6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-During yesterday’s sitting the chamber . ‘became uncomfortably crowded, and inconvenience was thus caused to the reporters in the gallery set apart for the Inter-State press, and to others having business in other parts of the House. I have, therefore, issued the instruction that the messengers shall in future, when all the available sitting accommodation has been filled, prevent any one from blocking the gangways, and I trust that honorable members will assist in seeing that this instruction is obeyed.
.- In to-day’s newspaper there appears the statement - made on I do not know what authority - that I have paired with the honorable member for Adelaide. I wish, therefore, to say that I have given no one
Authority to pair me with any other honorable member. My pair will rest absolutely at the disposal of the Whip of the party to which I belong.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Robertson has misunderstood the paragraph to which he refers. After the division yesterday, the honorable member for Maranoa asked me for a pair for the honorable member for Adelaide, and I declined at the moment to give him one. What I had in mind was the fact that there are already four members absent on active service, and that the honorable member for Robertson will soon be returning to camp, and I thought that it would be an easy matter to adjust a pair between the honorable member for Adelaide and the honorable member for Robertson, I wish to add that the pressmen are not responsible for having placed the honorable member for Robertson in a false position. I am surprised that the honorable member fov Maranoa did not attempt to arrange pairs for the honorable members for Ballarat and Geelong.
.- In today’s newspaper, below the report of certain proceedings in which I figured yesterday, appears an interview with the Ministerial Whip, which reads -
Mr. Burchell, the Ministerial Whip, stated subsequently that the Opposition had offered Mr. Fleming as a pair for Mr. Yates, who was the only enlisted member of the Caucus party-
What party that is I do not know - in Australia absent from the sitting.
I asked the Ministerial Whip for a . pair for the honorable member for Adelaide, who is absent serving with the Australian Imperial Force, but I had no communication about pairs with either the honorable member for Cowper or the honorable member for Richmond, the Liberal Whips, nor was the name of the honorable member for Robertson mentioned to me, directly or indirectly, by a member of the Liberal party. It was to the Ministerial Whip that I naturally went for a pair for a- member of our party who is absent in camp. He told me that he could not give any pairs, and I asked, “What arewe going to do? ” Well,” he said, “ that is my instruction.” I then went to the Prime Minister, who said, “ Oh, well, there it is.” And there it is. The statement that the honorable member for Robertson was offered to me as a pair is not true.
While on my feet, I wish to make a personal explanation regarding another matter, namely, an interjection which I made yesterday, and which, having heard the explanations that have been given concerning the incident, I regret. I did not mean my remark to apply to the right honorable member for Parramatta personally; I meant it to apply to all who were objecting at the time.
– What I said to the honorable member for Maranoa when he came to me with the story about pairs was, “What has it to do with me?’’ The arranging of pairs is not my business; it is the business of the party Whips.
.- In view of your ruling yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I wish to know whether I am not entitled to the seat that I have occupied throughout the session, of which the honorable member for East Sydney is now in possession ?
-The honorable member for Henty is entitled to the seat that he has occupied throughout the session.
– Has the Minister for the Navy made any further reduction in the mail service between Tasmania and the mainland?
– A further curtailment of the service has taken place. Yesterday morning a deputation from the Union Steam-ship Company waited on me, and pointed out that the Loongana consumes 190 tons of coal per trip, and the coal supply being limited, it was decided that the steamer shall make only one trip to Tasmania a week while the strike continues. Circumstances have compelled us to take this course. I know that it is a very serious inconvenience to Tasmania to have only one mail to the mainland a week, but I am not responsible for the prgsent position.
– In regard to the arrangements for the acquisition by the Imperial authorities of the Australian wool, clip, is the Prime Minister in a position to announce the price and the arrangements for transportation - whether they fall upon Australia or upon “Great Britain; also whether provision has been made for retaining sufficient raw material to carry on the industries of Australia ?
– Negotiations in regard to the acquisition of the wool clip, merino and crossbred, of Australia are not complete, but those concerned in the industry in the Commonwealth are agreed that contracts which were entered into prior to the date on which the request from the British Government in regard to this matter was received, should be outside the wool acquired, and that a sufficient amount for the industries of Australia should be retained in Australia for manufacturing and other purposes.
– Will the Postmaster-General issue instructions that facilities should be provided for relatives of our soldiers at the front receiving their correspondence on a Saturday afternoon when the mail arrives on that day too late for distribution by the ordinary Saturday delivery, because at present when this occurs anxious relatives have to wait until Monday before they can get their letters from those who are at the front ?
– I shall take into consideration what the honorable member has suggested, and if it can be done without severely . dislocating the routine of the service I shall be pleased to have it carried out.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral laid on the table the arbitration awards in connexion with the Telegraph and Telephone Construction Branch of the Postal Unions and the Postal Electricians, delivered on the 29th September last? I understand that these awards must remain on the table of the House for thirty days before they can have effect.
– The Public Service Commissioner and arbitration awards are under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister.
– I understand that the awards are to be presented to the House to-day.
– Will the Prime Minister also lay on the table of the House the more recent awards made in the case of the Postal Unions on the 22nd of this month ?
– I know nothing about them, but if the honorable member will supply me with particulars I will make inquiries and inform him to-morrow of the result.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Imperial Government has expressed a desire to acquire the whole of Australia’s wheat crop?
– I am not in a position to answer that question to-day.
– An application has been addressed by the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company to the office dealing with external affairs for permission to introduce certain labour under contract. Will the Minister be good enough to place before this House the terms of that application and the reasons for submitting it?
– An application has been made to introduce forty glass-blowers into Australia from America. Eight of those men were on their way to the Commonwealth prior to the issue of the order by the Prime Minister restricting the importation of labour, and on their arrival in Sydney a few days ago they were held up, but on representations being made to the Department by the employers, and also by the Glass-blowers Union in Melbourne, these eight men, who were unionists, were permitted to land, and I understand they are now at work.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that he has supplied to the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan advance copies of his financial statement, and whether he does not think that it would have been a gracious act on his part if he had supplied a copy to me, seeing that I have been a Treasurer of more recent date than the right honorable member for Swan ?
– I have not supplied a copy of the financial statement to the right honorable member for Swan. I have followed the usual practice and supplied copies to certain honorable members, but I have given no copy to the right honorable member for Swan. All these copies were supplied under a bond that they would be treated as confidential.
– The honorable member treated me exactly as the honorable member for Capricornia did when he held office as Treasurer.
– Quite so.
– No, I gave a copy to every honorable member of the House.
Mr.RILEY. - Is it a fact that the Treasurer gave to the press a copy of his financial statement, and that that statement was actually set up in type, and had to be censored?
– You are playing It low down.
– I want the question answered.
– In view of the necessity for conserving every kind of power, has the Prime Minister taken into consideration the advisableness of providing for what is known as the daylightsaving system?
– I have not seriously considered the matter, but there is one reform which suggests itself to me, and which, if the principle is to be adopted, should, I think, be first applied, and that is that we ourselves should adjourn early to-day.
Message from Sir Douglas Haig: Re-employment of Men Called Up for Service.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the Library a certified copy of the cablegram which he said he had received from General Sir Douglas Haig regarding Australian reinforcements?
– Move for it as a return.
– No, I ask the Prime Minister to produce it.
– Following up the statement that I made last night regarding the penalizing of men in their employment after they had been called compulsorily into the military camps, I desire to inform the Prime Minister that I was waited on to-day by a gentleman who has been refused reinstatement in his employment, and to ask him to see that employees who have been compulsorily called from their employment are protected upon their return to civil life.
– I do not know what can be done under the law, but I think there is imposed upon every employer the duty of reinstating his employee in, at least, the position that he occupied when he was called up. That is a duty which is cast upon every employer, and which the Government will endeavour, as far as lies in their power, to compel him to perform.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House whether any steps are being taken to push on with the construction of the cruiser Adelaide?
-it is almost impossible to make a serious commencement with the work because of the difficulty experienced in obtaining material.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to relieve the intense anxiety of the House, and the people of Australia, by explaining the mystery surrounding the sudden exit of the honorable member for Cook from Australia?
– I am not a solver of mysteries. I am merely a looker-on - interested, and not altogether displeased.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs state whether it is a fact that Dr. Gilruth’s term of employment aa Administrator of the Northern Territory has expired, and, if so, whether he proposes to invite applications for the position, with a view of filling it by the apappointment of some other gentleman ?
– Dr. Gilruth’s term of appointment will not expire until some date in March next. The matter of his re-appointment or the appointment of a successor to the position is under the consideration of the Cabinet.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a letter from the honorable member for Denison, tendering his resignation as a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the steamships which he recently purchased in Great Britain are being used to bring cargo from various parts of the world instead of coming to Australia to carry our produce to British and other ports?
– The vessels which have been purchased by the Commonwealth are being used for the benefit of the producers of Australia. It does not pay to bring vessels here in ballast, and these steamers are being used exactly as the vessels of private ship-owners are used. The vessels, up to the present, have been used exclusively in taking wheat from Australia to Great Britain and France. That is the answer to the honorable member’s question. The vessels are not diverted from any other purpose than that which is necessary in the circumstances. Sometimes they do come - one or two, I think, have come - through the Panama Canal because we had a loading from Great Britain to the east coast of America. Usually, however, the vessels come around the Cape. Some have had to come around in ballast, and that is not a profitable proceeding - one which no ship-owner follows if he can help it. There is no reason why the fleet of the Commonwealth should be denied the same opportunities for profitable trading that are open to private individuals - none whatever.-
– Is it a fact that the British Government commandeered some of the vessels that have been purchased for the Australian trade?
– No; it is not a fact..
– Is it a fact that certain of our transports have been sent toSingapore to have repairs done to them?
– No, Mr. Speaker.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– I know nothing of the matter, but shall have inquiriesmade.
asked the Minister forHome Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to thehonorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Whilst the . rolls were more complete than on any former occasion, it is probable that some persons did not lodge claims for enrolment prior to the close of the rolls for the referendum, owing to misunderstanding as between the Commonwealth and State rolls. It is unquestionably desirable that there should be one roll for both Commonwealthand State purposes. The Commonwealth and State Electoral authorities have recommended joint action on the mainland on the lines which have been successfully followed in Tasmania for some years. I shall do everything in my power to give effect to the recommendation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This will he brought under the notice of the Director of Recruiting.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What action is the Defence Department taking in regard to the cessation of work at the Small Arms Factory?
– The Minister for Defence supplies the following reply: -
The position at the Factory is as follows: - “ The members of the Coal Miners Federation executive, who were attending the Conference with the coal-owners under the presidency of the Prime Minister, agreed that their members should make available, and assist in supplying, coal for the Small Arms Factory. The New South Wales Government placed at our disposal coal at Lithgow, and the Coal Miners Federation instructed their men at Lithgow that the coal was to be handled. Some of the trolley-men employed at the Small Arms Factory refused to handle the coal, and I at once instructed the manager that any employee who, in the ordinary course of his duty, was called upon to handle coal and refused to do so, was to be discharged. As a fact, the men are being laid idle “By the shortage of coal through the refusal of these trolley-men to handle it. I am now waiting the text of the demand which, it is stated, the members of the union have made upon the manager.”
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Opinion of the Attorney-General in connexion with the variation of an award . of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the case of the Australian Letter Carriers v. the Public Service Commissioner and another.
Awards varied -
Copy of Order varying award which has been made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Statement of the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the President of the Court, the Order is not or may not be in accord.
Copy of the “reasons for judgment” of” the President.
Memorandum by the Acting Public Service Commissioner in connexion with the Order.
Opinion of Attorney-General -
On plaint submitted by -
Australian Postal Electricians’
Union - Order dated 29th September, 1916, further varying award dated 23rd. April, 1913.
Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and . Maintenance Union - Order dated 29th September, 1916, varying award dated 1st May, 1914.
War Precautions Act -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 289, 298, 300, 301.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will furnish a return showing -
The cases in which postmasters and postmistresses receiving £100 and under have had their salaries or allowances reduced during the present year, showing amount received, and reduction effected in each case?
Cases in which the postal services have been reduced during the same period, showing savings effected?
– In reply to the honorable member’s request, I beg to inform him that -
Amounts paid to persons in charge of Allowance post-offices are based on scale of business transacted, and consequently fluctuate from year to year.
To furnish the return asked for would be a tax on an already short-handed staff (due to the war), and to be of any value should show increases as well as decreases in allowances.
If the honorable member will submit any case or cases he desires investigated, I will, endeavour to supply him with a reply.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 9249), on question -
That the Governor-General’s messages (Nos. 174 and 175 (Supply Bills No. 3, 1916-17) be referred to the Committee of Supply,
Upon which Mr. Tudor. had moved -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “the Prime Minister (the Hon. W. M Hughes) no longer possesses the confidence of this House, for the following reasons : -
That the Prime Minister secretly prepared regulations for the purpose of intimidating intending voters at the polling booths on the 28th of October (Referendum Bay).
That though the said regulations were rejected at a duly constituted Executive Council meeting, held at Melbourne on Wednesday, the 25th of October, and attended by Senator the Hon. Albert Gardiner (Vice-President of the Executive Council), the Hon. J. A. Jensen (Minister for the Navy), the Hon. W. G. Higgs (Treasurer), and Senator the Hon. E. J. Russell (Assistant Minister), the Prime Minister persisted in his reprehensible endeavour to tack on to the Referendum an unnecessary and irritating procedure designed to add penalties for military “ offences already provided for in the Commonwealth Defence Act.
That the Prime Minister succeeded in getting the objectionable regulations passed on Friday, the 27th of October, at an Executive Council meeting, held at Sydney, and attended by His Excellency the Governor-General, the Hon. J. A. Jensen, and himself, although the said regulations had been rejected at an Executive Council (meeting held two days before.
That the Prime Minister then issued the said regulations, and ordered the Chief Electoral Officer (Mr. Oldham) to give effect to them.
That the regulations were withdrawn only after Senator Gardiner, Mr. Higgs, and Senator Russell resigned from the Ministry.
That though the Prime Minister issued the discreditable regulations above referred to on the morning of Friday, the 27th of October, he attempted to and did deceive a large section of the public of Australia by stating in the newspaper press, on Saturday, the 28th of October, that “ no such regulations had been issued.”
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.
– I intend to detain the House but a few minutes in speaking to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra. The amendment, which sets out, with much circumstance, what purports to be a copy of some regulation to which many references have been made, is obviously only a. pretext to hide the real purpose of the honorable gentleman who moved it, and of those who are supporting him. The position, shortly, is that I have committed the unforgivable sin. I have not been amenable to those methods, which have been successful in their case, and those who coerced them to speak and act as directed wish to be revenged on me who refused to bow the knee to Baal. The amendment condemns me for having issued a certain regulation. But those who support it condemn me because they have been instructed to do. so. Regulation or no regulation, they would still have condemned me. To pretend, as they do, that they would have objected to a regulation such as they allege I issued would be absurd. If I had done as those -responsible for this amendment have done, and swallowed my convictions, all would have been well. But I did not, and will not, do so. They wish, by attacking me under this pretext, to destroy me, because I have ventured to defy them and do that which I think to be right in the interests of the country. That is the position.
I am going to deal very shortly, indeed, with the amendment itself. As I have said, it purports to be a copy of a regulation. The amendment, I presume, may be taken as representing the collective efforts of the party, and it sets out, with a wealth of detail, the reasons why I do not deserve the confidence of this House. In the course of his amendment, which thus refers to me, the honorable member says -
To all this I have but one answer to make. What I said in the press of the 28th October is true - no such regulation was issued. No regulation of any sort or kind that bears any resemblance to that to which the honorable member referred was issued. I confine myself to that point. No regulation was issued. I do not propose to follow the honorable member’s example by referring to what took place at Executive Council meetings. It would be obviously an improper thing to do. In my humble opinion, the references made yesterday, to Executive proceedings ought not to have been permitted.
– The. right honorable gentleman must not make that statement. If I did anything wrong in allowing the honorable member for Yarra to make those references, the obvious duty of the Prime Minister was to prevent my error. It is not for me to decide what honorable members shall do.
– If you, sir, regard my remark as a reflection on the Chair, I withdraw it.
– I certainly do.
– Then I withdraw it. Nevertheless, I say that it is obviously most unwise and most incompatible with responsible government, which is divided into legislative, executive, and administrative divisions, that proceedings at Executive Councils should be discussed in the House. It is obvious that the references made to such proceedings by the honorable member for Yarra could only have been founded upon disclosures by an Executive Councillor, and I take it that such disclosures are most improper. As I shall certainly not follow his example, I can only repeat what I have already stated, that it is not true that any such regulation was issued. I shall not say one word as to the references he made as to what took place at Executive Council meetings, but it certainly is not true that the resignations to which the honorable member for . Yarra referred affected this matter in any way; either good, bad, or indifferent. Those who know me will realize very well that if I had determined to issue such regulations, the only effect which the resignations of Ministers could have had upon me would have been to spur me to proceed with my intention, rather than to yield. If I had thought it right to issue those regulations, I would have issued them if every other member of the Cabinet had resigned. I say, therefore, that the statement that the regulations were withdrawn after having been issued, because of the resignations of Ministers, is inaccurate. I shall not discuss what took place at Executive Council meetings. I shall not say whether the honorable member’s references to an alleged Executive Council meeting in Melbourne or in Sydney are true or not true. I merely remind the House that a regulation, to have the force of law, must pass through certain phases. The gravamen of the charge made by the honorable member for Yarra is that I issued certain regulations and then withdrew them. I did not issue the regulations, therefore I could not withdraw them. I leave the position at that. I am perfectly satisfied that the people of this country know quite well that underlying this motion of want of confidence, as it has been termed by the mover, is the determination of his supporters, by any means at all, to get my head upon a charger. The means by which they may do that are as nothing; the end is everything. When the end comes, we shall see whose head is on the charger. Meanwhile, I ‘ shall try to do my duty to the country in this grave crisis to the very best of my ability.
– I am glad to be permitted to intervene in this very interesting little interlude, and, like both of the previous speakers, I intend to be commend ably brief. In the first place, I should like to offer my congratulations to the members of the new Government, more particularly the members new to office. I am bound to say that I feel a peculiar satisfaction in seeing two of the oldest members of the House, two of the staunchest and best amongst the members of their party, in office at the present time. I refer to the honorable member for Grey and the honorable member for Herbert. If I single them out for special congratulation, it is because they are older members of this House than the other Ministers. I congratulate also the new Leader of the party whose name I have not yet learned. I think “ The Australian Labour Party “ was the designation which the honorable member for Yarra applied to the party yesterday. He has my very hearty congratulations upon his election to such a responsible position, and I can only wish for him good health and good luck in the discharge of his very onerous responsibilities, although, under the peculiar system by which he works, his duties are not so responsible as perhaps they would be if he were associated with some other party. The honorable member for Yarra has proved himself always a hard working and loyal member of his party, and I think he ‘has won the distinction which has been conferred upon him.
In regard to the circumstances in which we meet, one regrets that at a time like this tne political barometer should appear to be set so stormy. The indications are that the wind is toblow in from the west and from many other quarters, too. I say in all seriousness that it is much to be regretted that we should find ourselves amid all this party heat and passion at the present time. One is reminded, indeed, of the mutability of all things earthly, and human, too. The Prime Minister, who yesterday was their trusted leader, and was, in some quarters, regarded almost as a demi-god, is now, to apply some lines of Tom Hood-
He opes the eye of evil ken;
And all his angel friends are changed
To demons; and are hated then.
In my judgment, the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra bear3 on its face the stamp of insincerity. One is surprised that such supersensitiveness in regard to electoral purity should be shown by those who are supporting the amendment. Are they not the gentlemen who, a year or two ago, approved the actions of a Minister in discharging forty-three officials three days before an election, on the ground of partisanship, and insisting onthe employment in electoral work of a gentleman whom he admitted had taken part in a Labour pre-selection ? Are they the gentlemen who now ask us to join them in flinging to the. cold winds a Minister who has made a mistake?
– He says that he has not done what is alleged.
– I am not dealing with the statement of the Prime- Minister, but with the allegations in the motion. By the way, it speaks “ of discreditable regulations.” Have you not read it, Mr. Speaker? Is it not a little out of order, for such language to appear on the business-paper? I should have thought that your eagle eye would have noticed the adjective “ discreditable.”
– We are asked to affirm that His Excellency the Governor-General helped to pass “ discreditable regulations.”
– Precisely. I submit that the amendment should not have been so worded. With that comment I pass on. In my judgment, my honorable friends are out of court at the beginning in showing this supersensitiveness regarding the alleged action of the Prime Minister, when they themselves have condoned similar actions times out of number.
I wish to say, further, that I regard the amendment as insincere, because it does not indicate the real cause of the cleavage which has taken place. That is not even mentioned. To test the matter, may I ask the Leader of the Australian Labour party why he resigned from the recent Administration?
– The honorable member knows why.
– I know why, and so does every other honorable member. It was for a reason which had nothing whatever to do with the matters mentioned in the amendment.
