6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the taking of a division yesterday, Mr. Stumm, instead of Mr. Livingston, was marked as voting for the Ayes. The mistake has been corrected in the records.
Representation - Discussion of Subjects
– In the event of this Parliament refusing; to ask for an extension of its term, is it the intention of the Government not to send representatives to the Imperial Conference?
– I would prefer not to have that alternative presented. It is the intention of the Government that Australia shall be represented at the Imperial Conference.
– No matter what happens.
– I hope that my honorable friend and those who sit with him will realize, as we do, the great urgency of the matter, as well as its supreme and overmastering importance.
-Will the Prime Minister give the House an opportunity to discuss the questions that the Australian representatives intend to bring before the Imperial Conference?
– I hope to have an opportunity to set forth my own views regarding the representation of Australia at the Conference, and it is desir able that the House should express its opinion on the subjects that will probably be discussed there. It must be understood, however, that there is no agenda paper, and therefore wecannot know what subjects will be discussed, apart from the conduct of the war and the terms of peace acceptable to the Allies.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say whether Rockhampton is to be made a centre for the appraising of wool ?
– I have not yet been able to obtain the information necessary to an answer, but I hope to reply to the question later in the day.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence yet in a position to reply to a question which I submitted to his predecessor 1 I asked whether, instead of appointing a military officer to inquire into serious allegations concerning the paying office in Sydney, an investigation by the Inter-State Commission, or by a Committee of this House, could be provided for?
– The question was answered to some extent by a statement made by the Leader of the Government. The reply furnished to the question addressed to my predecessor, which related to the appointment of Major Ling, is as f ollows : -
Major Ling is an officer of the AuditorGeneral’s Department whose services have been made available to this Department for the period of the war. His duties include the inspection of the work of the District Pay Offices and Camp Pay Corps; and as the work necessarily brings Kim into close contact with the military organization, he has been granted the rank of major in the Army Fay Corps to enable him to more effectively discharge his duties.
Prior to taking up duty with this Department Major Ling held no military rank. Major Ling has associated with him a qualified public accountant, Mr. A. E. Barton, of Sydney.
– Will the Minister extend the scope of the investigation to the conduct of the Audit Department generally, to ascertain whether that department is as efficient as it should be?
– I shall be pleased to put the question before the Minister for Defence.
– Has anything been done, or is it proposed to do anything, to amalgamate the Commonwealth and State machinery for the collection of land and income tax, -so that there may be one uniform method of furnishing returns and collecting taxes ?
– I shall be glad to do my best in that direction. What the honorable member desires is a “ consummation devoutly to be wished.”
– Does the Prime Minister intend to carry out his promise, before going to England, to treat Victoria in the same way as he is treating the other States in regard to the payment of wharfage on sugar ?
– I discussed the matter with the honorable member at some length, and thought that we had reached a modus sugarendi. The new Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider its policy on this matter, but will do so shortly, and I hope that its decision will be satisfactory to the honorable member.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that a number of motor mechanics employed at the Victoria ^Barracks, Sydney, have been transferred from the transport corps to the Army Medical Corps, in which they have been made drivers, although still being called on to do the work of motor mechanics, the “transfer meaning to them a loss in pay of 3s. a day? Will the honorable gentleman have the matter rectified ?
– I am not aware of the facts, but if the honorable member will give me specific details, I shall have an inquiry made into the case.
Number sent Abroad - Discipline.
– In view of the conflicting statements regarding the number of men that Australia has sent to the war, will the Assistant Minister for Defence furnish to the House the exact figures ?
– I shall put the request before the Minister for Defence, with a view to obtaining the information desired.
– Will the Prime Minister, when representing Australia at the Imperial Conference, urge upon the Imperial authorities that misconduct among the Australian troops at the front should be dealt with under the Australian Defence Act, instead of under the British Army Act? I understand that the present system is the cause of a great deal of friction between Australian and British officers and soldiers, and that pressure is being used to bring the whole of our Australian soldiers under the British Army Act. I ask the Prime Minister to look into the matter with a view to safeguarding the interests of our soldiers on active service.
– As the law stands, Australian troops are subject to the Australian Defence Act, not to any British Act. The Australian troops are under Imperial control, but they are under Australian not British laws. Australian soldiers charged with misconduct are tried under Australian laws. I do not know of any proposal to alter this arrangement.
– Will the Prime Minister explain the conditions under which 1,000 carpenters are to be sent to Great Britain, and whether they are being despatched at the request of the Imperial Government ?
– If honorable members wish for information on subjects like this, it would be better to- give notice, because it is impossible, on the spur of the moment, to recall the precise circumstances under which all these transactions are carried out; but, to the best pf my recollection, the position is as follows: Following on. a request by the British Government for railway workers - that is to say, the professional staff; permanent-way men, and traffic men - there was a demand for navvies. Both these demands were urgent, and the Commonwealth did what was possible to satisfy them. Then came the suggestion from carpenters that they might be employed in England; and, as a result, communications were despatched to the Imperial Government, who replied that they could find employment for 1,000 carpenters. We have -nothing to do with the conditions under which they will be employed. All we are doing is to send these men to Great Britain; but, speaking subject to correction, so far as their dependants are concerned, they are to be treated by us exactly as if they were the dependants of soldiers. The men will work in the factories of Great Britain under conditions arranged by the British authorities. I know nothing beyond this.
– I have looked carefully through the Prime Minister’s speech, and can see nothing dealing with the intention of the Government as to the despatch of three representatives to the Imperial Conference. Is it the intention of the Government to send three representatives of one party ? If so, why do they limit the delegation to three only ?
– Yes; it is the intention of the Government to send three representatives to the Imperial Conference, and it is a fact that they are representatives of the one party, as the honorable member says. If he means that they reflect the same shade of political opinion, he knows perfectly well that it is not true.- If he means that they are three representatives of a Government that has come together in order to give expression to the will of the people, then he is right. That he himself is not included among the delegation is entirely the fault of his party, that declined to assist in the formation of a National Government.
– In view of the statement of the Prime Minister that it must not be assumed that delegates to the Imperial Conference are of the one opinion, will he inform the House in what respect the delegates differ in opinion ; and if they do differ in opinion, will he say whether the public of Australia will be given an opportunity of ascertaining how these gentlemen vote at the Imperial Conference?
– The honorable member has spoken of differences of political opinion, and methods of settling them. There may be, on certain matters, a difference of political opinion between the three delegates; but aa to the opinion of the House and the country in regard to the honorable gentlemen there can be no difference of opinion.
– If Sir William Irvine goes to Great Britain, will he be permitted to interfere with the Federal franchise in a way similar to his interference with the franchise of every policeman, railway officer, and public servant, in the State of Victoria?
– None of the delegates to the Imperial Conference will be permitted to touch the franchise with regard to any policeman, public servant, or any other person in Australia. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the question of the franchise in Australia will no more come up at that Conference than will the matter of his own conduct yesterday.
– In view of the fact that rust, hailstorms, and excessively wet weather so affected the. wheat-growers in the central western district of New South Wales that they will garner no more than six bushels per acre this year, will the Prime Minister use his great influence and endeavour to get the wheat pool’ to square up the balance due to the farmers for the 1916 crop?
– I have no control over the State wheat pool.
– I merely ask you to use your influence.
– Yes, I can promise to do that.
– In connexion with the cutting-down ‘ proposals that are causing so much friction in the country districts, of which the PostmasterGeneral is no doubt aware, I ask whether the honorable gentleman is acquainted with the fact that in several places mail contracts for the conveyance of mails by horse vehicles have been wiped out, and- boys in the employment of the Post Office are now compelled topush heavy loads in wheel-barrows, sometimes nearly three-quarters of a mile from the railway station to the post office ? If the Postmaster-General is aware of this fact, I ask him whether he is prepared to abolish this policy of making: beasts of burden of boys in the employment of the Department?
– The statement of the honorable member and his method of putting the matter is not creditable to> him. The allegation that the Department is making a beast of burden of any officer has no foundation.
– I can prove my statement.
Mr.WEBSTER.- The case that the honorable member refers to has already been before me. I have looked into it carefully, and found that the duty which is being performed by a boy employed in the Department is admittedly one that can be donewith ease and comfortin the case of that particular office. In regard to country services generally, I tell the honorable member and others that there has been no reduction in expenditure on them this year. As a matter of fact, I am paying this year for country services a larger sum than was paid last year, so that it cannot be said that I am reducing country services in order to show an increase of revenue for the Department.
– Is the Minister controlling external affairs aware that the Maltese who were sent to New Caledonia are being sent back to Sydney? Can he state what is the intention of the Government in regard to these men ?
– I have heard unofficially that these Maltese are on the water, but I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question if he desires further information on the matter.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inquire into the rumours prevalent in Sydney that the Sydney Bulletin office was raided by officers of the Defence Department for having criticised the methods of the Defence Pay Office? If the rumours are found to be correct, will the Minister report to the House the groundsupon which this interference with the newspaper was based ?
– I shall bring the matter before the Minister for Defence.
– Owing to the many cruel anomalies of the War Pensions Act, will the Government consider the questionof bringing down an amendment to the Act in order that dependants of soldiers may be better treated than they are at present ?
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I can inform the honorable member that the Governmentwill consider the matter.
– The moratorium regulations under the War Precautions Act originally provided that the Judge must be satisfied that the defendant could pay out of his own moneys, or out of moneys he could borrow at not more than 6 per cent. I ask the Prime Minister whether there was any agitation for an amendment which was recently passed providing that the Judge must be satisfied only that the defendant can pay out of his own moneys, and deleting that portion providing that the defendant must pay if the Judge is satisfied that he could borrow the money at not more than 6 per cent.?
– The regulations under the War Precautions’ Act with regard to the moratorium were framed as the result of urgent representations made in this House. The modification of the regulationshas been made as a result of the experience of their working. The particular amendment referred to was found to be necessary in . order that the real object of the moratorium should not be defeated. Before the regulations were amended, where a man, taken into Court, said that he was unable to pay, he was told that he must satisfy the Court that he could not borrow the money. But how could he do that? Under the amended regulation he has only to satisfy the Court that he could not pay out of his own moneys. It was the duty of the Department to make it perfectly clear that the moratorium was to be one that would protect the debtor during the currency of the war. The amended regulation does so.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The matter will be considered.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he state the number of ships, and their tonnage, which left Australia in ballast during the year 1916; and will he also state in what trade such ships are engaged?
– The information will be obtained.
Export of Cloth
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will say, in view of statements made to the Australian Patriotic League, that it is the intention of the Government to export cloth to Great Britain for making garments for our Australian troops in England, what the Government intends to do with all the women workers of Australia who will thus lose their employment?
– Nothing is known of the statements referred to.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of the gentlemen appointed as wool appraisers?
– The names of the wool appraisers for the different States are as follow : -
New South Wales. - Walter Reginald Bennett, Arthur Wellesley Walker, Clarence Walter Bridge, Herbert Edward Tankard, Gordon Clavering Trollope, Sidney Harrison, Joseph Hector Brown, James Ley Row, Edward Labatt, Walter William Lyon, Ernest Burton Cook, Charles Hope, William David Hanson, Wilton Marsden, Lucien Gustave Bonnefin, Harry Osborne, John Ewing, John Henry Robinson, Samuel Farey, Allen Bradley Young, Duncan Carson, Harold Bell, Whitfield King,
Victoria. - Harry Denison, Alfred Ernest Coombe, Edward Norwood, Edgar Percy Carter, Rupert Greene, George Ramsden, Edward H. Lascelles, Leslie Norman Hurst, David Anderson Milne, Arthur Henry Bell, Hampden Beaumont, Isaac Biggin, Arthur Ernest Bridger, Bertram Cowling, Toussaint Charles Dewez, Hector Vincent Dowling, James Wardlaw Drysdale, William Norris Gillman,Joseph William Kershaw, Fred Hill, Thos William Irving, Audley Raoul Lempriere, Ernest H. Pearce, Michael Herbert Pickles, Arthur Prescott, John Vincent Sandeman, Frederick Obry Sharp, George Ratcliffe Silcock, Harry Smith, James Hepworth Stead, Ernest Alfred Whitehead, Herbert William Benskin, Frederick William Gill, John Fox, George Kettlewell, Henry Younghusband Cockburn, Henry Brough Smith, Theodore Mason, Henry Farrington Jackson, Donald Patrick Clason Wilson, James Francis Guthrie, John James Evans, Edward Joseph De Henzell, Norman Forsyth Bickford, Joseph Edward Wardell, Frederick Richard Bennett, Rene Vigier De Latour, Clement William Renard, Darcy Marcotte, Ronald Victor Tait, William Charles Carrodus, George Officer, Harry Wilson Jowett, Charles Pyne Strickland.
Queensland. - Arthur Reid, Ernest Noel Quirk, Harold James Gardener, Roy Walter Heggie, William Crowther, Richard Baxter, Duncan Carson, Harold Bell,Edmond Christian Hay Dixon, Carlyle James Johnstone, ThomasLeitch, Fergus James Thomas, Robert. Sinclair Smith, Henry Harland Hudson, Frederick Emile Sturmfels.
