the Treasurer that there would be no friction between them. Then there are gyrating about these two classes a number of gentlemen who occasionally see flashes of light, but who, generally speaking, dwell in Cimmerian darkness. There are, too, other honorable members whom it would be charitable to include in either class, but whom a« strict adherence to truth compels one to put in a class by themselves. To further describe them is not permissible in this House.
Let me first deal with my honorable friend the Attorney-General - I was nearly saying the Leader of the Government, and I do not know that I should have done -him very much wrong if I had done so, although no man breathing can say who is the leader of this Ministry, because nobody knows which way they are going. I say that the AttorneyGeneral is a man who sees the light, but who lacks the courage to follow it - a man who, posing as a fearless critic, exposing with the keen scalpel of his criticism the weakness and the rottenness of society, and pointing out to all a safe and profitable way along which we may come to political and legislative health, dares neither to lead along that way nor to follow the lead of others. Posing in this way as a fearless critic, he is yet a critic who eats his every word. He poses as a strong, independent man, but he crawls servilely at the heels of his party whenever the bell rings a little loudly. “ This,” he says with the lash of his scorn, “ is political pap, a mere gelatinous compound. This is food for infants “ ; but he swallows it all, and is living to-day on that very political pap that he so scathingly denounced. He sees the light, but W11 not follow it. He knows the only course that must be pursued, but he will not tread it. He is a phrasemaker - a mere phrasemaker. He goes to what my right honorable colleague has described as “ secluded places,” but wherever he goes he delivers the same kind of speech. It is a speech that is excellent in form. It abounds in high-sounding but meaningless platitudes. It touches the gre-it political problems at every point, but darts affrightedly away from them when it conies to be a question of how and when they are to be solved. “Not now, 0 Lord!” is the honorable gentleman’s one prayer. “ Not to-day. 0 Lord ! Not to-day must we be compelled to take action.” The honorable gentleman poses as a reformer. He is a man who sees the light. Democracy asks-. him for a reform, and he gives it a speech. Plutocracy asks him for a law, and he gives it a Coercion Act. I say that if the honorable and learned gentleman goes down now into this political grave, upon his gravestone there must be engraven this epitaph, “ For the people he did nothing but make speeches, but for the plutocrats he did everything that was in his power to do.”
This is the honorable gentleman who saw the light, and who sees it now. That is the gravest charge against him - that he never ceases to see the light, and never hesitates to turn his back upon it. Let me prove this charge. I propose to quote his own words, at page 75 of the debates on the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill in 1910. I wish to show that the honorable and learned gentleman realized then and realizes now that we are living on the very crust of an industrial volcano; that the peoples of the earth in these modern days are faced with problems that their forefathers never knew; that there is a solution urgently called for, and that it must be provided at all hazards, and at once. This is what the honorable gentleman said in 1910, when we were considering the measures submitted for the amendment of the Constitution -
The history of many countries, and especially that of the United States of recent years, ought to have convinced us that one of the worst dangers to that -system in which we of the Opposition believe, lies in the great aggregations of irresponsible and unscrupulous wealth that are known under the name of trusts and combines. I am not going to say that everything known as a trust and combine is injurious. Such a statement would be foolish. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact “that many combinations of capital are the matural and legitimate outcome of proper cooperation in the management of businesses, and are often in the interests of private and public economy. They are frequently in the interests of tlie workmen employed in connexion with them, and in the interests of the best development of the country by means of the capital at their disposal. There are, howover, others which are not so. There are others which by the powers they have come to wield, and the methods by which they use those powers, are visibly becoming - although not so much yet in this country - a menace to liberty. The truth nas been borne into us that .’these great aggregations of irresponsible wealth hi tlie United States are rapidly destroying tlie foundation of tlie constitutional liberties of the people. The ordinary organs of government, which ought to control them, in some cases are becoming their instruments. …
There is another reason,. to my mind, more potent; and I think it ought to have even more influence on honorable members on this side of the House especially, than any arising from a mere matter of Government convenience.
Then he goes on to point out that there is only one way to stop State Socialism, and it is to control the great organizations of capital that are a menace to the people.
– Hear, hear.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman. Yet, when we give him the opportunity to do this, he says “ No.” He will not do it ; not now, at any rate, whatever he may do later. He is resolute in that. I have never, for a moment, charged him with anything else. To that principle he is resolutely attached. But let me quote him further; at page 76 of the same debate he said -
We see what is going on in other countries, and that, together with perhaps the beginning of something that is going on here, should warn us to take effectual steps to prevent the growth of this state of affairs in Australia.
I ask the House to note these words”To prevent the growth.” Yet the honorable gentleman does nothing. The right honorable member for Swan, interjecting during the honorable gentleman’s speech, said -
But the States can deal with these trusts.
– The States cannot; that is the whole point.
– Not with the operations of a trust within a State?
He saw the light then. The other gentleman, of course, did not. He is acting honestly, according to his own lights. What they are are best known to himself.