– They had not occurred then.
– My honorable friend is quite right. Therefore, it was for some reason which does not appear in the amendment that the honorable member for Yarra decided to part company, with the Prime Minister. It was not the matters mentioned in the’ amendment which led- him to sever his connexion with his1 colleagues. What was the reason?
Every one knows that he differed from them on the grave question of military conscription, of which there is no mention in the motion. I understand that those who follow him wish to express their disapproval of the policy of the Government in relation to the greatest of all questions now in the public arena, and yet they have deliberately selected mere incidents of the campaign, and erected them into matters of supreme import, leaving out of account the real thing which divides them. This stamps the amendment with insincerity. It shows that those responsible for it have a purely political end to serve, and are not concerned with the great questions affecting the existence of the Empire. Is it not to be deprecated that, while the world is in flames, while our camps are empty of reinforcements, while the war is still at its crucial stage, and the end not nearly in sight - the outlook being, indeed, as grave as it has been at any time during these two years - the only contribution of the Australian Labour Party to the great world struggle that is proceeding is the amendment now before the House. I submit that when the amendment is looked at in this light it is plain that my honorable friends have moved it purely for political and party ends, and without regard to the supreme issues which are dominant throughout the world to-day. If I were the leader of their party I should not like my initial effort to -be associated with so sordid and sinister and humiliating an objectRegarding the subject-matter of this motion, I wish to say that in voting against it, as we intend to do, we in no way identify ourselves with what was done. Members on this side regret the action of the late Government - the “late Government” - as strongly as the mover himself. The regulation, however, was, we understand, withdrawn - was in fact never issued, and but little actual harm resulted. While, therefore, we deprecate it, we do not consider that any good purpose would be served by voting for the amendment. Other and far greater things claim our paramount and immediate attention. *
Our attitude can be briefly stated. It has, indeed, been already stated in a few words at the conclusion of a speech made by me some two years ago, when Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister -
I wish ‘to say to this Government that we shall be behind them most cordially with our’ best support - and not too critical support either - in prosecuting this war right to the end, and in financing it to the full in every legitimate and reasonable way.
We are prepared to treat this Government in the same generous manner as we treated its predecessor. In this respect there has been no change. The attitude of the Opposition is still a firm determination to subordinate all other considerations to the winning of the war. I claim with every confidence that we have so acted in the past. We are equally and similarly determined as to the future.
We are not so greatly concerned as to the domestic disturbance which has disrupted the once dominant majority in this chamber, nor as to the personnel of the Ministry, except so far as those matters may have an influence or bearing upon the great and paramount objective - the national safety.
There is to-day, more than ever, an imperative call to the highest patriotism, and we believe we can best respond to that call by concerning ourselves more with the things that are done than with the men who do them.
For two years we have adhered to this policy. We shall continue to do so, asking only that, within the limits imposed by the recent referendum, the war shall be prosecuted with the utmost energy and determination. We accept the statement of the Prime Minister in this connexion.
I further wish to say that, while assisting the Government in these matters, we shall’ retain our Separate political identity, reserving to ourselves the right, in the public interest, to criticise to the fullest extent and decide upon its merits each measure submitted to this House.
That, briefly, is our attitude. I hope that the debate may soon be brought to an end, so that we may address ourselves to the serious business of the country.
– I” am not surprised that the Leader of the Opposition - I should say of the Liberal party - desires to get the amendment out of the way as soon as possible. We know that he and his supporters have been placed in a very difficult position by the moving of it. As has been said down town, the amendment is a very astute move to place the Opposition, or, rather, the Liberal party, in a difficult position.
– If that is the best you can do, you had better try again.
– The Liberal party have to justify before the country their vote in favour of an attempt to manipulate the ballot-box. The Leader of the Liberal party has drawn attention to what he considers a waste of time in discussing this motion, because the position at the front, he says, has not been improved; but no matter what he may say in that connexion, he will not be able to explain away to the country the fact that, in voting against the amendment, he is supporting the Prime Minister. His speech was not the speech of a Leader of the Opposition; surely it was a speech very much stronger in support of the Prime Minister than that which the Prime Minister himself delivered. I have heard the Prime Minister speaking in this House on many occasions, but I have never heard him deliver a worse speech than he made this afternoon. I need hardly say that it is a matter of very great regret to me that this great Australian Labour party, that has to its credit legislation that- has been of very great usefulness to the people of Australia, and has placed the masses of Australia in a better position than the masses of any other part of the world, has been smashed for a time by the Prime Minister. I say for a time.” It may be for six weeks, or it may be for longer. But to revert to the leaders of the Liberal party, there was great consternation yesterday when the amendment was submitted. We saw the honorable member for Parkes with his copy of May’s Parliamentary Procedure, and the honorable member for Flinders also conning the pages of that great book, possibly with a view to trying to discover some method of preventing the amendment being discussed by the House.
– I was anxious to fmd the punishment provided for a breach of the Ministerial oath.
– I am quite prepared to discuss the proposition from that standpoint. The honorable member. for Flinders was very indignant. I believe that he felt indignant. There is such a thing as self -hypnotism, and I can imagine that, from his training, the honorable member said-; “ Sir William, you must be righteously indignant about this matter,” and, accordingly, Sir William was righteously indignant.
– Does it require much effort to view the breaking of an official oath with righteous indignation? Which of you broke the oath ?
– The training that the honorable member has had in the Courts of this country leads him to believe in the maxim that there should be ‘ ‘ honour among thieves,” but I do not take up that position.
– Apparently not.
– I do not support the proposition that the members of a Cabinet should follow the example of thieves, when they keep that honour which is said to distinguish them. We were loyal to the Prime Minister until the Prime Minister was disloyal to us. The Prime Minister also joined with the honorable member for Flinders, though he was not able to work up so much indignation about the matter. He said that he would not discuss the question of a member of the Executive Council disclosing what’ took place at a meeting of that body. I am sorry that the Prime Minister has left the chamber, because, according to a paragraph in the Melbourne Herald of 21st October, the Prime Minister, in referring to a statement in the press concerning the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, one of his colleagues, said -
On that point I am unable to express any opinion, but if by that Mr. McCarthy would have the people of Western Australia and the Commonwealth to understand that Mr. Mahon is an anti-conscriptionist I can only say that if he is his conversion is of very recent date. He was certainly one of the whole-hearted supporters of conscription in the Ministry. He supported the policy of the Government with voice and vote in Cabinet.
Do the Leader of the Liberal party and the honorable member for Flinders approve of the action of the Prime Minister in preparing secret regulations for what we considered to be a manipulation of the referendum without consulting at least three of his colleagues, namely, Senator Gardiner, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator Russell, Assistant Minister, who had charge of electoral, administration, and myself? I submit, for the examination of honorable members, documents as they came to me. I have no hesitation in saying that they were handed to me by Mr. Garran, the
Solicitor-General, at an Executive Council meeting, apparently for the purpose of having my signature attached to them and having them put through the Executive Council forthwith without any consideration whatever.
Next day Mr. Garran came to see me to urge that these regulations should be put through immediately, because Mr. Oldham, Chief Electoral Officer, required time to get the necessary 9,000 telegrams sent out to the various polling officers. I made a note of the conversation as far as I could recollect it, and it was as follows -
Mr. Garran, in reply to my queries, this morning said that Mr. Hughes had discussed the proposed War Precautions (Referendum) Regulations with him (Mr. Garran) before he (Mr. Hughes) went to Sydney, and that he (Mr. Garran) had given him the final draft on the train when he left for Sydney; that Mr. Hughes told Mr. Garran not to present them to the Executive until he heard from Mr. Hughes; that Mr. Hughes telephoned him yesterday, at 3.45 o’clock p.m., to hand them to the Executive, which he did through me, the Treasurer, acting for the Minister of Defence. Mr. Garran said that Mr. Hughes had informed him that he was not to issue the regulations through the Government Gazette until he heard from Mr. Hughes; but Mr. Hughes would probably send him word to-day, as Mr. Oldham was desirous of getting on with the sending of the necessary 9,000 telegrams to his officers throughout the Commonwealth. Dated 25th October, 1916.
There were three copies, and . each copy of the proposed regulations was stamped “ Secret,” apparently by Mr. Garran or one of his officers. If these regulations were fair and above-board, what was the necessity for branding them “Secret”? Do honorable members of the Liberal party say that this was a righteous act on the part of the Prime Minister ?
– Are the documents which you have in your hand original ?
– They are the documents which were handed to me by Mr. Garran.
– Were you entitled to take those documents from the Executive Council meeting, and retain them after you had left office?
– I refused to sign them. I was acting for the Minister for Defence in the matter of signing any necessary documents that required the signature of a Minister, and I declined to sign these. I put it to Mr. Garran that surely this “was a Cabinet matter.
– If they were official documents, you ought not to have brought them out of that meeting.
– They were not official documents ; they were proposed to be made official documents, and if we had accepted the Prime Minister’s suggestion, made through Mr. Garran, that they should be put through, they ‘would no doubt have been made official documents.
– They are the property of the Department to which they belong, and they should be back there.
– The Leader of the Opposition, so-called - because he is really supporting the Government - and ‘the honorable member for Flinders will not favour me by way of interjection with a statement as to. whether they approve of the action of the Prime Minister in deliberately refusing to consult his colleagues on an important matter of this kind - the alteration of the Act concerning the taking of a referendum.
– I have never seen a more dishonorable thing done than the disclosing of this information.
– The “honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Capricornia is making a very important statement to the House, and it is the duty of honorable members either to listen to him or to move that he be no longer heard.
– There are some questions that we desire to ask him.
– The honorable member must give notice. As to the question of dishonour-
– Order ! The honorable member for Richmond has withdrawn that statement.
– But other honorable members take the view that we should not have disclosed this information.
– Hear, hear !
– Does not the honorable member for Flinders consider that Ministers have some responsibility to the Parliament of the Commonwealth? Does he suggest that Ministers, because they take an oath of secrecy, are bound to smother up every act of any colleague? I take it that each Minister is the judge as to what he should disclose, and must take the responsibility for his actions. I am willing to take the responsibility for my action in telling the public what the
Prime Minister proposed to do, and to leave the electors to judge for themselves. It was wrong on the part of the Prime Minister, in the first place, to abstain from consulting us about this matter, and, to use the words of some one down town, it was rash and certainly improper on his part to attempt to intimidate voters at the polling booth.
– But he never issued the regulations.
– As to that, although the Prime Minister states that he did not issue the regulations, I cannot believe that Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer, lied to me when he told me that in no circumstances would he do anything in connexion with the taking of this ballot except by regulations. I had occasion to cull on Mr. Oldham to protest against the manner in which information concerning the referendum was being released to the public. Honorable members will recollect that, while the votes were being counted, information concerning the result of the poll was being served out to the public in a desultory manner. I complained to Mr. Oldham of this, and he said, “ I can assure you that I have done, and will do, nothing in connexion with this referendum except by regulation.”
– That was after the vote had been taken ?
– During the counting of the ballot. On the Monday before referendum day, the Prime Minister made a speech at Albury, in which he stated that he was going to give certain electors the shock, or the surprise, of their lives when they approached the ballot-box. I drew Senator Gardiner’s attention to this statement. He said he had not seen” the report of it. but that he would at once make inquiries. He asked officers in his Department whether the Defence Department intended to do anything in connexion with the referendum, and the reply that he received was that it was not intended to take any action, but that possibly action might be taken by some other Department. When these proposed regulations were handed to me, I was anxious to ascertain whether it would be possible to get them out in time, and I asked Mr. Oldham what was the latest date on which he could issue them. He replied that he could get out the instructions if he received them on the Wednesday before referendum day, and that he had everything ready to send them out.
The matter cannot be allowed to remain where the Prime Minister proposes to leave it. He states that he hasnot issued these regulations. If he did. not issue them, then the Chief Electoral Officer either broke the law or attempted.1 to break it. The Prime Minister cannotallow the matter to remain where it is. He will, no doubt, be informed by severalhonorable -members, if he’ is not already aware of the fact, that in many cases thequestions were actually asked in the» booths. They were asked where the Returning or Presiding Officers had not received the countermanding order. I am. informed that messengers were sent round this city on- the Saturday morning to inform the officers in the booths not to ask. the questions. I have also been informed: by an honorable member that a recruiting sergeant was present in one of the booths., in Queensland where the questions werebeing asked.
– What was the name of the booth ?
– I have not the authorityof my informant to mention it. If hehas no objection I shall be glad to furnish the House with the information, but I* would prefer that he should supply it. There can be no doubt that the questionswere asked. Senator Gardiner informsme that he has it from a scrutineer that there came under his notice several ballotpapers marked “Proclamation” or “Proc” The Leader of the Liberal party and his followers, as well as the general public, I think, will agree that the proposed action of the Prime Minister savoured of vindictiveness. The Electoral Act and the Defence Act contain all the necessary provisions for punishing any one who makes a breach of those laws. It is a most injudicial proceeding on the part of any member of Parliament to attempt to add to the punishment of any person who is presumed to have committed an offence before that person has actually been brought to- book. The Prime Minister proposed to do that.
The Defence Act makes every possible provision” for dealing with those who fail to enrol, and there can be no doubt that the Prime Minister, in . his eagerness to secure for conscription a majority of affirmative votes, did things which, in his calmer moments, he will recognise he had no right to do. The very announcement that went abroad as to the proposed regulations had the effect of keeping many people from the booths, and if the questions had been asked many thousands of electors would not have voted. That, no doubt, was in the Prime Minister’s mind. He wanted to keep those people out of the booths. I submit that the proposed punishment - the punishment of depriving these people of their votes - was in the nature of tyranny. Many of those who had not enlisted held the opinion that the question was to be decided by the electors, and that if it were decided in the affirmative they would, of course, have to go into camp, but that if it were negatived their f failure to enrol would be justified.
– Will the honorable member allow me to see the papers to which he has been referring?
– Certainly. I have nothing more to say in regard to the resignations of Senator Gardiner, Senator Russell, and myself, except that the Prime Minister, in his capacity as chief censor, did wrong in trying to prevent Senator Gardiner, myself, and others from telegraphing any information as to our resignations. He attempted to prevent any information whatever concerning our resignations going over the telegraph wires or appearing in the newspapers. I am informed on the very best authority that the chief censor received a message that Senator Gardiner had telephoned to the effect that he was sending several telegrams in reference to the resignations of Ministers and that they were to be allowed transmission without delay, on account of the question being a purely political one. The Prime Minister evidently is unable to distinguish between a political and a military necessity. For that reason I regard the fact that the Prime Minister has control of the censorship as being positively dangerous to this country. The right honorable gentleman cannot see any difference between a political necessity and a military one. He issued instructions that nothing was to appear concerning the resignation of Ministers. However, shortly after returning to his office at 7.15, a censor referred to the deputy chief censor several messages signed by Senator Gardiner, which he stated had just been lodged in reference to the resignation of Ministers.
One of these messages was from Senator Gardiner to his wife, telling her that he had resigned; and that message was actually held up.
Almost at the same time the deputy chief censor was instructed by Mr. Garran, the Solicitor-General, not to allow transmission over the wires for publication any reference whatever to the fact that Ministers wore resigning. The deputy chief censor asked on whose authority that was done, and he was told it was on, the authority of Mr. Hughes, but that they would know definitely later. Subsequently the Prime . Minister evidently decided that he would release the information, and, having done so, he himself made a statement regarding the resignations, that statement, appearing in the Argus and other newspapers on the 28th October. In that statement to the press the Minister said that the Federal Ministers pretended that they_ had resigned because of the issue of certain regulations that interfered with the election,, or might deter certain electors from coming to the booth. The right honorable gentleman declared, “ No such regulations have been issued,” and went on to say that this attempt to “ impose upon the credulity of the electors “ was on a par with the “ Maltese and coloured labour dodges,” and was no doubt “ the last card in the anti-conscription pack.” The Prime Minister went on to say -
Personally I hail their resignations as a sure omen of victory. Mr. Higgs, in a spirit of lugubrious prophecy, told a reporter the other day that if conscription were carried he would have to resign. He and his coadjutors have only anticipated the inevitable by a few hours, for the people now know the kind of men who stand behind the anti-conscription party, and understand perfectly the motives that animated them, and are resolved to vote them down and out.
In reply to that, I said that the Prime Minister had endeavoured to deprive Senator Gardiner, Senator Russell, and myself of the credit of having resigned as a matter of principle, and that we would see on Monday whether the Prime Minister would resign as a matter of principle. Surely if the right honorable gentleman had any correct notions on this score, he would not endeavour to carry on the Government of this country with a following of thirteen men? He said to-day that we knew he would carry out his aim, if aim he had, no matter what his colleagues might do. I venture to say that we shall see the spectacle of the honorable gentleman, who has been such a determined opponent of the Leader of the Liberal party, politically eating out of that honorable gentleman’s hand from now on until such time as the present Government are driven from the Treasury benches,
.- As an independent member of this House during the period of this Parliament, I wish to give some reasons why, notwithstanding the fact that I am as opposed as any man to any interference with the sacredness of the ballot-box, I am compelled to vote with the Government on this occasion. I shall not attempt to deal with the merits or demerits of the particular charge which has been laid. As an anti-conscriptionist, who stumped his electorate against conscription, I must say that I, and others who think with me, felt very keenly the action that was taken by a certain section. .Whether what is alleged be true or not is a matter of little moment to me ; in fact, the action of honorable gentlemen opposite reminds me of the old Eastern legend, in which a man used his elephant to kill a flea - a very effective method of killing the flea, but very destructive of the future use of the elephant. What I wish to show is that there was a much greater outrage - a much greater interference with the ballot-box and with the rights of the representatives of the people, and the very gentlemen who are now dealing with this ‘ flea bite ‘ ‘ knew of the existence of that interference, and in a measure were suffering from it, and yet made no sign or protest worthy of the name. The question of conscription was one on which every conscientious and honest person should have been permitted to vote according to his convictions ; there was no room for more than a natural difference of opinion - nothing to call for or cause that wholesale political excommunication which was attempted and carried out. I thank, the Prime Minister, as the one man in Australia who is responsible for the rejection, unwittingly, of the referendum. It was he who insisted on the’ principles of Democracy being applied to this great test question. Had the Prime Minister followed the advice of those people who attempted to tamper, not with the 1 or 2 per cent, who would have been affected by such a regulation as that referred to, but with the representatives of the people themselves - had the Prime Minister acceded to their demands, and not .insisted on the democratic principle of the referendum, we should long ago have had conscription in full blast throughout Australia. Every man opposite who is supporting this vote of censure knows that what I am about to say is perfectly true. We in Ne- South Wales, and, I understand, other representatives in Victoria and Queensland, received this mandatory notice from an outside body-
– An “outside body!” They put you in Parliament, anyhow !
– They did not.
– You would not be here but for them.
– They did not put me here; and, at any rate, they cannot put me out.
– They will put you out in time. You are now showing the cloven hoof 1
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them.
– Early in September, New South Wales Labour members were ordered, under pain of having their indorsements cancelled, to resist the introduction of the conscription referendum at every stage, inside and out of Parliament. Had the extremists had their way, before it was decided by a majority of only two that a referendum should be held, the chances are that we should have had to face this House without a war policy. Notwithstanding the chastening effects that the “ No “’ vote has had on a number of honorable members, it must be admitted that the direct action, which quite a number of people on all sides honestly felt to be the solution of the difficulty, would have taken the form of conscription by proclamation. We all knew that some six or eight months would have been occupied in bludgeoning a conscription measure through Parliament.
– And you would have been behind it !
– I would not. 1 have a copy of my opening speech at Young, and I have never departed from the text which I there adopted. I then said that whatever the will of the people might be, if members differed from it, it was the duty df those members to resign their seats and allow the people to elect others. I have held from the beginning that conscription, outside the orbit of selfgoverning powers, is against moral law; and I hold that still. There were gentlemen who took the mandate, to which I have referred, “sitting down”: but I have here the answer that I gave, and which represents the action which I am always prepared to take, even if it means my going out of Parliament for ever.
– You will go out all right.