South Australia. - Arthur Gates Fenner, Edward Willis Van Senden, George Jeffrey, Reuben Charles Chapman, Fletcher Lathiean, Alfred Stanley Cheadle, James O’Donnell, George Vernon Greaves, Tom Percival Reid, George Dowling, Benjamin Luxmoore, John Luxmoore, Arthur Crase, George Tod, James Wigham McGregor, George Henry Mitchell (jun.), Robert Bond McComas, Thomas Joseph Exton, George Antoine Fabien Prevost, Frank
Marron, Charles Martel, Paul Blairon, Maurice James Duval.
Western Australia. - Alfred Pilling, Esmond Leslie Shiels, Arthur Ainsworth Gibson, Norman Crowther, Beginald Walker John Anderson, Noel Murray Stokes, Charles Holder Fielding, Frank Jenner Buttfield.
Tasmania. - John DeLancy Forth, John Williamson, Leonard Shackleton, Edwin Herbert Webster, Gerald Alleyne Roberts, Frank Briant, Charles John Pulton, Allan Stewart, Robert Norman Smith, George Edward Harrap, Herbert Gibson.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has come to any decision on the question of the farmers being represented on the Wheat Board?
– I am doing my best to have an appointment made. The matter will be submitted at the next meeting of the Wheat Board, which is to be held very shortly.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish a list of the places at which wool is now appraised by officers appointed by the Government?
– The following is the list desired by the honorable member: -
Queensland - Brisbane. New South Wales - Sydney, Albury. Victoria- Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong. South Australia- Adelaide. Tas mania - Hobart, Launceston. Western Australia - Fremantle (Albany and Geraldton recommended as appraising centres).
Action against the “ Graphic “ - Wreck of the “ Matai.”
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister explain the reasons for the censorship being applied to the newsof the alleged wreck of the Matai at Raratonga?
– News of the wreck of the Matai was withheld from publication only until information was received confirming the statement that she was a total loss.
Allowance to Dependants
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the ballot-papers of the Australian soldiers who voted in England and elsewhere outside Australia on the last referendum have arrived in Australia ; and, if not, when will they arrive?
– These ballot-papers have not arrived in Australia. The regulations require the Returning Officer to retain the parcelled ballot-papers in safe custody until he receives from the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth directions for their destruction.
asked the Minister for the’ Navy, upon notice -
Will he inform the House and the public as to whether any persons endeavoured to supply meat diseased with hydatids, &c, to his Department ; and, if so, what are their names ?
– There have been no rejections of diseased meat for the last nine months ; and it is not thought that any good purpose would be served by mentioning names of firms now. A strict system of inspection by health officers is in vogue.
– I move -
Whereas, by reason of the existence of a state of war, and by reason of the immediate meeting of an Imperial Conference for the discussion of questions of paramount importance to the Commonwealth and to the British Empire, it is imperatively necessary that the forthcoming elections for both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth should be postponed : And whereas, in the existing circumstances, this can only be effected by an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom : Now therefore this House resolves : That the Imperial Government be requested to provide by legislation for the extension of the duration of the present House of Representatives until the expiration of six months after the final declaration of peace, or until the 8th day of October, 1918, whichever is the shorter period, and for. such provision in relation to the termsof senators and the holding of Senate elections as will enable the next elections for the Senate to be held at the same time as the next general) election for the House of Representatives, and consequential adjustments to be made regarding subsequent elections.
I am aware that in submitting this motionto the House I am putting before it a resolution such as it has not yet had to consider in the course of its history. The circumstances in which we live, however, are such as to make precedent for all our actions impossible. We have to deal with a situation unique in its character, and one which calls for immediate action. The motion sets out both the nature of our difficulty and the remedy we seek to* apply. Owing to the war and to the Imperial Conference now shortly to meet, it is undesirable that the elections for this Parliament, or either House of it, should take place in the immediate future, since that would seriously prejudice recruiting, and the disturbance of public mind, and the disruption and energy consequent upon an election would preclude that effective representation at the Conference which it is most desirable and, indeed, imperative Australia should have.
I shall take in their order the twopoints involved: First. the effect of the war and the necessity for united action; and second, the necessity for representation at the Imperial Conference. First as to the war and the necessity for unitedaction. An election disrupting still further, as it must, a people already sufficiently torn into factions by recent happenings, would close the door upon all hope of that united and whole-hearted effort which is now essential to the preservation of the Commonwealth and the Empire. All hope, I say, of united action would be jeopardized, if not destroyed, by an appeal to the people at this juncture. Yet I do not say that there are not some circumstances which would make such an appeal not only excusable, but imperative.
In asking the House to agree to this motion, I must direct the attention of honorable members for a moment to the actual circumstances in which both Chambers of the Legislature find themselves; Owing to the constitutional provision that members of the Senate shall sit for a fixed term, in any way not contingent upon that for which members of this House are elected, whether this House expires by effluxion of time or is prematurely dissolved, it follows that the periods at which the Senate and the House of Representatives are due to go to the country do not synchronize. There never has been, however, such a great gap as now exists between the time at which the Senate is due to go to the country and the date on which the House of Representatives expires by effluxion of time. It is very undesirable that a Chamber like this, constituted as it is by a Government which has behind it at least two-thirds of the House, and, I venture to say, at least two-thirds of the people, should go to the country at the present juncture, even if the question of the Imperial Conference did not make either the election or attendance at the Conference of its representatives impossible.
If we look to see what the other nations or other parts of the Empire are doing, we shall find that the course the Government are asking the House to take is one that has been adopted generally. The British Legislature - that Mother of Parliaments, that cradle of liberty, that place from which we derive all the legislative freedom that we enjoy to-day - has postponed again and again the date of her elections. After two and a half years of this dreadful war we see her now with her wings unscathed, although she has passed through the most complete revolution that has attended her history from the date of the landing of William the Conqueror. There is to-day in England a Government completely alien to that which went before it- alien, I do not mean in personnel, but in the nature and scope of its powers; the manner in which it exercises them : its detachment in all but form from that legislation which hitherto has been the rock upon which it stood. , There has been effected in England a revolution, sanctioned, not by blood or passion, but by a united people, determined to put the war above everything,, and holding even those traditional methods by which it expressed its will and its desire for liberty as nothing when the very substance of liberty itself is at stake! Britain has postponed her elections again and again, and we see there a united people, a united Parliament, and a united Government.
I do not deny that there is in Britain a party not unlike, in its attitude towards the war, I . was going to say, to the Official Labour party, but I shall rather say the official Labour organization ; for I know very well - no man knows better - that there are in Australia, opposite me in this House to-day, though all are members of the Official Labour party, two sections as wide apart as Heaven is from Hell. However, it was not with any idea of heartening those honorable gentlemen opposite, who know very well what they have to expect, that.’ I was led into this by-path. I was pointing out how Britain had, as it were, brushed aside institutions that seemed destined to live for ever, and cut a deep and wide channel of innovation, down which the stream of circumstances might flow freely. I was pointing out that in England the life of Parliament had been prolonged, and I invite the attention of the House to the fact that in Canada similar action has been taken. Let me now come to the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Honorable members know perfectly well that if it be desirable during this war that we should work unitedly - and no one will deny that as an abstract statement - an election is not calculated to effect that purpose. It may be that through this Garden of Gethsemane we may yet have to go, that the will of the people to prosecute this war to a victorious end may be carried into effect; but no one will say for one moment that, if an election can be avoided, it will ‘not be a good thing for this country - not for members of this Parliament, but a good thing for the country. What have we to do ? We have to get recruits for our Army ? Are we getting them ?
– Why did you not use your influence with Mr. Holman?
– Are we getting the recruits? I can understand now something about the serpent in Eden. We are asked by Britain to maintain at their full strength those magnificent divisions which have won immortal glory for Australia. We are asked to do more. The need for men, I say advisedly, is greater than it was in October last. What do the newspapers of this morning tell us ? Anybody not wilfully blind can see that we have come to a crisis in this war - that it is now literally a life-and-death embrace in which the Empire and Germany are locked. Who shall say what the result will be ? A great nation like Germany, with 70,000,000 of a population, backed up by Austria - a virile, powerful, resourceful people, bred from their infancy up to the art of war, who have been preparing these forty years for this very thing - is not to be beaten without a desperate and bloody struggle. No mere waving of hands or banners will overcome so resolute, so powerful, so desperate an enemy. Do you not realize the power of the’ enemy after two years and a half of war? Do their arms not infest our every sea ? Is there one single exploit beyond the Marne of which we cansay really that it stands to our credit? Not one. On the other hand, the German legions have been everywhere triumphant. Do you deny that? It cannot be denied. It means that our need is urgent and great; but when such things are mentioned, there is nothing from honorable members opposite but a sneer and a grin. But there is not one man who loves his country who sneers or grins under the circumstances.
– You ought to be ashamed ofyourself !
– I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw that remark.
– Withdraw what remark ?
– A remark that is decidedly offensive.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– If honorable members do not obey the Chair, and preserve order, I shall have to take steps to compel them to do so. The honorable member for Brisbane must know that it is offensive to tell another honorable member that he ought to be ashamed of himself. I asked for a withdrawal of that remark, and I repeat the request.
– The statement of the Prime Minister was most offensive to me. When the Prime Minister said that I had nothing but jeers and sneers in regard to our position in the war, he is saying that which is not true and is offensive. I shall not withdraw.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to reply to any statements the Prime Minister may make. I now call upon the honorable member to withdraw the offensive remark.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– Will honorable members cease these continual interjections ? I ask the honorable member for Brisbane, for the sake of his own dignity, to set a good example, and withdraw a remark which, in my opinion, is offensive.
– I shall not withdraw, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I again ask the honorable member to obey the Chair, and withdraw the offensive remark.
– The Prime Minister, apparently, can say what he likes!
– The honorablemember for Indi must resume his seat.
– The Prime Minister’s remark was offensive to me, and I shall not withdraw mine under the circum stances.
– Then I name the honorable member for disobeying the Chair.
– I have a most distasteful task cast upon me. I had not the faintest idea of referring to the honorable member for Brisbane.
– You were referring to me?
– I was not doing so in particular, but if the honorable member presses the matter I will say he is one of those to whom I was alluding.
– Say what you like - I do not care what you say !
– I rose to give the assurance I have given, and I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw the remark he made.
– As the Prime Minister has withdrawn his expression, I accept his apology, and withdraw my remark.
– That will not do at all Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I ask the honorable member to obey the rules of the House and withdraw his remark unconditionally. He will have an opportunity to put himself right later.
Several honorable members interject
– Will the honorable member for Maribyrnong and’ others cease interjecting? It is impossible for me to hear what is going on.
– I understood the Prime Minister to state that lie did not apply his remark to me, and, therefore, I accept his statement, and withdraw my remark.
– I am with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in your endeavour to have the proceedings conducted in an orderly manner, and I ask whether the Prime Minister was in order in implying, as he did a little while ago in this debate, that the honorable member for Illawarra is a “ serpent “ !
– I did not describe thathonorable member as a “serpent.”
– Honorable members will see how difficult it is for the Chair to follow the proceedings of the House in the face of these continual interruptions. As a fact, it was impossible for me to hear what the Prime Minister did say. If the honorable member for Capricornia Had called my attention to any such remark at the time, I should have treated the Prime Minister in exactly the same way as I treat any other honorable member.
– I do not desire the Prime Minister to withdraw, because anything he may say about me will get me a thousand votes.
– Then I shall not withdraw the- remark, because i should be
Barry to lose the honorable member the support he will so urgently need. When this incident arose, I was saying that there is a great demand for men. We are getting now not much more than one-half of the number we were getting this time last year, though the necessity is much greater now than then. It was said during the referendum that in voluntarism there is a virtue, which, being exercised, would satisfy all the requirements of our circumstances. What baneful influence is it that prevents this virtue being exercised J What is it but the unhappy differences which exist between different sections of the people of the country t If that be so, an election fanning the still glowing embers of party feeling into fierce blazes would still’ further hamper the nation in its effort to put forth its full strength. An election would mean that for eight or ten weeks there would be chaos in the country, that recruiting would be at a standstill, that attempt at united effort would be hopeless. Will any one who wishes his country well deny an election at this juncture is most undesirable? The need for men is so great that we must get them in some way or other. Australia has given its decision that we cannot get them in one way. There remains only one other way open to us, and only if all of us, if all citizens - forget their differences and work together can that way prOve successful.
Leaving the war for a moment, I now come to review the position as it affects the Imperial Conference. At the Conference matters of vital import to ‘Australia, and of vital import to the Empire, are to be discussed. For the first time in the history of the Empire, as I said yesterday, the Dominions are to be asked to express an opinion on peace and war; their representatives are, in fact, to be a War Council for the Empire, and the voice of the Dominions is to bo heard as to the eonduct of the war. How often in this House, from both sides, have we heard regrets expressed that Australia was not consulted in these great matters before war broke out, and since it has raged? What a great privilege it is that the’ Dominions, even at this late hour, should be given a voice in the councils of the Empire, and be able to express an opinion and have a vote in deciding the circumstances under which peace shall be- made, the manner in which the war shall be conducted, the conditions that ought to obtain after the war, and to consider and decide the future of the great Pacific Empire, of which, whether we will or no, we cannot rid ourselves except at the price of national destruction. Questions more material in their nature, but of vital importance to the Commonwealth, such as Imperial trade, Imperial preference, the development of the resources of the Empire, - and many other things, may be brought forward by any Dominion, and are to be. dealt with, for’ the agenda paper is not closed. Subject to the condition that they may not intrude on the domestic policy of Great Britain, or of any one of the Dominions, the whole gamut of Imperial policy - war, peace, trade after the war - will be open to discussion. Surely Australia cannot afford to be unrepresented at such a Conference?
