6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - I wish to make a statement to the House regarding certain matters that have transpired since we last met. Yesterday, I waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General, and tendered to him the advice that he should grant a dissolution of the House of Representatives, in order that its members, together with those senators whose term expires on the 30th June next, might submit themselves forthwith to the electors. After consideration, His Excellency was pleased to accept that advice. The people are, therefore, to be asked immediately by whom they will be governed. It is the intention of the Government to apply to Parliament for such Supply as may be needed to carry us over the period of the elections, and to ask it to ratify the collections under the Tariff schedule, and to make such arrangements as in the opinion of the Government are necessary for taking the vote of the men atthe front, and for excluding from voting the alien enemies in our midst. Let me state briefly the reasons for the course which the Government has taken. When recently I introduced a motion to prolong the life of this Chamber and of the term of the retiring senators, I set out at considerable length the considerations for such a proposal. I showed that they arose out of- the circumstances in which we found ourselves.I stated that we had reached the gravest crisis of the war, that the danger to the Empire was so real and grave that no political differences should stand in the way of the united action necessary for our salvation. I made it clear that the war was creeping nearer and nearer to these shores. Since thenwe have had ample and dreadful proof - the nature of which
I am unable to disclose to the public - that that is so. I tell honorable members that the substance of a cablegram which has just been received is that, from this date, all sailings of transports and troopships from Australia are prohibited.
Within a few hundredmiles of us, in the waters of the very ocean that lap these shores, two vessels have been lost during the past few days. Honorable members, armed with this knowledge, in addition to that which they can gain from the press, know something of the danger now menacing the Empire. I said, not only that this was the gravest crisis we had reached inthe war, but also that there was now assembling at the heart of the Empire a Conference which was to discuss matters of vital importance to the conduct of , the war, the future of Australia, and the destinyof that great Pacific Empire which, whether we will or not, must be our heritage or else a deadly. menace to our safety.I said that the people of Australia demanded that the Commonwealth should be represented at that Conference. Who amongst us will deny it ? I venture to say that if it were possible to gather the people of Australia together in one mighty concourse and put that question to them, there would be such a thunder of “Ayes” that those who ventured to raise their voices in opposition would not be heard. I said, further, that’ if Australia were to be represented at that Conference, it was necessary that the delegates should leave immediately. I may say now what I could not say then: they were to have left Melbourne to-night. I gave reasons why, in my opinion, the prolongation of the life of this Parliament until October next would be insufficient. Those reasons are set out in Hansard. Honorable members know them, the public may read them, and I need not repeat them. Honorable members know the position in this House. By a two to one majority, the motion for the prolongation of the life of this Parliament was approved by this Chamber. Honorable members know, too, and every man in this country knows, the circumstances in another place. Unhappily, ever since that day on which it was decided to take a referendum of the people on the question of whether there should or should not be compulsory service for oversea service, there has been a division between two sections of the Labour party, which has now. become a permanent cleavage. Every one knows the real nature of that cleavage, which is not as to whether there should or should not be compulsory service for oversea service but whether there shall be government by the people through their representatives in Parliament, or government by people who do not sit in this place. The House - and the country know perfectly well the attitude of the Labour organizations, or most of them, towards those who have ventured to tread with me the path that I have taken. They know perfectly well that from the day on which, the junta spoke and declared that, -come what may, I waa tobe sacrificed, no reconciliation was possible without my downfall. My head upon the charger, and complete submission to their will, was to be, and still is, the price of their agreement .to any suggestion for a reconciliation. They know that from that day to this I have been pursued with a malignity which in the history of politics has never been excelled. I have borne all this with what fortitude I could command, and endeavoured to do that which I conceived to be right. I have fought this fight with all my. soul and strength. I have fought, as all men of the British race should fight when their country and the Empire is in deadly peril, without reservation of any sort or kind.
The War Conference is one which calls for representation of an effective kind. It would be absurd to say that, if Australiais to be represented effectively, the Prime Minister must not be present. Every one knows that an effort was made, not only by myself as leader of the section which does me the honour to support me, but also by the Liberal section of the Government, to persuade honorable members on the - opposite Bide of the chamber to join us in a National Government. Had that invitation been accepted, we should then have been in the position of being a united people to-day. Unhappily our .efforts failed, but 1 the responsibility for that failure rests on honorable members opposite, and not on us. That was the position when I came down and tabled a motion for the prolongation of the life of Parliament. I put forward then, as strongly as I could, the case for prolongation. I pointed out what matters were to be decided at the Imperial Conference. Peace and War, the future of the Pacific, the White Australia policy, in fact, all things affecting the destiny, present and future, of Australia. Will any man say that at such a Conference Australia could afford to be unrepresented 1 Can he say ib fairly f Can he say that any of the differences that divide us can justify our abstention from effective representation at this great Conference! Certainly no man who pretends to call himself an Australian can do so. I pleaded to this House and through this House - I am unable to speak in another place - to this Parliament that it should grant this prolongation in order that the whole energies of the people might be concentrated on a Win-the-War policy, that Australia might be effectively represented at the War Conference. . Now, how do we stand to-day? The Government find themselves in a position, not only intolerable, but also impossible. United action is hopeless with a Parliament constituted as is this one. We must put an end to this intolerable state of things. The people must speak.. Words which I used on the 23rd February, and which are recorded on page 10635 of Hansard, are peculiarly appropriate today. I said -
I have shown that united action is imperatively needed, and that the holding of an election would be fatal to it ; and I nope 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.