– The chances are on record. The devil may make a liar of you before God will make a prophet of you. This .is the reply I sent -
I regret very much that the recent unwar rantable attempt on the part of your State Executive to usurp the power to guide, control, and punish the Labour party and its leaders, without reference to the constituencies, effectually debars me from co-operating in the way indicated by you. The above, therefore, represents my attitude until your Executive retires, or is retired by its masters - from the present destructive and untenable position. If we permitted those people to succeed in their attempt to unduly interfere with the liberty of the people’s representatives, we should fail in our duty. Honorable members opposite have a perfect right to their opinion if they think that the question now raised is vital and involves the life of the Government; but they had nothing to say when they were told that if they did not do certain things they would Jose their £600 a year. That was a threat held out to me and others; and, as a simple bushman, I cannot see where those gentlemen can have any sincerity ; to use a bush phrase, we cannot get a ‘ tarpaulin ‘ ‘ big enough to cover the mountain of hypocrisy. If their virtuous indignation was aroused by this attempt to issue a regulation, surely they ought to see that interference with the representatives of the people is a still more vital matter, especially when the real issue was whether or not the people should have conscription without they or the Parliament having anything to say. There were those who found fault with the Prime Minister because he allowed a month’s grace, and others who complained that he called up men before the polling in order that they might be ready; but I ask them whether, in view of that despatch which all such believed to be necessary, they would have hesitated at the only means of securing immediate conscription ? If so, what did their idle protestations mean ? Did they mean that after a delay of four or five months, a struggle in this House, and one’ or perhaps two elections, they would only then have consented to conscription? It would be too humiliating to think that those honorable gentlemen, who are just as honest in their convictions in regard to conscription as I am in mine in opposition to it, would have so stultified themselves as not to make use of the only weapon that was available to them. The’ Leader of the Opposition stated, when the proposals were put before the House, that he was profoundly disappointed, and Senator Millen stated that a chill of disappointment would pass through the Empire. Still stronger statements were made by other people. On 1st September the Prime Minister, when explaining his policy to the House, said -
It may be asserted that there is no necessity for either parliamentary sanction or a reference to the people - that is to say, that the Government might have imposed compulsion on the people without consulting Parliament or referring the matter to the electors. I do not know whether that view finds favour in the mind of any honorable member, but I venture to say that it is quite incompatible, not only with the- principles of Democracy, but with parliamentary government. … It has been said that there is no need for a referendum. I say that there must be a referendum or an election; one or other is inevitable under the circumstances.
Mr. Hughes saved the situation by insisting on having a referendum. But for that, the “Noes,” who were in a majority of 11,000 in my constituency, would- have had no voice in determining this matter. I am unable to differentiate between interference with the ballot-box by bodies who claim to be more powerful than the Prime Minister, and the particular action which is denounced so eloquently by the honorable members who are supporting the honorable member for Yarra. I have promised to support the present Government only while it respects the will of the people with regard to the conscription vote. And I will perform that duty and vote for the Government according to my promise, unless I am asked to swallow any proposal that runs counter to the principles in which I believe. Therefore I remain in this Parliament independent of any force from within or without. I would a thousand times rather go back to my farm than draw those close distinctions which would allow me to remain inside Parliament to be dominated by people who have no scruples about side-tracking, through interference with representatives, the rights of the people at the ballot-box when it suits them. It may be my misfortune that I am unable to differentiate between such conduct and that alleged against the Prime Minister, but I am prepared to ‘suffer for it. Irrespective of any merits or demerits in this amendment, I’ am compelled to support the Government, because I believe that the business of the country is paramount above any motion of this kind which has not behind it any more honest principle than can be revealed by the logical sequence of events immediately preceding it.
– I should not have risen to speak on this hypocritical and vindictive amendment -
-The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I did not refer to any individual, but if you ask me to withdraw the words I do so, although I should have thought that it was within my right to so describe the character of an amendment.
– If I allowed the honorable member to make use of those words, other honorable members might have another definition in even stronger terms, and we should not know where, this sort of thing would end.
– I do not propose to enter into a discussion on this point of order, but j. venture to remind you, sir, that in the attack upon the Prime Minister the word “ discreditable “ was used in regard to not merely an act of the Prime Minister, but in regard to what purported to be an act of the GovernorGeneral. I have not risen to speak of the merits or demerits of this amendment, but I wish to refer to something which the’ honorable member for Capricornia said and did. Amongst all the remarkable features of the debate initiated by the honorable member for Yarra, none is more striking than the extraordinary conception of Ministerial honour which it reveals in those who support the amendment. This is a matter which in many respects transcends in importance the fate of any Government, because it is an attack upon what lies at the very foundation of every democratic and representative system of government. Representative and parliamentary, government, as I understand it, means that Ministers are absolutely responsible to Parliament for what they do. But they are also absolutely responsible to the King’s representative for the advice they tender to him. If that advice results in any act performed or to be performed, it becomes at once a matter for which Ministers are responsible to Parliament, but as long as it remains in the position of advice tendered to the GovernorGeneral, it is in all principle tendered under bond of complete secrecy. If it were not for that condition, Cabinet government would be absolutely impossible. I have not available now a copy of the oath of secrecy in use in the Commonwealth, but I believe it is framed in the identical words of the oath used in England, and, amongst other things, states -
You shall, in all things to be moved, treated and debated in council, faithfully and truly declare your mind and opinion according to your heart and conscience; and shall keep secret all matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in council.
Mr. Sidney Low, in his book, The Governance of England, thus refers to that oath -
To the Cabinet Councillor the oath is a serious matter. The pledge to maintain secrecy cannot be deemed a mere form. It is not merely the King’s secrets that the Minister swears to keep, but also, and particularly, the secrets of his colleagues.
– Even if it is corruption ?
– No matter what it is. No opinion of any individual member of the Cabinet that a certain proposal is corrupt justifies him in breaking his oath of secrecy to the King’s representative. The honorable member for Capricornia seems to offer an extraordinary justification for his action. He said that, as the Prime Minister had broken faith with his colleagues, therefore his colleagues were entitled to break faith with him.
– The statement that I broke faith with my colleagues is quite inaccurate.
– I am repeating the words of the honorable member for Capricornia. I do not admit his statement; but, suppose it be true, does it permit the honorable member, or any of those who sat with him, to break their pledge of honour to the King’s representative? The honorable member pretended to treat my objection in a light and airy fashion. He referred to it as an exercise of superfine morality on my part. I think I may say that the words which were uttered by him gave a shock to nine-tenths of the honorable members of the House. They ‘ certainly shocked me, and I have had experience in many Cabinets-
– It takes a lot to shock you .
– Since I have had the privilege of coming into contact with the honorable member and his friends, it does take a good deal to shock me; but the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia certainly did shock me. There is another feature of this case which cannot be passed without comment. The honorable memberf or Capricornia referred to certain documents. I should like to know how he obtained those documents, and why he retained them. In both” State and Federal Governments it has been the invariable practice, following that of British. Cabinet Councillors, that the formal presentations in Executive
Council to the Governor-General must be treated as absolutely secret.
– They are all secret.
– They havealways been treated as such. Even when the proposals are assented to, members; of the Ministry have no right to retain or publish them. The way in which they are to be published after assent is by publication in the Government Gazette. If they are not assented to, it becomes infinitely more the duty of every Ministerto leave the papers as the private property of the Executive. What right canthe honorable member pretend to have tobe in possession of these documents?
– The main question iswhether they are facts or not.
– If that isthe main question, the oath of secrecy becomes at once wiped out.
– I retained them for selfpreservation. If I had allowed these papers - to go out of my possession, what evidence would I have had that the Prime Minister: proposed to issue such a regulation ?
– That observation shows clearly that the honorable, member was looking for a trap to catch: the Prime Minister. I am not going to quarrel with his personal motives, howevercontemptible they may be, and howeverthey may break every rule of loyalty tohis own chief, but 1 say the honorable member owes loyalty to the GovernorGeneral, and he had no more right to take: those papers from the Executive Council’ chamber than I had a right to walk in and take them. Like the Prime Minister,I dare not refer to what took place in Executive Council, but the Prime Ministerhas said that this regulation never was issued. I accept tha,t statement unreservedly. I am not going to hand these documents back to the honorable member for Capricornia. I place them on the table, and if he likes to take them from, there, he may.
– You are a gentleman, are younot?
– You promised to hand, those papers back to him.
– If the honorable member for Capricornia says that I obtained the papers on that condition, I hand them to him.
– I will have nothing to do with them. You are not a gentleman !
– Very well; I leave them on the table. .
– Wipe the dirty handmarks off them.
– I appeal to honorable members to cease these interjections.
– We all know what views the honorable member for Capricornia holds of political and personal honour, and I shall not refer to them. But he has no right at all to’ have these papers in his possession. They belong to the Governor-General and his present advisers, and to no one else. Every man who has retired from a Government must at once, pursuing the dictates of honour, cut himself away from the documents with which he was intrusted during the time that he was Minister. A retiring Minister is, of course, entitled to take away his own private memoranda, but not documents that are part of official communications, or official advice tendered by Ministers to the Governor-General. A man is guilty of a breach of the most fundamental rule of Ministerial honour if, when leaving a Cabinet, he purloins such documents, and takes them away with him.
– The honorable member is not much of a judge of honour after his conduct this afternoon.
.- I wish to refer, first of all, to the Cincinnatus of the House. Having heard his speech this afternoon, it is my opinion that he is the biggest hypocrite that we have among us.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. If the position were not so serious, it would have been amusing to hear the Leader of the Liberal party and the honorable member for Flinders endeavouring to whitewash the Prime Minister. I listened with pleasure to the kindly efforts of the Leader of the Liberal party, who, putting aside his political feeling, seemed to be doing his best to get things to settle down. I do not know that he was right in taking that course, but personally he is to be commended for. it. The condemnation of the honorable member for Capricornia uttered by the honorable member for Flinders was due to the fact that the two honorable members are on different sides. I do not think that the probity of the one is to be doubted any more than that of the other.
– Does not the honorable member recollect the mace incident?
– The honorable member for Echuca gets into all the muck that he can. If there is any gutter sweeping to be done, it is done by him.
– And he gets the free trips to England.
– I shall expose wrongdoing wherever I find it.
– The honorable member for Echuca is fond of parading the deficiencies of others, but he himself takes free trips.
– At whose expense?
– The honorable member has had two free trips. He had one with me. I do not think that there is anything to be ashamed of in that; but before going to the gutter to abuse others, the honorable member should think of his own deficiencies. I was surprised that the Prime Minister should have addressed the House on the question before it. I expected to see him - with that style which no one in this chamber can imitate -brush on one side the attempt to attack him. A little over three weeks ago, when I was taking exception to some of the right honorable member’s actions and remarks, a political opponent said to me, “ For years you listened with approbation when he was pouring out similar language upon us, . but now that his words apply to you, you do not like them.” I admit that that is correct. But were the Leader of the Liberal party and his exAttorneyGeneral the leaders of the real Opposition in this chamber, they would have hurled anathemas at the Prime Minister for his endeavours to corrupt the ballot-box. It suits them- to keep the right honorable gentleman in office for fear that worse, from their stand-point, might follow him. If any evidence were necessary to show that the supporters of the honorable member for Parramatta are not His Majesty’s Opposition, it is their crawling servility in regard to the Prime Minister. As we proceed- we shall find that still more apparent. They will be willing to follow anywhere the Prime Minister and his team.
– As the honorable, member did. “
– Thank God, the honorable member for Wide Bay will not follow him for long. He got in on the
German vote last time, but I do not think that he will do so next time.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– The followers of the honorable member for Parramatta are willing to cover up the faults of the Prime Minister. It is anything but pleasurable to think of the happy time that we should have if they were the real Opposition.
– The honorable member covered up the faults of the Prime Minister for a long time.
– He swallowed them.
– I am fairly large, but I cannot swallow as much as the honorable member for Parkes. It is useless for the Liberal party to try to minimize the enormity of the attempt to corrupt the ballot-box. . The Prime Minister said that he did not issue the regulation that has been referred to. I do not believe him.
– Does the honorable member ask us to take his word before that of the Prime Minister?
– Keep quiet, you insect !
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I point out to the honorable member for Echuca that he is the offender, all interjections being grossly disorderly. If honorable members will make insulting interjections, I cannot prevent them from being replied to. The honorable member has been continually interjecting, and I ask him to cease from doing so. I also ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it. It is useless for the members of the Liberal party to minimize the effort of the Prime Minister to corrupt the ballot-box, and it is useless for the right honorable gentleman and the Conservative press of Australia to try to excuse what has been done. Had not the party which the Prime Minister has left taken up this question, the so-called Opposition would have done so, and the press of Australia would have been filled with condemnation of what was done. We know that it was done for a specific purpose. For weeks the Prime Minister stage-managed the Yes” campaign, and did it very well from the point of view of a stage manager, though unjustly from the people’s point of view. He censored every statement that might count against them. He had inspired telegrams, articles, and letters published in the newspapers, and kept out everything that might rebut them. When he felt that, after all, he might be beaten, he attempted to interfere with the ballotbox, a thing which I think no . other man in Australia would have done, and dragged the Governor-General with him.
-The honorable member must not refer to the GovernorGeneral.
– I must abide by your ruling, and, therefore, withdraw my remark. If gentlemen who occupy certain positions are misled, they should know it.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– Then I leave it at that. When the Prime Minister felt that he was fighting a losing battle, he attempted to get a regulation through an Executive meeting in Victoria. He denies that he did so, but we have strong evidence that the attempt was made. We know that he attempted to interfere with the ballot-box. It is a well-known fact that the Minister for the Navy left Victoria for New South Wales. We know that the Postmaster-General did not attend the meeting of the Executive Council in New South Wales, and that the only other two Ministers in the State at the time were the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy. I understand that the quorum of an Executive Council meeting is three. Who was the third member ?
– The Governor-General.
– I am not allowed to mention him. We know that the VicePresident of the Executive Council was not there. As somebody must have presided at that Executive Council meeting, the only conclusion we can come to is that it was the Governor-General who did so, as he had a right to do, without any one being able to take exception. We are told that these regulations were not issued. Then how is it that in many polling places among the documents the Returning Officers had before them were papers bearing in red ink the word “ Proc.” ? Who put that word on those papers? Under whose instructions was it done? In fact, who sent all the telegrams, and why were they sent? What was the intention? Those who have been in this Hou3e for years know that the gentlemen who supervise the Electoral Department of the Common- wealth try to do their duty conscientiously. There was an occasion when the Minister controlling that particular Department - he was not a Labour man - tried to interfere, but he was not allowed to do so. The gentlemen who supervise the electoral matters of the Commonwealth in the State of Victoria do not interfere with the ballot, and I am willing to believe that the same may be said of those officers occupying similar positions in other States.
– Mr. Oldham is absolutely honest.
– Therefore somebody was responsible for what was done. For weeks the Prime Minister had assumed the dictatorship of Australia. “ Kaiser Bill “ of Germany never ruled with a firmer hand than that displayed by the Kaiser of Australia. The honorable member for Wide Bay, who is here as a result of the German vote, will persist in interjecting.
– I would rather have my constituents than yours. They are more loyal than the honorable member,
– I was not put here /by German votes. There are more men in my electorate at the front than from that of the honorable member. They are not pro-German; they are Britishers; but ;they do not propose to be coerced by a dictator such as we have in Australia io-day.
– You put him in his position.
– I may have done so, but the honorable member is keeping him there when he has no longer any right to be there. The attempt at whitewashing him will not go down with the people of Australia. It is a marvel to me that the Liberal party can tolerate the position, because it is possible for the Prime Minister to keep himself in power in spite of the people of Australia. I believe that he is capable of doing it. A man who would prevent people from voting because they have broken the law would do anything. The action taken by the Prime Minister puts me in mind of a form of punishment pf days gone by, when the authorities were not satisfied with sentencing a man to be hanged, but they also had him drawn and quartered. The
Prime Minister was not satisfied with dealing out to these men who did not conform to the proclamation the punishment that could be dealt out to them under the law, but he also wished to have them hanged, drawn, and quartered. Let me say that I advised no one not to conform to the proclamation. I was asked by hundreds whether they should conform to the law, and I said that I would not tell them to take six months’ imprisonment when I was not proposing to take the punishment myself. From the stand-point that I take of justice, it would not have been guilt on my part if I had given different advice, but still I was not guilty of doing so. The mau who runs Australia to-day was not satisfied with the punishment that could be meted out to these men, and in order to win by hook or crook what he had been fighting for, he thought that he would take advantage of the fact that men had not reported themselves, and prevent men from voting whom he knew would vote against his cause. Today anathemas are hurled at men of German birth by those who formerly took them to their arms, and dealt with them in business, and borrowed from them, or advanced money to them; and it is considered a crime to be a German by birth, thou,gh’ I know that many of these people hate the Kaiser and all his ways as much as I do, and heaven knows, that is sufficient hate, and that they left Germany because they hated the trammels imposed upon them there. I admit the soft impeachment that I am just as prone as others not to trust too much so far as Germans are concerned, but it is a fact that true citizens of Australia were condemned as Germans, and not allowed to vote. Now, after, dealing with the German residents of Australia, and with men who did not answer the proclamation, if he had dared the Prime Minister would have dealt with me, and all those who believed with me. I wonder why he did not do so. The war may last for another three years, though we hope it will not, and, in spite of those behind the Honorable member for Yarra, and the honorable member for Parramatta, the Prime Minister may continue to hold the Ministerial bench under the War Precautions Act. Even if he has to close Parliament, even if he has only his regular thirteen behind him, he will still be Prime Minister. The safety of the people of any country which is controlled by a Parliament is that, while the Ministry may do much, they can do little without Supply, but I believe that before the war is finished, the Prime Minister will use the War Precautions Act, and suspend Parliament, and run the country as a real dictator. Any one who would interfere with the ballot-box as he attempted to do would be guilty of doing even that. - We know of the corruption in countries where there is interference with the ballot. We have read of the American system of getting a crowd of bravadoes to keep men from getting into the ballotbox to vote. We all know that the negroes of America have been prevented from voting on hundreds of occasions. And the Prime Minister of Australia, who is supposed to be a Democrat, has come down to the gutter in an endeavour to keep himself in power by preventing others from voting because they disagreed with him. There are men behind him to-day who are there from a variety of circumstances. But I do not think that all of them will consent to be ruled by him. Some of them will assert themselves, and when they do, their numbers will be less, although the party cannot afford to lose many of its members. I am satisfied that if the Prime Minister has his way, the present Ministry will be a Ministry of one.
– Is it not possible that we may get a few supporters elsewhere?
– I am sorry that the Postmaster-General has interjected, because I wish to tell him that William Morris Hughes will not allow him to rule the Post Office whenever he happens to disagree with him. The honorable gentleman will then find that he i3 not the Postmaster-General.
– James, you have extreme confidence.
– It is all right; I know the Prime Minister. Every Minister who differs from him has to go. The right honorable member for Parramatta, in endeavouring to whitewash the Prime Minister, referred to something which took .place a little while ago, when the honorable member for Darwin superseded certain men who occupied positions in the Electoral Department.
– When I found father and son running a booth.
– Yes ; and when, perhaps, the father and son were respectively the president and secretary of the Liberal organization.
– Quite true.
– It is only during the last decade that a Labour candidate for a country constituency has had a chance of winning an election. There are men sitting behind the Prime Minister to-day who know that they have been robbed of votes time after time because of corruption on the part of those who had charge of the Electoral Department.
– Do the honorable member’s remarks apply to the present time, or is he referring to a matter of ancient history ?
– I am referring to what has happened. We know that those who had to fight against those influences have frequently condemned the “gerrymandering” practices of the other side.
– There was one man who kept the names of sixty-five electors off the roll because they would have voted for me.
– I know what the honorable member for EdenMonarowould have done with him.
– I would have booted him out.
– The Prime Minister was resolved to win the conscription referendum at any cost. Talk about appeals to the newspapers to influence the ballot-box 1 Why only on the Wednesday preceding the poll a letter was published” in the Age for no other purpose than to induce electors who intended to vote “ No “ to turn round and vote in the opposite direction. It purported to be written by a man at the front, a Staff Sergeant-Major, who said, “What are you doing in Australia? We hear that you are taking a vote for home service. Do you think you can beat the Kaiser in Australia? What we want is more men. here. What we need 13 more Australian* to lead the fight, and the Tommies will follow.” That was a contemptible thing to say. Does anybody seriously believethat the English Tommies need Australians to lead them into a fight? Why was that letter published? The writer also stated that the Australians are in the trenches continuously for seven days, whereas the British Tommies are there for only twenty-four hours. If that statement be correct, then General Sir Douglas Haig should be shot for keeping our men there a week, while there are millions in England who have never been to the front.
– Who believes that?
– Nobody. Nevertheless, the letter was printed in the Age newspaper as emanating from the front. Had it been written and coloured to induce people to vote “ No “ it would have been censored by the Prime Minister. Personally, I think it was written in the Age newspaper office, or else it was written by William Morris Hughes, and sub-edited in that office. We all know that, during the referendum campaign, newspapers with Labour tendencies which advocated a “No” vote were subjected to the most rigorous censorship, whilst the journals which supported a “Yes” vote were allowed to print anything they chose. Was not that an undue interference with the ballot-box ? Only two days prior to the poll we had glimpses of what might be done by William Morris Hughes. He attempted to prevent the men of Australia from going to the ballotbox.’ Now he denies having done so. But does he deny that, in Victoria, he endeavoured to get certain regulations passed ? Those honorable members who are seated behind the honorable member for Parramatta to-day may whitewash him and excuse his action, but I tell them that just as our time came, so will their time come, so far as William Morris Hughes is concerned.
– They will not trust him.
– Of course, they will not. I understand that they have the compact signed in black and white.
– That is not quite accurate.