And her representation must he effective, and such as can- make itself heard, representation that will be as typical, of Australia as it. is possible to get. I wish it had .been possible to have it more typical, but that, we cannot do so is no fault of ours. The .olive branch has been held . out ., and scornfully thrown down. The .honorable member for Yarra asked ‘ why the section to which he belongs is not to be represented. I reply that upon the shoulders of his party rests the responsibility for that state of affairs, and if they will not bear it, then .the responsibility must be upon the junta which is behind honorable members opposite, which directs every action of theirs, and without the approval of which they cannot, and dare not, speak or. move. But when the honorable member says that the. proposed representation does not include men who represent the opinions of his supporters, I am at a loss to know to what opinions he alludes. If honorable members opposite say that there is no man in the proposed delegation who’ will represent the platform on which they were elected, I say that I arn at least as much entitled to represent that platform as they are, for I, in twenty yeaTS of public life, have never violated one word of the bond on which I was elected, either in spirit or in letter. If honorable members contend to the contrary I invite them to point out in what respect I have departed from my pledges.- I am a representative, not only of the policy of the Labour platform, but also of that policy towards the war set out in the Labour manifesto. Honorable members opposite, who call themselves the official representatives of Labour, cannot say so much. Sir, when the turmoil and .shouting die away, when the people are able to view things calmly and in true perspective, I venture to predict that the verdict of the people will be that it was not those who tied themselves to the chariot of faction, but those who stood fast to what they conceived to be vital to the welfare and interests of their country, who were the true representatives of Labour, of Democracy, of Australia.
I say that the people of Australia as a whole will be well represented at that Conference. Let me now say a word in anticipation of criticism which may be urged by honorable members opposite.
Both’ inside and outside Parliament there is some talk that Australia ought not .to be committed by its delegates to any definite, policy. I do not understand precisely to what this criticism is directed. It is perfectly obvious that it would be grossly improper, if it were not impossible, for the delegates to commit Australia to any policy without consulting Parliament, if by that is meant a policy that would take from us one-thousandth part of our rights of self-government. The delegates will have neither the right nor the power to do such a thing. And on their behalf I say they will nob in any way attempt to pledge Australia in respect of its powers of self-government. Australia itelf must decide any such question. The delegates will attend to listen, discuss, and express their own opinion ; it will, be for Australia to decide. As for pledging our country in regard .to the conduct of the war, Australia is committed to that. What is Australia’s policy! To prosecute the war with every ounce of energy at its command, and if honorable members say that the delegates ought not to stand up in the Councils of the Empire and state that policy, then now is the time and this House is the place, for them to so declare themselves. We stand for the prosecution of this war by Australia to the end.
– So do we.
– And if that means committing Australia, the representatives will certainly commit it, as this Parliament has already done. If there are to be any limits to the efforts of Australia for that purpose, I invite this House to state them.
As to peace, and the terms upon which the Empire should make it; let me state my own view. I have been unsparing in my denunciation of the military power of Germany, but I shall never stand quiet under the criticism of being thought desirous to humiliate and crush a .giant’ nation, I am not in favour of humiliating Germany as such, but I am in favour of destroying the military power of Germany, and to- that end I will bend every ounce of energy I possess. But, so far as -the German people are concerned, when they have exorcised, themselves of the monster that now has them in its foul grip, when the evil has been burnt out of them by fire, and they have been purged of this disease that corrupts their body, they shall stand again in the councils of the nations. I shall do nothing to place them outside the pale. I will he no party in any respect to a ruthless policy towards Germany as a nation, but to that military despotism that now directs and possesses it, that menaces civilization and threatens the welfare of this continent, I am opposed, and will do all that in me lies to utterly destroy.
The prolongation of the life of Parliament is essential, then, first, in order that the nation may put forth its utmost efforts to win the war; and second, that Australia may be effectively represented at the Imperial Conference. Let me now deal with the means by which we seek to effect our purpose. It is proposed, in the first place, to ask both branches of the Legislature - for the resolution is introduced concurrently in both Houses - to express their opinion, in the terms of the resolution. The British Legislature is then to be asked to frame an Act to give effect to the wishes of the Parliament of Australia. The criticism that, may be directed against this proposal, that it is in any way a subversion of the principle of self-government, stands condemned by the very terms of the resolution itself. It “is proposed to ask the Imperial Legislature to introduce an Act based upon the resolution of this Parliament; that is to say, we exercise our selfgoverning powers for this definite purpose so far as those powers will take us. We exercise them, indeed, in the only way in which they can be exercised. We desire a prolongation of the life of this Parliament. We cannot get that under the Constitution, except by means of a referendum, which, by virtue of section 126, cannot now be taken because the unexpired portion of this Parliament’s term is too brief to permit of that course being followed. In any case, if we were to have a referendum, we might just as well have an election. But, apart from that, when we ask the Parliament of Great Britain to pass this Act, we do by that very request exercise our powers of selfgovernment, and follow an invariable practice. The Constitution under which we meet here to-day is an Act of the British Parliament, passed at the request of the Australian people, exercised constitutionally, in exactly the same way as will be this proposed Act of the British Legislature referred to in this resolution.- The representatives of the people ask the British
Parliament to legislate in a certain way. The British Parliament is, therefore, as was the case with the Constitution, merely the means by which Australia exercises her powers of self-government. The means themselves are not only compatible with self-government, but are a plenary exercise of those powers. If honorable members opposite urge that the proposal stands condemned because it is an appeal to the British Legislature, my answer is, first, that this is the usual, and, indeed, only, means by which Australia can exercise her self-governing powers at this juncture; that not only the Commonwealth Constitution, but the Constitution Act of every State, is an Act passed by the British Legislature as a result of an appeal by Australia, or of a State. That is a sufficient and complete answer to the arguments of my critics. But now a word as to the critics themselves, and their bona fides in this matter. I have read that a burst of indignation was evoked last night at the very mention of this monstrous and unconstitutional innovation of daring to approach the British Parliament in this manner. This spurious indignation of the junta will deceive nobody. The members on the Opposition benches, at a conference of their masters, the junta, held on the 11th January of this year, according to the Labour Gall, not only contemplated, but also approved of the prolongation of the life of this Parliament to October next. As that could be done only by an Imperial Act, it follows that the course of appealing to the British Parliament to do the very thing which they now condemn has been approved by them.
– Were you not asked by the whole party to obtain such an Act when in London?
– Of course I was. I had forgotten that fact. That is one of the tilings that I was sent Home to do. And, as I have already told the House, even the supreme beings who rule, or wish to rule, this country have approved of the prolongation of the life of this Parliament to October next. Will honorable members dare* to contend that it would be a crime to prolong the life of this Parliament beyond October, but that to ask for an Imperial Act to postpone the elections until October is a proper and virtuous act?
This brings me to the consideration of the -desirability and necessity of a further extension than that approved by the Labour Conference. Honorable members opposite clearly have no case for opposing an extension until October next, whatever they may urge against a further extension. The reason for the proposed prolongation of the life of this Parliament is not that the path of honorable members may be made easy. If there were no war, it would be monstrous and improper to propose to extend the life of this Parliament for a day beyond that on which senators had to submit themselves for re-election, and every one knows that such a proposal would not be made. But there is a war, and it is urgently necessary that the people should act unitedly.Honorable members opposite have admitted, both before and after the Fall, the necessity for united action. In those days when we wandered’ together hand in hand through Arcadian groves, when even the honorable member for Capricornia was known to smile, honorable gentlemen opposite were in favour of the prolongation of the life of this Parliament,’ not, mark you, sir, merely until October next, but of a prolongation much more extended. The desire for such a prolongation then exuded from every pore of their smiling faces. Of course, they desire it still, although they are compelled to look as if they took with reluctance as medicine what they relish as flies do honey. They are, indeed, gathered, with faces that cannot, despite the fear of the junta, altogether conceal the joy they feel at not being put into the. tumbrel en route for the guillotine. They are like flies around a honey-pot, from which the gauze which hitherto prevented them from entering has been providentially lifted.
Let me show why it is essential that the life of this Parliament shall be extended beyond October next. The first reason is the existence of the war. Should the war terminate before October next, mankind will have gained a great boon. But who shall say that this is certain, that it is even probable ‘ Should the war not have ended then, our circumstances may be so grave as to make the holding of an election impossible. No one can read this morning’s newspaper without doubts as to how we shall get on. I have never before read statements so disturbing. Were I not speaking in public I might say more. Should the war be over by October, one of the reasons- for prolonging the life of this Parliament” will have ceased to have, weight. But the war may not have ended then, and the need for men and for service will grow with each passing month,, the need for united action will hegreater. Let us face the facts. The question is not whether it would advantagethis party or that party to have an election now or in three months’ time, butwhat is the best course to adopt in the interests of the country.
Putting aside the consideration of thewar for a moment, let us deal with the Imperial Conference. It would be impossiblefor the representatives of Australia to attend that Conference were the life of this Parliament to be extended only to Octobernext. In these days it takes a long timeto travel to England. Formerly one* could get there within five weeks; nowadays, the journey may occupy eight or nine weeks, with as long a period forthe return, should we get back at all. Honorable members opposite smile in pleasant anticipation. They see thesubmarine menace in a new and friendly light. It would be a way out for them should we not return. Everyone knows that the proposed Conferenceis unique in the history of the Empire. Every part of the Empire is to be repre- ‘sented for the discussion of questions of magnitude, vital to its interest. Thesegreat deliberations must be prolonged. TheAustralian representatives could not be expected to attend the Conference knowing that they would be plunged into theturmoil of an election immediately on their return, before the country had been informed at first hand of what had beendone. The life of this Parliament mustbe prolonged sufficiently to enable the representatives of this country to put before the people a statement of what occurred at the Conference. . Some of thematters there dealt with” must be considered by the people, with a view totaking action expressing- opinion, and the people should not be asked to express an’ opinion on matters cif fundamental importance until they have heard the facts at first hand and fairly considered them. The whole of the circumstances surrounding our present position - the gravity of” the crisis caused by the war, the importance of the Conference - make the course urged by the Government one which should be adopted unanimously. I have- put the case as clearly as I could. I have shown how the necessity for the prolongation of the life of this Parliament has arisen out of the war, and out of the Conference; I have shown that united action is imperatively needed, and that the holding of an election would be fatal to it; and I hope that I have made it clear, too, that, although an election is most undesirable, yet, if we are to tread that path, we must do so at once. Further, I have shown that the method by which effect will be given to the resolution is compatible with our self-governing powers, and the only means by which they can be, and have been, exercised, a similar resolution being the foundation of the Act under which we meet. I have shown that the life of the Parliament of Great Britain, and that of the Parliament of Canada, have been prolonged in the manner proposed, and that honorable gentlemen opposite are committed to the principle of the motion, having not only contemplated, but also desired, a prolongation. By the admirable interjection of the honorable member for Barrier, I was reminded that the mission with which I was charged by the Labour party when I went to London last year was, above all, to obtain Imperial sanction for a prolongation. No one in the Labour party was foremost in urging that; all were in the front rank. The only criticism which honorable members opposite can direct against the proposal is as to the term for which the life of Parliament should be prolonged. I have shown that a prolongation to October next would be quite insufficient. I hope that the House will agree to the motion, and that the decision of this and the other Chamber will prove that Australia realizes the gravity of the situation. As Lloyd George says, “ It is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of our present circumstances.” But it is not impossible that Australia should face those circumstances as a united people. We ought to do that, and the motion provides a means by which we can do it. We must translate our words into action. One way of doing that is to go out into the highways and byways to stimulate the enthusiasm of our citizens, so that all may do what they can, some by volunteering to fight in the trenches, others by working here. We can translate our words into action, also, by sending a delegation to London to re present the people of Australia in the discussion of the great questions on which the future of the country and that of the Empire hang.
.- I have been amused by some of the statements of the Prime Minister. We know that in connexion with wireless telegraphy the signal of distress sent out by vessels is “S.O.S.” This motion is the “ S.O.S.” - save our skins - signal from men on the other side of the chamber. “ Save our political skins “ they cry. They are afraid of facing the people, and will use any subterfuge, argument, or abuse, in order to justify their action.
– We are merely following your example of a little while ago.
– The PostmasterGeneral, the present honorable member for Gwydir, has been the most noticeable in sending out this “ S.O.S.” signal. I would not have referred to what had transpired in any Caucus or Cabinet meeting had it not been for the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Barrier telling us what was done at a party meeting when the Prime Minister was asked to do certain things. Who was the one man who moved heaven and earth to have that done ? It was the man who will not have his hair cut.
– At any rate, I am consistent, and you are not.
– I am prepared to leave my electorsto judge on that matter.
– They will have the opportunity.
- Sir, I hope that you will not name the honorable member, and have him put out.
– That would destroy the majority.
– I have been in this House when it was a question of a majority of one, and when if one honorable member on the Government side was put out the whole game was up, but the present Government are in a more fortunate position, they can afford to lose some honorable members and still retain a majority. May I congratulate the Prime Minister on the amount of scripture that he has quoted this morning, though some of the quotations he was not able to finish. When he asked what good could come out of a certain place I suppose that he meant Nazareth.