I pointed out the only two courses before honorable members of this House and this Parliament. The sinking of party issues in order to bring about united action; or, an immediate election. The first is clearly impossible; the second inevitable. It is abundantly clear that no delegation can leave these shores in face of such tactics as are resorted to by honorable members opposite. It is abundantly clear that there is only one way out of this tangle - only one way in which Australia can say to the Empire what it is going to do; only one way by which Australia can demonstrate to the world whether it is weary of the war and of the burden of Empire - whether it is going to prove itself worthy or degenerate in this great hour of struggle and strife; only one way by which it can declare whether it is resolved to abandon the Empire and destroy itself - and that is by an appeal to the electors. That appeal we propose to make forthwith. Sir, I confess that if I had had my way - if, since the 28th October, I had been in command of a united party, with a majority at my back - we should - if attempts at reconciliation had failed -have been to the country, and come back three months ago. Every man amongst those who follow me knows this to be a fact. But, sir, I was not so situated. And, when this great War Conference was proposed, I was, like other men, compelled to recognise its overwhelming importance. Confronted with the necessity for effective representation in such a conclave, all other things seemed to be dwarfed. I hoped that honorable members opposite would abandon - for the time being, at all events - their virulent attacks on myself, and would look at the position no longer in a party, but in a national, spirit. I hoped against hope, because I knew that there were no men in this House who, in their hearts, longed so earnestly as did those honorable gentlemen for the prolongation of Parliament. I confess I did not believe that the junta could force them to the point of voting against it; for I know full well how earnestly they yearned that the bitter cup of an election might pass away. I thought, as my honorable friend the honorable member for Barrier reminded me, that these honorable gentlemen, who had charged me with that very mission - this sacred mission, “ In God’s name, go to the British Government and get them to agree to a prolongation of the life of this Parliament” - would not have yielded to the junta in a matter on which they felt so strongly. But they have lost all power of volition; they speak and act only as they are directed. Do my honorable friends deny that they did beg of me to ask the British Government to prolong the life of this Parliament? They cannot deny it. It does not depend on their word. There are in this party behind me twenty-five men who know it to be a. fact. Those men were in the party room, and heard it a hundred times. I had hoped, I say. therefore, that we should see the end of these hypocritical protestations, this posturing before the people and before the junta, that the appeal to the British Government was a constitutional crime that had, as it were, turned their very bowels around in anguish at this sacrilegious attack upon the rights of self-government.
Why, this was the very motive that made them bid me God-speed to England. Honorable members opposite cannot deny this. It does not depend on what Senator Watson says or on what Mr. Hughes says. It depends on the testimony of twentyfive men who stand with me, and there are men opposite who will not deny it.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have appealed on previous occasions, and I again appeal to honorable members, to be silent. The position is a grave one to both sides, and every one will have an opportunity to express his views. I ask that the Prime Minister be heard in silence.
– Is a Ministerial statement to be converted into a party speech ?
– I have appealed to honorable members to have some regard for their own dignity, and I ask them not to force me to take more drastic action.
– Honorable members opposite cannot deny what I have said. It is as clear as Holy Writ. They cannot deny that even the Labour party, in their anxiety to prevent an appeal by honorable senators alone, unsupported by members of their organization in the lower House, saw, through the dark clouds of the referendum vote, that such an appeal meant ruin. They were willing, therefore, to postpone the election for the Senate until October. They will not deny, either, that the only way in which an election could have been postponed was by an Act of the Imperial Parliament. This completely disposes of that part of the case. We have done what we could to promote and secure united action. We have done what we could to take the part that is right in the cause of the Empire, to follow the lead set by Great Britain herself, by Canada, and by other overseas Dominions to have no election during the war. But these gentlemen will not let us follow that lead. They care nothing for the Empire.
– Shame !
– They care nothing for the Empire, except for its downfall.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I rise to a point of order. I think the Prime Minister ought to be asked to withdraw the statement he has just made, that we desire to see the wreck of the Empire. He should apologize for it to honorable members on this side of the House.
– I heard nothing offensive-
– Of course, you never do.