I come now to deal with the present attitude of the Attorney-General towards trusts and combines. At the present time there is a Beef Trust in this country. It did not come here yesterday. When the proposals to amend the Constitution were last before this House we took the opportunity of emphasizing the necessity for the amendment of the Constitution, and cited the Beef Trust as a typical instance of the power wielded by these great organizations. We were told that there was no danger. It was a mere company established on the banks of the Brisbane River, engaged, so Mr. Denham, or some one else said, in the perfectly laudable purpose of developing an industry of the great State of Queensland. We asked the people of this country to amend the Constitution in order that we might deal with it. We said that the State laws were powerless to do so. We asked the honorable gentleman to help us. Although in 1910 he had said that this was not a party question, and that honorable members should deal with it as a national question, in 1912 he said, “Wo, not while they are in office. We will not do it now.” The present Government have been in office since last June, and the AttorneyGeneral has made no move towards dealing with this, “ the greatest of all questions.” I pin the honorable gentleman to his own utterances. If his speeches do not bear out my statement that he believes that industrial unrest and the necessity for power to deal with it and to control these huge aggregations of wealth, trusts, combines, and monopolies are the greatest of all questions, then I stand corrected ; otherwise not.
Sitting suspended from 1.0 to 2.15 p.m.
– I was dealing with the attitude of the Government towards the great questions of the day, and particularly towards what I conceive to be the greatest of all questions - namely, those factors that are responsible for and directly connected with industrial unrest. And I was pointing out that the honorable and learned gentleman held precisely my views so far as regards the importance of this Legislature having control over trusts, combines, and monopolies, and over industrial matters, so that the law made by this Parliament should be super-eminent over the State laws. Let me emphasize the attitude of the Attorney-General with one more quotation from his own speeches. On page 78 of the debates on the Constitution Alteration Bills, the honorable gentleman said, speaking on the measure giving this Parliament power to deal with industrial matters -
I mean the ultimate legislative power, so that the laws of the States shall be subordinate to its laws, if it makes any. We all desire to achieve that end in view without giving much wider powers to this Parliament, but I fail to see that anything short of what I propose will do.
Then on page 76 the honorable gentleman, speaking in regard to the trade and commerce powers, said -
For that reason, personally, I am unable to see at present any half-way house between the extremely artificial restriction in the Constitution upon our power with regard to commerce,, and the proposal made in this Bill that we should have complete power over trade and commerce.
Those were his opinions in 1910’. In 1912 he declared in this House that his opinions had not changed, but his attitude had changed ; that is to say, whereas formerly he said that this was a matter that ought to be dealt with quite apart from party, and he would vote for such a measure, no matter whether this side or the other side was in power, in 1912 he had changed his views so far as to say that while the Labour party were in power no amendment of the Constitution in that direction was safe. But he still believed amendment of the Constitution vitally necessary.
I mentioned the Beef Trust as an illustration cited by us during the debates in 1910 and 1912 to show the immediate necessity for action, and I pointed out that the honorable and learned member said we ought to have power to prevent these combinations acquiring such strength as to control the legislative and govern- mental functions of the people as well as their industrial fortunes. The Beef Trust, since the day when it appeared as a peaceful visitor to our delectable shores engaged in the laudable business of building up the interests of Queensland, has remained here and ‘continued its operations, but, according to the honorable gentleman, “ The operations of the trust, so far, have been beneficial.” As reported- in the Argus of 11th April, the honorable gentleman said -
The Beef Trust might prove of vital importance to Australia, but the people should not lose their heads over the subject. What he means is that the Liberal party should not lose any votes over the subject.
So far the operations of the company had been beneficial.
I think that an unconcerned onlooker watching a bird or a small leveret being slimed over by a boa constrictor preparatory to swallowing it, might say the same thing, “ So far, the operations have been beneficial; and, whereas it was dry and rough before, now it is smooth and shiny.” So far, beneficial! Is it not always a step precedent to the swallowing up of the small competitor, the producer, and of the consumer, for the combine or trust to smooth things over and make them comfortable, in order that later they may be the more easily crushed and swallowed. The honorable gentleman sees that right enough; he knows the habits of the trust; never for a moment is all the truth utterly hidden from him. Speaking of the three companies that form the trust, he said -
One of tlie companies was commencing operations in Australia, and one could not help being awake to the fact that if it pursued the same course as elsewhere, detriment to Australia would result, and steps would have to be taken to meet the trouble when it arose. He would point out that, first of all, our powers of dealing with companies that carry on their operations on such a wide scale are limited by the terms of the Constitution.
The honorable gentleman said that he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the trust would probably go on just as it had gone on in America and Argentine, and it might be necessary, in that event, to take steps to deal with it. I ask any person in this country whether, when he sees a fire in his own dwelling, or that of a neighbour, he waits till the flames take firm hold before taking steps to extinguish them. When the trouble first presents itself is the time to deal with it. We must have power to deal with the’ trust before it becomes dangerous. After it nas become firmly established it is too late. The Attorney-General says we have no power now, but we are to get power when the trust has an opportunity of doing to this Legislature what it has done to every Legislature in America - an opportunity of influencing and corrupting it. The Constitution limits our powers - said the honorable gentleman, but he added -
However, vast power was possessed in connection with trade to countries outside Australia, and he, believed that the Federal Parliament could deal effectively with the question if ever it presented similar features to those which prevailed in other countries.
Then he went on to say -
Mr. Groom, tlie Minister for Trade and Customs, had had this subject under careful observation.
Of all things this Ministry has said or done or failed to do, and of all things the honorable gentleman has said since the day he first entered public life, nothing is so truly humorous, so grotesque, yet so appalling, as that statement. Here is the Beef Trust, that had, and still has, under its domination every producer of cattle on the hoof and every consumer of meat in America; that threatens the vital in- terests of the producers of this country, and we are bidden not to lose our heads because “ Mr. Groom,” of all persons on the face of this fair earth, “ has the matter under careful observation “ ! I ask any citizen of this country whether he of’ she can lie down and sleep safely under that assurance. An avalanche is thundering down from the heights upon us, threatening towns and villages with de’struction, but the people are told not to be alarmed, for, right at the bottom of its course a puny, insignificant atom, relative to the power he has to deal with, “ has the matter under careful observation.”