-I believe the right honorable member. To-day, Liberal members are belittling the attempts of the Labour party to keep our electoral system pure and clean. When the right honorable member for Parramatta was telling the House how far he and his followers intended to support Mr. Hughes, I observed that a very strong qualification was imposed so far as this particular question is concerned - a very strong qualification. They reserved to themselves the right to attack the Prime Minister on any future occasion when they are willing to believe that he did this thing. To-day, the right honorable member for Parramatta and his party say that they believe the Prime Minister’s statement that he did not do what is alleged against him, but they reserve to themselves the right to attack him whenever they choose to believe that he did. We are told that when rogues fall out honest men get their due, and when those over there fall out with those who are supporting them on this side of the House, Australia will get justice. The Prime Minister has placed us in a peculiar position. The right honorable member for Parramatta has said that we have selected as the basis of our attack on the Government something that had nothing whatever to do with the split in the Labour party. We are not concerned with the split between “ the ragged thirteen “ and the rest of us who have come over to this side of the House. We are showing the people how far William Morris Hughes will go in the direction of corruption when he endeavours to interfere with the ballot-box. The ballot was first introduced in Australia, and has been copied by all so-called civilized countries. It has remained for Australia to show those countries how the ballot-box may be corrupted when a Prime Minister can wield the power behind him, and do just what he pleases.
– But he did not succeed.
– No, he thought that would be the finishing touch. He would have gaoled all the crowds at the “ No “ meetings if he could.
– No proposal he has made is half as bad as the proposal to hire Indians to fight for us.
– I know nothing about that.
– Ask the honorable member for Melbourne about it.
– I know nothing about it. Any man is free to make such a suggestion, and I am not going to condemn those who do. Minimize, as they may try to do, the action of the Prime Minister in this matter, the Government supporters and the Liberal party will have to carry upon their shoulders the responsibility for his action. They may attempt to whitewash him, but the people of Australia will know now what was attempted, and will not accept the Prime Minister’s denial, because the evidence against him is complete. He admits that he desired to issue these regulations, although he says that it was not done. He has to admit that he tried to secure the passing of the regulations in Victoria, and those who sit behind him, as well as the Liberal party, will have to carry the responsibility. They may say, in a light and airy way, that they are prepared to do so, but we are satisfied that we are fastening this responsibility upon their shoulders.
Mr.Riley. - And they will come down.
– They will, and in spite of the German vote. The honorable member for Wide Bay, who represents the Germans of Australia-
– The same voters whom Mr. Fisher represented.
– I ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw that offensive remark.
– I withdraw it. I am always willing to withdraw a statement to which exception is taken.
– But he represents Germans. You represent them yourself.
– I call upon the honorable member for Maranoa to withdraw that remark.
– I will not, because it is true that you represent Germans; there are more in your electorate than in any other.
– Then I name the honorable member for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– Send for “ Billy.”
– Yes, send for “ Billy. “ There are Germans in my electorate, just as there are in every other electorate.
– I am sorry that I should be asked to perform this most distasteful duty, although I must confess that to be suspended on a day like this is a fate that I would dearly love to happen to myself. It is a delightful day. I was dragged in from a most pleasing walk outside to deal with this refractory member, who, by the way, is not a first offender. Will not the honorable member for Maranoa follow his own admirable example of yesterday, and apologize?
– May I be allowed to explain ? There is not an honorable member of this House who does not represent Germans. I do not think there is an electorate in Australia in which there are not German voters, and those who are returned to this House are representing them. That is all I meant to convey. If you, sir, think that the interjection was offensive, I shall certainly withdraw it. I am quite prepared to apply the remark to myself, because there are Germans in my electorate, and I represent them.
-I took the honorable member’s interjection’ as being certainly offensive, but his explanation shows that he did not intend any personal reflection, and I therefore withdraw my naming of him.
– In reference to the somewhat dramatic utterance of the honorable member for Flinders, we are more used to hear him calmly and coolly deliberating on questions that come before the House. We all listen with pleasure to his calm, cool style, in which he would sentence a man to death without a tremor, but to-day he became quite heated when he threw those papers on the table. He has, of course, been a Minister; I have not; but Ministerial responsibilities and obligations are no greater than those which come to men in lesser walks of life, especially where they are associated with other men in responsible positions. If the chairman of a body of which I was a member was corrupt, I would not hesitate to make the matter as public as I could, and to throw as much light as possible upon his corruption.
– Breaking your oath.
– No man has the right to use his oath to cloak a foul crime. If the Prime Minister has done what he was charged with to-day, and committed a foul crime on the people, no manhas a right to be bound by his oath so far as that matter is concerned. I can quite understand the honorable member for Flinders, with his legal mind, and in view of the environment in which he has been brought up - I was not dragged up in it myself - having a, somewhat different idea from myself on that point. We are often told that it is not necessary for a legal decision to follow the lines of justice; but, not being a lawyer, I believe the law should be swept on one side and justice given to the people. So in this case what is done may not be legal, or the generally-accepted idea of what should be done by a Cabinet Minister, but it means justice to the people, and if there has been any technical breach of what is legal, the people will condone it, because the honorable member who gave us the information did so in the interests of the people, and not of himself.
– I shall confine myself strictly to the amendment before the Chair, as we shall have ample opportunity -later on to let the* country know what we think of other actions of the Government or its head during the campaign that we have just come through. I regard the action of the Prime Minister in issuing these discreditable regulations, as they have been called, as the culmination of a long list of discreditable actions which have characterized the most discreditable campaign that has ever taken place in this country.
– I think you are right.
– But the whole of that charge lies at the door of those who conducted the affirmative side of the campaign.
– The people know better.
– This was an incident, “perhaps the worst, in a campaign characterized by methods which I hope never to see repeated. The Leader of the Liberal party went this afternoon to some pains to assure the House that he did not countenance the regulations, or approve of them, and held himself in no way responsible for them, and believed that they were a mistake, but that he was prepared to accept the word of the Prime Minister that they were never issued. If he wants any further proof than that given by the honorable member for Capricornia, I assure him, as representing an electorate where they were issued, that they were actually issued. I challenge the Leader of the Liberal party to deny that statement. The right honorable member went to some pains to show that he wished to be dissociated from them, and, to my mind, indicated that if he believed they were really issued, he would not countenance them by voting against the amendment.
– I should vote against the amendment anyhow.
– Apart altogether from the merits or demerits of this question ?
– For reasons which I stated, I believe it to be in the public interests not to vote for it.
– If theregulations were issued, they mean such a pollution of the ballot-box as has never taken place in this country before. If the Leader of the Liberal party says heis going to countenance that kind of thing - and that is really what he has committed himself to-
– I did not say anything of the kind; I said quite the contrary.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY .TheLeader of the Opposition took great pains; to show that it would be a mistake toissue such regulations - that he did not believe or agree with them - and, therefore, the only excuse that the honorable gentleman can give for voting for the Prime Minister on this occasion is that he accepts the Prime Minister’s word that the regulations were never issued. I have ample proof, however, that the regulations were issued, and were, in somecases, acted on. I know that instructions were issued to the Deputy Returning Officers, and that, in some cases, owing to the fact that the instructions could* not be overtaken, the questions were put to electors.
– I think that the honorable member should give particular cases to the House.
– I am taking the responsibility of saying that the regulations were issued, and were, in some cases, under the circumstances I have mentioned, acted upon. When the Prime Minister says that the regulations were not issued, that is only in keeping with other forms of misrepresentation that have characterized the whole conduct of the campaign on the other side.
– In what Gazette were the regulations issued ?
– They were issued to the -Deputy Returning Officers, who acted upon them to the extent that, in some cases, the questions were asked on polling day. Every member of the Liberal party in this House who votes for the Prime Minister on this occasion stands committed to the vilest form of ballot-box pollution that has ever arisen in the history of this country. The honorable member for Werriwa, speaking as an anti-conscriptionist, said that, in. his electorate, the effect of these regulations was felt; but, nevertheless, that honorable member intends to vote, against the amendment. I give that honorable ^member credit for the candour and honesty which has characterized his political life in this House; but while he admits that the effect of the regulations was felt in his electorate, he is going to vote against the amendment.
– The honorable member ;has made a slight mistake. I do not know -of any instance in my electorate where there was the effect the honorable mem: ber has mentioned.
– Will the honorable member say that the regulations were not issued to the Deputy Returning Officers?
– I have no proof as to my electorate.
– It is not a matter of great surprise that the Prime Minister did this thing ; it could not surprise anybody who has been in close touch with the operations of the Prime Minister from, the commencement of the campaign. Every time the Prime Minister replies he tries to meet the other side with his own weapon. Yesterday he made a statement in the House in which, for the twentieth time since the campaign has been over, he has referred to the gross misrepresentation of those who advocated the negative side. That is to say, the Prime Minister believes that he is open to a charge of misrepresentation, and he thinks the best way to evade the charge is to “ get it off “ on those opposed to him. Look at the history” of the whole affair from the very inception. This is but an incident in the attempt made to interfere with that freedom which the people should exercise in giving an honest vote at the ballot-box on such an occasion. In the first place, I have always contended that this was not a proper .question to put to the people, because the principal facts were withheld.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter, as it is outside the scope of the question .
– I am merely endeavouring to show that, while there was an attempt to interfere with :freedom at the ballot-box, the principal facts were withheld. Now we come to another phase, which I mention merely to :show that no great surprise need be felt that the attempt was made. I remember one morning a question being put, I believe by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, to the Prime Minister to ascertain whether full freedom would be given to the men in camps to record their votes, and we had an assurance that there would be no interference with those men, or with the men at the front. I remember the words of the Prime Minister, who said that there would be no interference by military officers with the free exercise of the rights of those men to record their votes according to their conscience. No doubt the - Prime Minister was wise in his brief speech to-day in not attempting to answer the charge made against him. How does his statement before the referendum fit in with the message given to the troops in Prance by LieutenantGeneral Sir W. R. Birdwood, commanding the Australian Imperial Force? The Prime Minister knows this message was delivered ; his manifesto was sent over, and he asked that it be read to the men in camp. I venture to say there were not equal rights given to those who advocated the negative side; they had no chance .either here or over there. This was the message -
As General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force, it is not for me to interfere in any political matters, or to influence the voting of our men on the coming referendum-
That was an introduction which showed that he knew he was exceeding his rights in interfering with the liberties of the men -
I know well that in any case all will vote as seems to them necessary in the best interests of Australia and the great Empire to which we belong, whose freedom has been, and still is, in danger of being turned into slavery by Germany. I feel, however, that I. can inform you all of how really essential it is that we should get all the men available to keep these magnificent Australian Forces, which are how in the field, and whose fame is renowned throughout the Empire, up to their strength.
Every single man would, I- am sure, bitterly resent and regret it if we had to reduce a single battalion, battery, or company, every one of which has now made history, and established a tradition which we all, hope will last as long as the British flag flies over our worldwide Empire.
Here is where he gave his instructions - .
But I think it is probable that all ranks do not know as well as I do the absolute .necessity of keeping our reinforcements right up to strength, and the present system is not doing this.
This is from General Birdwood, who said, in the beginning of his address, that he had no right to interfere in such matters.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the motion.
– He said that at the present time the voluntary system was not keeping up reinforcements, and in those words he appealed to the soldiers at the front to vote against the voluntary system. I say that was a repudiation of the promise made in this Chamber by the Prime Minister, when he assured the House and the country that there would be no such interference by military officers with men in the camps,either here or abroad. Apart from these regulations, there was another form in which an attempt was made to unduly interfere with the rights of the men in camp, but we had just as glaring attempts to interfere with the people generally. I had the honour of having the Prime Minister in my electorate, or very close to it. The distinction meant the right honorable gentleman’s extinction so far as that particular district was concerned, because there was a solid “ No “ majority there, where the people evidently saw through all this kind of thing. When honorable members talk about undue influence, and the attempt to terrify men and prevent them from coming to the poll, I remind them of the statement made by the Prime Minister in his speech at Albury prior to the referendum, to the farmers there, and through them to the farmers of Australia. Here is an extract from that speech to show how he attempted to cajole the farmers into voting in the way he wished. He said -
Some farmers talked about their crops, but unless they could market their crop it would not be worth taking from the paddock.
– Order ! I ask” the honorable member not to go beyond the motion.
– Very well, I will not read the speech. I intended only to show that the farmers were told that unless they voted ‘ ‘ Yes ‘ ‘ there would be no ships to take away their harvest, and no money to buy it.
– Order ! That has nothing whatever to do with the motion before the House.
– I refer to it as another form of influencing the ballot. In order to prove that the Prime Minister was not above the use of the form of influencing the ballot to which the motion specially refers, I desire to point out that he did not stop at just as insidious a form of influencing the votes of the electors in another way. If you say I am out of order in doing that, I, of course, bow to your decision. I am not surprised that the Prime Minister should have used the form of intimidation referred to in the motion, because, throughout the referendum campaign, he used quite as bad, if not worse, forms of intimidation of the electors of this country. With regard to the regulations referred to in the motion, what are the facts ‘ As I understand the matter, the Prime Minister endeavoured to get those regulations agreed to by a majority of his Executive. Certain members of the Executive refused to agree to them, and later on he got certain other members of the Executive to agree to them. If there is any principle for which the Prime Minister has stood in the past, it is the principle of majority’ rule, but here is an instance in which he was not prepared to accept the decision of the majority of the Executive. He ran away from that decision, and forced these regulations through upon the consent of two members of the Executive in addition to himself. I am not going’ to say a word about the members of the Executive who agreed to the regulations, but about the action of the Prime Minister in the matter. He took up the attitude that when he could not get the whole or a majority of the Executive to agree to the regulations, he would meet elsewhere as many members of the Executive as would agree to them, would then consider their agreement an Executive act, and endeavour to force it down the throats of the electors of the country. I have had something like six years’ association with the Prime Minister. I to-day belong to the great Australian Labour party. The Leader of the Liberal party speaks of this as a new name for the party to which I belong. It is not a new name, but the old name for the party, under which the Prime Minister, as well as the rest of us, has lived. As one who has followed him in the past, I claim to know something of his views, and I say that if there is one thing for which the party has always claimed to stand, it is the secrecy and sacredness of the ballot-box. That is something which, above others, any political party in any country should be proud to stand for. There is no party, Liberal or Labour, who will to-day from any platform in the world say that they do not believe in the secrecy of the hal- lot. I can quite understand the indignation of the honorable member for Flinders to-day. Such a thing as resentment at the pollution of the ballot-box does not appeal to him. He is a gentleman who, during his political life in this State, has missed no opportunity that presented itself to him to pollute the ballot-box. He robbed many estimable men in this State of their rights as citizens.
– Order !
– I can quite understand that the honorable member for Flinders will in this matter be found up to the hilt with his new leader, or ally. If we required an indication of the true fusion which has taken place, we have it in the fact that, although the Leader of the Liberal party expresses his indignation at this action by the Government, and characterises it as a mistake, he is going presently to fall around the neck of the Prime Minister. This has been the grossest attempt to pollute the ballot-box in this country which has come within my knowledge during my brief political career. I know of nothing to equal it in what I have seen or read. I say that the party that to-day will, on this matter, be fused with the Prime Minister and the few who follow him, must share all the condemnation that will come the way of the Prime Minister for what took place during the recent discreditable campaign, out of which. I am pleased to say, the Democracy of this country has come triumphant. I wish to take this opportunity, together with those who constitute the party, to which I have the honour to belong, to say that I wash my hands of the whole affair. A lot of explanation will be required from the Leader of the Opposition to show that he is not convicted up to the hilt in all that has happened in regard to this matter.
.- I did not propose to contribute to this debate until the honorable member for Yarra sought to place upon every member who opposed the amendment the responsibility for approving of a line of action alleged to have been taken by the Prime Minister, but absolutely denied by that honorable gentleman. On this point there is a conflict of testimony. A statement is made by the honorable member for Capricornia, who! could only have given the information he claimed to possess by a violation of his pledged word of honour, and it is in conflict with that of the Prime Minister. In the circumstances, I have no hesitation in accepting the word of the Prime Minister. The subject-matter of the amendment has no reference to the present Ministry. It is a post-mortem pronouncement on a defunct Government. The present Government were not in existence at the time this action was alleged to have been taken. Sitting in support of the honorable member for Yarra are men who, though they denounce the Prime Minister for an alleged action in connexion with the referendum, remained as colleagues of that right honorable gentleman practically until the last day of the life of the old Ministry, when they were dispossessed of office. How could those honorable gentlemen acquiesce in . the action of the Prime Minister by remaining in his Cabinet for weeks afterwards, and yet support the amendment moved by the honor-‘ able member for Yarra? Another aspect of this matter is presented by the attitude of the honorable member for Capricornia. As a colleague of the Prime Minister, he agreed to the Government proposal for the taking of a referendum. Those proposals went forth to the country as the policy of the Government, and, consequently, affected and bound every colleague of the Prime Minister. During the campaign, they remained in office as sponsors for the policy, which the Prime Minister had said was necessary for the safety of the Empire and the Throne, the advisers of which they were for the time being. They allowed the proposals to go forth in their name, whilst behind their chief’s back, they were informing their organizationsby their neutral attitude that they did not beiieve in them. It was only when the press succeeded in creating a public conscience on this matter, and the Labour organizations brought pressure to bear on them, that they resigned, and sought the cover of the alleged regulation to get out. But their retreat was too late to save their skins, and it deceived nobody. Even after that date, two other Ministers remained as colleagues of the leader whom they are prepared to de-, nounce to-day because of some alleged regulation. If they honestly believed that an attempt had been made to interfere with the secrecy of the ballot-box, it was their duty to resign immediately they made that discovery. Instead of doing that they continued to draw their Ministerial salaries, and only when they found the Prime Minister in an adjacent room writing out their dismissals did they attempt to resign.
.- When the amendment was moved yesterday the Prime Minister stated that he intended to take no notice of it. To-day he displaced the Minister who secured the adjournment of the debate in order that he might take notice of it. Evidently during the night, he discovered that this gun was loaded to such extent that it demanded some attention on his part. And I am wondering what went wrong with the Minister for the Navy that he forgot to continue the debate. Apparently, the “ dictator “ had spoken, and, like a faithful follower, the Minister for tue Navy sat back. No one who has known the Prime Minister can feel anything but disappointment at his attempt to denounce this amendment to-day. His speech was absolutely the most feeble utterance he has ever made in the course of his political career. His statement was remarkable for two features. In the first place, he said, “ I am, and there is no other. ‘ Had I been in the position alleged by the honorable member for Capricornia, I should have done this thing without any reference to the objecting Ministers or anybody else.” In that statement we have a revelation of the spirit that has animated the Prime Minister ever since his return from England. The second feature of his speech was the apology he offered by stating that no such regulation has been issued as has been alleged. That may be a technicality - one of those clever misstatements of which a lawer particularly is capable. I hav only one objection to the amendment. It is a loaded shell- a “ Jack Johnson “ of the largest kind and best quality. My objection is that we did not’ adopt the practice of the British Army at the front, and throw a barrage of artillery fire into the opposition trenches before we came to a hand-to-hand conflict. However, this shell has evidently inconvenienced and upset the equilibrium and comfort of the members who occupy the Ministerial benches. This no-confidence proposal has ample ‘ justification behind it, apart altogether from the one reason mentioned. No one imagines for a moment that this is the only point upon which we could arraign the Prime Minister and his Government, or that it will be the only thing on which we shall arraign them.
No one who has knowledge of the inner working of Federal parliamentary government during the last three months can be unaware ot the fact that there is a catalogue of crimes committed by the Prime Minister and his supporters that will require a good deal of explanation.
– Name one of the crimes.
– The particular crime to which I intend to direct my remarks is that indicated in the amendment. No greater crime has ever been committed against the Democracy of the Commonwealth since it became acquainted with parliamentary government.
– Like a pack of wolves, you would eat any one of your number who is down.
– Unfortunately, the illustration is not applicable. We shall denounce and oppose every leader who departs from the principles for which the party stands. If it has stood for one thing more than another, that thing is the purity, secrecy, and security of the ballot-box. We have won our seats here because, by continuous agitation, we have secured a fair deal at the polling booths. Every Labour party in every State of Australia has had excellent reasons for complaining of the iniquities practised against them in the polling booths. You, sir, perhaps more than any other man in this Chamber, know what it is to have antagonists at the tables as presiding officers and poll clerks. Until recently, Labour candidates have found it impossible to have a friend in the polling booths. But we called public attention to the matter to such an extent that, except for the recent referendum, the voting at Commonwealth elections is now, I believe, showing signs of purity and cleanness. The amendment brings us to this proposition. There has been a return to the worst forms of political corruption - and I am not overlooking the depths to which Liberal Governments have descended in the past. We have now had introduced for .the first time in the history of Australia the methods of Tammany, which have so disgraced American politics. The amendment is justified as a motion of want of confidence. Although the Prime Minister tried to belittle and to minimize its importance, it is evident that he has lost the confidence of his Cabinet and of his party, and that he- will lose the confidence of this House, though perhaps that may not be made plain by the carrying of thisamendment. He has-, in effect, lost the confidence of the -House. Not a. member has faith in him, and I question whether many of those who sit behind him have confidence in him. Before long he will find that the country has lost faith in him.