– I heard no statement from the Prime Minister which would, I think, be considered offensive. I shall deal with the Prime Minister in the same way as with every other honorable member of the House.
– The Prime Minister distinctly stated that honorable members on this side of the House cared nothing for the Empire except ‘for its downfall. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member takes exception to that statement, I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw it.
– Very well, sir, I withdraw ib.
– And apologize.
– I withdraw it. I will say that it is not so with all honorable members on the other side; but I know very well that it is true of many of them.
– Then the honorable gentleman has a right to name them. I again object to the statement made by the Prime Minister. If he is allowed to speak in that way, he should name the honorable members whom he considered to be in the position to which he has referred. He says that the statement he has made is true of some honorable members on this side. I object, so far as I am concerned. The honorable gentleman is not going to fasten that statement on me.
– As the Prime Minister has made a statement to which exception has been taken, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it,
– He is capable of anything.
– I ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw that statement.
– Oh, yes; I withdraw it.
– I have endeavoured to set out the position in proper focus. On the one hand, is the Empire locked in a life-and-death struggle imperatively demanding united action, and on the other, the narrow party outlook of the Labour organizations, animated by bitter personal animosity towards myself. I ask this House and the country to contrast these -two things - the infinitely great and vital and the infinitely little and petty. I ask the country to judge between us, and to decide by whom they will be governed. The Government, having reviewed all the circumstances, and having considered their position in another place, where they could have held on only under sufferance, even if they passed the resolution which they had every right to believe they could do, and which, if .all their supporters had voted for it, they certainly could do-
– And which, if all those opposed to the motion voted against it, they could not pass.
– If all the supporters of the Government voted for the motion they could have passed it. We have a right on the face of things to say that the Government have a majority in another place. But in what circumstances would the Australian delegation to the Imperial War Conference leave these shores? In the face of the statement by an honorable senator in another place, and by honorable members here, what position would the delegation and the Government have been in ? Probably before the delegation had sailed out of Australian waters there would have been a political crisis, and an. election of the Senate, or possibly of both Houses. In all the circumstances, therefore, the Government considered that, after the charges were made which have been heard in this House and in the Senate touching the honour of the Government, and the honour of this Parliament, there is one course, and one course only, to pursue, and that is to send this Parliament to its masters - to get from the people that imprimatur of their approval which would place them in a position to carry out their policy, to enable Australia to do its duty during the war and present to the world a united front. So we are going to the people.
Let me turn for a moment - and a very brief moment - to the charges which have been made in another place. I shall not take up much time of honorable members, because the speeches of Senator Millen and Senator Pearce in another place completely cover the ground. I have here a report of a speech made by the Leader of the Government in another place after he had listened to a further statement of the charges made by Senator Watson. The charges themselves are set out inHansard, and are available to the country. Most, if not all, of them have already been set out in the press. I say that no man can rise from their perusal without a feeling of amazement that a gentleman whose honour had been impugned, as Senator Watson says his was, should have gone again and again to the fountain which, polluted him, should drink from it to repletion again and again, and yet, going to this polluted fountain, should, on his own showing, believe that he was drinking in the waters of life. He said, in effect, “I went to these gentlemen as friends. I took their advice as friendly advice. I knew that they were giving me friendly advice. Again and again I went to them.” I quote one or two statements made by the honorable senator. Speaking yesterday Senator Watson said -
Did I not say that these gentlemen spoke to me as advisers and friends, trying to advise me as to the best course in my own interests? I said these words concerning each of the three. Each was seeking to advise me as a friend.
I want honorable members to follow this. I do not know how many weeks ago it is since Senator Watson first saw the President of the Senate. I do not know how many times he saw the President, but admittedy he saw him several times. Then he saw Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence. I do not know how many times he saw the Minister, or what intervals elapsed between each conversation with him. But certainly he saw him several times, and intervals, more or less lengthy, took place between these interviews. Then Senator Pearce sent a wire to Senator Watson to meet the Prime Minister in Sydney. I did not go to Sydney on that occasion. Senator Watson does not deny that he knew the business upon which he was to see me. He knew it was the same as that uponwhich the President and Senator Pearce had seen him so many times. Owing to my visit to Sydney falling through, Senator Pearce cancelled the proposed appointment by telegram. Senator Watson came to Melbourne for the meeting of the Senate in the usual way.
I was in this House. He cannot say that I approached him. I can say truthfully that the matter escaped me altogether. I did not see him, except with one other member and an outsider, in my room, on a matter connected with the coal industry during that week. I went to Sydney again at the end of the week. Another telegram was sent by the Minister for Defence, again asking him to see me. He came to Melbourne the day before the meeting of Parliament. He says he came to attend a party meeting. Did he attend it?