– Why do you not read the next couple of sentences?
– The next sentence reads -
And the Ministry would be prepared to ask Parliament - as soon as it was in a position to ask for anything -
I think the more one reads tlie worse the honorable and learned member’s position is. The situation is perfectly clear. Here in our midst is the Beef Trust, and “ Mr. Groom has the matter under careful observation.”
– Read on.
– I pass that by. I say that no condemnation that can be framed by the enemies of this Ministry can be half so scathing and half so effective as that one phrase, “ Mr. Groom has the matter under his careful observation.”
The Attorney-General has said the Constitution ought to have been amended in 1910, and he admits it needs amendment to-day. Since he first made that declaration, not only has the Beef Trust come here, but press exposures, like that concerning the Typothetae, have made it clear to everybody but political moles that there are in this country combines - not Labour unions - which prevent honest men from making their livelihood. These combines say to their customers, “ Unless you pay our price, we shall drive you out of business to starve.” Yet we are told “ Mr. Groom has the matter under his careful observation.” But the position is, for another reason, much worse than in 1910. The necessity for amendment of the Constitution, necessary in 1910, has become vital and urgently necessary by the recent Privy Council decision. The judgment of the Privy Council in the
Sugar case must have effects so widereaching that they have not yet been fully grasped by lawyers, much less laymen. The Attorney-General, however, knows the lengths to which that judgment goes. Speaking of the American Constitution, he has stated that what has saved it has been “ the doctrine of implied powers.” That doctrine, interpreted by Marshall and other great jurists who followed him, breathed into the dry bones of the Constitution the breath of life, making it a living organism, adapted to the growing requirements of a progressive people. Speaking on the 26th March - I quote from the Age report of the following day - he said -
It was not too much to say that in the adoption of what Mr. Willoughby called “ the liberal interpretation of implied powers,” the American Judges accepted a principle which was one of the main causes why the American States were now not mere congeries or aggregations of separate power, and often antagonist interests, but were welded into one nation. It was very largely due to the early adoption of that life-giving principle that thu central Government had been endowed not merely with the definite powers granted in the expressed terms of the Constitution, but with other necessary powers which enabled it effectively to carry out its purpose. It had enabled the United States, notwithstanding other serious limitations in its Constitution, to become the great and practically united nation that it was to-day. The effect of the judgment of the Privy Council was to say that Australia did not possess the same powers in the same sense.
The gravity of the position can hardly be exaggerated. The Attorney-General declares that it was always understood that with our written Constitution went the “ doctrine of implied powers,” giving the Commonwealth Parliament a sphere for national, legislative action in which it might roam almost at will. But, he says, the judgment of the Privy Council cuts away that doctrine, and consequently our Constitution must be amended. He had known the need of amendment in 1910, long before the judgment was given. He knew it before the Beef Trust established itself on the Brisbane River. With each succeeding year, fresh reasons have arisen why the Constitution should be amended, and amended immediately. The Attorney-General sees overwhelming reasons for the readjustment of our powers. But he does nothing. To continue my quotation -
His object was to ask his audience to consider some matters in connexion with a pro bable duty which they would have to perforin at no very distant date- “ Not now, O Lord, not now !” of dealing with proposed amendments of the Constitution. He did not intend to outline any of the proposed amendments as far as the Government or the Liberal party was concerned. Without doubt, the Government would have to bring forward amendments in due course. “In due course!” Mark these words; they are symbolic of the honorable gentleman’s career. Prom 1910 until now he has never deviated from the statement that the Constitution does not enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with - great national questions, and that there is no half-way house short of taking over the whole trade and commerce powers and the whole industrial powers so far as the settlement of disputes is concerned; that amendment of the Constitution is necessary; that recent events have made ‘ it imperative and urgent. That is his own statement of the position. He has never deviated from that attitude; but he does nothing-. He does not propose to do anything. Not now ! Not now !
The Government now stand bereft Of the last shadow of excuse for not proposing an amendment of the Constitution. They are in office. The Privy Council case is the last straw. The Constitution must be amended, and at once. We are threatened that we shall be sent to the people. If Parliament is dissolved without the people being given the opportunity to broaden our charter, and make it at least what we conceived it to be when they accepted it in 1900, a national crime will be committed,- and the people will be fooled. There can be no virtue in this Parliament if it is powerless. What is the good of sending us to the people, to come back throttled and fettered? The Attorney-General said in the speech from which I have quoted that “by the common recognition of all parties an amendment of the Constitution is necessary.” Necessary when ? It is necessary to-day. By a minority of only 7,000 or 8,000, in a poll of nearly 2,000,000, the people failed to agree to some of the amendments to which they were last asked to consent. If they* are given another opportunity, they will affirm them by overwhelming majorities. It is perpetrating a national crime not to give the electors an opportunity to amend the
Constitution. As it is, the National Legislature is without power to do national work. Without such power the National Legislature is a legislative fraud. Some members’ of the Ministry, and of the party that supports it, following such light as they may have - a will-o’-the-wisp very often - may be excused, but the AttorneyGeneral knows what should be done, though he will not do it.