– He said so.
– No, not without prompting. The Prime Minister has been quoting a lot of scripture in connexion with this matter.
– How does the honorable member know that it was scripture?
– I suppose that we all have had a little scriptural training. After claiming that the situation was unique, and that this was a new proposal, the Prime Minister went on to say that it was the procedure that had always been followed. That statement is not correct. We have had one alteration to the Constitution by which the commencement of the term of senators was changed from the 1st January to the 1st July.
– What about the financial agreement ?
– An endeavour was made by the Deakin Government to put into the Constitution the financial agreement they entered into with the States, but, fortunately, owing to our opposition, with the assistance of a few who are now onthe other side of the chamber, the proposal was defeated. The extension of the life of the Senate was to have been submitted to the people as a seventh question in connexion with the other referenda proposals, which were abandoned as a. result of the agreement between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. That proposal was carried throughthis House without opposition, and I do not think that there was any opposition in another place. The people were to be asked to vote, not for a long extension of the life of the Senate, such as is proposed to-day, but for an extension of about two months, so that the members of the House of Representatives might not have to lose three or four months, in order to have the election for the House of Representatives on the same date as the election for the Senate. The object of that measure was to save expense to the people and avoid two elections. That question was to be submitted to the people. When the Prime Minister and the State Premiers agreed that certain powers were to be handed over to the Commonwealth, that was one power that could not be handed over. Accordingly, some honorable members, most of them apparently belonging to the “ S.O.S.” - save our skins - party, anxious to do anything but meet the people, have asked the Prime Minister to fix up the matter with the Home Government.
– People on this side are more eager to meet the people than are those over on the Opposition side of the House.
– If that is so, there is nothing to stop its being done.
– Except your sincere prayers that it may not happen.
– Make no mistake about it; that is not my sincere prayer.
– So far as the honorable member is concerned, it is not an election.
– Yesterday the Prime Minister referred to the fact that some honorable members had been opposed at selection ballots, and he said that he had not been opposed for twenty-two years. I was threatened with opposition on one occasion, and I have been threatened again. The right honorable gentleman knows as well as any man in this House that, under the basis of the organization of the Labour party, men in the party will oppose any sitting member, and that it is quite possible for any honorable member to be opposed in the selection ballot. But I am not concerned with that matter at the present time. I am as anxious as any one that the people should be consulted at the present time, in order to see whether, as the right honorable gentleman claims, two-thirds of the people are behind the party on the Government side of the House. No complaint will be made by me, or by any honorable member of the Opposition.
– How could you make a complaint ?
– I was going to say that we could not complain. But I am anxiout to see-
– No, you are not.
– I have the record of the voting at the last referendum, and I propose to show how the voting took place in each constituency. Of course, the honorable member for Henty is all right.
– Yes; I can smile.
-But,judgingbythe number of recruits coming forward, the volunteers for the Expeditionary Forces are not coming from the constituencies who voted “ Yes,” but are coming from constituencies who voted “No.” New
South Wales, the State that turned down the referendum, is sending proportionately more men than the State of Victoria, which voted “Yes.”
– But they are men who voted “ No.”
– Are they “ No “ voters or “ Yes “ voters?
– Fortunately, the regulations proposed by the Prime Minister were not put into operation, and people had the opportunity of voting “Yes” or ” No “ without being compelled to say whether they intended to enlist or not. Many persons who voted “No,” and urged the people to vote “ No,” are doing their best for voluntary recruiting, and will continue to do so. I have made my attitude on that point perfectly clear. Many of those who voted “ No “ are in camp today. I hope the idea voiced by honorable members is swept away absolutely, because the more that it is dragged up by honorable members the less chance we will have of getting people by voluntary recruiting.
– You are the one who is dragging it up.
– No ; it was dragged up by others. I propose to show how the voting took place in the electorate of Calare, among others. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the nature of the difficulty is set out in the motion. It is not. The real difficulty is that the Government have not a majority in the Senate. Several honorable members crossed the floor of this House, and, as they had a perfect right to do, joined another party. I have no word to say against their action; they are entitled to their opinions, but I ask the same consideration from them.
– It was not a question of joining a party ; it was a question of joining a Government.
– We are told that principles do not vary, but methods do. In the case of some honorable members, not only have their methods varied, but also their principles, in order to meet circumstances. As I was saying, the difficulty lies in the fact that the Government have no majority in the Senate which will permit them to do as they please, and pass whatever legislation they like. What was the original complaint? Last December the previous Ministry sent up a Supply Bill for three months’ Supply, and the ‘Senate sent back a request that the amount of Supply be reduced to an amount sufficient to cover two months’ services.
– Did not the junta demand that?
– No. The decision was arrived at by our party without consulting any outside body. The honorable member for Echuca is like an individual or a person called Mitchell - E. F. Mitchell he signs himself - who said, I understand, that I did not consult honorable members of the Labour party, but went outside and consulted other people. , Of course, he was lying. I have received letters which I shall not quote in this particular debate, but shall refer to on the motion for printing the paper concerning the alleged policy of the new Ministry. I say “ alleged “ policy advisedly, because it is merely an election manifesto, which they will put forward during the elections to show what they propose to do.
– This “person called ‘Mitchell’!” Is the honorable member referring to Mr. Mitchell, K.C.?
– “Person called Mitchell ‘ !”
– Yes; I call him “person called ‘ Mitchell,’ “ just the same as the right honorable gentleman would term any honorable member belonging to a party in opposition to him. This person wrote that, instead of my consulting honorable members of the Labour party on the proposition which was submitted to me - first by the ex-Leader of the Opposition - I consulted some one outside. However, I shall deal with that matter at a later stage. We are told that united action is necessary, and that we should do everything in order to avoid an election, in order that Australia may be represented at the Imperial Conference. On a previous occasion three Commonwealth delegates attended an Imperial Conference, but the expiration of the life of the Parliament was certainly not. then so close at hand.
– And the circumstances were not the same.
– I admit that they were not. The Prime Minister said to-day that there were two sections of the Labour party. I do not know whether he meant that there were two sections of it in the Parliament or outside.
– I was referring not to the Labour party outside, but to the members of the party here.
– How many sections are there on the Government side of the House? The right honorable gentleman himself admitted this morning, in answer to a question I put, that varying shades of political opinion were represented by the party behind him. It is indeed a sort of political Joseph’s coat of many colours. If we are to be taunted by the Prime Minister-
– I did not taunt the honorable member and his party. What I said was intended as the sincerest compliment I could pay you - that some of you were not as bad as others.
– The Prime Minister has behind him a party the members of which are not yet sufficiently united to meet together. They do not sit together in caucus; but have separate meetings. As one who has been a member of this Parliament since the inception of Federation, I can confidently say that there are wider divergences of political opinion amongst members on the Government side of the House than there are on this side.
– But we are dropping them in order to work together to win the war.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member should be in camp.
– I do not desire to make any reference to the fact that the honorable member for Robertson, although in khaki, is able to attend here regularly. He is apparently more fortunate than others who cannot get away from camp so frequently. The honorable member for Adelaide, who has also volunteered, attended here in uniform on only one occasion.
– But he was not in camp in Melbourne as I am,
– Quite so.. Apparently other privates have not the same facilities and privileges that the honorable member enjoys. Honorable members opposite say they have sunk their differences of opinion in order to promote a win-the-war policy. Does any one believe it? They have really sunk their political differences in order to avoid going to the people. The very motion we are now discussing proves that that is the object. One of the Prime Minister’s newspaper supporters, in referring this morning to the proposal of the Government to submit this motion, says -
Is the personal convenience of Mr. Hughes, Sir John Forrest, and Sir William Irvine, or the risk of losing their services at the Imperial Conference, of sufficient importance to warrant the Federal Parliament depriving the Australian people for a long period of their right to elect a new Parliament, and simultaneously to procure the Imperial Parliament to alter the Constitution of the Commonwealth without the consent of the people - of Australia.’
This is a quotation, not from a Labour newspaper, but from the Age, without whose support many honorable members opposite, who represent this’ State, have no chance of re-election.
– Does the honorable member deny that at the late Labour conference his party was prepared to postpone the elections until October?
– I shall deal with that at the proper time. Apparently the fact that I have made this quotation from the right honorable member’s principal press supporter-
– How long has the Age been a supporter of mine ?
– It has supported the right honorable member longer than it has supported me; indeed, it has not given me a moment’s support.
– I have never noticed its support. When did it begin ?
– It supports the Prime Minister and those who sit behind him.
– No fear!
– Without its support several members of the present Fusion who represent Victorian electorates have no chance of re-election. I do not intend to prolong this debate by quoting in full the article in the Age to which I have just referred, but it is well worthy of perusal. It deals with the fact that the Government propose to hand over to the Imperial Parliament the right to amend the Australian Constitution.
– At the request of this Parliament.
– Certainly ; but once we make such a request we shall create a precedent which may be followed by the British Parliament at any time that it is asked to do so, as on this occasion, by a Government which does not represent the people. As a matter of fact, the present
Fusion has run away from the very principle on which the electors were consulted only four months ago. They favoured four months ago the principle of conscription. They have now run away from it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should flout the will of the people?
– No; but the Prime Minister has “ seen the light.” It was not a fixed light, but one of those revolving lights which sometimes flash red and sometimes-
– And the honorable member has seen green.
– I have not.
– The honorable member has.
– The Prime Minister is not justified in making such a remark. Such a statement serves only to show to what depths the right honorable gentleman will descend in his desire to obtain the further lease of power which he could not hope to obtain if he appealed to the people. Running from constituency to constituency, as the Prime Minister has done in his desire to form branches of his Nationalparty, he must know that what I say is correct. Strangely enough, the first two constituencies to which he went with that object were constituencies represented by members of the Labour party who are on active service.
– Active service! Why, they have never seen a gun fired or even heard a shot. Will thehonorable member deny that?
– Order !
– You have as much right, sir, to keep the Prime Minister quiet as you have to call me to order, and I will see that the Speaker does keep the Prime Minister as much in order as any other honorable member. In submitting this motion, the right honorable gentleman said that at no time in our history had there been such a great gap between the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives as exists in this instance, namely, from 30th June to October next. I would point out, however, that in 1903 the Senate expired on 30th December, whereas honorable members of the House of Representatives need not have retired and sought re-election until the 9th May, 1904. The gap in that case was four weeks longer than in this, but the members of the House of
Representatives agreed to forego their rights. The honorable member for Grey, who sits behind the present Government, was very earnest in the desire that the expense of two elections should be avoided on that occasion, and that the British Parliament should not be asked to tinker with our Constitution. The people of Australia alone have the right to amend it.
– How could the Senate’s life be prolonged?
– I do not desire that it shall be prolonged.
– Look at this resolution, passed at the Labour Conference.
– I am not concerned with that. Honorable members opposite have said so often that we are bound to take our orders from outside that many of them have come to believe the statement. But what is the actual position? The Prime Minister has just handed to me a report of an Inter-State Labour Conference, held in Melbourne last December, at which the following resolution - to which he referred but which ho did not read - was carried : -
That an emphatic protest be made against any prolongation of the life of the Federal Parliament beyond the date of the expiry ofthe House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
That conference was willing, apparently, that the life of the Senate should be extended for two or three months. I, personally, wasopposed to that.
– How could that extension have been brought about?
– I admit that it could have been done only by an appeal to the British Parliament; but to that I am opposed, so that I differ from those people from whom, according to the Prime Minister, we have to take our orders.
– They have given you fresh orders.
– That is merely a flippant interjection. The Prime Minister, I am sure, will believe me when I say that no State or Inter-State conference has dealt with this question since the passing of the resolution to which I have just referred. Neither can it be said that any new instruction has been sent to us. I have not seen any.
– I have seen a lot of statements on the question emanating from the Melbourne Trades Hall.
– I have not, but the honorable member may be more in touch. with that institution of which I had the honour to be president.
– I keep an eye on it.
– For a certain purpose. I understand, the Trades Hall has come into conflict with the honorable member with regard to certain matters. With that question, however, I do not intend to deal now. Here we have proof positive that, in opposing the proposal for any extension of the life of Parliament, we are going against “orders.”
– Not at all; the resolution does not direct you.
– Of course not. The honorable member sees that which the Prime Minister could not see.
– It gave you permission to do it.
– Of course it did, and we turned down the permission. We desire to see what the constituencies of some honorable members of this Parliament have to say on the various questions that have been raised. The principle of compulsory service overseas was indorsed by every member of the present Government party, with the exception, I believe, of the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Barrier; and my opinion is that, if there were a general election, the voting would largely follow that recorded at the referendum. This is the reason why the party opposite has sent out the S.O.S. signal.
– Does that refer to Indi ?
– I shall show the position in every electorate,
– Take the figures as read.
– I shall make my speech in my own way; and here I should like to draw attention to a letter written .by Mr. Arthur Robinson, a former representative in this House of Wannon, and now an Honorary Minister in the State of Victoria. That letter deals with the abandonment of compulsory military service by the present Government and their supporters.
– Do you support all Mr. Robinson’s views?
– I do not.
– Then why quote him?