– Has the honorable member something up his sleeve?’
– It will be my policy to keep peppering away at the Ministry as with a machine-gun until they are brought before their masters, the electors. The Prime Minister has been so discredited by the despicable methods which he has adopted ‘for conducting the affairs of the country that the sooner the people send, him about his business the “better. The Leader of the Liberal party made use of two expressions to . which I wish to refer. He said that we are supersensitive about the electoral law. Well, we are, and we have reason to be. The Australian electoral system has been the envy and admiration of most of the peoples of the world, and has been copied by some countries. We have -reason to be proud of it. There is no purer, better, and sounder electoral system in operation in any other part of the world, and it should be the desire of every member of the House to preserve its. high principles. Yet the Leader of the Liberal party gibes at what he calls our supersensitiveness about the purity of the ballot-box. There is nothing about which we should be more sensitive. Nothing demands closer attention than the -preservation of the secrecy of the ballot, not only in our own interests, but in the interests of the men and women outside who depend on it for their protection. The Leader of the Liberal party ‘further said that this was our contribution to the war. I do not think that he meant that it was our only contribution, because he knows better than that. But even if it were, no grander contribution could have been made by any party than the guaranteeing to the world that the people of Australia, are determined to keep the ballot-boxes clean and the polling booths clear. The honorable member for Indi, has read some extracts from a- manifesto issued, by General
Birdwood to the1 troops’ in the trenches. I have- two remarks to make about that.. The- Prime Minister- seems to have been in very close consultation with, the General, and to have inspired this message. It was an immoral thing for him to make use of the General to bring before theboys at the front a message as to- how they should, vote. . General Birdwood is a man for whom we have all entertained a high, and, I think, a proper, respect. We have admired him as a soldier,, and I think that the way in which he has: commanded; the Australian troops- in Europe has givenevery satisfaction to the people of this country. We have been delighted with his efforts and with his services. But when a British General interferes in Australian politics it is time to cry outGeneral Birdwood should be told to mind his own business, and to leave our politics alone. It is an impertinence of the worst kind for a British General to attempt to interfere with Australian, soldiers by advising them how to vote. I hope that no other British General will be guilty of such an action.
– It was the fault of the Prime Minister.
– I have said so. It was bad. enough to have published’ here, just before the polling, obviously inspired messages from Sir Douglas Haig, Sir William Robertson, and General Birdwood. Every one could see through the little trick that was being played. I understand that the Prime Minister issued a manifesto to the Anzacs, and that it was distributed to the soldiers at the front., We may discover a copy of it later; but I understand that it contained an appeal to the soldiers that, as their vote was to be taken first, it should be such as to give a lead to the people of Australia on polling day. If that is so, then the. Prime Minister was guilty of a despicable attempt to influence the soldiers, so that they, in turn, might influence the . voters of Australia. He deliberately took the vote of the soldiers first, so that their vote might influence the vote in Australia. He should be downright ashamed of himself for resorting’ to such a. trick. Then I understand that ‘he reserved a- certain amount of space in the daily papers- of Australia for. the morning, of polling day;, and that it was to be filled with details-of the
Anzac vote. Some indication was expected to be given as to how the Anzacs had voted, in order that it might have an influence on the vote in Australia on that day.
Mr.Webster. - Is not the honorable member drawing on his imagination a great deal?
– The truth of the statement that the Anzac vote was received on the Friday, and was of such a character as to induce the Prime Minister to inform the daily papers that he would not require the space reserved on the Saturday morning, may yet be discovered. At any rate, I make the statement; it lies with the Prime Minister to deny it or otherwise. It is very significant, however, that until to-day the Prime Minister has deliberately refused to permit the people of Australia to know the details of the Anzac vote; and if it is true that in the manifesto to the soldiers he asked them to vote so as to give a lead to the people of Australia, I am clearly led tothe assumption that, if the vote had been as he anticipated, it would have been published on the Saturday morning. First of all, he tried to unduly influence the soldiers, and he was mean enough and despicable enough to suggest that the soldiers should influence the people of Australia.
– Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if it is parliamentary language to refer to an honorable member as despicable.
– As far as I can follow the honorable member for Brisbane, he was referring to something done outside this chamber.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member may refer to the action of another honorable member as being despicable, and still be in order? I suggest that he may not do so.
– An honorable member may not say that another honorable member is despicable; but he is in order if he says that something which has been issued outside the House is despicable.
– Then if an honorable member takes some action outside this House another honorable member may say of him that his action is despicable.
– No. That is not the point.
– I may not have heard exactly what you said, Mr. Speaker, but, as I take exception to what I think you said, I should be glad to know if you did say it.
– I am not here toargue with the honorable member. If he disagrees with what I have said, he hasa proper course to follow.
– Not only did the Prime Minister resort to this device to influence the Anzac vote, but he also has refused to allow the press to publish any details of the Anzac vote. He solemnly assured this House, on the day when it adjourned in September last, that no restriction would be placed on. the press in regard to the referendum.. Yet all sorts of restrictions havebeen placed on the press. Through the press he tried to influence the vote; by misrepresentations on the platform he tried to influence it; and right through. the whole of the campaign there was anattempt at interference with the polling booths to a disgraceful extent. I go further, and say that since the poll was taken the Prime Minister has refused to allow the electoral officers to count the vote. They were limited to counting a certain number of votes per day. It was a slowing-down policy with a vengeance. The result of the referendum could have been made known a week or more earlier than we heard it. The electoral officers were not only tied down to counting a certain number of votes per day, but they were also only permitted to tell the public twice a day what the result was; and by various; tricks and devices the votes were all to be so mixed up and spread that no one would be able to tell where those in regard to any particular locality came from..
– On a point of order, the honorable member is not correct in. saying that I gave instructions that only a certain number of voters were to be counted each day.
-The honorable member has not taken the right course to show that the statement was incorrect. An honorable member who considers that a statement made during the course of a debate is incorrect can make a personal’ explanation, or get some other honorable member to rise at a later stage and contradict it. I cannot allow the honorable member, or any other honorable member, to intervene while one honorable member is speaking, and contradict everything with which he disagrees.
– I do not wish to do that.
– That is what the honorable member is doing. ‘ He has ample opportunity of contradicting any statement he wishes to contradict at a later stage.
– Very well; let the honorable member say what he likes.
– I hope that the Prime Minister does not deny that the press were under instructions not to publish certain information in regard to the , vote, that the papers were only permitted to get certain information twice a day, and that the votes were to be mixed up. First of all, they were to be counted into each electorate, and finally they were confined to the State, so that they would not be identifiable by the ordinary citizen. There is another way in which he interfered with tlie votes. The Premier of Queensland sent a cablegram to’ the Agent-General of that State in London containing a message to the Queensland soldiers, advising them to vote “ No. “ A week after the referendum had been taken, that official cablegram had not been delivered, and, so far as I know, it has not yet been delivered.
– Does the honorable member say that the Premier of Queensland telegraphed to our soldiers, advising them to vote “No”?
– The Premier of Queensland despatched a cable to the Agent-General requesting him to transmit a certain message to the soldiers of that State, advising them to vote “No.” He was the only Premier in Australia who was an anti-conscriptionist.
– After he got back here.
– Well, he had seen the light.
– He had as much right to advise the Queensland soldiers in France to vote “ No “ as other Premiers had to advise the electors of Australia to vote “Yes.”
– Did (they advise the soldiers how to vote?
– Evidently the honorable member has not heard my previous statement that a manifesto issued by the Prime Minister was distributed to our troops in the trenches, advising them to vote “Yes.” This referendum was taken under the Military Service Referendum Act. I have here a copy of some remarks which I made while that measure was passing through the House. I said -
One cannot escape the feeling that, from beginning to the end of the Bill, there is an obvious series of little tricks and arrangements designed to catch votes in certain directions, and eliminate them in others. The Bill is framed to catch votes for conscription, and to reject votes that may be anti-conscription.
That measure, in the light of the referendum, is now seen to be one of the trickiest administrative Acts ever passed by any Parliament. We introduced into it some novel features in regard to electoral administration. The worst feeling that I have about the whole thing is that the Prime Minister, by reason of his influence with the Postmaster-General, was able to withhold the delivery of cables, and by reason of his influence with the Chief Electoral Officer has created a feeling of suspicion in the minds of the people regarding the purity of our Public Service. Hitherto Mr. Oldham. has been highly respected by the members of this Parliament. I think that he deserved our respect, because I honestly believe he tried to do what was right in regard to electoral matters. But owing to the pressure exerted by the Prime Minister he has become a mere tool - a man who is evidently willing bo do what he is told, no matter whether it be right or wrong. I appreciate Mr. Oldham’s difficult position,s and I sympathize very deeply with him. There was the Prime Minister, with all the authority of the Government behind him, passing regulation after regulation, and issuing instruction after instruction, and who was Mr. Oldham that he should defy him ? He occupied a most invidious position. But if the administration of our affairs is to be conducted in such a way that our public officers are to become subservient to every whim and caprice of the, head of any Government, we have got right down to the worst features of the American system That ia the kind of practice which is resorted to there whenever a new Minister appoints his own officials, who are there to do whatever they are told, and to ask no questions. I hope that Mr. Oldham will be given an opportunity to redeem himself from’ the suspicion which the influence of the Prime Minister has cast upon him. I repeat that, in the Military Service Referendum Act, we introduced some novel features, which have . not made for the purity of elections, and we shall require -to be increasingly careful -to amend our -Electoral Act in the future, with a view topreventing any Minister being vested with power to destroy the spirit, of that Statute, Which is . the only guarantee of our political freedom. The spirit of the Electoral Act is the only thing which gives to people outside some assurance of protection, and which enables us to stand up for liberty as we see it. Yet by the dominant will of one man the whole spirit of that Act was ruthlessly brushed aside, and regulations were introduced which practically abrogated its provisions.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I wish to refer now particularly to the regulations which are the subject-matter of the amendment. The Prime Minister has not denied that, at an Executive Council meeting held in Melbourne, at which four Ministers were present, these regulations were first submitted. “It is not denied that they were then rejected, the four Ministers present refusing to ratify the draft which the Prime Minister had left before proceeding to Sydney. It is rather peculiar that the Prime Minister himself did not wait to see the regulations passed. I have a suspicion that the right honorable gentleman, with his cleverness and foresight, anticipated considerable public objection to the regulations. ‘The four Ministers who were left to form the Executive Council meeting would have been in a peculiar position if they had ratified the regulations, since all’ the responsibility for them, and all the criticism, would have fallen upon them, while the Prime Minister would have cleverly escaped.
– Would he not have had to bear the responsibility for any act of his colleagues ?
– Yes ; but he would have had an easy answer to all criticism.. He could have said that the regulations were approved by Senator Gardiner, Senator Russell, the Minister for the Navy, and the Treasurer of that day ; that he was not present, and, therefore, was not responsible.
– But he could not evade his responsibility.
– The Prime Minister has many’ a time found an easy way out of a greater difficulty.
– But it is . an elementary principle of responsible . government that, all the members of a Cabinet are bound by its actions.
– And another elementary principle of responsible . ‘government is that the Prime Minister is individually responsible forthe collective acts of his Ministers. That being so, he could no doubt have been held responsible. I have referred to this . phase of the question merely as presenting a. rather significant fact. A still more significant fact is that the Minister for the Navy, who attended the Executive Council in Melbourne at which the regulations were disapproved, went on to Sydney, where, with the GovernorGeneraland the Prime Minister, he formed another Executive meeting, at whicn the regulations were approved.
– Where did the honorable member hear that?
– Itis . common knowledge.If it is not true, it remains for the Minister for the Navy to deny it. What happened to the Minister during his progress from Melbourne to Sydney, or while he was in Sydney, one does not know; but the fact in the minds of the public is that from the -time of the Executive meeting in Melbourne at which the regulations were disapproved until the meeting” at Sydney at which they were approved, a remarkable change came over the attitude of the Minister for the Navy. Be that as it may, the particular point that I desire <to raise in this connexion is that the Governor-General was placed in a very delicate and unfortunate position. Four Ministers refused to ratify a regulation, two Ministers and the Governor-General approved of it. I should like to know of the GovernorGeneral was informed-
– The honorable member must not discuss the GovernorGeneral.
– I should like to know if the Prime Minister was informed officially by the Minister for the Navy, at the meeting of the Executive held in Sydney, that the regulations had been disapproved in Melbourne ? The Prime Minister was entitled to have that information, and I presume he was told it. The other member of the Executive Council was also entitled to be told, because it is most peculiar that four Ministers having refused to ratify certain regulations, two Ministers, with His Excellency the Governor-General, should subsequently have approved of them. I state quite clearly and frankly my suspicion that the Chairman of that Executive Council meeting was not informed ‘of the facts of the case, otherwise I cannot believe that, as an impartial gentleman, he would have agreed to the ratification of the regulations.
– Order !
– The regulations are most unfortunate. It was proposed under them to ask young men under the age of thirty-five years who presented themselves to vote at the referendum poll-
Are you a person to whom the proclamation of 29th September, 1916, calling upon single men under thirty-five to present themselves for enlistment applies, and have you presented yourself for enlistment accordingly or been exempted ?
– Is the honorable member reading from the regulations themselves?
– No, from a press report in regard to them. In this report, the following statement is attributed to the ex-Treasurer, the honorable’ member for Capricornia -
Xt was proposed that if any intending voter answered in the negative, or if the presiding officer had reason to believe that the person claiming to vote was a person to whom the proclamation applied, and that he bad failed to obey it, the presiding officer, before permit ting him to vote, was to mark the ballot-paper with the word “Proclamation” (or “Proc”) All such ballot-papers were to be dealt with in the manner as ballot-papers indorsed (section 9), which deals with persons, whose votes may be challenged on grounds of nationality.
There was also a clause providing for the appointment of tribunals empowered to determine whether the elector had wilfully failed to comply with the proclamation, and that such wilful failure was to be deemed disloyalty. When the rumours became current as to the surprise that the Prime Minister had iu store for certain electors, there’ was, to my own knowledge, a suspicion in the minds of young men that this was to be the surprise. I was asked distinctly at public meetings on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the poll what was likely to happen. I was north of Cairns when this information reached me, and I got the surprise of my life, because, never, in in the wildest nights of my imagination, did I think that even this Prime Minister would resort to such a misuse of his power as to attempt to intimidate voters in the polling booths of Australia. The Prime Minister said to-day that the regulations had not been issued. Technically, I think, he is correct. After all, I do nob think that the regulations went out officially; but the Prime Minister cannot deny that instructions were issued to the presiding officers at the polling booths to ask the question, and to take the action that I have indicated . If he dares to deny it, then I can flatly contradict him, because, to my own knowledge, the question was asked. The Prime Minister has only to apply to the Chief Electoral Officer to discover that certain ballot papers were returned marked “Proc.,” as required by these regulations. I was interviewed bv individuals in Cairns on polling day, and in Brisbane during the following week, by men who were asked the question. I quote a letter from the Sydney Sun, in which Herbert Graves, of 123 Arthurstreet, Surry Hills, wrote -
According to the daily papers the Prime Minister has denied that any instruction had been issued to electoral officials with reference to the votes of single men. If you would grant the space, perhaps my experience at the polling- booth will be of some interest to your readers. At about ten minutes past 8 on Saturday morning, among other questions, I was asked the following by the poll clerks at Surry Hills booth : - Are you married or single? Have you been called up? Are you between 18 and 35 years? On receiving and filling in my ballotpaper I was about to place it in the box, when one of the poll clerks stopped me. I was then told my vote would have to go into an envelope. I declined to hand up my vote, and asked that the chief official should be sent for: After some delay the chief officer arrived, and said to the poll clerks, “ You need not trouble about that. That instruction has been cancelled.” “
That can be duplicated all over Australia. It is, therefore, idle for the Prime Minister to try to persuade the House that the regulations were not approved, issued, or acted upon. Everybody knows that the wires were held up while 9,000 telegrams were sent out to 9.000 Deputy Returning Officers, and that subsequently, when three Ministers resigned, and the Prime Minister had thereby an indication of the probable state of public feeling in the matter, 9,000 further telegrams had to be sent out withdrawing the instruction. These were too late, and I am told that at Longreach, in your own electorate, Mr. Speaker, it was late in the afternoon before the Presiding Officer got his, and the questions were being asked of voters practically the whole day long. If the Leader of the Liberal party is content to take the assurance of the Prime Minister that the regulation was not issued, is he content to take our contradiction to the effect that the instructions were issued and acted upon ? If he is as sincere as he professes to be, he should follow up his statement to-day that the whole thing was a mistake, and refuse to approve of such regulations, by voting against the Government, and particularly against a Prime Minister who would sanction . them. In the early stages of the campaign the Prime Minister distinctly stated the exemptions that would be granted. The first exemptions were absolute in regard to only sons, and in regard to any single man who was the sole support of dependants, while . of families that had already given volunteers, the remaining members up to one-half of the family were not to be called upon. But as the campaign proceeded, and the Prime Minister began to realize how he would have to scratch and scrape for votes to get through, it was remarkable how almost every day the press contained an addition to the list of exemptions. I gathered them here, north, and south. There were exemptions in every direction, and explanations almost every day by the Prime Minister as to what those exemptions meant, until finally the list wound up by a promise by the Prime Minister that every man necessary to carry on the rural industries of the country would be granted exemption, at any rate for the period of the harvest. At the rate the Prime Minister was granting exemptions I began to wonder where he was going to get any men at all, but his purpose was not to guarantee the reaping of the harvest but to influence votes, and he succeeded very well. The exemptions promised for the cereal, fruit, sugar, and other rural industries affected a number of people. I have here a letter from a gentleman at Gympie, in the Lilley electorate, informing me that at one polling booth in the electorate - Montville, in ‘ the Blackall Range - 129 voted “Yes,” and one voted “ No.”
– That was one sensible electorate, anyway.
– Probably the Minister did not get there, otherwise the same result Would nave happened there after his speech as happened at Cessnock. In the Montville district, when the Exemption Court came to sit, there were forty-four applications for exemption. These people were willing to vote “ Yes.”
The Prime Minister hoped by promising exemptions to secure their votes, and it was quite evident that the promise of exemptions did have that effect. In this case he secured the votes of forty-four who were willing to compel other people to go away, while anxious that their own businesses should not suffer during the process.
– They were only temporary exemptions, anyway.
– Nobody was led away by the character of those exemptions. Everybody knew they were only a sprat to catch a mackerel, and that once the “ Yes “ vote had been secured, the exemption question would be easily forgotten, especially when we remember how easily the Prime Minister changed his mind on the question of conscription. Only a few months after he had declared himself unalterably opposed to anything in the nature of conscription, he told us that circumstances had induced him to change his mind. Probably the Bill passed, by Parliament gave the Prime Minister all the encouragement he required to tamper with the electoral law. It was a most serious interference with the electoral law, and abrogated all the provisions in our electoral system to secure that only enrolled citizens should vote. On 14th September I said, speaking on the second reading of the Bill-
– Order ! The honorable member must not quote from a debate of this session.
– I called attention on that day to the fact that the Bill upset all our previous arrangements with regard to the right to vote. I pointed out, and made no complaint of it, that we were giving votes to soldiers at the front simply because they were twenty-one years of age. and refusing it to other soldiers because they were under twentyone. I said we were giving a vote to the people in the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member is discussing a matter that has already been dealt with this session.
– The Act gave votes to people who were not entitled to them under our law. It deprived people of votes who were entitled to them. It introduced into our electoral law a system of which the honorable members then in opposition ‘ expressed tacit approval. No wonder the Prime Minister thought that, having the support of the right honorable member for Parramatta and his party in such a wide opening of the doors of the electoral law, he was safe in going further. Evidently thinking he could rely - upon the assistance of the Liberal party, he was encouraged to go on with the regulation for the intimidation of voters, and he did not altogether count without his host. It is very evident that he still has the support of the Liberal party, even for this regulation, which, had’ it been introduced at any other time, or in any other circumstances, would have been denounced by the Liberal party in this chamber as one of the most atrocious things ever perpetrated on a. community.
– We never heard of it in Western Australia.
– Had this thing been done by the Liberal party, had it been done by the right honorable member for Swan, no man in this country would have denounced him more vigorously and effectively than the Prime Minister himself. He would have been the man that we would have stood behind assisting, cheering, and congratulating on what he would have been saying because of what the right honorable member had done. We had a taste at an earlier stage of the session of what we were to expect. The Prime Minister, when introducing the Referendum Bill, said that it did not matter what honorable members said, or how long they talked, the poll would be taken on the 28th; and when the Leader of the Opposition said, “Suppose the Bill is not passed?” the right honorable gentleman replied, “That won’t matter; the poll will be taken on the 28th.” We have now come to a dangerous crisis in .Australian political history. In a thoughtless moment, we passed the War Precautions Act. It was pointed out by some honorable members how unlimited was the scope that that measure gave to the Government - that ib practically handed over the whole control of the country to two men. I have heard the Prime Minister say, and every one knows it is true, that the man who holds the military power rules the country. Under such an Act, with a man like the Prime Minister, and a Minister of Defence hand in glove with him, the country is ruled, not by Parliament, but by dictators; not by laws, but by regulations; nob by reason, but by hysterics ; not in the interests of the people, but in the interests of individuals.