To come to another matter. We have the statement of Ministers that legislation is not possible without a double dissolution. The attitude and utterances of honorable gentlemen opposite, particularly of the Attorney-General, in this connexion are grossly improper. It is by common consent and ancient practice considered quite unparliamentary and unconstitutional to threaten a Parliament with a dissolution, or to anticipate the decision of the representative of the Crown in regard thereto, but Ministers, from the time they made certain pledges to the people, and abandoned them, putting on the table in their stead two shams which they declared to be their modified programme - from that day to this declared that there was but one means whereby the people of the country could be saved, and that was a double dissolution. I wish to make that perfectly clear so that we shall know exactly where we are. The Attorney-General is reported in the Argus of 11th March last to have said -
The framers of the Constitution in giving that extraordinary constitution to the Senate, and in fixing the impregnable position which it occupied, were not guilty of the supreme folly of investing it with unalterable powers. If the people of Australia desired they could alter the powers of the Senate, and could provide, as the British Parliament recently did, that a Bill which had been sent up repeatedly, and rejected by the Upper House, which did not represent the people, could be accepted without the assent of the Second Chamber. One fact must be obvious to every student of our history, and that was that no form of constitutional fetter would stand against united public opinion. . . . . .
The duty of the Ministry was to try to meet the trouble as it now existed. The only weapon which the Constitution gave was the creation of conditions under which both Houses might be compelled to appear before their electors. That was the main object in view now. During last session the Ministry passed two measures. and so on. On the 8th April, he said -
There was a section in the Constitution which meant that, though the people of Australia could alter the Constitution in any re spect they liked, they could not alter the equal representation of the States unless they got the consent of the majority of the people in every State. That made the attack on equal representation a practical political impossibility. . . . He was not there to do more than state the problem. Hereafter-
Hereafter ! - the Government would be obliged to bring before the people of Australia the whole constitutional alterations which it might consider necessary. . . . The present Government could not, and no self-respecting Government would continue to hold office unless it could obtain the means of carrying out the legislation which was necessary for its existence, and for the administration of its Departments. The only course open at the present juncture was to give the people an’ opportunity to do what they could under the Constitution, and give the Ministry the means of carrying on their business by electing not only a new House of Representatives, but also a new Senate.
I apologize for these lengthy quotations, but they are necessary to present the position clearly to the people. Here are three distinct statements, that the Senate has dared to set itself against the wishes of the Government; that in doing so it has created a travesty of responsible government, and that the Senate should be treated as the House of Lords has been treated in England. In the mind of the Attorney-General, there is an analogy to be drawn from these circumstances that the House of Lords is not representing the people, and the Senate is elected on adult suffrage.
– May I interject?
– I have but a few minutes in which to speak. No measure curtailing the powers of the Senate is possible without amendment of the Constitution. And these are to be introduced, not now, but “ hereafter.” But a double dissolution must come whatever may be their amendments to the Constitution, which are “ urgently necessary,” and which Ministers are to introduce “ hereafter.” Hereafter! Since we were little children we have heard of that hereafter, and dreaded it. Is it there that Ministers are going to introduce their amendments ? Is it an allusion” to some future state in which, translated and sublimated, we may enjoy an endless discussion on the kind of amendments that would be necessary in 1914 ? But these amendments are to be put on one side; and, after all this babble about amendments to the Constitution, the Government say, “ We require a double dissolution, and unless we get it, we will not hold office.” At last we have got them down to bed-rock. After all their gyrations and wriggling about, they are pinned down to this - they have said, “ A double dissolution is our policy, and unless we get it, we will not bold office.” This is, so far as anything is, their policy. Every effort has been made in order to persuade and influence His Excellency to grant a double dissolution ; in any circumstances,, a grossly improper thing to do, but in this case doubly so ; because, for the first time, the representative of the Crown is sailing on an uncharted sea. There are no precedents with regard to a double dissolution to guide him. He has. the experience of a century in regard to dissolutions of the Lower House, but in this thing he has to look to the written Constitution alone. And he has to look for guidance as to the meaning of section 57 to whom ? To the law adviser of the Crown - to the AttorneyGeneral. To whom else can he look ? Where there is ambiguity in a section of a Statute, the Law Courts resolve it, but no Law Court can decide this. The Governor-General alone must do it, and he must do it without the aid of any other man than the Attorney-General. Therefore, what could be more grossly improper in the circumstances than that the Attorney-General should himself say that Ministers have taken the steps necessary to promote and warrant a double dissolution ? This is to anticipate the decision of the Crown; it is to suggest what that decision ought to be.
I protest emphatically against it for two reasons : First, that they have no right to threaten the Parliament or anticipate the decision of His Excellency; and, second, that they have not, in any case, taken the steps necessary under section 57. I maintain they have done nothing of the sort. They have not taken the steps necessary. In fact, they have carefully avoided them. Let me prove it. If any honorable member will look to the debates in the Convention, and consider why section 57 was inserted, he will see that it was provided to deal with deadlocks on great national questions, to deal with specific measures, or with a particular Statute, and not as a device to aid the shifting fortunes of a party. It was never intended to be a tool for a party fight. If the Government advise the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution on the ground that the Senate declines to pass the socalled Preference to Unionists Bill, or the Postal Vote Restoration Bill, they will tender him advice not covered by section 57. The section was intended for quite other purposes than to be an instrument of party intrigue.
When this threat of a double dissolution was first heard, we were led to believe that the Governor-General had no option in the matter, that directly the conditions were created, ipso facto there must be a double dissolution; but it is very significant that now from various quarters we have a sort of apologetic wail to say) “ If the Governor-General will not grant it, we cannot help it; we have done our best.” There is, too, one very significant utterance from my respected friend, the Prime Minister, saying that he would not make way for .Mr. Fisher. If ever the truth bubbled forth from a fountain freely, it bubbled forth then.