– I wish to show what is the opinion of a former member for Wannon, who, I think, represented that constituency just about as faithfully as does the present honorable member. Mr. Robinson. in his letter, said -
A more craven attitude on the greatest of issues is difficult to imagine. Every member, apparently, who in October last advocated national service for this war, because Australia’s duty, honour, and preservation were alike bound up with it, is now taking up the position that Australia’s duty, honour, and preservation are matters to be left in others’ keeping. However, the electors will’ permit no “ side-stepping.” Every candidate will be asked, r< Are you in favour of compulsory military service in this war ? “ How many electors will there be who will vote for a candidate whose answer in effect is : “I have run away from that position. I may lose my job if I don’t suppress my _ principles.” ? This ‘ abandonment of principle is apparently to be sweetened with a promise of less taxation.
It will be seen that Mr. Robinson presumed that the electors would have an opportunity of asking their representatives and other candidates some questions; but to-day we are faced with a motion which will have the effect of postponing the elections, and possibly cause the electors to forget about the matter. At the referendum, the- voting in Barrier electorate was 13,512 against, and 8,495 for; in Calare, 17,461 against, and 9,154 for; in Cowper, 14,933 against, and 13,958 for; and in Darling, 14,935 against, and 8,017 for. I do not intend to deal with the whole of the constituencies, but only with those which at present have members who do not represent them on that question, but who are supporting a Ministry every member of which said that compulsory service was essential. In EdenMonaro, there were 15,257 against, and 9,374 for; Gwydir, 14,886 . against, and 10,008 for; Hume, 15,516 against, and 12,260 for; Lang, 20,209 against, and 17,246 for; Macquarie, 18,677 against, and 10,012 for; Nepean, 22,252 against;, and 17,138 for; New England, 16,445 against, and 10,214 for; Robertson, 16,978 against, and 9,707 for; Werriwa, 20,617 against, and 10,148 for; and West Sydney, 17,873 against, and 7,059 for. I wonder if these figures contain the reason for the dropping of compulsory service by honorable members opposite. Has the fact that there are honorable members on the Government side with enlarged minorities anything to do with the motion before us ? Do these figures contain the reason why New South Wales members fought this matter so strenuously in the Caucus, pointing out that any proposal for compulsory service would not suit them in their particular electorates? The honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Flinders, both prior and subsequent to the referendum, stated that it was their intention not to respect the will of the people on the question; and such an attitude I can understand, for I can admire a man who is honest enough to adhere to principles in which he firmly believes. I have been asked as to the result of the voting in other constituencies, including Indi. In that constituency there were 14,957 in favour, and 13,025 against, while in the Grampians the voting was 13,391 in favour, and 13,772 against; so that if Indi is against us the Grampians is with us. I am informed that in Corio there were 17,878 in favour, and only 14,455 against, while in Bendigo there was a majority of 991 against, and in Ballarat a majority of 1,500 against. InWestern Australia there was a majority against the present representative of Kalgoorlie, and in Tasmania a majority againstthe member for Darwin; but in Queensland there was a majority of 2,000 or 3,000 against the honorable member for Moreton, where the voting was 16,653 against, and 13,893 in favour. In Herbert there were 17,801 against, and 15,697 in favour.
– Why take up all this time ? Every honorable member has a copy of the figures.
– I shall make my speech in my own way. The Minister for the Navy reminds me of a verse quoted by the present Prime Minister in reference to a former Fusion Government -
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
That, truly, is the present position. From time to time we have heard of the “ Sosh tiger,” but to-day it is the Liberal “tiger” which has swallowed the National party, and is smiling. As to South Australia I read an interview in the newspapers of that State with the honorable member for Hindmarsh on Monday last.
– Is that the “ blighter “ interview ?
– Yes. A portion of the interview was not reprinted in the Melbourne papers, but I read it in the South Australian papers. In that the honorable member is reported to have said that some would have to be “ thrown overboard,” or words to that effect, but that he had “swum ashore.”
– You admit he is a sport?
– I should like to see him in the water before passing an opinion, because swimming happens to be the one sport of which I know something. I recollect Mr. Deakin speaking of the party opposed to him as being the wreckage of every other party in the House. Many honorable members who are wrecks, and who say that they swam ashore, have been only washed ashore by the tide and wind, like seaweed and kelp. I was about to refer to the result of the voting in South Australia. In the electorate of Angas, now represented by the Minister for Home and Territories, 16,311 persons voted “No,” and 8,059 “Yes”; in Barker, 16,132 voted “No,” and 14,300 “Yes.” In Grey, 15,786 voted “No,” and 10,332 voted “Yes.”
– Does the honorable member think that I will not retain my seat? If the seat of the average member is as safe as mine he need not worry.
– I think the honorable member’s chance is somewhat better than the chances of some other honorable members.
– Better than the chance of the honorable member for Hindmarsh ?
-Infinitelybetter.Ifa little insecticide were placed on some of these insects they would drop dead, but some of these alleged “blighters” will scatter the insecticide. In the electorate of Hindmarsh, 22,479 voted “No,” and 14,683 voted “Yes”; and in the electorate of Wakefield, 16,828 voted “No,” and 11,196 voted “Yes.”
– Hindmarsh will not stand you or Lundie.
– I hope to have the privilege of visiting some of the electorates, and stating what I believe to be right. I have never abused any honorable member at any time.
– You just called the honorable member an insect.
– No. I did not indulge on the public platform in some of the scurrility and abuse that characterized the utterances of some honorable members who are now on the Government side. The invitation which was sent to me to join in the formation of a National Government I will deal with at the proper time, hut I wish to say now that I would not invite to join me persons whom I had designated as traitors and supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World. If the allegations made against the Labour party during the referendum campaign were true, no invitation ought to have ben extended to us to join in the formation of a National Government. Responsibility now rests upon the Ministerial party to withdraw those allegations, because they have said that they were willing to coalesce with us, and that it is our fault that there is not a National Government representing the three parties. We do not believe in fusions; we believe in going forward with the principles to which we are pledged. We read in the newspaper the other day that the Treasurer regarded as a good omen the fact that on his way to take charge of the Treasury he picked up a 10s. note. What are the omens as to the future conduct of this Ministry? The first action of the Government yesterday was to suspend from the service of the House the honorable member for Melbourne.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– Very well, sir, but their action will serve as an object lesson. The Government’s second act was to send up a distress signal by asserting that they cannot carry on unless the life of Parliament is extended. The fact is that they dare not face the electors. They tell us that we shall have, an election soon. I say, let it be soon. The Prime Minister informed us that the decisions of the Imperial Conference will not bind the Dominions, but that the delegates require ample time to go to England, .participate in the deliberations and return. My desire for peace is just as fervent as that of any other honorable member, but had the statement which was made by the Prime Minister this morning - that he did not desire to humiliate Germany - been made by any honorable member on this side of the House, our party would have been branded as pro-Germans, and it would have been said that we desired an inconclusive peace. Before I say more on that subject I wish to read the Prime Minister’s statement in print. I support the sentiment he expressed, but had voice been given to it earlier, probably there would have been no Fusion to-day.
– What has that statement to do with the Fusion?
– Fusion members have been accusing the party now in Opposition of being pro-Germans because of statements which were not as much in favour of Germany as was the utterance this morning by the Prime Minister, who is the mouth-piece of the Fusion Government. The Prime Minister stated that the purpose of the motion before the House is to allow the delegates to attend the Imperial Conference, and to avoid the turmoil of a general election which would split the people of Australia into two camps. I remind the House that less than six months ago the people were split into two camps by the action of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman has abandoned every part of his former policy. Surely if conscription was a vital principle six months ago it is a vital principle to-day. But honorable members cry “ Save us from the wrath to come,” meaning the electors, and they will do anything rather than face the people. The Prime Minister said that we might as well have an election as have a referendum to decide the question of prolonging the life of Parliament, and that there is no time for the holding of a referendum. But whilst the head of the Federal Fusion Government makes that statement, the Fusion Government of New South Wales is springing an election on the people. In the largest State in the Commonwealth the Government thinks it right to proceed with an election, and to divide the people into two camps. Why? Simply because the New South Wales Fusionists think they have a good chance of returning to power, whilst the Federal Fusion Government is desirous to avoid an election for the reason that members do not believe they will be returned to office.
– Every State in Australia has held an election since the war com- menced.
– I believe that is so. Honorable members may say that State Parliaments have nothing to do with the war, but every State Premier would make it appear that his Government has a great deal to do with it.
– Do you support that claim ?
– I say that the Federal Parliament alone is responsible for the conduct and financing of the war.
– The only way to stop the war is to smash Germany.
– I think the honorable member is correct; but I do not believe that the formation of a national government in New SouthWales will have the least effect in smashing Germany. Neither do I think that the postponement of the Federal elections and the swallowing by honorable members on the Government side of principles which four months ago they held to be vital, will smash Germany. The Prime Minister argued that the people of Australia asked the British Parliamentto ratify the Constitution. Of course that was done; but there had been three sessions of a Federal Convention extending over three years, and after that Convention, which had been elected by the people, had framed the Constitution, it was submitted to the people for approval. On the first occasion the people rejected the proposal; then it was amended, and when finally the British Parliament was asked to ratify it, the people had signified their approval. To-day instead of following that course we are asked to surrender our power as a selfgoverning people to amend the Constitution, and to hand it over to the British Parliament in order to save a Government which is afraid to face the people. Knowing that they have abandoned the principles which they alleged were vital less than six months ago, the Government are prepared to surrender our selfgoverning powers in order to’ save their skins. It is stated that Parliament is to be prolonged only until the war is over, or until the 8th October, 1918. I should like to know what will happen in 1918 if the war is still in progress. No doubt the Government will ask for a further prolongation. It is much better to face the situation now. The prolongation is not necessary.
– If the war is not over in 1918 we may need a prolongation even more than we need it now.
– I admit that. But I do not think that the prolongation of this Parliament will have any effect in bringing the war to a close, and believing that this proposal is detrimental to the best interests of the people, I ask honorable members to vote against it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, declared that the fact that Australia and the Empire are engaged in a war seems to have made no impression on the minds of the Australian Labour party. He deplored the present position of political parties here. I say that no man in the public life of the country had more to do with bringing about this position. The right honorable gentleman’s speech was practically an address to the people of Australia; and he tried to impress upon the public the view that the members of the party with which he was associated, according to his own statement, for twenty-two years were using their influence to put obstacles in the way of the prosecution of the war instead of assisting to bring it to a successful conclusion. What are the facts? At the time of the last election, the present High Commissioner appealed to the electors as the Leader of the Labour party. The Prime Minister this morning reminded his hearers that this Parliament, being elected when the country was at war, is a war Parliament; and he tried to create the opinion that, notwithstanding that fact, there is a party in this House, and a movement in Australia, that fails to recognise the seriousness of the position. I accept the statement that the Parliament was elected during the war, and that, at the time of the election, the then Leader of the Labour party declared that, if returned with a majority, he and those supporting him would do all in their power to bring the war to a successful termination. The Prime Minister says that it was because of that promise that Mr. Fisher secured a majority. Upon the acceptance of the High Commissionership by Mr. Fisher, he was succeeded by the Prime Minister. I challenge the right honorable gentleman to point to one piece of legislation of the Hughes or Fisher Administration which was not submitted to the Labour Caucus, and approved by it before being presented to Parliament. Every measure for the prosecution of the war was approved by the members of the Labour party. It was because of the loyal support of the party to its leaders that they were able to give effect to their war policy. The financial proposals affecting the war, and the number of men to be sent to the front under the voluntary system, were questions considered by the party; and measures were adopted by it to give effect to the decisions arrived at. The Government now in power is continuing the policy that the Labour party put into operation, and that was followed from the accession of the Fisher Ministry to the submission to the country of the conscription proposal. Many members of the Labour party sank their individual opinions in regard to Bills in order that the Government might have full support. Yet we are’ now told by our ex-leader that, whenever he refers to the war, and to the sufferings and sacrifices of our soldiers in Flanders and elsewhere, his utterances are met with the sneers and jeers of those sitting on this side of the House.
– You have repudiated the manifesto of 1914.
– The members of the Labour party have consistently given effect to that manifesto, and are prepared to assist any Government that will honestly put into operation its proposals. Mr. Fisher, as Leader of the Labour party, was responsible for the issue of that manifesto, and for the phrase that the Mother Country could depend on Australia in this war “ to the last man and the last shilling.” When war broke out in 1914, there was not a man in the public life of Great Britain or Australia who believed that circumstances would force the people of the Old Country to break away from the recognised traditions of voluntary military service; and, up to the middle of 1915, the agitation for compulsory military service was only in its infancy in Great Britain. The manifesto issued by the Australian Labour party in 1914, and the promise to give the last man and the last shilling, meant - no matter what attempts may be made to misinterpret it - that the Labour Government would accept the responsibility of finding the money for sending to the war the last man who was prepared to leave Australia under the voluntary system. What has occurred? Yesterday, when the Prime Minister repeated the phrase used by Mr. Fisher, he -deliberately misinterpreted it. At the time that pledge was given by Mr. Fisher, in the Labour manifesto in 1914, not one member of this Parliament dreamt for one moment that Australia, under the voluntary system, would send over 300,000 men out of the country, and not one public man in Great Britain or Australia expected that compulsory military service would become a live question in British Dominions. Mr. Fisher’s pledge was strictly in accordance with the recognised traditions of the British race. It was th at the Government would take the responsibility of equipping, transporting overseas, and paying the last man prepared to leave our country under the voluntary system.