– You never thought of that last session.
– The honorable member for Parkes was not here.
– I was, and I said that again and again, but you took no notice of it.
– The honorable member could not’ have had his ears open, because I fancy I made myself rather obnoxious to the Prime Minister because of my opposition to the measure. The Prime Minister is reported to have said that a Daylight Saving Bill would be a good thing for Australia, and it ought to be a Federal law, and that he was going to introduce the system by regulation under the War Precautions Act. Even the British House of Commons did not bring in» a measure of the kind by regulation, although they have an Act corresponding to our War Precautions Act. Now, however, in this country neither Parliament nor honorable members are of any account; the Prime Minister is the “ great I am,” with none other beside him. I am just reminded that, in regard to the use of the word “Anzac” the British House of Commons introduced a Bill, whereas the Australian Prime Minister used the powers of the War Precautions Act. Do honorable members who are supporting the honorable member for Parramatta realize what this is leading to ? No doubt, it is a revival of the old Tory idea that there are only a few people’ who know what is the right thing to do - that the common people have only to obey. What did the Prime Minister tell the people in Sydney? He said, “ We are doomed men “ ; and those words are’ applicable to Parliament; we are like sheep before the butcher. We may bleat and squeal, but it will avail us nothing.
– The honorable member does frequently make me wonder what we are coming to.
– I wonder, too, seeing that Parliament has been entirely superseded.
– Is this really a new discovery on your part?
– I thought so.
– I have been making complaints of the kind for two years, but I am unable to convince honorable members how necessary it is to act together in order to get a better form of government.
– The honorable member is now speaking out of an experience of seven years, I suppose ?
– I thought so. ,
– I say, quite frankly, that, with many others, I have admired the ability and energy of the Prime Minister. I never failed on any platform during the campaign to refer to the magnificent services he has rendered to our own movement and the country.
– What a falling-off is there !
– Undoubtedly there is a falling-off, but the Prune Minister has been to Windsor Castle. Do honorable members suggest that this is the same Mr. Hughes who left Australia at the beginning of the year? He is a different man altogether.
– He is about the same weight and size.
– He may have the same size of feet, but I question whether he has the same size of head.
– Do you suggest that the Prime Minister’s association with the Crown has been detrimental to Australia ?
– No, but detrimental to the Prime Minister. It has been an intense disappointment to many of us, and particularly to myself, that a man of whom we were all so proud, and whose services and ability we so much admired should have come to such a stage in his political career that those who believe in government of the people by the people for the people are now unable to follow him. This regulation he has issued is an entire abrogation of that high standard of political morality that Abraham Lincoln said should never be allowed to perish from the earth.
– That is a serious reflection on the Crown.
– Even the Crown is not above criticism.
– “ The King can do no wrong.”
– Oh, yes, he can; that legal fiction cannot be established as a political axiom. It may be legally right that “ the King can do no wrong,” but nobody in any British dominion believes it.
– Be careful.
– I have the greatest respect for the Monarch, and I can sing “ God save the King “ with the best of them.
– The honorable member must not follow that’ line of argument.
– Do not imagine that the Prime Minister is above criticism. Many a leader in British politics has started well, and finished badly. Even kings have lost their heads because they started well and finished badly.
– Truly a bad finish.
– It is final, anyhow. We may take it as quite certain that the ego in every man always leads him to believe that he is right; if a man did not think he was right ire could not go on. The honorable member for Parramatta would not get up and make tne speeches he does unless he believed that he was right.
– This is an admirable psychological study.
– Probably it is. We are challenging the Prime Minister to-day, as Leader of the Government, because he has done in Australia what we think is reprehensible, and destructive of our best institutions. The secrecy of the ballot is the guarantee of our political liberty ; it is the one thing that stands between us and a return to the worst ages in our history.
– Was the secrecy of the ballot impugned ?
– It was not.
– It was, and I shall tell you how. Men were to be asked certain questions, and their votes were to be placed in separate envelopes, which had to be marked in a special way; then tribunals were to be established to question those men in the same way as other voters were to be questioned as to their loyalty or disloyalty.
– In the same way as absent voters were to be questioned.
– No, sir, absentee voters are not questioned. The only inquiry made into an absentee vote is as ito whether the name on the outside of the envelope corresponds with the name and number on the roll.
– Is that not a question ?
– No ; !that is .a purely formal verification. These men were to be called before tribunals, and to be asked questions. They were to be stopped at the polling booths, and to -be liable to an investigation afterwards. I say that to propose anything in- the nature of -a subsequent investigation by a tribunal represents the introduction- of a new system into our electoral administration which should not be tolerated for a moment. People are either entitled to
Mote or they are not. Their right to vote is the fact that their names are on the roll. That fact being satisfactorily established, no influence should be brought to bear upon them. I believe that the Prime Minister, with knowledge and of deliberate and set purpose, tried to intimidate voters. I believe that he did intimidate some. I believe that he prevented some men from voting, that he kept men away from the polling booths, and every one knows that they would he men who would be most likely to vote against his proposals.
– That is all supposition.
– The Prime Minister did not think it was supposition, or he would not have been so mighty anxious in the matter. He was looking for votes everywhere. If he could get them he was out to get them by any means, and he was prepared by any means to block votes that might be recorded against him. Knowing the Prime Minister as I did, I warned the people in a letter I bad published in the Brisbane newspapers of what might happen before polling day. Unfortunately I proved to be a prophet whose prophesy came tine. I hope that Parliament will realize what a dangerous thing it is to have a Prime Minister in power who will violate the spirit of our Acts and abrogate the best safeguards of our electoral law in order to secure a personal advantage.
– I understand that the Prime Minister desires to make a public announcement, and I ask whether it is the pleasure of the House that he have leave to do so.
– I desire,’ by leave of the House, to announce that I have been officially informed that as a result of the sittings of: the Board specially appointed to deal with the coal strike, the dispute has been settled, and the men are returning to work on Monday. The tribunal meets to-morrow to- settle details and the order of other claims. These are to be dealt with by the tribunal after its resumption. Mr. Willis, the secretary of the Australasian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, has wired me, “ Trouble is settled. All mines resume work on Monday,” and the official reference to the matter is that Mr. Willis is wiring to all districts this afternoon to have all mines ready for resumption on Monday.
HONORABLE Members. - Hear, hear.
– It is due to the country that I should take the first oppor- tunity to make this announcement. Whatever opinions we may have of each other, we may -all congratulate -ourselves and the country on the result I have announced.
– I am sure that there will be general gratification at the announcement which the Prime Minister has just made. It is a matter for regret that, at a moment when every one is expecting that all the members of this Parliament shall bend their energies to the successful prosecution of the war by .Australia, this afternoon and this evening the time of the House has been taken up in a discussion of an entirely local political and party character.
– Who is taking up th& time now ?
– It is not my intention to take up much time, but circumstances that arose this afternoon justify the few Avords I intend to say. The Prime Minister has been attacked, and doubtless he would have had more to ‘say on his own behalf had he followed the precedent already set by some of his former colleagues, and committed the very grave and very serious act of divulging proceedings of the Executive Council. I wish to- make a few remarks on that aspect of the question. This afternoon ‘the honorable member for Flinders read to the House the oath of a Privy Councillor of England. The oath of an Australian Executive Councillor is very much the same. It is as follows: -
I, A.B., being chosen and admitted of His Majesty’s Executive Council in the Commonwealth of Australia, do swear that I will to the bestof my judgment at. all times when thereto required, freely give my counsel and advice, to the Governor-General or officer administering the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia for the time being, for the good management of the public affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia; that I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will be in all things a true and faithful councillor. So help me God !
That is the oath taken by a member of the Executive Council of . the Commonwealth of Australia. Every one of us who has taken office has had to take that oath. It is clear and emphatic that a member of: the Executive Council cannot directly or indirectly reveal what takes place at a meeting of the Executive Council, what is committed to his secrecy.
– Not if it is doing a wrong act?
– No; he cannot under that oath reveal what takes place directly or indirectly. From what has transpired in this House this afternoon, it would appear that that oath has not been observed. There is one honorable member who was a Minister of State in the last Administration, and who, according to his own statement, and, indeed, according to the motion before the House, was present at the Executive Council when a certain document was submitted to it. The three copies of that document in the possession of the Executive Council bore upon them the word “ Secret.” It therefore was clearly and distinctly covered by the terms of the oath -
That I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy.
It was a special document marked as secret, and we know that its contents have been revealed. What is the position from the legal and constitutional point of view?
– And the moral point of view, too.
– The moral point of view must also be considered. This afternoon the honorable member for Flinders gave the opinion of a constitutional writer dealing, as he would naturally do, with the constitutional point of view. But from the stricter legal point of view the position of an Australian Executive Councillor has been determined by our own Courts of law. In the caseRegina v. Tooth, heard before Mr. Justice “Lutwyche, in the Supreme Court of Queensland, the question was put to the Minister for Lands in Court in the course of the trial -
Can you say whether, as Minister for Lands, you laid the document before the Governor in Council ?
That is the very question that arises here. The document to which I have referred was, we are told, laid before the Commonwealth Executive Council. In the case to which I am referring, the AttorneyGeneral objected to the question on the ground that it was contrary to public policy that any disclosure should be made of what took place before an Executive Council, the members of which are sworn to secrecy. The opinion was expressed by the Supreme Court Judge -
It seems to me that it would be very dangerous to allow a Minister of the Crown to give evidence of this kind. It would be contrary to the interests of the public, and, as the Attorney-General has contended, against public policy that such evidence should be given. If it is necessary to show that notice was given to the Governor in Council, there are other methods of showing it, one or two of which I might easily suggest. But the question is whether a Minister of the Crown shall be at liberty to disclose, without the permission of the Governor, something that took place in Council between the Governor and his Ministers; and if I’ was to rule that the evidence was admissible in this case, I should open a door which I do not think would be very easily closed again. It therefore seems to me that I ought to reject this evidence, and decide that the question cannot be put.
It is as clear as it possibly can be that the ex-Ministers have committed a very serious blunder in revealing what took place at that meeting of the Executive.
– What about the statement of the Prime Minister as to how the Minister; of External Affairs voted in Cabinet ?
– I am not dealing with that matter, but, as a rule, the doings of Cabinet also are kept secret. I am dealing with the proceedings of the Executive Council, the one secret Council of the realm, and the disclosure in this case is contrary to the oath of office, and is undoubtedly one of the most, dangerous practices that could possibly arise in the administration of public affairs. If we once destroy the principle of confidence between Ministers of the Crown, we shake the foundation of our government. There could then be no confidential communication, and only one or two members of a Cabinet could be intrusted with secrets. An important result of this debate has been to reveal that certain honorable members did not appreciate the duties of the high office they held. I do not think that this debate on the duties and responsibilities of a constitutional officer will do any harm, nor do I believe that the launching of this amendment will cast much discredit on those against whom it is directed.
– In a true Democracy there is no pledge of secrecy.
– I presume that, before this incident happened, those gentlemen who now occupy the cross Opposition benches called themselves true Democrats, and we have seen what can happen in a true Democracy.
.- I rise to enter my protest against the action of the Prime Minister during the recent campaign in issuing the regulation which is the subject of the amendment moved by the Leader of the party of which 1 have the honour to be a member. At the outset of the campaign, I recognised, as no doubt the majority of members on this side of the House did, that the members of that section of the community who favoured the “ No “ cause would be faced with many difficulties in placing their case before the people. We were subjected to very many restrictions, the majority of which, I believe, were placed upon us by the Prime Minister, or by his order. The same limitations applied to the outside organizations who were participating . in the campaign in advocacy of the negative vote. I and many others came to the conclusion that the action of the Prime Minister in issuing that regulation was the action of a desperate man, who, in his desperation, became absolutely unscrupulous, and determined by any means to obtain a victory for the cause he was advocating. A statement has been made by the honorable member for Capricornia that this regulation was passed at a meeting of the Executive Council, and from the Prime Minister came a denial that the regulation was passed or put intooperation. From the information supplied to the House to-day, it is quite evident that the regulation was issued, even though there be a doubt as to whether it had been adopted at a meeting of the Executive. If this regulation had not. been passed at a meeting of the Executive, then we charge the Prime Minister with having instructed the Chief /Electoral Officer to put into operation a regulation that had not received the sanction of the Executive. I am of opinion that thePrime Minister, having failed to obtain the assent of the Executive officers in Melbourne to the issue of the regulation, called another Executive meeting in Sydney, where the regulation was agreed to.. The Prime Minister then sent his instructions to Mr. Oldham, who issued the regulation to a large number of presiding officers throughout the Commonwealth. At a later stage in the evening, the resignations of some of his colleagues reached “ the Prime Minister like a bolt from theblue. Recognising the seriousness of the position, he immediately sent out an instruction to cancel the regulation, but before that notice of cancellation was received by the Chief Electoral Officer, the regulation had been issued to a largenumber of presiding officers. The Leaderof the Liberal party stated, in his opening remark to-day, that it was quite evident that the Prime Minister had made a mistake, and he was not prepared to have his vote on this amendment regarded as an indorsement of the action of the Prime Minister. He wished the people tounderstand that, in recording his vote -against the amendment, his object wassimply to maintain the Government in power so that they might proceed with the business announced to the House yesterday. He is not prepared to take responsibility for the action of the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Flindersmade no reference whatever to the issuing of the regulations. He said not a. wor.d either in defence or condemnation, of the- Prime Minister’s action in regard bo them, confining his- criticism to what he termed the divulging- of the secret business- of the Executive Council by the honorable member for Capricornia. It is only the members of this party that have criticised the Prime Minister’s attempt bo violate the sacredness of the ballotbox. The honorable member for Darling Downs confined’ his remarks to what should- be the- conduct of ex-members of an Executive Council in regard to the business conducted by it. He followed on. the same lines as the Leader of the Liberal party and the- honorable member for Flinders. Not one of them had the courage to say a word in defence of the action of. the Prime Minister. Even the right honorable- gentleman, when addressing the House, did not say a- word in his own defence, and those on whom he depends for political existence have not said a word in defence of his conduct.
– The Prime Minister denies having done what he- is accused of having done.
– Then the Chief Electoral Officer should be sacked.
– The honorable member for Flinders tried to cloud the issue by a dramatic indictment of the honorable member for Capricornia. That was his method of defending the Prime Minister’s violation of the ballot-box, and his interference with- an electoral system that the Democracy of this country has been building up for years. The action of the honorable member for Flinders to-day is only consistent with his previous political action. No mau has challenged the honorable member for Flinders for his Conservative politics more than has the Prime Minister time and again. I remember him saying of the honorable member, “ This gentleman posing as a fearless, critic, who crawls at the heels of his party Whenever thebell rings.” To-day, the honorable member is crawling at the heels of the man who has indicted him time and again on the floor of the House. When the Prime Minister was- sitting in opposition to the Cook Government, he said of. the honorable member for Flinders -
I say, that if the. honorable and’ learned gentleman goes down now” into his 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- thatwasin hispower.”
Yet to-day, when- the Prime Minister tries to deal a blow at the rights of: the electors, we find, the honorable member for Flinders defending him.
– Things are different now.
– If they are changed, the fault does not lie with honorable members sitting by me. A few moments ago I heard , some gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial benches, who at one time considered it an honour and privilege tobe sent into this Parliament as representatives of the working-class movement of Australia, sneering at the method under which the Labour party from its inception has conducted its business, and sneering at the word “ Caucus.” They repudiate the Caucus. They are no longer an Australian Labour party. They say, “We are the National party; we have no Caucus meetings; every member is free to. do as he likes.” That is their proclamation to the people as the result of their meeting held in another part of this building. In the early days of the Federal Parliament, when a Government, lost its position because one of its followers refused to recognise anything in the form of a coalition with a party whose policywas what he termed a machine-made policy, who attacked him because he dared to - say that the members of the Labour movement bad not their freedom, and that the policy of the Labour party was a machine-made policy ? The present Prime Minister did. Yet to-day he’ is in exactly the same position as that occupied by the Leader of the Liberal party fifteen or sixteen years ago.
– He has since seen the light.
– The Leader of the Liberal party did not see the light until the Labour movement brought him from the bowels of the earth, where he worked as a miner, and put him in a public position. It was the- same with the Prime Minister. With the exception of two honorable members, neither of whom is the. Prime Minister, no member of: the Ministerial party, and no member of theparty to which I belong, would have entered public life,, or had the opportunity of displaying any ability and talents he possessed, but for the fact- that there was . a Labour movement outside this House-.. Some people say. that, the Prime Minister is a” man- of exceptional. talents and. ability, who has earned, not only an. Australian. reputation, but a world-wide reputation, and that he stands on a pedestal by himself, so far as public men and statesmen of the British Empire are concerned. He has been proclaimed as the greatest orator iu the British Empire to-day..
– Did not the honorable member himself say that the Prime Minister was the greatest product of the Labo.ur movement?
– I have always been one of the first to give credit where credit was due, and no man has given greater honour or respect to our present Prime Minister than I have. Even when I recognised that it was unpopular to say a word in defence of him, I was prepared to express my opinion freely and openly, and accept the responsibility of so doing. But to-day the Prime Minister is at that stage when he considers that he owes nothing further to the Labour movement. He wishes to be free. He wishes to be at liberty to give the fullest possible effect to those great talents and abilities that the world proclaims him to be endowed with.- But I wish to say that it is not due to his ability that he has been put in a position where opportunity has been afforded to him to bring his talents and abilities into play. Before the Prime Minister or tlie right honorable member for Parramatta or the honorable member for Melbourne or any man who has represented the Labour movement in Parliament ever graced a seat in a legislative chamber, there were just as capable and honest men in the Australian industrial movement who did not have the honour conferred on them of being elected to a seat in Parliament. However, there came a day when this .movement was created, and went into the factories, the fields, and the mines, and took men from the positions they were occupying, and, because* of their abilities, sent them into Parliament, and gave them the opportunity to display them to the world. That is exactly the position in which the Prime Minister has been placed. If during the last twenty years he has had the opportunity of cultivating his mind and displaying his special abilities to the world, it has been because of the self-sacrifice of tens of thousands of men and women throughout Australia, and because of the creation of the Labour movement with which, he has no longer any desire to be connected.
– Is the honorable gentleman to connect all this talk with the question before the Chair ?
– Just as that movement fought in days gone by to put the Postmaster-General in the position he occupies to-day, so it had to fight to break down the system of privilege applying to elections in the past, in order that the rights of the humblest electors on the day of election would be as sacred as those of the richest individuals in the land. It is because of that fight ‘ that the Labour party takes such strong exception to the action of the Prime Minister in connexion with the matter dealt with by the amendment.
– Was not the secrecy of the ballot in existence before the Labour party was born ?
– Democracy has fought at all times for the secrecy of the ballot, and particularly has the movement with which we are connected fought strenuously for all adults of this country to record their votes at State and Federal elections. Recognising the sacrifices that have been made in the past to win these rights, the Labour party is determined that what has been won so hardly shall not be lost to the Democracy of the country if it can help it. We recognised that we were to have a very difficult fight in connexion with the referendum. To-day I listened with interest to the honorable member for Indi when he read a copy of the manifesto issued by General Bird-wood to each Australian soldier on Salisbury Plains or in France. General Birdwood made special reference to the magnificent manifesto sent by the Prime Minister to tlie front, and which he, no doubt, hoped would appeal to the patriotism of the Australian soldiers there. I recognise all these influences which the right honorable gentleman had working on his side with a view to bringing his campaign to a victorious conclusion. I also heard on the Friday night immediately preceding the polling day that arrangements had been made with all the editors throughout Australia to reserve special space in their columns in anticipation of the Anzac vote coming through in time to permit of it being published in the Saturday morning’s newspapers. The Anzac vote came through.
– Who is the honorable member’s authority?
– The Anzac vote came through. Had it been a “ Yes “ vote, it would have appeared in every journal in Australia on the morning of polling day, and it would’ have been proclaimed from the housetops as an indorsement of the Prime Minister’s policy. The Anzac vote came through, but it was not a “Yes” vote.
– How does the honorable member know ?