In my opinion, the Governor-General cannot, and should not, grant a double dissolution in the present circumstances, because there are no vital principles at stake. There is no vital principle on which the two Houses differ, because there can be no question submitted to a joint sitting of the two Houses which would place this Parliament on any different footing from that it occupies to-day. If we look ai section 57 we see that it is meant to solve a deadlock on a specific measure, which, having been solved, will enable the Parliament to go on its legislative way; but, in this case, the Parliament could not go on its legislative way, because neither of the measures means anything, and would leave the two parties with their widely opposed policies exactly as they are now. One of these so-called “ test measures,” at best, is a mere party and temporary expedient for an election, and the other pretends to do something that is already done. Section 57 was passed to deal with deadlocks legitimately arising on great questions between the Houses. As to the position of the GovernorGeneral in this regard, my contention is that, as to a double dissolution, the Governor-General will be guided by exactly the same reasons as in an ordinary dissolution in the -Lower House ; he has to look at the whole circumstances and consider whether, on the whole, the public interests will be best served by a dissolution or not. Keith, in his Responsible Government in the Dominions, the most up-to-date and reliable authority on the practice in this connexion, Vol. 1, page 181, says -
The Governor has therefore a difficult task, not merely in deciding to refuse to accept Ministerial advice, but in deciding to accept it; for the fact that tlie prerogative is not expected as a matter of course to bc used as the Ministry advises prevents him from sheltering behind the advice of his Ministers. If he acts on their advice he may easily find himself quite as unpopular as if he had refused to do so, and, indeed, the Governor is expected to do what is best for the country, a course by no means normally at all simple or easy.
There arc two important facts which the Governor must consider in granting or refusing a dissolution. In the first place, the duration of Colonial Parliaments is brief, and has never been so long as that of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, so that he must remember that if he refuses a dissolution it will not bc long at the outside before the people can ratify his action or not. Then he must remember that the shortness of Parliament, and the important work which has to bc done, render a dissolution to be avoided if possible, for the waste of time, expense, and dislocation of a general election, if less serious* in themselves than the same features in this country (Britain), are equally important to a smaller community.
The Governor-General must consider the reasons for, and the probable consequences of, a dissolution. In a despatch quoted in’ ‘New Zealand Parliamentary Papers, 1877, A.7, page 3, the Governor of that Dominion, in reply to Sir George Grey, in giving his opinion on a request for a dissolution, said in paragraph 4 -
The Government have not informed the Governor that there is any great measure or principle in discussion in the House which could be submitted for the consideration of the constituencies; and certainly, as far as the Governor is aware, no such measure or principle is at present known to the public.
He further said -
The Government inform the Governor that in their opinion a dissolution would secure to them a large working majority, but they have produced no evidence in support of that opinion.
Consequently his Excellency refused a dissolution. 1 The principles on which a Governor has to act are placed on the basis I have described, and one of them certainly is contained in the question - What will follow? It is proposed to send the Senate about its business merely be- cause it has dared to describe as a sham and to treat as a sham a detail in an Electoral Bill, and because it has refused to regard this detail in an Electoral Bill as if it were a great vital principle on which the fate of the Empire or the nation rests. Because of this the Senate, which was created with co-ordinate powers, is to be sent to the people. What principle is involved? None! What prospects are there that the Government would get a majority in the Senate? None! The only question is whether the present senators, half of whom were elected only last May, shall remain there or not. The Government have put forward these two measures, and, because the Senate will not accept them without amendment, they propose to ask the GovernorGeneral to grant a double dissolution. Two “test” measures! They are shams! The Government had not the courage to embody their policy in two measures, and cram them down our throats, as they did the two measures involved. I would not have them shelter themselves behind the petty excuse that they could not get any more measures down; because they could have got the whole legislative arena down our throats by the same process as that to which they have resorted. Had the Government done as I have suggested, boldly given legislative shape to their policy, and told us, “ Take that, and if you will not we will force you to the people,” then the GovernorGeneral would have been entitled to say, “ There is a great principle ; go back to your masters and let us see what they say . ‘ ‘ But there is no great principle in these Bills, only a sham; and the Government selected the sham because, in spite of all the bluff and bluster, the last thing on God’s earth they desire is -to meet the people at this stage.