– Get to the motion before the Chair. Are you still in favour of the extension of the life of Parliament?
– I am not in favour of it. My desire is to show the object behind the proposal. I am merely replying to the unfair and poisonous criticism of the Prime Minister this morning when he referred to the members of the Labour party. When the Prime Minister returned to Australia from the Old Country there was a continuous stream of recruits going into the camps in the different States; certainly the number was a diminishing one, but in proportion to the large body of men who had already enlisted, and the large numbers already rejected, it more than favorably compared with the number that enlisted in the earliest days of the war. On his arrival in Great Britain the Prime Minister was received with all the honour, glory, and pomp that the people and the representatives of the people of the Old Country could confer on him, because he was the representative of a British Dominion that had done more in regard to the war than any other portion of the Dominions; and the pleasure and gratification of the people in the Old World were earned by the people of Australia under the voluntary system. On his return to Australia he came back to a solid party, that was prepared to give him loyal support on a continuation of that policy. But what was the result? He met his Cabinet. Unity turned to disruption. He left his Cabinet and met his party, which had supported him so loyally; and immediately he came in with his proposals disruption set in where unity had prevailed. He proceeded with his proposals, and went to the country, and disunited, and disrupted what had been practically a unanimous people in regard to their war policy. He came back from the country a defeated man, his policy having been rejected by a majority of the electors of Australia. Making all due allowances for the fact that there may have been grounds for honest differences of opinion among the people and among parties, and for the fact that it was the most vital and momentous question ever submitted for the consideration of the people of Australia, the Prime Minister was told, when the fight was over, by the press and by his friends, that the defeat of the proposal was due to the methods he had adopted in carrying out the campaign. He practically accused the members of the Labour party of being in the service of the German Government; he accused the Labour party of receiving German gold; he said to every man and woman in Australia, “Those of you who vote ‘ No ‘ are against Australia and the British Empire; you are disloyal.”
– Order ! The honorable member is very much outside the scope of the motion. I ask him to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I bow to your decision, sir; but I remind you that the Prime Minister entered into a similar form of attack against the members of the Labour party this morning. He told them that they were subject to a baneful influence which he could not explain. By innuendo and inference he has told honorable members and the people of the country again through his speeches that in this time of war the Labour party are disloyal, and not to be trusted by them; and he has asked this Parliament to agree to an extension of its life so that he may proceed to another part of the Empire, claiming to represent this Parliament and the people of Australia.
– At whose invitation; that is the point’?
– The invitation came from Great Britain to the Prime Minister and the Parliament of Australia, and not to William Morris Hughes. Some members of the House hold the opinion that, in face of the recent vote on the question of conscription, and in face of many of his recent actions, the Prime Minister cannot claim to represent the opinion of the majority of the people of Australia.
My reason for following the line of argument upon which I was stopped by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was the statement of the Prime Minister this morning that the party to which I belong was responsible for the conditions operating in this Chamber. From his own point of view, he set out certain facts in support of his statement, and I was of opinion that if the Prime Minister was allowed to cover in his remarks the voluntary system, the system of conscription, the whole of the phases of the war, and Australia’s position therein, I was equally justified in replying to his statements.
– The honorable member perhaps inadvertently misrepresents me. I did not call him to order for that reason. He was dealing with the whole of the conscription campaign, and I asked him to confine his remarks to the motion. He would, of course, be in order in replying to statements made by the Prime Minister, but I call attention to the fact that, in doing so, he will be upon ground that is covered by the next motion on the business-paper.
– This morning the Prime Minister covered the whole position. He referred to the voluntary system, and to the failure of the people to pass conscription, and there was behind it all the threat that the Government and this Parliament might be compelled in ‘the very near future to raise that very important question again. In the circumstances, I considered that I would be entitled to go fully into the question in reply. Honorable members of the Labour party are opposed to the Prime Minister proceeding to the Old World on the ground that he does not represent the opinions of a majority of the people of this country. The Prime Minister claims that he has represented Labour for twenty-two years, and that on each succeeding appeal to the people he has obtained the re-indorsement of the Labour leagues. I admit it, but I ask him to go to the Labour leagues to-day and ask for a re-indorsement. I- would invite him to go to the electors of West Sydney, and ask for their re-indorsement. We feel that he does not represent the sentiments of the people of this country, and we, therefore, object to his attending the Imperial Conference. The Prime Minister’s followers are flying signals of distress, while the Prime Minister himself has the blue peter at the mast-head. He contemplates a trip to the Old World, and during his absence the men who so readily followed him, and rendered him such faithful service, will, in all probability, be thrown to the electors, just as they were thrown to the wolves,, politically, on the formation of the Coalition Government. We are now asked by the Prime Minister and his Government to agree to a proposed extension of the life of this Parliament. Does he make this request because he thinks that by adopting it we shall bring the war to a conclusion one day earlier than otherwise? Is it because his only desire is to serve the country and the Empire at this juncture, or because he particularly desires to save himself and his followers from the electors’ of Australia ? The latter, in our opinion, is the motive behind this proposal. . We object to it on the ground that we do not believe the Prime Minister has the people behind him, and because we resent any interference on the part of the- Imperial authorities with the Constitution under which our country is governed. We are determined, therefore, that, instead of the life of the Parliament being extended, the members of both Houses shall go before the electors at the earliest possible date. The honorable member for Flinders was not included in the Coalition Government because, according to members of the Liberal party, he was injudicious when, on the 17 th ultimo, he publicly stated that he would not be a member or supporter of any Government which did not put conscription in the very forefront of its platform. No sooner was that statement published than it was recognised that the honorable member, from a political point of view, had made a very grave error of judgment. Senator Keating, who was then in Sydney, was asked by press representatives for his opinion on the attitude which the honorable member for. Flinders had adopted towards conscription, and he said, “ Sir William Irvine is a party of one. He speaks for himself, and not for the Liberal movement in Australia.” Every member now sitting behind the Prime Minister considers that the honorable member for Flinders did the Liberal party a grave injustice in making that statement, and jeopardized its security. And because he had the courage to express his opinion fearlessly on the question of conscription he was deliberately omitted from the Coalition Government. It was considered both by the press and public that the honorable member would probably be one of the first to be selected for the new Ministry, and yet this was the treatment meted out to him. The Prime Minister and other members of his party urged not long ago that Australia could never do her part in this war unless we had conscription, and they were prepared to make every sacrifice to bring it about.
– Do not forget that they did make sacrifices.
– No doubt those honorable members still hold the same opinion, but when they recognised that to continue the advocacy of conscription would be, in all probability, to bring about their political extinction, the future safety of the Empire became with them only a secondary consideration. The Coalition Government have put the policy of con,scription out of the way. To that the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Flinders, and others have agreed. But the honorable member for Flinders sacrificed his chances of inclusion in the Ministry by his open expression of opinion. The. Government are now going on with a war policy which they ask the people of Australia to indorse. What is that policy? After all the disruption they have caused, not only amongst members of this Parliament, but the people outside, they are continuing a policy which the Labour party put into operation, and carried on until the present Prime Minister returned from England: The voluntary system of enlistment was paralyzed only when the Prime Minister returned. It was then that he issued his proclamation under the Defence .Act calling up our young men for compulsory service for home defence. After all this upheaval the Prime Minister, after wrecking two Governments, and sacrificing the members of a third - after disrupting the people of the community - is reverting, with his followers, to the policy which the Labour party initiated, and carried on successfully for the first two years of the war. He has now the audacity to say that the Labour party and the organizations outside which we represent have not the welfare of the country or the Empire at heart. He made that assertion this morning, and said further that we had done nothing to assist the Empire in the war. If an appeal were made to the country, he went on to say, it would’ be found . that two-thirds of the people were behind him. A Government cannot go to the country without a policy, and the Prime Minister, in going to the country with exactly the ‘policy upon which he wrecked three Administrations, will stand very low in the estimation of the people. The right honorable member has referred to the political revolution that has taken place in Great Britain. He said this morning that the change of Government that recently occurred in Great Britain was nothing less than a revolution, and he referred to the action of prominent members of a recent British Government, who, finding that they were not in accord with the sentiments of other members of the Cabinet, withdrew from it rather than’ that there should be any disunity. Special reference was made by him to Mr. Asquith’s retirement from the position of Prime Minister because his opinions on some important question did not coincide with those of the majority of his party. I would invite the Prime Minister to compare his conduct with that of Mr. Asquith. Let him compare his conduct also with that of other prominent members of the British Government, who, as soon as they found that opinions which they had held, and held strongly, were likely to bring about the disruption of the Ministry, walked out of it.
– To what opinions is the honorable member referring ?
– The Prime Minister’s opinion was that we should have conscription if the people would agree to it, or if we could get it by legislation. But failing to gain it by direct legislation, or by means of a referendum, he is quite willing to go on, servilely, so long as he can avoid facing the electors. He wrecked the system which was giving every satisfaction to the people, and to a majority of the members of both Houses. But having failed to get something else, he has now gone back to the voluntary system which waa initiated by Mr. Fisher and his followers of the Labour party.
– Does the honorable member object to the Prime Minister obeying the will of the people?
– I object to his refusal to recognise the constitutional procedure of this House. I object to his controlling the affairs of this country with a following of eleven members in this House when another man in similar circumstances would have handed his resignation to the Governor-General. He how desires to prolong the life of this Parliament to permit of his continuing in a position in which he does not hold the confidence of the people of the country. To this we, as a party, object. We say that the condition of affairs in this Parliament has reached a stage when there is only one jury to decide what is right and what is wrong, and that jury consists of the electors of Australia. Holding that view, we say that the Prime Minister should take the earliest opportunity to send the members of both Houses to the country. I do not say this because honorable members on either side have at any time any particular desire to go before the electors, but the majority of us believe that, under present circumstances, the step would be perfectly justified. In my opinion, it is because of the rather precarious position occupied by the majority of the members of the Liberal party in New South Wales that there is this desire to arrange for prolonging the life of Parliament. If the boot were- on the other foot, and the Prime Minister were leading the present Opposition, he would not hesitate for one moment in driving his opponents before the electors. In Australia at the referendum there were cast 1,160,033 votes against the proposal, and 1,087,557 for the proposal, showing a majority in the negative of 72,476”. The particular electorate to which I desire to call attention is that of the Prime Minister himself - West Sydney. In that electorate there were 17,873 votes cast against conscription, and only 7,059 for, showing a majority against of 10,814. Yesterday the Prime Minister told us that he had represented Labour for twenty-two years, and that on each ‘ succeeding election he had returned to his electorate, and received the indorsement of the leagues. But the Prime Minister at the present moment is showing no particular anxiety to return to a constituency which he is supposed to represent in this House. There are twenty-seven electorates in New South Wales, and of these twenty-two were against conscription, and only five in favour. The number of votes recorded in New South Wales against conscription was 474,554, and for the proposal 356,805, showing a majority in the negative of 117,739. In these figures, and in these figures alone, is the absolute reason for the proposal to prolong the life of Parliament. The Prime Minister tells us that it is the position of Australia, and of the Empire, to-day that has induced him to make the proposal. But, if the figures had been the other way, and there had been a great majority in New South Wales for conscription, the Prime Minister, without a second’s hesitation, would have hurled honorable members to the electors. We on this side are as much interested in the result of the war as are honorable members opposite. As representatives of the people in this House there was only one way in which we could in a practical manner show our interest in the great struggle, and that was by assisting the Government, when we had control, to bring the war to a successful issue. The voluntary system is now again the policy of the Government, and this is simply a reversion to the original policy of the Labour party. We feel, in view of the referendum vote, that if an appeal were made to the people as between the Fusion party and the Australian Labour party, the electors would send back into the two branches of the Legislature a majority of pledged members of the . Australian Labour party, not only for the duration of the war but for many years to come.