– It would have been a perfectly proper thing for the Prime Minister to have published the result of the Anzac vote to the world immediately it was known. But it was a most improper thing, on receipt of it, to at once pass a regulation under the War Precautions Act making it an offence for any newspaper to publish it. Later, at some public function in this State, the Prime Minister affirmed that, taking into consideration all the forces that had been arrayed against it, the ‘ ‘ Yes ‘ ‘ side had every reason to be proud of the magnificent result attained. “All the forces operating against them.” Why, a ‘ representative of one of the Collins-street dailies attended a meeting which I addressed during the course of the campaign. He reported what I said. It may have been important, or on the other hand, it may not have been. A few days later I met him, and he said, “ I am rather sorry that the report which I took of your meeting on Sunday did not get past the military censor.”
– It must have been pretty hot.
– It was a statement which was based on facts. I am not accustomed to make statements which I cannot prove. What were the forces arrayed against the Prime Minister? He had every daily newspaper in Australia on his side, with the exception of one in Adelaide and another in Tasmania.
– There was one at Ballarat.
– If we . include the Ballarat newspaper amongst the Prime Minister’s opponents, we must also take into consideration the 5,000 or 6,000 provincial journals which advocated’ his side of this question. But the fact remains that official figures supplied to the press were not permitted .to appear, speeches made by public men on the “ No “ side were suppressed, and, to make success doubly -sure, a day or two prior to the polling, the Prime Minister threatened that certain electors on going to the polling booths would receive the shock of their lives. A little later, Senator Gardiner made the public pronouncement that, so far as the military authorities were concerned, there would be no interference with civilians at the polling: booths. Then the Prime Minister called his Executive together. Its members refused to pass the regulations that he desired them to approve. He then called another meeting of the Executive in Sydney, at which those regulations were passed. Yet we have been told by the Prime Minister to-day that the regulations were never passed, and were never issued, although printed copies of them have been put into the hands of members of this House. As a matter of fact, the whole of the telegraph lines throughout the Commonwealth were cleared for the purpose of permitting the Chief Electoral Officer to send out those regulations to the 9,000 presiding officers throughout Australia. On top of all this, we witnessed to-day the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and other Liberals, bursting with indignation at the action of the honorable member for Capricornia in disclosing the business transacted at an Executive meeting, whilst refusing to utter a word of condemnation of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman went to the country with a policy for compulsory military service overseas, and the people of Australia turned it down. The majority of our party have, from the inception of this war, favoured the policy which was put into operation by the late Government. When he returned from the country he recognised that as Prime Minister of Australia he no longer held the confidence of the movement in New South Wales which was responsible for his political existence. He no longer holds the confidence of the people of his electorate, nor the confidence of the party which put him into the position of Prime Minister. But to-day, rejected by ‘his electorate, rejected by the movement of which he is a member, re’jected ‘by his own party and the people of Australia, he has the presumption to carry on as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
– That is the trouble.
– And other fellows badly want his job.
-How many of the Fisher Government resigned when our referendum proposals were defeated in 1911 ? ‘
– The Fisher Government after the rejection of their referendum proposals still had a majority behind them.
– But the country had gone back on them.
– No motion of want of confidence was moved against the Fisher Government.
– “We knew we had no chance of carrying it.
– These interjections must cease.
– The Fisher Government retained the confidence of the Labour party, but the present Prime Minister is in an altogether different position. I am not going to debate to-night the question of whether the method of conducting business adopted by the Federal and State Labour parties is right or not; but if Mr. Hughes thought it improper, then he should have had the manliness long ago to point out its defects. He did not do so. What has he done? By a majority vote of our party Mr. Fisher, after the last general election, was elected to the position of Prime Minister, and by the same vote the present Prime Minister was elected to the Cabinet. The whole of the members of the Labour Government were elected by the majority vote of Labour members meeting as a party. When Mr. Fisher retired to accept the position of High Commissioner, the right honorable member for West Sydney was elected Leader of the party and Prime Minister. He accepted the majority vote of our party on that occasion. So long as the system in operation conferred upon him certain honours and privileges he considered it perfectly fair. But when he faces his party and a motion is submitted that he no longer holds their confidence, and that he be deposed from the position of leader - when the question is about to be put to the vote and he sees absolute defeat staring him in the face - he has not the manliness to stand his ground and to accept defeat at the hands of the men who on hundreds of occasions have conferred honours and privileges upon him.
– He was not to be beaten by a bound body.
– That “bound body” is the same party that made the honorable member a Minister.
– It is not.
– That body, both inside this Parliament and outside of it, has raised these gentlemen to Ministerial office, and will prove to them in the very near future-
– Your State Executive was going to interfere with the ballot-box and the Caucus by instructing you people how to vote, and you had to obey it too!
-I have already appealed to honorable members to cease interjecting. Perhaps, the worst offenders are Ministers, who surely ought to know how to conduct themselves in a gentlemanly and orderly way in the House.
– This is the first time I have interjected.
– The Minister ought to know that interjections are disorderly. I again appeal to honorable members to cease interjecting.
– That body which raised thu honorable member for Gwydir to the position of Postmaster-General, and also elevated other members of the party to Ministerial rank, will prove to them in the very near future that just as it had the power to create them politically, so it has the power to destroy them politically.
– Why threaten?
– I do not.
– Who moved theresolution in the Trades Hall, which the honorable member seconded, in condemnation of Mr. Hughes?
– I did not second such a resolution. The only resolution I have ever seconded in condemnation of Mr. Hughes is that which was submitted in our Caucus to depose him from the position of Prime Minister of Australia. I have moved and seconded many resolutions in the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, and I hope to move many more. I know of no institution in this country that has done more for the struggling masses in Australia than the same Trades Hall Council. It is one of the organizations that has done very much to return all of us, including the honorable member for Denison, to represent the Labour movement. When I reach the stage at which I want to turn my back on that institution, and on the noble men and women in it, I hope that day will bring an end to my political life. The motion referred to at our Caucus meeting was not moved at the dictation of any one.
– What was the name of the gentleman who came from Sydney? You told me. Now tell me who it was..
– I am not permitted by the rules of parliamentary debate to use the word that I would like to use in denying my’ honorable friend’s statement, but I wish to state clearly and emphatically that I have never at any time told the honorable member any man came from Sydney or anywhere else for the purpose of inducing the Caucus to carry a resolution dealing with the Prime Minister. If the honorable member cannot find stronger facts to support or defend his leader, I would ask him not to stoop to such_ practices, although I make full allowance for his enthusiasm -in his leader’s cause. No person was authorized to move the motion, which came spontaneously from the honorable member for Brisbane, and was seconded by myself. Personally, it gave me no pleasure to take that action. I have always recognised the ability shown by our late leader m the past just as the members of the Liberal party in past years swore by the leadership of the Hon. Alfred Deakin, and the members of the State party time and again in State Parliaments here have sworn by their leader. Yet the time arrives when, in the interests of the party a leader must be removed. It may become a painful duty to some men to put that view into practice, but it has to be done sooner or later, and I am one of those who have come to the conclusion that our party can be better served by a leader who, if he is not so brilliant in some respects, might be a little more honest.
– A little!
– Probably the honorable member for Balaclava, as an old leader, knows what is required in a leader. I have not been the leader of any political party, but probably he knows from past experience that, a little honesty is all that is required. I have trusted up to a certain stage the late leader of our party. As a follower of his I gave him every possible assistance inside and outside the House, and never apologized for supporting him with my voice and vote. When I had no further confidence in him, I thought there was only one thing to be done, not to attack him behind his back, but to tell him exactly what I thought of him as a leader, and that, in my opinion, he was no longer fit to lead the Labour movement in this Parliament. I must make a brief reference to the two or three gentlemen who to-day supported the Prime Minister and his attitude on the matter under debate. I am glad in a way that the Prime Min- ‘ Ester derives such great satisfaction from his new supporters, although, so far, he does not show any particular satisfaction on his face. I believe he is accepting their support only because of necessity, and It is just as well to know his opinion of the majority of those who are supporting him. It is also as well to know his opinion of those gentlemen who had not the courage to-day to say a word in his defence, but who are still prepared to keep him in office. Speaker after speaker to-day among those who are prepared to keep him in power said not a word in defence of his action in issuing the regulations. In regard to the honorable member for Flinders, the Prime Minister said -
The honorable member poses as a reformer. He is a man who sees the light.
I thought when I heard the Prime Minister speak at the Town Hall on his return from the Old World that this was a new phrase which he had struck there, but it seems that he used it two years ago on the floor of this House when dealing with the honorable member for Flinders -
Democracy asks him for a reform. He gives it a speech.
Plutocracy asks him for a law, and be gives it a Coercion Act.
On another occasion, the Prime Minister dealt with the Industrial Workers of the World, an organization out of which he made so much political capital during the recent campaign. He has had a legal training. Only yesterday, a reference was made on the floor of this chamber to the coal strike, but the reference was ruled out of order by the Chair because the coal strike was sub judice. Because of that, he considered it would not be proper for any reference to be made to the matter on the floor of the House. During the recent campaign, several men in our community were standing their trial, with the possibility, to some of them, of the death penalty, and the Prime Minister, in his desire to obtain votes for the cause he was advocating, went on the public platform throughout Australia and denounced those men, whose fate was practically hanging in the balance. This is a most unusual procedure, not only in this country, but in any other part of the British Empire. These men may or may not be guilty of all the charges made against them ; I am not in a position to say what the verdict may be, but I think it was a most improper thing for a man in the position of the Prime Minister to go about practically condemning and sentencing them before a jury had had an opportunity to decide on the evidence.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter further, because it is outside the motion.
– I merely mention these cases in order to introduce a quotation from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister in this House in reference to the honorable member for Flinders. The Prime Minister on that occasion said -
The honorable and learned gentleman opposite calmly tells us that for years unionism has been getting more political, its objective being syndicalism. That is like saying that for years the people have been getting more Christian, in profession and practice, their objective being Hell. I wish that I could apply that to my honorable friends opposite, wishing them a rapid journey and God speed.
The honorable member’s party, which only two years ago the Prime Minister was consigning to a political hell, is composed of the only men to-day in this House who dare to rise and take exception to the motion launched by the members of this party. Those men do not take exception to the motion on the ground that the Prime Minister was justified in his action, but do so only under cover of condemning the honorable member for Capricornia. I have no apology to offer for supporting the motion. So far as I am concerned, I have no further confidence in the Government. If we do not defeat the Government on this motion, I hope and trust that the day is not far distant when we shall defeat them on some other. The Government no longer represent the Labour movement in Australia; and I shall not be satisfied until the destinies of this country are again in the hands of the representatives of the recognised Labour movement.
.- I have not much to say, my object being merely to get the Prime Minister to answer certain questions that have been asked to-day. During the referendum campaign I ‘refrained from personal abuse of any one of different views from myself. On the last night of that campaign, I received a shock when I heard that there was likely to be an interference with the ballot-box. I assured my hearers that I did not believe the rumour - that I thought it impossible for any Labour Government or Ministers to issue such a regulation. In any case, I urged the people to go to the ballot-box, and record their votes, no matter what the consequences might be. The ex-Treasurer has stated that this matter was dealt with’ at an Executive Council in Melbourne, and that, at that meeting, Senator Gardiner, Senator Russell, the Minister for the Navy, and himself were present. The Minister for the Navy has now an opportunity to state on the floor of this House whether he was at that Executive meeting when these regulations w.ere placed before it - he has an opportunity to prove that the Prime Minister is right, if he can say that he did not go to Sydney, and did not there attend an Executive Council meeting. The Prime Minister has told us that the regulations were not issued, whereas the exTreasurer says that, in Melbourne, an endeavour was made to get them gazetted, but that he and others refused to sign them. The Minister for the Navy was at that meeting, and he can say whether he was one who refused to give his consent.
– You want him to prove your case.
– I want him to back up the Prime Minister, on whose behalf no man has as yet said a word. The PostmasterGeneral has informed us that he was not at that Executive meeting in Sydney; and, therefore, there can be only one conclusion. If an Executive meeting was held in Sydney, it must have been held by the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy; and if the GovernorGeneral were present, we have a right to know whether His Excellency was misin formed, or informed at all.
– Order !
– I shall not go any further in that direction, because I know I arn getting very close to the ice. I wish to know, however, whether the GovernorGeneral did attend that meeting, and whether he was informed that the Executive had turned down the proposals. The Governor-General was not at the meeting in Melbourne, and if it is true that there was a meeting in Sydney to carry an order, I wish to know whether His Excellency was duped or misled into signing it.
– The honorable member must not follow that line of argument.
– Is the Prime Minister to be believed, or is the ex-Treasurer to be believed? I believe the ex-Treasurer, because he has documents to show that p,n effort was made to pass regulations in Melbourne. I do not believe that the Minister for the Navy is such a jelly-fish of a man that he would refuse in Melbourne to sign regulations, and then, at the dictation of the Prime Minister, go to Svdney and give his consent. I take it, therefore, that the Minister for the Navy is trying to shield the Prime Minister by keeping quiet - that he is sacrificing himself to save the Prime Minister. On the morning of the referendum, about 8 o’clock, in one of the divisions of my electorate, ‘ I asked the presiding officer whether Be was putting the questions as prescribed under the regulations, and he told me that, the previous night, at 9 o’clock, he had received his instruction to put them. I told him that the Prime Minister had withdrawn them, and he said, “I have nothing to do with that ; I have my orders to put the questions.” When I saw the Chief Returning Officer of the district, he told me that he had given orders for the questions to be put, but that he had gone round and cancelled them. At Surry
Hills, a man, on coming out of the booth, told me that the questions had been put to him, I having previously told him that they would not be put. I took him back into the booth, and acquainted the . presiding officer with what the man had told me.
– You had no right in the booth.
– Yes, I had. In reply to me, the Returning Officer said he had given instructions that the questions were not to be put, and, when we went to the officer who was said to have put them, he said he had done so, and that he had been told to do so. Thereupon the Returning Officer said that he must have overlooked this officer when he cancelled the instruction, and that in any case the questions must not be put again. In the face of all these facts, I believe that the Prime Minister issued these regulations. I have no wish to do the Prime Minister any in justice, but the facts I have related make me believe that these instructions were issued. The Postmaster-General is at the table, and he can inform the House whether 9,000 telegrams, sending out the instructions, and 9,000 cancelling them, were received by his Department. The honorable gentleman has an opportunity to make a name for himself by saying whether this was so or not. When the Prime Minister yesterday asked the Minister for the Navy to move the adjournment of the debate on the motion of the honorable member for Yarra, it occurred to me that it was his intention. to obtain proof from Mr. Oldham that the orders complained of were never given. I was confident that he would have the evidence, but to-day he has presented no statement from Mr. Oldham, because he could not get such a statement. Yet we have men in this House whitewashing the Government in connexion with this matter, and though they may save them on this occasion, I tell them that it is as sure as that I am standing here to-day that they will find themselves against the Government on some early occasion.
– What will the honorable member do then ?
– Support the Liberal party to put the Government out. If my honorable friends possessed any of the spirit of brotherly love they would tonight support us to put them out. I feel confident that the only way to settle this matter is to appeal to the people. It cannot be settled in this House, because the rank and file behind the Ministry will stick to them.
– The honorable member recommends a double dissolution?
– Any kind of a dissolution will suit us. I feel that members of the Labour party on this side are doing their duty in challenging the existence of a Government that has no longer the support of the country or of the people by whom they were elected. The Prime Minister cannot again secure his old seat, and I am afraid that some of my former friends on the Government side will lose theirs when we have an election.
– And some on this side also.
– Of course, we all run that risk. I hope that an early opportunity will be given to the people to decide the issue, because I feel confident that the Prime Minister and his Ministry have lost the confidence of the people, and, in the circumstances, the sooner we go to the country the better.
.- Being of small stature, it gives me pleasure to address the House from so high a position, and especially in view of the fact that I speak in straight-out opposition to a man who has forgotten his promises, and has broken the pledges he gave to those who created him. To-day he does not dare to face his- electors. We can all forgive any man for changing his opinion, and there is no man who can more keenly discriminate- in such a- matter than the present Prime Minister. I have in my hand a book entitled The Case for Labour ,. It is not the picture which was shown of acoffin in which a certain person was burying Labour. The strong hand of: Labour reversed the suggestion of that picture, and buried the man who was knocking up the case. At page 111 of The Casefor Labour I find this paragraph -
I do not. for a moment deny a man’s right to change- his opinion. I only deny his right to break, his word solemnly given to his fellowcitizens. Ifhe find’s, after election, that he can no- longer conscientiously support those measures to- which he is pledged,his course is. quite clear. Let him,, before such measures arc put to the test, resign his seat,, and,, if he chooses-, contest the electorate upon his changed opinions.. If returned, he can with honour do that which- he desires, but he cannot and ought, not to be allowed to do this until the people to whom he pledged himself have formally and constitutionally ratified his change of front.
That was written by William Morris Hughes, then a member of this Parliament, and now, by the connivance of a man in high authority, Prime Minister of Australia. Does any man possessing common sense think for a moment that what is referred to in the motion of the honorable member for Yarra did not occur ? I challenge honorable members on the Treasury bench to tell the truth in this matter. Can they deny that men and women were prevented from voting because of the issue of the regulations referred to, or can they deny the scandalous threat that the young men “ would get the surprise of their life “ ? How dare the Prime Minister or any other man insult his fellow-citizens in that way. I have had some experience of infringements of the ballot system. I have had experience of violations of the franchise, and of the pollution of the ballot-box. I have known a ballot-box to be stolen from 9 o’clock at night until 8 o’clock on the following morning. I have known what it is to have a majority in my favour declared as a minority. I have known of other interferences with the ballot. When Senator Findley was standing for the State Parliament for the electorate of East Melbourne some Liberals at that time brought cameras with which they took photographs of every working man who came up to the poll. Do honorable members care to know what became of those cameras?
– I know that the honorable member smashed a lot of them.
– I smashed four of them, and I would have smashed every one of them if they had not been taken away.
Several honorable members interceding ,
– Order ! I have repeatedly called honorable members toorders particularly those sitting on the cross Opposition- benches. The House is supposed to be discussing, a matter of particular importance to the people, but from the conduct of some honorable members it would appear as if that were not so. ,If these interruptions are continued, I shall be obliged to take other action.
– We are informed that there was a properly constituted Executive Council meeting, held in Melbourne, and attended by -Senator the Hon. Albert Gardiner, Vice-President of the Executive Council; the Hon. J. A. Jensen, Minister for the Navy; the Hon. W. G. Higgs, Treasurer; and Senator the Hon. E. J. Russell, Honorary Minister. The Executive Council thus constituted refused to sign or indorse the suggested regulations, which had been handed to the Treasurer by the highest officer in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. But for that refusal the ‘regulations would have been issued. Two days later, on 27th October, at an Executive Council meeting held in Sydney, and attended by the GovernorGeneral, the Minister for the Navy, and the Prime Minister, the regulations were assented to. The Prime Minister has stated that the regulations were not issued, but neither he nor the PostmasterGeneral has stated that they were not signed, nor that telegrams were sent to the Presiding Officers. I was in Tasmania at the time, and I know that such telegrams were sent out, and I saw an officer in khaki in the principal polling booth in Launceston. A promise had been made by the Prime Minister that no soldier in uniform would be allowed to appear on the platform in support of either the “ No “ or the “ Yes “ cause. But I saw officers in uniform on the platforms in Tasmania. I telegraphed to the Minister for Defence on the subject, and the answer was the usual evasion. I shall further pursue this matter later. I wish to know whether the Governor-General, of whom I have spoken in the highest respect at public meetings, was informed by the Prime Minister that these regulations had already been rejected at a meeting of the Executive Council two days earlier. If he was not so informed, I fear the word “ deception “ is applicable to his treatment by the Prime Minister. But if he was informed of what had already taken place, and, despite his experience, decided that he and two Ministers could constitute a trinity to govern Australia and interfere with the secrecy of the ^ballot-box, I can only regret that the gentleman had not such experience in
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the action of the Governor-General.
– I should have known that all the actions of that gentleman are beyond criticism ; but I , know also that every citizen in the community has the sacred right of petition to the
King, and that he may go above this Parliament and Governors, or GovernorsGeneral, and carry his appeal to the veryThrone itself. And, if necessary, I will advise my fellow citizens to exercise theirright of appeal to the King from even the highest man in our land. The Bill of Rights of 1869 declared that “It is. the right of subjects to petition the King, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.” What is. meant by “ commitments “ and “ prosecutions “ may be explained by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Darling Downs. Iri passing, I may remind the House that, by thirty-six votes to twenty the Legislative Assembly of Queensland has passed a Bill by which no solicitor who takes fees from monopolies, combines, or alien companies will be permitted to enter the Parliament of that State. The Bill has already received the imprimatur of the Legislative Assembly, but it has not yet received the approval of the House of fossils. If, however, an appeal is made to the citizens on that question, we know what will happen. Colonial Regulation No. 214 states -
Petitions addressed to the King or the King in Council . . . must in like manner besent to the Governor for transmission to tha Secretary of State.