The Attorney-General has been talking recently about Syndicalism. He had said something before; but since then he has apparently been reading up the question a iittle, for he now realizes that between Syndicalism and Socialism, as understood by the Labour party, there is’ a wide gulf- The honorable gentleman is glad of this, he sees a ray of light - a “ rift in the lute,” he calls it - in the idea that the Syndicalists and the Socialists in the party are fighting, and that, therefore, the Liberals may hope for the best. His ideas about Socialism are his own, and. his representations of our beliefs grossly inaccurate. The Attorneygeneral repeats, the old worn-out slander about our Socialism imperilling the marriage, tie, threatening the institution of the home, and all those other things which we have heard. These stories should be reserved for kindergarten, or the afternoon tea table. The electors’ will laugh at them. Why, marriages were never so prolific, nor the birth rate so high, as during the term of office of the Labour party. And home has become more precious and more secure since the Labour party have had a chance to make it something more than a mere hovel. Home life, if the honorable gentleman had his way, would be always that of the hovel of the Connemarra peasant, but since Labour has reared its head something has been done to improve it. And something more will yet be done. The honorable gentleman talks of Syndicalism ; and what is Syndicalism? It is the revolt of the people against the chicanery of legislatures; it is the determination of the people that, if they cannot get it by legislation, they will take what is their due by other means. Syndicalism has its roots in such men, and in the actions or inaction of such men as the honorable and learned gentleman. The best remedy for Syndicalism is effective political action; and yet it is the chiefest of our offences that we are guilty of political action - that we recommend unions to take political action. The honorable gentleman barbed his spearlast time with the cry that unionism was political, but, in God’s name, how can it be political and syndical? Let the honorable gentleman choose. For my part, I am always arrayed against syndicalists, and I have done something, and I am doing something, to fight them. But the strength of Syndicalism lies in the weakness, incapacity, and bias of the Legislatures. In order to prevent the spread of Syndicalism, we must fearlessly face all the great problems that confront modern man. The people suffer; we must relieve their sufferings. I ask that this Parliament be clothed with the power to deal with all great national questions. Unless and until we get this power, Syndicalism can never be fairly fought. When the law can do nothing the people must do something for themselves. The Attorney-General, a man from the north of Ireland, which to-day presents to the world the spectacle of Ulster in arms against the law, defying law, order, and the Empire, dares to taunt us with the cry that syndicalists will not obey the law. I say nothing about the Home Rule measure, good, bad, or indifferent, but I refer to the attitude of the honorable member’s compatriots to-day. The “ Red Hand “ of Ulster is an answer to the taunt, “ blood dripping from the mouth of the mastiff of Syndicalism,” of which he spoke. When the people of Ulster lay down their arms, the syndicalists the world over may fairly be asked to lay down theirs. We have as good a cause as have the Ulster people, and if their attitude is good foi; them, it is good for us. But, for my part, I counsel, not resort to brute force, but to reason and justice. I take my stand, not on force, but on law. But if we are going to offer the people of this nation law as a remedy, we must have power to make laws to deal with every condition that affects them. As it is now we have no power, and the great need to-day is such au amendment of the Constitution as will enable this Legislature to deal with great national matters. The Prime Minister has deliberately let the opportunity slide; and he knows perfectly well that, if we now go to the country, with no amendment of the Constitution, there can be no amendment for another three years. This will mean at least three years more for the Beef Trust, and three years more for the Typothetae, and all the other rings and trusts - threeyears more in which they may establish themselves - and three years more in which the honorable gentleman may make phrases in the interests of the people, and pass laws in the interests of capital.
One word more, and I have done. The honorable gentleman came in to, amongst other things, set ‘ contract labour in place of day labour. It was a great and memorable battle the honorable gentleman and his party proposed to wage on behalf of the contractors, and they have waged it; no one can say they have not kept their pledges in this regard. I remember very well that when, in this House, six months ago, I denounced their Bill to abolish preference to unionists, the Attorney-General replied that they were safeguarding the interests of the public purse. They were going to introduce business methods into national undertakings !
And how have they done so? They denounced us when we were in office because, they said, we had adopted the policy of spoils to the victors. But had. we done what they have done, there is not a great newspaper in the country which would have had sufficient black type to set up in our denunciation. A fundamental and basic principle of national undertakings carried out with public moneys is that everything shall be done in the light of day; that tenders shall be called for, and that every man shall be free to tender. That principle has been violated by the Government. I care not what their excuse is. It is a fact that the principle has been violated. It is a fact that one contractor has been given the inside running. I do not know whether he is rich or poor, but if he goes on like this, if he is not rich now he soon will be. He has been given the inside running. And this is sound, honest, economical, responsible government on business lines ! Because we extended to the poor workers of this country an opportunity to get a fair and reasonable wage, we were hounded down and spitted upon their gibbet. But they who denounced the policy of ‘ ‘ spoils to the victors ‘ ‘ signalized their entry into office by appointing only their own supporters, and by giving contracts only to their own supporters. Pretending to sweep away day labour because it dipped into the public purse, they gave a contract to an individual without first calling for tenders - the very first safeguard of the public interest. Amongst their many sins that fact stands out. By comparison with the general charge of ineptitude, inaction, and pretence, it is a mere peccadillo - if you like to call it such - but it is a peccadillo which would have been sufficient, had we been guilty of it, to hound us out of office. There sit the Government, with their contract and day-labour principles. There they are, with their financial reform ! There they are, with their legislative responsibilities, and their determination to go on with their programme ! They have not gone on with it. They have broken every pledge which they gave to the people. This country has. not been governed cheaper than it was before they took office. The cost of government is greater than ever it was. The Ministry tell us that the people of this country are enjoying better times because it now costs less to live. If it does, it is not their fault. It is a world-wide tendency. They speak of the savings they have made by the adoption of business methods. We have seen something of their business methods. Where are these savings ? They speak also of the restoration of responsible government. Responsibility to whom ? There is only one answer, and that is that the responsibility of this Government is to those great interests outside, who in their turn stand behind the Government machine and steer it on to victory. The Government stand condemned for their inaction and their ineptitude. The people, asking for bread, have been given a stone. We are told that the Government are going to press on to a double dissolution, and put forward two absolute shams - in order that the conditions under section 57 may be satisfied - and that if they do not get it they are going out of office. That is the only bright spot in the whole political picture. We are at last to come to a point at which the Government, if they do not get a double dissolution, will, they say, retire. But, Mr. Speaker, although you may not think so, I venture to predict that, if they do not obtain a double dissolution, they will find many excellent reasons why they should stay where they are. Meantime, I offer one reason why they should not, and it is that they are utterly unfit to meet and deal with the requirements of a progressive community.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to explain my reason for submitting such a motion at this early hour. There have been two speeches to-day, and every one knows that on a Friday the reporting facilities are limited. The next honorable member to speak to the motion of want of confidence is the honorable gentleman against whom certain charges have been levelled, and who, I hope, will be able to make to the House a statement in defence of himself and his administration, as well as of that of the Government.