.- I regret that the Prime Minister is not in the House. The question we have to consider is a very important one, so important that the Prime Minister told us this morning that it is imperative that three men should be sent from this country as its representatives at the Imperial Conference. The right honorable gentleman, however, has not given any reason why the three particular men mentioned should be the representatives. I believe we ought to be represented at the Conference, for there are issues of great importance to the country to be settled; but I have yet to learn that any one of the three named gentlemen represents the feeling of this country more than does our High Commissioner. If the name of Mr. Fisher were submitted to the people along with the names of the three gentlemen mentioned, I believe that Mr.. Fisher would be selected over all of them. We have to look under the surface for the reasons why it is proposed to extend the life of Parliament for nearly two years. One reason given is that we must have representatives at the Imperial Conference; but, as I have said, I believe the people would be satisfied to be represented by Mr. Fisher, who has as much interest in Australia as has any man in the House. Mr. Fisher has had the honour of occupying some of the highest positions in the country, and he left for England with the respect of all his fellow citizens. In my opinion there is no absolute necessity to send three representatives. When the Prime Minister went to England twelve months ago we were content with only one representative; and I should like to know what are the circumstances that call for three men on the present occasion. If we may judge from what has taken place in the past, the three selected representatives will be accompanied by their wives, and there will be three secretaries accompanied by their wives, and, in addition, three messengers, with., no doubt, some attendants to look after them. We are told that this is a time for economy; but is that the way to economize ? Can the work of this Imperial Conference not be conducted without our sending three men ? I have nothing against the right honorable member for Swan or the honorable member for Flinders, who are both very capable men, and would represent the country fairly well ; but, at the same time, they do not represent a majority of the people. This Parliament was elected during a war period. Mr. Fisher appealed to the country as against the Cook Government; and during the whole of that time the present Prime Minister offered, on behalf of the Labour party, to cease party struggles, and, as it were, to let thingsstand over until the war had finished. The Labour party, which is now in Opposition, could not stop those elections, and the result was that Mr. Fisher came back to power. I ask honorable members opposite what justification they can give to the country for occupying their present position, seeing that the electors have pronounced against them and that they are defeated as a party ? However, by the manipulation of political wire-pulling, this defeated party is now on the Treasury benches, and I cannot see how they can justify themselves in the eyes of the country. The Prime Minister has no party following, and he should not have been allowed to hold office for ten minutes after the House met and he saw his strength. With eleven supporters he has been able to hold on to the reins of government; and it is degrading to any party or Parliament when a man may keep himself in office under such circumstances. However, he has beenable to do this by holding out inducements to other men to follow him. Now he has come to the end of his tether, and has brought about a fusion. I ask the electors to read the Prime Minister’s book The Case for Labour, and see what he has to say there about fusion parties. No man has denounced with greater vigour arrangements of the kind; and I feel confident that had he been on this side of theHouse to-day he would have made it very uncomfortable for some honorable members. I prognosticate that when this fusion goes to the country it will meet the fate of all other fusions. Why has there been a fusion? The honest course for the Liberal Opposition was to challenge the Hughes Government. The Liberal party had the right to do that ; and they did not do it because they were afraid to go to the country. Now they come along with the cry that we must be represented at the Imperial Conference, and that, to that end, we must postpone the elections for twelve months. We on this side did not “ come down in the last shower,” and we know exactly “what is in the wind.” The Government and their supporters wish to allay the feelings of the people of the country so far as conscription is concerned. The Liberals are invited to come under the umbrella,while Mr. Hughes and his supporters go about the country forming a National League, which is to fight the Liberal party at the next election.
– Then why not give him time to do that ?
– We are opposed to both parties. We do not want to take part in a fusion. Those who invited us to join in the formation of a National Government knew exactly our position. During the last twenty years we have remained apart as a distinct party.
– It would be interesting to read some of the remarks of the PostmasterGeneral on fusions.
– They were made when there was a Labour party.
– The Prime Minister stated that never in the history of the war was the Empire in such peril. He said a similar thing twelve months ago, when the French were being driven back at Verdun and the Russians were being defeated in their own country. At that time the Prime Minister submitted the conscription issue to a referendum of the people. Was not the British Empire in danger at that time, and was not every ounce of. strength required to hold the Germans back ? Was it not then in the interests of the country that we should have a united Parliament and people, instead of engaging in a referendum campaign, which was virtually an election ? If it is not right to hold an election now, it was not right to conduct a referendum in October, when Parliament went into recess and every honorable member had to go before the electors. ‘In many cases families were divided on the Question of compulsory service. Therefore, I submit that there was no greater justification for going to the country in October than there is today. Every honorable member isdesirous of helping to win the war, and there is not one of us who would not sacrifice anything if by so dome the war could be shortened. It is wicked of honorable members, because we differ on the question of conscription, to say that we are opposed to winning the war and to helping the Empire.
– The attitude you are taking now is an example of your desire to win the war.
– I cannot supply the honorable member with brains. The fact that he has none is his misfortune, and he has my sympathy. We, as a party, are quite willing to assist any Government to carry the war to a successful issue. We are ready to assist in recruiting, as we have done in the past. Ministers say that electioneering will interfere with recruiting work. But in New South Wales the Holman partyhas coalesced with the Liberals, and thrown all principles to the wind. Mr. Holman says the purpose of the coalition is to win the war, and to that end he has brought about a general election. His friends in this House say that they do not desire an election held now because it will interfere with recruiting. The truth is Mr. Holman is going to the country because he is afraid that the Federal Parliament might go to the electors first, and he is anxious to get in out of the web. None of these manoeuvres will save the skins of honorable members opposite. It was the duty of the Liberal party to challenge the Hughes Government, and to take possession of the Treasury bench. The position that has arisen is one that could be decided onlyby the people, and I trust that we shall have an early opportunity of consulting them. There is not in this Chamber a party strong enough to carry on the affairs of this country in a proper manner. How can a man who sacrificed his ambition as a member of the Labour party to join the Hughes Government, and was then thrown overboard to make wayfor a fusion, be satisfied with such treatment ? It is a scandal that men who have been loyal to Mr. Hughes have been thrown overboard in order that a fusion might take place. Honorable members on the Government side say that recruiting has failed, but I question that statement. The Prime Minister states that) 16,500 menare required each month to supply reinforcements. That is only his statement. At no period of the war have 16,500 men been disabled in a month.
– In July there were 19,000 casualties.
– I am speaking of the average monthly casualties. Last month there were 5,300 recruits throughout the Commonwealth, and the figures for this month are rising fairly well. If, instead of talking about a delegation to the Old Country, and instead of secret conferences for three or four weeks to bring about a fusion, all our energy had been put into recruiting, we should have been doing better work. It is proposed that Australia should be represented at the Conference by threeconscriptionists.
– Whose fault is that?
– Sir William Irvine has said - and I respect him for his honest convictions - that he would introduce conscription to-morrow if he had his way. Sir John Forrest says that Mr. Hughes is his leader, and that leader says that, if circumstances do not change, the will of the people as expressed at the referendum will be respected. What is meant by circumstances? If an election is held and the Liberal party is returned to power, the circumstances will have changed, and conscription will be introduced. We wish to prevent that by sending Parliament to the country so that the people may pronounce an opinion on this matter. Why is Sir William Irvine selected as a representative? Because his views are in harmony with those of the Government, and the Government and their supporters are conscription ists. Therefore, notwithstanding that the referendum was defeated by 72,000 votes, there is a danger of conscription being introduced. We do not trust the present occupants of the Treasury bench.
-We will have no country if we do not defend it.
– I have seen no ships big enough to take our country away. We are representing the wish of the majority of the people when we say that the quicker both branches of the Legislature are sent to the country the better for Australia. Why should we be afraid to consult the people? We are here only to represent the people, and if we, as a party, are beaten atthe polls, we must bow to the popular will. If I am representing a minority of the people in my electorate’, I have no right to be in this Parliament. Therefore, I hope that this debate will be brief. We are letting the Government know exactly our position when we say that, as a party, we are prepared to face the people at the earliest possible moment. I believe that an election will be to the advantage of recruiting, because the present Government do not possess the confidence of the people.
– The people showed their confidence in connexion with the last war loan.
– I suppose the honorable member will take credit for that because he was Treasurer at the time.
– I have every reason to be very proud of that result.
– We are all proud of belonging to a country that can respond so nobly to the call for financial help. I hope the next loan will be equally successful. We desire that the country shall pay its way and do its part in the war well, and I resent the reflection cast upon usby the Prime Minister when he says that we, as a party, are actuated by selfish motives and are disloyal to the Empire. We are prepared to show that no party can do more to bringthe war to a successful issue than the party which now sits in opposition. The people trusted us in the past, and handed to us the destiny of the country. Therefore, we feel the responsibility that rests on us to carry on the war as much as do honorable members who sit opposite. In those circumstances I trust that the electors will have an early opportunity of deciding which party shall be intrusted with the government of the country.
.- Unless the members of the Liberal party intend to give the Prime Minister better support than they have given him on this occasion, the Government will not last very long. They seem to think sopoorly of the Prime Minister’s proposition that they are not prepared to say a word in its favour. We cannot drag one Liberal member on to his feet to state his views on the question before the Chair.
– We shall show our attitude by our vote if you give us the opportunity.
– I doubt if the Government have anything more in their minds than a “ try-on.” No doubt the Prime Minister thought that the Opposition would be afraid to face the electors. Finding that we are not afraid, and are prepared to take up his challenge and go to the country at once, the Government appear to be quite willing to abandon this proposition, which the Prime Minister says it is imperatively necessary that we should pass as soon as possible. To-day, when we met, a Minister asked, “Have you a no-confidence motion?” and suggested that, as we had not, the fate of the Government should be decided on the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. Were Ministers desirous of knowing their fate as soon as possible, they would have allowed the Senate to proceed with the consideration of this motion simultaneously with this House. But, although they profess to think that we should deal with it at once, they have postponed its consideration in the Senate until a future day.
I was interested and amused in watching the faces of Liberal members this morning. They were pleased to hear the lash of the Prime Miniter’s bitter tongue, which has played so often on their backs, and particularly on that of the right honorable member for Parramatta, applied to the faces of those on whose shoulders the Prime Minister climbed into office. I was amused also to see the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Parramatta, who have been blackguarding each other for fifteen years, sitting together like two budgerigars, whispering into each other’s ears as those love-birds do.
– The Prime Minister thinks that I have a sweeter voice than the honorable member used to have.
– The right honorable gentleman can make his voice sweet enough when he wishes, and can also put plenty of vinegar into it. The Prime Minister has stated that the present situation is unique in the history of this House - the Government having a majority of two-thirds. How does that comeabout? The reason for it is that the Prime Minister induced twenty-four men to desert the party which put them into power.
– The honorable member wished to drive him out of public life. Three of you wanted to run the country.
– We remained in office - this applies to myself in particular - to keep the Ministry together, and to prevent a split of the Labour party.
– Was I not one of the members who asked you to stay in the Ministry ?
– Yes. There was no attempt to drive the Prime Minister out of public life. Had he gone to the Caucus and said, “Gentlemen, I have made a mistake concerning the opinions of a majority of the electors, and tender my resignation as the leader of the Labour party,”the party would have been kept together, and he would probably have been retained as its leader.
– The honorable member, or one of two others, would have been made Prime Minister. It was a very clever scheme.
– There was no scheme, so far as we were concerned. No doubt any of us would have made a good Prime Minister. I do not wish to say anything harsh concerning those who have left the Australian Labour party, because , their constituents will deal with them. They all pledged themselves to advocate and carry into effect the platform on which they were elected, and the duty was imposed on them, although it may hot have been stated in so many words, of trying to keep the party together. These members joined the Prime Minister with the full knowledge of what they were doing, thus putting the Labour party out of power, and making it impossible for its programme to be carried out, for some time, at any rate.
– The motion of the honorable member for Brisbane turned us out of the party.
– The Prime Minister and his followers must realize that the Australian Labour movement still exists, and that, in all probability, it has the support of over 1,000,000 electors. Surely, then, some one should be sent to the Imperial Conference to represent its views. When the Prime Minister proposes that we should ask the Imperial Parliament to legislate for us, I say that the Liberal party, which has joined with the Prime Minister, should keep its hands off the Constitution. The Constitution contains a provision under which the life of the Parliament can be lengthened or shortened, and I object tothe Imperial Parliament being asked to do that which we cando for ourselves.
– How could that be done in time to allow our delegates to attend the Conference?
– I find it difficult to take the view of the Prime Minister and those who support him. In one of his speeches the Prime Minister said, “Wales for ever best.” I hold with “Australia for ever best.” If I am asked to choose between any country and Australia I say “Australia first.” Naturally, having been born in Australia, I cannot take the sameview of Australian affairs as does the man who has been born in the Old Country. If I had been born in the Old Country I could well believe that I should feel prepared to surrender all Australia’s affairs to the control of the Old Country, which is the attitude taken up by many honorable members in this House. Having been born in the Old Country they are prepared to put us under the rule of Downing-street.
– That is absolutely false.
– It is not false. Honorable members like the Prime Minister, who complain of our Australian attitude, must make allowance for us. We have had very little experience of any other country. Our land may be drought-stricken at times, and we may not have the culture that is to be found in the older and more populated places, but nevertheless it is Australia, and we are endeavouring to build up a nation here. We cannot do it if we surrender our local governing powers to gentlemen who are 16,000 miles away. I object to the surrendering of the ‘ government of Australia to Downing-street. Honorable members who have read the history of Australia know what we had to suffer under the rule of Downing-street when Australia was made the dumping ground of convicts. The British authorities never ceased to send them here until our people turned the ships back and refused to receive them, and only then did these gentlemen of Downingstreet take any notice of Australia’s objection. I object to asking these gentlemen to determine whether the life of this Parliament should be extended. It is the people in Australia who should determine the matter. They are quite sufficiently calm to conduct an election and return to this Parliament a majority of men to carry on the affairs of the country.
– Is not the honorable member satisfied with the war policy of the present Government?
– It is only the war policy of any other Government. If the decision of the people of Australia is to be respected the honorable member and his party can do no more and no less than was done by the Labour party’s Government when it held office. What can the present Government do that the Labour Government did not do? Did not the Labour Government raise money successfully in order to carry on the war? Was it not able to send to the front as many men as the country, considering its vast extent, has been able to afford to send? The country is now sending men in as large numbers as could have been secured had conscription been adopted. What can present Ministers do that the Labour Government did not do ? Is there more confidence among the business community in Australia than was displayed when Mr. Hughes was in the Old Country and his Ministers in the Labour Government were carrying on in his absence? Possibly there was some irritation at that time, but there was a minimum of it. Ministers were carrying on affairs to the satisfaction of the country, and I am very sorry that Mr. Hughesever returned.