In like manner means unsealed and in triplicate, and the Governor must send a report with it. No direct petition would receive consideration. That right of petition being clear, I will advise my fellow citizens that there is a higher authority than even this Parliament if they are blocked in their endeavours to get justice. The recent referendum was possibly the first attempt to interfere with State rights. Some weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister if the referendum vote would be decided by a majority of the whole of the votes combined or a majority of such votes in a majority of States. The answer was that the issue would be determined by the majority of votes in the Commonwealth. I wish to know what the honorable members who represent Tasmania,” Western Australia, and South Australia will do if that principle is further carried into effect. There are in the two branches of the Legislature. Ill representatives of the people, and on a population basis New South Wales, that distinguished State that carries the flag of Democracy higher than any other State, would have forty-two members; Victoria, thirty-two members; Queensland, fifteen members; South Australia, ten members; Western Australia, seven members; and Tasmania, four members. That may come, and if it does, honorable members will recollect that the Prime Minister established the precedent for it. If it should happen that human life were represented in proportion to numbers, how would the smaller States, and Western Australia in particular, stand ? Still more infamous is it that the officer iu charge of the Electoral Department of the Commonwealth should have been required by the Prime Minister to interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. The honorable member for Denison will agree with me that, when dealing with some very difficult matters, we found the Chief Electoral Officer a man who was honest in every sense of the word. It should be his duty merely to see that the law is carried out, and he should be subject only to Parliament. Regulations should not be submitted to him at twenty-four hours’ notice at the whim of any Minister. His should be the sacred duty of keeping the ballot clean, and preventing it from being smirched and made filthy, even at the command of the Prime Minister. It seems to me that the Chief Electoral Officer was asked to do what his heart and conscience could not approve. I intend to try to persuade the House, after the amendment is dealt with, to put that officer in a position to say, “ I care not for any Minister; I care only for Parliament, which has entrusted to me the carrying out of the law.” Just as a Judge cannot be interfered with by a Minister, so should the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth be free from Ministerial interference.
– Would that be a safe rule to apply in all cases?
– It would be safer than to lean on the prophecies of the honorable member. The Prime Minister has broken his promises repeatedly. Of that I can give proofs. I have not trusted him since Mr. J. C. Watson came into power. Whenever I have asked for a pledge from a Labour Government, I have asked it from Mr. Fisher; I would not take the word of the present Prime Minister. On one occasion, when a Defence Bill was being considered, I asked for an undertaking concerning it, and the present Prime Minister said, “ I am the Minister in charge of the Bill; will you not accept my word regarding it?” I replied, “” No. You, once led me into a Serbonian bog of blackness, and left me there.” Thereupon he brought in Mr. Fisher, who gave me the promise that I desired. When Mr. Watson came into power, with many more followers than the present Minister has-
– Not better men.
– Yes; better men, and men who were more loyal to the electors. Mr. Fisher, Senator McGregor, Mr. Batchelor, and Mr. Hughes, who were Ministers, came to the Executive of the State of Victoria, and said, “ Gentlemen, New South Wales has passed a certain resolution, and we wish you to do likewise, giving protection to any member who may leave the Reid or Deakin party, and support the Watson Government. We wish you to promise that such men shall not have to fight Labour candidates’ for re-election.” We thought that we were being asked to fall into line with New South Wales in this matter, and therefore did what we were asked. There followed absolute secrecy for three days. But we had been fooled. We thought that, being a Minister, the honorable member for West Sydney would not deceive us. But he went to Sydney, and he told the New South Wales Executive, “ The Victorian Executive has passed this resolution. We wish you to pass a similar resolution protecting Reidites and Deakinites who may support the Labour Government.” Honorable members perhaps will be glad to hear that the people of New South Wales either knew the right honorable gentleman too well or were better Democrats than we are, and refused to pass the resolution. Ten days later we found that we had been lied to, deceived, and dishonoured, and every one of us resigned as a protest. That was the first occasion on which I had doubts regarding the Prime Minister, and I would not now believe him unless he furnished proof, even though he might swear on a pile of Bibles. Do not we know that he risked the lives of men, women, and children travelling through the Suez Canal by giving out that he would go to England by the Orsova, and that, instead of doing so, he left the train by which he was thought to be travelling to Melbourne, returned to Sydney, took a launch out to the American mail steamer, the change of rout© being kept secret by the censoring of newspapers until he had got to Honolulu or some other distant place? Then, on his return, .he came by a troopship. Every one knows that no hospital ship carrying wounded soldiers can be fired at under international law, and I do not believe that the Germans, dastardly as they have been, would have fired at a troopship carrying wounded men so severely injured that they could not be patched up, who were being sent 12,000 miles away from the front. Mr. Hughes broke the rules of international law. Had the Germans got to know of his. movements, as they got to know of the movements of Lord Kitchener to our very great regret, they would have sunk the vessel by which he travelled. Why did not he, like the Premier of Queensland and other men, take the ordinary risks? Why did he let the whole world believe that he was’ going to England via, the Suez Canal, when he was really going via America ? And then we have the honorable member for Flinders. Will any one forget the theatrical way in which he tossed aside some papers that he had asked permission to see? I thought that they should be cleaned a bit before being returned to the honorable member for Capricornia, “and, therefore, dusted them. What is the honorable gentleman’s record? He interfered with the Victorian franchise. Not a magistrate who sat upon the Bench, not a policeman who arrested a criminal, not a member of the railway staff, not any public servant, was allowed by him to nave their full citizen rights ; even the criminal, after serving his sentence, was given fuller rights of citizenship than the magistrate who had sentenced him, or the policeman who had arrested him. The honorable member also introduced the most infamous Coercion Bill that was ever passed. If you met together in a party, or assembled to help the wives and children of men out on strike, you could, under it, be put into prison. The honorable member starved the old men and women of Victoria by reducing the pension vote from £238,000 to £150,000. Yet he had the audacity to say that he drafted the first Old-age Pensions Bill for Victoria. That statement was as true as the statement that the Prime Minister was going to England via the Suez Canal.
One of the greatest jurists of the United States of America has said that for the betrayer of a country or a great cause you had not far to look; you can find him in a barrister or a lawyer ready made. The Leader of the Government is a barrister. I believe that he came out here pledged to the Conservatives of England to bring in conscription as a lever to compel South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, and India to adopt it. He came out here pledged to carry conscription or to break up the Labour party. I have heard before of the .smashing up of the Labour party. That was going to happen ten years ago. If the Prime Minister followed the opin-* ion expressed in his book, he would resign his seat; and there is a bookmaker outside who would give a hundred to one that he would lose his deposit in seeking reelection.
– I would take that.
– I am sorry that the right honorable member is not submitting this amendment, because a Ministry formed by him, and including the honorable members for Swan, Parkes, and Angas, would be an honest Government that would not interfere in the slightest with the purity of the ballot-box. I draw the attention of the right honorable member for Parramatta to the fact that the Prime Minister, though he says that he did not issue the regulations, did not say that they were not signed. Greater thaI the rights of any individual are the rights of the people at the ballot-box, which these regulations were entrenching upon. When I visited America the people there thanked me, as an Australian, for the example Australia had set by establishing the secrecy of the ballotbox; and even England, where it is most difficult for any one to get a vote, and where the franchise is the worst of any European country, has thanked Australia for the secrecy of the ballot, having copied our legislation in this respect. The greatest credit Australia gets from those beyond its shores is that which is given because we were the first to insist on. the secrecy of the ballot. Yet to-day we find our Prime Minister in a back country town threatening that when certain young men went to the poll they would have the surprise of their lives. If he dared to say that to their faces, they.would take him by the nape of the neck and hurl him as far as they could. He would not dare to say it to their faces, and what he would not dare to say as one individual to another, he had no right to say as Prime Minister. Seventeen or eighteen daily newspapers in Great Britain were prepared to take up and make any man that our Prime Minister would point out. Was it not whispered so loudly that any one could hear that the Premier of Queensland could have been made one of the biggest men in the world if he would only bow down to Baal. But he was too honest, and he said straight out, as the Labour party had said from their platform, that voluntary enlistment had never been given a fair chance. Why has not the Prime Minister accepted the suggestion of the Premier of Queensland and given more money to those who are enlisting? This is a letter that I have received -
Salisbury Plain, England, 9th October, 1916.
Sir, - I take the liberty of writing these few lines to you, knowing that you always uphold fair play and justice. Evidently the Australian public are not aware of lots of facts concerning their boys over here, more especially those who have been wounded or invalided from France. For instance, this is one of the dirtiest and filthiest holes that convalescent men could be sent to. There are men here who should be in hospital, some with running wounds and a veritable host of diseases, all grouped together in huts or, to be more explicit, hovels; and there are some in tents which are not even rainproof.
– Those are part of the 44,000 some people would send to the front.
– The honorable member is one of the few who deserve a good word. I have not met a soldier who encountered the honorable member but spoke well of him. The letter proceeds -
Eighty per cent, have severe colds, and if they attend the doctors’ parade they get no attention whatever. As for the food conditions, well, pigs are thought more of than men are here, and it is very seldom that a man gets a square meal a day. In fact, the conditions are a disgrace to the military heads who have control here. Also, there are men here in what are called “ staff jobs,” who have never been to the front, while on the other hand, men who are unfit for active service are hustled back to their training battalions, and drafted back to the front quick-and-lively. We very seldom squeak, but the conditions all round are simply rotten, and it is time the responsible people in Australia were enlightened a bit. If things continue as they are there will be trouble of some sort, and prob ably an outbreak of disease of some kind or other. We are out to fight the good fight, and we recognise that a soldier’s life is a hard one in all respects; but give us a fair deal is all we ask; and surely, for convalescent men some comfort should be available in this country, of all countries in the world. Those of us who are fit do not complain, but it is for those who are not so that we appeal to you to take up this matter and right it. All this is Gospel facts, and not exaggerated by any means, and can be substantiated by all who are here and have been here.
Trusting you will exert your influence to that end, we remain, &c.
The statements made in that communication are substantiated by a letter which was shown to me by a man occupying a very high position in this city, in which the writer says -
This is the worst, dirtiest, and most filthy place a Government could fix upon. The food and conditions and accommodation are not fit for pigs. The tents leaked, and men slept in them who should have been in the hospital. Eighty per cent, of the men were coughing and spitting all over the ground. Diseases will kill more men than the Germans.
If the soldiers have not been robbed of their rights of citizenship, how is it that the Prime Minister insists that the result of their voting shall not be made known to their fellow- Australians ? Would the Germans be aided, in any way if they knew how Tom Brown in the trenches voted, or is the Prime Minister’s reluctance to publish the result of the soldiers’ vote due to the fact that tricks were practised in connexion with that vote? We know that there were no scrutineers employed in France. We know, too, that when an organization here endeavoured to send a cablegram with a view to getting men to see fair play in the camps where there were 40,000 citizens who had a right to vote it was not allowed to do so. Could a dictator have- done more than that? How dare the Prime Minister interfere with the exercise of the franchise? It is not his right to do so, and I challenge him to resign his’ seat and appeal to his constituents in West Sydney. They would promptly give him their judgment upon his conduct. Only a few weeks ago three men named Hughes were looming large on the horizon of the world. There was Colonel Hughes, of Canada. Where is he now ? He has resigned his position, and has passed out of the limelight. There was another Hughes> who contested the Presidency of the United States. He did not win.
– He lost by only a few votes.
– To lose by only a few votes was a very different matter from winning by some hundreds of thousands, as he anticipated. Then there is another Hughes, who was the head of a Government, and who went before a certain high official and tendered his resignation. In such circumstances the practice is- for the Leader of the Opposition to be sent for. He is the gentleman who should have been requested to form a new Government. Surely when the honest men go out of a Cabinet-
– Order ! The honorable member must not cast reflections upon honorable members.
– Surely in the circumstances the Leader of the Opposition should have been called upon to form a new Administration. This is the first time during my political career, extending over a period of twenty-seven years, that I have known of the head of a party with only thirteen followers being intrusted with the task of forming a new Cabinet. In similar circumstances I am satisfied that in England that course would not have been followed. I would rather give the Opposition in this Chamber a fair trial than support men who have gone back on their promises and upon those who made them politically. I challenge the Prime Minister to do what a man ought to do, namely, resign his seat and appeal to the judgment of his constituency. Every boy in the street knows what the electors of West Sydney would do in such circumstances. During the recent referendum campaign, one infamous statement was made which was not allowed to be corrected. An Australian soldier who has not only won the Victoria Cross, but also the clasp, was made use of - I will not say by the Prime Minister; but by some occult process - in an attempt to defeat the anticonscriptionists. I refer to Lieutenant Jacka, whose father has answered the lying press in the following sworn declaration
I, Nathaniel Jacka, of Wedderburn, in the State of Victoria, labourer, solemnly and sincerely declare as follows : -
V.C., in one letter, said that while out of the trenches they almost forget the rattle of the guns, and “ we have plenty of fun.” Never in any letter have any of my sons supported conscription, and in my belief they are still opposed to it. My wife and daughter are working against conscription, believing, as I do, that we should keep free the land for which our sons went out freely to fight.
And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act of the Parliament of Victoria rendering persons making a false declaration punishable for wilful and corrupt perjury.
Declared at Melbourne, in the State of Victoria, this 27th day of October, 1916.
If there was ever a thing that could be stamped with the stigma of infamy it was the letter reputed to have been received from Lieutenant Jacka. Lieutenant Jacka has not only won the Victoria Cross, but has the honour of putting a clasp across it - an honour which I believe, the late Lord Roberts himself did not enjoy. The printing offices were forbidden to send out copies of this affidavit ; the newspapers were prevented from publishing it; and all this was done by one man. Is there a coarse enough word which parliamentary usage will permit to describe the action of the Prime Minister in connexion with his departure from Australia, and the danger to which he subjected mcn, women, and children travelling by a certain vessel by allowing it to be understood that he would be a passenger by that vessel ? He left Sydney by the Melbourne express, saying goodbye to the men who were cheering him, and then skulked back by motor or some other means and boarded a vessel for America.
– Has not the honorable member supported him since then?
– The honorable member has been indulging in a Rip Van Winkle sleep. Let him cut his beard and get rid of his Rip Van Winkle appearance. I do not believe that the honorable member for Wide Bay would do what the Prime Minister did in connexion with his departure from Australia. This Prime Minister, who was the greatest man in West Sydney, dare not go there to-day and risk defeat by resigning his seat. A boy of twenty-one could beat the Prime Minister of Australia there to-day. What is the mess pf pottage for which he has done these things? After returning from England this right honorable gentleman, who used to talk on the “ stump “ or speak from a box in the streets of Sydney, dined and wined with the Lord Mayors of Melbourne and Sydney. They were able to partake of spirits in the Melbourne Town Hall when all the hotels had to close at 6 o’clock.
– Sheer jealousy!
– Not at all. I was not present at the banquet that I have in mind. I exposed a certain baking transaction with a Victorian Lunatic Asylum with which the Lord Mayor of Melbourne was connected, and His Lordship has never forgotten that exposure. I accuse the Prime Minister of hiding between the closed doors of the Melbourne Town Hall. On the occasion of two of the meetings which he ‘ addressed there privileged people were allowed to sneak in by means of doors under the gallery while citizens were waiting outside. The main doors were never opened. Let the Prime Minister attend the Lord Mayor’s banquets - let him go and booze there when the hotels are closed! Let him go back to the Conservative lords and ladies of England. The Liberal party there, in the choice words of the Bulletin, spewed him out, and the Radicals would have nothing to do with him. He came back here and actually inveigled myself and others into speaking at the town. hall. Because I told the people at- that meeting that Democracy was better than Autocracy, I was given a very brief report in the papers. Let the Prime Minister go back to England ! Let him go back to his Conservative press and to his Conservative friends. The greatest enemies that the workers .of England have had are the Conservatives, who have never extended the franchise to or helped the workers in any way. To-day Great Britain, with a population of 45,000,000, has only three times the number of voters that we have in the Commonwealth. I have only to say in conclusion that we know what will be the -result of this division. There are in the Government men with whom we have worked in the past. The parting of the ways has come, and I am sorry. One member of the Government has made in this House the statement that he will never come here except as an avowed member of the Labour party, so that I presume that when this Parliament is dissolved he will come back no more. I honour the honorable member for Denison too highly to believe that his pledged word, as reported in Hansard, will not be kept. If it is kept we shall lose him, and I shall be sorry, but my regrets will, not be as keen a3 were those I experienced when he took up his present position. We have sitting on the Government side of the House to-day only thirteen out of what was the strongest party in Australia. What has wrecked these men ? Nothing but the overweening ambition of one man who went to England and was spoilt, there. Upon his return he sought the assistance of various legislative and municipal councillors, and left the Democracy that he had appealed to in the past. Warren Hastings and others were impeached in England for doing less than he has done. I accuse him of having attempted to destroy the free franchise of. this country. I accuse him of tampering with the Electoral Act by providing that electors should be asked questions in the polling booths for which no provision was made in that Act. I accuse him of having tried- to controvert the power of the highest individual in the land so as to secure the object he had in view. At the last moment, perhaps, he drew back. When the history of these times is written, he will perhaps not appear in the position he is in now. I remember how years ago he misled us in the Political Labour Council of Victoria. He fooled Mr. Fisher, the late Mr. Batchelor, and another Minister, bringing them up to our Trades Hall and telling them and us that Sydney had passed a resolution to grant immunity at .the polls to any Liberals who supported the Watson Government in our fight against Mr. Deakin and Mr. Reid. He asked us to keep quiet for a little time, and we did. Seeing the company he was in, we never dreamt that he was deceiving us. I free the memory of those old members who have joined the great majority of any suspicion of complicity in what I am now accusing the Prime Minister of. He asked for three days’ silence, and toddled over to Sydney, . but he did not tell the people there what he told us. He told them that we had agreed to this course in Melbourne, and asked the Sydney body to pass a similar resolution, but they would not do it. Perhaps they knew him too well to trust him. We found how we had been lied to and dishonoured, and ten of us resigned as a protest. Possibly we would not have trusted him if he had come to us alone, but we thought we could trust him when he was accompanied by Mr. Fisher, Mr. Batchelor, and Senator McGregor.
– Why did you not tell us this last year?
– Because the occasion did not arise. The honorable member knows there is such a thing as forgiveness. So long as the Prime Minister went straight, we supported him. I have never tried to prevent any man or woman from going straight, and so long as he stuck to the planks of the platform that he helped to formulate and agreed to, I supported him, ^recognising his great ability, but the turning point has now come. His trickery of old was again exemplified by his action ia crossing the Pacific in disguise to save his carcass, and exposing to risk the life of every man, woman, and child on the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s steamer in which it had been announced that he was going. It was the same trickery that allowed him to come back in a transport carrying wounded prisoners, thus exposing them to greater danger, although I suppose no enemy would have injured that vessel knowing it was going 10,000 miles away from the seat of war.
– Order ! The honorable member is repeating himself.
– I asked the Prime Minister whether the referendum was to be decided by the majority vote of the people or by a majority vote of the people and States. He replied that it was to be decided by a majority vote of the people. This is a precedent which the smaller States ought to weigh gravely, because, if representation is to be given to the States on the basis of population, the smaller States will have very few members. Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia, in that event, would not have six members each in the Senate.
– Order ! The honorable member is again repeating himself.
– The referendum was dragged in the mud in an unworthy cause. What the reason may be, I do not know, but in the future we on this side will watch and wait with calm eyes. The Prime Minister does not loom so very large in the eyes of the press of England as he did a little while ago. That part of the English press which is Conservative, and is led by the London Times, loves and reveres only success.’ I do not think the honorable gentleman will look back upon this part of his life with any satisfaction, seeing that he is parting with men who placed him in the position he now occupies, and without whose help he would never have risen to it. Some dear and good friends of mine remain with him on the Government side of the House. They are, I believe, misguided and misled, possibly by the personal glamour of the Prime Minister, and I fear they will live to regret it, for the time is coming when we shall have the initiative and referendum in our Constitution. We boast now of the most glorious franchise in the world, but unless we are very careful that franchise may be injured by those who ought to defend it with their lives. If the Prime Minister likes to take Melbourne on, I shall be very glad to offer him a political fight, or, if I can arrange with the executive in Sydney, I shall be very pleased to resign and fight him in West Sydney. The evidence seems to be accumulating that he has not a ghost of a show -in either constituency. Why does he not resign and let us go to the country ? I cannot compliment the Opposition on their, attitude. Why do they not take their seats on the Ministerial side? They have the largest numbers in the House, and we have a’ Ministry of only thirteen, which is commonly known as the devil’s number, though I hope they will not have the devil’s luck. I know they are playing a waiting game, and I shall not say more. Venerating, as I did at one time, the high abilities of the Prime Minister, I find that these abilities are too sinuous, and not to be depended upon. Whether this arises from the glamour cast over him in the Old Land, I do not know; but his first act cannot be called honorable - I shall not use any harsher term - coming, as he did, to our executive, and telling-us he had got the Sydney executive to agree, when he had not. When the- right honorable gentleman’s epitaph is written, it will not be that of a man who has bad a long political career in which honour was his only watchword.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hampson) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19161130_reps_6_80/>.