Let it be distinctly understood thatI take full responsibility for whatever he has done. But I do think that he should have an opportunity to speak at an hour when it will be possible for him to obtain in the daily press a fair report of his answer to all the statements that have been made throughout Australia concerning his administration. It is for that reason, and for that alone, that I propose to adjourn the House at this early hour.
– Is that the way in which the Government get on with the business of the country ?
– The Honorary Minister is not ill.
– By postponing the debate.
– It is merely a desire on our part to let daylight into every transaction of this Government. All these scandalous statements have been spread throughout the country.
– Is the honorable gentleman now traversing a previous debate?
– I am speaking of statements that have been made outside this House, and am not particularizing any member.
– How many speeches does the Prime Minister want to make in regard to the question?
– As many as I choose.
– I hope we shall all have the same opportunity.
– We shall require it.
– Order ! I have to remind honorable members that it is my duty to see that the Standing Orders are not in any way infringed. I have already asked the Prime Minister not to traverse the debate on the AddressinReply. He has not done so yet, but I thought he was getting close to it, and, therefore, intervened to prevent its being done.
– I am sorry there should be all this cry over this matter. I am moving the adjournment of the House for one specific reason. It is a fair thing that there should be a proper opportunity to publish in the daily press the Minister’s reply to all that has been said in the press concerning his administration. For that reason I am moving the adjournment at this early hour.
.- The Prime Minister could have done that very well without intervening on a matter that has been the subject of a debate on a separate motion and criticising it. I do not think that was at all in order. If the Prime Minister desires that his case should be put at a particular time and on a particular day, I readily fall in with his desire, and shall give him every help and assistance in my power. The difficulties of getting information have been rather great.
– I rise to order. This is one of the insinuations that are absolutely baseless.
– What is the point of order ?
– The point of order is that the Leader of the Opposition is taking the opportunity on the adjournment to make again the statements that he made on the no-confidence motion, which, of course, are without foundation.
– So far the honor able member has not transgressed the Standing Orders.
– There is a touchiness about Ministers which is remarkable, considering the language that either both or all of them have indulged in in previous sessions regarding other occupants of their offices. I do not know whether the Clerk has any information on the subject or not, but a copy of all these papers might very well have been prepared and laid on the table of the House, so as to be available for honorable members when Parliament met. It was a question that was discussed. The Minister himself stated, in answer to a question, that the Government had anticipated the desire of honorable members, and were getting papers prepared. They have had a month to prepare all the information, and it is information to which Parliament is entitled, and for which we are all waiting. The Prime Minister need be under no misapprehension as to the facilities which will be afforded to him and his Ministers to make the best possible case against what has been said. I shall assist him in every possible way regardless of the treatment that we received when we were in office.
.- I have no objection to the motion. I realize that Ministers find themselves in a difficult position, and that the Minister who wants to speak on this question finds that he has something to answer which will require a great deal of consideration and thought before his case is put. I have, therefore, no objection to him and other Ministers having the very fullest opportunity to reflect upon the points of the debate that have been put before them today. The only protest that desire to make is against the unashamed and open enlistment of the public press for promulgating Government policy. It is absolutely unbecoming for the Prime Minister to say on the floor of the House that he wants a favorable opportunity for getting the Government position stated in the public press. It is our misfortune, or, perhaps, our good fortune, that we have never been dependent on the newspapers, that we have never had to look for their support, and have never had anything to gain by looking to them.
– I was under the impression that the press had circulated these statements throughout Australia for you.
– If the Prime Minister refers to anything that he has said on the platform or in the House it is perfectly true that the press have circulated it widely throughout Australia. Ministers lean on the press as their staunchest friends in this political controversy, but never hitherto has the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth openly confessed that a necessary auxiliary for their work is the public press of Australia.
.- I understood the Honorary Minister to say that in consequence of something the Leader of the Opposition has done these papers are not to be presented to the House. I do not wish to impute wrong motives to any Minister, but, in his own interests, I hope he will see that every paper in connexion with this transaction is placed on the table of the House.
– We have never got one paper laid on the table to this day.
– The Government claim that they are inaugurating new ideas, and that they are open to the public in all their doings, so they must not shelter themselves behind anything done by their predecessors if they wish to earn that reputation. In the interests of the Government themselves they will place the papers in connexion with this transaction on the table of the House, so that every honorable member may have an opportunity of seeing the whole ease stated. I hope the Honorary Minister will not withhold from the House any papers in connexion with the contract under discussion.
– Last session a Loan Bill for £3,080,000 was brought forward, and the second reading moved, and when the Leader of the Opposition asked for the adjournment of the debate; so that he might have an opportunity to prepare his reply, the request was indignantly and contemptuously refused. It was a proposition of quite a new character, introducing a principle that had been a very serious bone of contention.
– All the details had been given in the Treasurer’s Budget speech days before.
– An absolute and sufficient reply to that interjection is that all our charges have been made openly and publicly on the platform within the last six weeks. The Honorary Minister was well aware that the matter would come before the House on the first possible occasion, and ought to have been ready a month ago with his case. The Prime Minister’s conduct to-day is in such strange antagonism to his conduct last session that one wonders why it should be necessary for his Minister to have special opportunities, and the Leader of the Opposition to be denied any such reasonable consideration. The Government profess to be very strong on fair play, and the Prime Minister claims to be the great exponent of fair dealing. His conduct to-day is a sufficient answer to those pretensions.