– Hear, hear! Senator Pearce made a good Acting Prime Minister.
– It is all very well for the Prime Minister to indulge in perfer vid oratory about winning the war. He cannot do more than the Labour Government did, nor can honorable members on the Government side do more. He can only take the wool, the meat, the sheep, and the metals and send them abroad as fast as ships can take them, and he can only get the men that the country can afford to send. No one can do more, so that it is absurd for him to suggest’ at a time like this that something more can be done. He has drawn a very dismal picture of the position of the Allies, but it does not agree with facts. Do not the speeches of men like Bonar Law, Lloyd George, Sir Douglas Haig, the French Premier, Russian statesmen and Italian statesmen, say that the Allies cannot lose ? If the picture drown by the Prime Minister to-day, that things are worse now than they were before, is true - if, as he says, the Allies are so weak and Germany is so strong - what did the Allies mean by refusing to discuss peace terms with Germany? “While great leaders like Bonar Law, Lloyd George and others say that we must win, and while Sir Douglas Haig says that we will win the war this year, they also say that the blockade is successful, that the submarine frightfulness is at an end, and that Germany is starving. But the Prime Minister’s speeches are so much froth. They are eloquently written. Most of his speeches are written, and copies are supplied to the press, as is very often done by public men who do not wish to be misunderstood. I have done it myself. The Prime Minister has done it frequently. In the Town Hall not long ago a section of the writers of the press suggested that the Prime Minister was so overcome with the weight of his words that his utterance was slow and difficult; but as a matter of fact he was endeavouring to remember what he had written, and if one had been close enough to the reporters he could have seen them with written copies of the speech before them. To show how closely he was following what he had written, One Argus writer noted how closely the Prime Minister had kept to his written text, and that he spoke with a marvellous memory. We may go through his oratorical or rhetorical efforts, and hardly find in them a single practical idea. He talks about organizing industry in Australia, and about what must be done to win the war, but one can go through columns of matter written by him, and printed by the newspapers, and find no practical idea in them. The honorable member for Perth described his speeches, as they should have been described - as ‘ ‘piffle. ‘ ‘ I ask honorable members and the people not to be led away by. the dismal prophecies and pictures drawn by the Prime Minister. There is no danger to this country in having an election, and there will be very little danger to it if the Prime Minister does not go to the Old Country. Many people have spoken as though he was the only man fit to go to the Imperial Conference. By the way, I notice that Mr. Bean, the journalist who was sent overseas to report the doings of our troops at the front, has actually been sending out cablegrams condemning honorable members on both sides of the House as party politicians who are occupied in fighting for their party aims instead of allowing the most enlightened statesman in Australia to go to the Old Country - that is Mr. Hughes, Mr. Bean’s boss.
– And Mr. Bean gets £12 a week for that.
– Mr. Bean may be worth more than that salary as a journalist. I do not take exception to the amount of his salary, but I do take exception to the Commonwealth paying for cablegrams such as these which appear to arrive at an opportune time. I do not know whether Mr. Bean was instructed to send out a cablegram as to the necessity for the Prime Minister attending the Conference, but it would appear that he was. I have no exception to take to the right honorable member for Swan representing Australia at the Conference. His public career has been a long and honorable one. His life has been filled with good works, and he is perfectly capable of representing the Liberal party to which he belongs. No one could take any exception to his appointment as a delegate.
– He would be quite enough, with a representative from this side.
– The Treasurer can well represent the million of people, or thereabouts, who hold Liberal opinions, but the Prime Minister has no right to claim that he can represent those who hold Labour ‘ views. He has disrupted the
Australian Labour party, and has endeavoured to strike it a deadly blow by leaving it, and attacking it in the abusive and vitriolic way in which he has assailed it on every occasion since he left the Labour Caucus room. It is grossly unfair to select three men from the one side to represent Australia at the Conference. We all know the views held by the honorable member for Flinders. He represents a small and very Conservative section of the Australian public, which is, no doubt in its own opinion, very high minded, and has a very keen sense of honour ; but it is, nevertheless, a very small section of the people. Why, then, has the honorable member for Flinders been chosen as a representative of Australia ? Is he going to tell the Conference that Australia is in favour of conscription ? We know that he holds very extreme views on that question. I object to the proposed composition of the delegation because of these facts. The Prime Minister has no right to go. He represents nobody. He has deserted his constituency. .If he were the courageous man he pretends to be he would go back to his constituents, tender his resignation, contest the electorate of West Sydney, or some other Federal division, or he would quietly retire from the Prime Ministership, and take his seat on the back Ministerial benches.
– After all, the responsibility for the Labour party not being represented at the Conference rests entirely with the party itself.
– That is not so. The question of the representation of Australia on the Imperial Conference is altogether different from that of taking part in this so-called War Government. The whole of our traditions are against Coalitions. They have failed in the past, as they must always fail. Even the recent Coalition in the Old Country, when Mr. Bonar Law and other Conservatives joined Mr. Asquith and other members of the Liberal party, went to pieces. The Reid-McL’ean Coalition, and the DeakinCook Coalition went to pieces in the Commonwealth, just as the Hughes-Cook Administration ‘ must fail. The present Fusion will prove one of the most unsuccessful, because the Liberal party have a very poor opinion of those who have joined them. They will not even allow them to attend their Caucus meetings. They meet in separate rooms.
– They do not. trust them.
– 1 venture to say that not one member of the Liberal partytrusts the Prime Minister. I doubt, whether any member of the present Administration has seen the invitation which the Prime Minister received to attend the Imperial Conference. Members of the Liberal party do not believe in such secrecy. They consider that the Prime Minister should be candid and straightforward, and that he should inform his. colleagues of the terms of the invitation. What objection can there be to the Parliament and the people of Australia knowing what those terms are ?
– Did he not disclose them to the Administration to which the hon.orable member belonged ?
– No; he told us he had received an invitation, but we never saw it,
– Then why did the honorable member continue to sit in his Cabinet?
– We did not- care to insult the Prime Minister by suggesting that he had not received an invitation.
– Honorable members opposite are npt too scrupulous now.
– We know the Prime Minister better. Who amongst the members of the great Australian Labour party ever believed that William Morris Hughes - one of the men to frame the solidarity pledge in New South Wales: the man who on every occasion insisted on loyalty to the party - would leave our party and take up his present position ?
– Who would have thought that the honorable member for Capricornia would become a Trades Hall lackey ?
– I am not,
– Did the Prime Minister leave the party or was he driven out of it?
– He deserted the party.
– Was he not driven out of the party at the meeting upstairs? Was he not put out bv order of the executive in Sydney ? Your instructions were to bundle him out.
– Nothing of the sort. I moved the motion.
– Another of my reasons for objecting to the Prime Minister representing Australia at the Conference is that he favours secret methods. I would be afraid to trust him by supporting a resolution of this kind. I have no doubt he would do all he could to induce the British Parliament so to frame the Constitution Alteration Bill as to extend the life of this Parliament until the end of the war and six months afterwards, without the restriction that it shall not extend beyond the 8th October, 1918. It would be interesting to learn the views of the honorable member for Flinders on the question of the Tariff, inasmuch as trade preference will be one of the matters to be dealt withby the Imperial Conference. As I understand it is proposed now to adjourn, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Belgians - Correspondence between the Belgian Minister and Viscount Grey respecting the Deportation of Belgians to Germany and the forced labour imposed upon them by the German Authorities. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
War Precautions Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 38.
Statements and Requests - Prosecutions under War Precautions Act - Motions of Dissent from Speaker’s Ruling.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook)proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Earlier in the day I submitted to the Prime Minister three questions. The first of these was -
Is it a fact that at recruiting meetings held in Brisbane recently speakers designated those who had not enlisted as cowards, loafers, rotters, and mongrels?
To this the Prime Minister answered “ No !” The second question was -
Is it a fact that a deputation of women who recently interviewed the Acting Premier in Brisbane asked for discharge from employment of all single men, to compel them to enlist, and also asked him to fill their positions with women ?
The answer to that was also in the negative. My third question was -
If such statements and requests are highly prejudicial to voluntary recruiting, will the Prime Minister take such action as will prevent any recurrence of such obstacles to enlistment?
I now wish to read two telegrams I have received from the honorable member for
Oxley, who is at present in Brisbane. The first telegram is -
Speeches delivered daily Post Office sure to kill recruiting. Women’s committee waited on Acting Premier asked for discharge all single men so as they would be compelled enlist. Fill positions with women.
The second telegram, which is dated Wednesday, is -
Post Office meeting to-day speakers were calling those who had not enlisted “ cowards,” ‘ loafers, “ “ rotters, “ “ mongrels. ‘ ‘
While probably the Prime Minister is not aware, and, therefore, may not be held responsible for what is going on in Brisbane, still I object to the cavalier way in which he answered the questions to-day in regard to what - to me, at any rate - is a very important matter. The Prime Minister, in his speech, found it convenient to make disparaging remark’s as to the attitude of the party on this side towards recruiting. I wish to make it quite clear that, so far as I am concerned, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the voluntary recruiting system. I have tried from the beginning of the war, and I am trying still, to assist voluntary recruiting to the utmost of my opportunity and ability. But I cannot be associated with any party that allows its agents or advocates to call those who refuse to enlist the names which are mentioned in the telegram of the honorable member for Oxley, and which were so common during the conscription campaign.
– How can you control the utterances of independent people ?
– In reply, I may say that it is remarkable how the Prime Minister can find means to control the utterances of people with whom he is in disagreement. If there is anything more reprehensible than another during the whole course of the Prime Minister’s control of affairs during the war it is the way in which he has found easy opportunities to stop people from talking, or from publishing their talk, if he did not approve of it. It would be the easiest thing in the world, without any extension, or unreasonable extension, of the powers already being put into operation, to tell those recruiting sergeants, or whoever the persons may be, who are insulting the young men of Brisbane and of other places by applying to them opprobrious epithets, that this kind of language will not help recruiting. It is because of the prejudicial effect such conduct and language have on recruiting that
I object to it. I make this public objection because I think the matter is one which concerns, not only Brisbane, but the whole Commonwealth. This is the kind of thing that makes it hard for some of us to join recruiting committees - that makes it awkward for some of us to sit on committees with men who do not object to it. These men are conscriptionists ; and those of us who are in favour of the voluntary system are anxious to do our share to the utmost of our power. No matter how the Prime Minister, or those supporting him, may juggle with words, the party on this side is the party in Australia that has carried on the war to the successful point to which it has now come. We are the “ Win-the-war “ party - this Labour party, which was given charge of the war by the people of Australia. We have carried on the war in such a way as to leave no sense of shame in our mind as to its conduct; and the same desire to see it through to a successful issue will continue with us whether we are on this side or on the other.
.- In the absence of the Prime Minister I should like to draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to a matter referred to about a fortnight ago by the honorable member for Adelaide. That honorable member raised the case of two men named Coombe andMcIntyre, who are being prosecuted in South Australia for some alleged utterances in October last, during the referendum campaign. The honorable member asked that the prosecution be withdrawn, or reasons given for persisting with it. He suggested that the prosecution was vindictive - that the men were being victimized - and in a telegram to me to-day he asks me to endeavour to get from the Prime Minister some reasons why, in view of the time that has elapsed since the alleged offence, the prosecution cannot be withdrawn. I do not ask for the withdrawal ofany prosecution, provided the offender is caught and prosecuted forthwith; but when months are allowed to elapse it certainly opens the way for the suggestion of vindictiveness. I should like a reply next week to the question I have suggested.
– I think the Prime Minister said that he would have the facts regarding this prosecution looked into. I suppose that if the merits of the case justify a prosecution a withdrawal is not asked for ; that the desire is to have the facts looked into ?
– Yes; and I suggest that, after the lapse of four or five months, it is hard to prosecute any men on hearsay evidence.
– I shall see the Prime Minister in regard to the matter.
.- There is a notice of motion on the business-paper having reference to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in connexion with the suspension of the honorable member for Melbourne. I have no wish at present to discuss your ruling or to make any comment on it, because that would not be in order ; but I should like to draw the attention of the Government to the position in which the notice of motion stands on the businesspaper. It is most important and necessary to the proper conduct of the business of the House that a motion challenging the ruling of the presiding officer should be dealt with as early as possible. In the early days of this Parliament the regular practice was to give precedence to such motions, but later on an evil example was set, for a reason on which I need not dwell, and the Government of the day put notices of motion regarding the Speaker’s rulings at the bottom of the business-paper, thus delaying, and, in some instances, entirely preventing their discussion. I appeal to the Government to restore the salutary practice of the early days of this Parliament, and to allow a speedy opportunity to discuss this notice of motion, which raises the whole question of the suspension of an honorable member from the service of the House. As I have said, I have no wish to reflect on your ruling, because I recognise that, during your occupancy of the chair, you have exhibited great ability and impartiality, as well as dignity, in the performance of your duties. What I wish to say is that this motion, which is a most important one, seeing that it affects the rights of a constituency to be represented in this House, should not be placed, as the Government are disposed to place it, at the bottom of the businesspaper, but that an early opportunity should be given for its discussion and final decision. In justice to the honorable member, as well as to his constituency, this should be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170223_reps_6_81/>.