– I understand that the Attorney-General has claimed that he has power under the Constitution to deal with certain people at the present time without obtaining an amendment of the Constitution. Is the Government accordingly prepared to take steps to regulate the undue rise of prices that has recently taken place in this city and this State, and quite likely in other cities and other States ? My wife informs me that on two important items which are controlled by trusts - sugar and kerosene - our bill will be10d. per week greater than it was two or three weeks ago. If that rise is going to spread over all the commodities used in the homes of the workers, then these trusts and combines have a power of levying taxation which is not equalled by the National Parliament itself. These trusts and combines possess a power of levying taxation which is not equalled by that possessed by this Parliament.
– If the honorable member desires to get information upon these matters he had better let this motion pass as soon as possible.
– Perhaps this and other business will go through more quickly than the Government will appreciate. I see no reason why some steps should not be taken in the direction I have suggested. I desire to protect the homes of the people, and especially do I desire to protect their purses against the depredations of these trusts and combines. I hope that the Government, who profess to possess the necessary power under the Constitution, will act in this matter instead of talking.
– I came here this afternoon prepared to reply to the statements which have been made in regard to my office and my actions. I was all the more ready to reply because I was satisfied that nothing more than a plain straightforward recital of the facts was required to refute the insinuations which have been spread broadcast throughout Australia. 1 did not think for a moment of this matter of the publication of my statement. The Prime Minister, however, has thought of it, and I think that he is wise.
– The Honorary Minister evidently does not realize the seriousness of it
– I do. There is no man in this House whose reputation is more dear to him in such matters than is mine. I do feel that it is necessary that the widest dissemination should be given to the Ministerial utterance in reply to all these insinuations for the reason that any insinuations - I will not say charges, because the courage has not yet been behind them to enable their author to make charges - against the honour of an Australian Minister of the Crown is a gross slander against the country we all hold so dear. It is because I feel that this matter ought to be cleared up at the earliest possible moment, and because I know that a vast majority of honorable members will readily absolve me from any imputation of wrong doing, that I came this afternoon prepared to make my . statement.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman make it?
– The Prime Minister has already explained that, and I think that his explanation carries weight. We have had two important speeches delivered here to-day. We have heard a speech by the Prime Minister and a brilliant utterance by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– The latter hardly touched that matter.
– Order 1 I must ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs not to refer to the debate which has been adjourned.
– The Prime Minister holds that, in view of the two speeches which have been delivered to-day, any utterance of mine at this stage - and 1 promise that my statement will consist of a bald recital of fact, and that it will not make any rhetorical appeal to the emotions of honorable members - would not gain that publicity throughout Australia which is necessary, not only in my own interests, but in those of the honour and integrity of this Chamber.
.- One cannot fail to be amused at the changes which take place on the Government benches upon important issues. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs said a moment ago that he was extremely anxious that the charges which had been made against him should be effectively answered in order that the public might know the . truth. Yet, in the very next breath, he declared his anxiety to postpone Iiia reply. I would like to know if in the future every other honorable member is to be extended a similar privilege. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs appears to be terribly anxious to defend his honour, not for his own sake or for that of the Ministry, but for the sake of the people of this country. I am satisfied that when his explanation is in print the electors of Australia will not be misled by any misrepresentations which he may make. Whilst we are prepared to allow the Government special privileges in order that subordinate Ministers may have their utterances published in the press, we may reasonablyhope that in their turn they will be willing to afford us a fair opportunity to express our views on matters of great importance. In order to set them an example of what constitutes fair play in a political fight, I am quite willing to agree to the motion.
.- - If the Prime Minister had moved the adjournment of the House without assigning reasons forhis action probably no objection would have been urged to it. But why have we been asked to consent to adjourn the House an hour before the usual time on Friday? Because he says that the reply of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will not obtain the same publicity in the press if it be made to-day as it will if it be made on Tuesday next. Need I remind the Leader of the Government that during the last election scandalous statements concerning the Labour party were circulated from one end of Australia to the other, and that the same press which will publish the explanation of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs refused, on that occasion, to print a denial of those statements. I do not hesitate to say that the Government are doing what they are doing now because they are in the hands of the press. They could not remain in the position Which they now occupy for twenty-four hours were it not for the backing of the servile press behind them. They have, at the same time, to do the bidding of the press, as any subject must do the bidding of the strictest disciplinarian. When the Prime Minister moved the adjournment of the debate after the Leader of the Opposition delivered his speech, in order that be might have ample time to consider that speech, no objection could be taken to that course. If there is any man who could justify the actions of the Government, he should certainly be the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman should have been prepared to refute the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. If he isunable to do so he is unfit for the office he holds. He has not been able to refute the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. A most damaging reply to his speech has been made by the honorable member for West Sydney, and a furtheradjournment of the debate is asked for in order that the reply from the Government side may be spread broadcast over the country. I ask the Prime Minister and the press of this country, when they propose to disseminate throughout the country the speech to be delivered from the other side on Wednesday next, to, at the same time, if there is any fairness, honesty, or decency about them, as widely circulate the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. If they will do that we shall have no cause to complain.
– They have done it.
– When, in the present circumstances, the Prime Minister, for so paltry a reason, asks for the further adjournment of the debate on the censure motion, let me tell the honorable gentleman that it ill becomes him to talk about the waste of public time in this Chamber when he has proposed so deliberate a waste of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 3.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140417_reps_5_73/>.