– I can say that, on that particular afternoon, I was, as often I am, exceedingly busy, and he sat in one of my ante-rooms for an hour. Why? I will not swear to an hour, but he sat there waiting patiently for me to see him longer than I would sit waiting for any man on God’s earth. I have nothing more to say about what happened, except to again reiterate what I said in reply to the honorable member for Yarra on Friday. Senator Watson stated yesterday that he knew I was speaking to him as a friend. Yet, he says, I attempted to bribe him. How does he explain these numerous interviews with the President of the Senate, with the Minister for Defence, and with myself, the lengthy interval that elapsed from his first interview with the President until his interviewwith me? How does he explain the inexplicable interval between the interview with me and the date of his statement in the Senate? For these things are surely inexplicable if an attempt were made to corrupt him. Perhaps the trouble is that I did not attempt to do so.
The honorable member for Yarra took me by surprise on Friday. He knows perfectly well that I have a hundred things to do, and I could not recall on the spur of the moment all that had occurred in connexion with this matter. My mind is charged with many things. Even the key to the whole situation of the prolongation of Parliament had slipped from my memory until the honorable member for Barrier reminded me that I was sent to England to get a prolongation of the life of Parliament. Some of the circumstances connected with this interview have since returned to my mind. Yesterday’s proceedings in another place throw much light on this matter. Senator Watson stated that he went to see Senator Pearce on Militarymatters.
Senator Watson. The honorable senator sent for me.
Senator PEARCE The honorable senator came to me to talk about defence matters. His statement to-day on this point is quite correct. On the occasion referred to we did talk over the case which the honorable senator has mentioned. Then I proceeded to talk over this other matter, on which T had previously conversed with the honorable senator, not once, but two or three times. When I again, on this occasion, broached the subject, did this gentleman with the high sense of honour and the tender conscience rush away from me as from a person of evil disposition? Did he say to nic, “I must leave you; you will contaminate me”? Did the honorable senator rush across to the other side of the chamber to escape my evil influence? No, he remained and discussed the question with me. When, as a result of that conversation, I formed the opinion that Senator Watson wanted to come with us, I sent him the telegram which has been referred to in order that he might meet the Prime Minister in Sydney. When that visit of the Prime Minister to Sydney was cancelled, and Senator Watson met me again, I put the proposition before him that ho should go and see the Prime Minister on ‘the matter we had been discussing. Did the honorable senator then, with his high sense of honour, scout that proposition ? Not at all. Not only did Senator Watson go willingly to see the Prime Minister, but he went after consultation. He tells us to-day that he asked Senator McDougall to come into a room, and that by themselves they talked the matter over.
Senator Watson. That was after I had seen the Prime Minister.
Senator PEARCE. I understood the honorable senator to say that he consulted Senator McDougall before he went to see the Prime Minister.
Senator Watson. No, I told .Senator McDougall, in the club-room, that I had been asked* by you to go and see the Prime Minister, and that I would go and see him. When I came back I took occasion to call Senator McDougall into a room and told him what took place.
Senator PEARCE. I accept the honorable senator’s statement. He informed Senator McDougall that he had been sent for, no doubt in doing so telling the honorable senator why he had been sent for. Then he goes to the Prime Minister, the arch-tempter of all. Senator Watson, the unsuspecting, the innocent, this virgin of honour, goes to place himself in the awful presence of the arch-tempter of all. Having had this great .temptation placed before him, the honorable senator comes back. Does he reject the temptation? Does he announce to the world that he had been tempted, and denounce the tempter? Not at all. In .the secret recess of some room in Parliament House he discusses the question with Senator McDougall. Then, honorable senators should bear in mind that nothing happened even after that conference with Senator McDougall. Time goes by, and it is not until the third degree has been applied to Senator Watson by the Caucus that he comes down here and makes his statement. When, after all this, Senator Watson comes before us and speaks about his conscience and his high ideals of honour, there is some reason to doubt the valuation put upon these virtues of the honorable senator by himself, and also the value which the public will be likely to put upon them.
I want - because -‘this matter reflects very seriously on us all - Fo direct the attention of the House for a few moments to a report which appeared in the Age newspaper, and which was quoted by my honorable colleague in another place yesterday. No clearer revelation of the real motives underlying these charges could be desired. Senator Pearce, speaking yesterday, quoted the following extract from that report: -
Mr’. J. Mathews, M.P., said that as soon as Senator Watson called his colleagues together in the Caucus, and told them what had occurred, the Caucus decided to take action.
Senator Watson. I did not call them together - they met.
They called him. There was a call for an explanation, but it did not come from him. The Hansard report of Senator Pearce’s speech, continues -
Senator PEARCE. The honorable senator must quarrel with Mr. Mathews as to that, and not with me. I have told honorable senators that the statement by Senator Watson came before us as a result of the “third degree” applied to that gentleman; and this newspaper report confirms my view. However, the report is as I have read, and it goes on to state -
The Caucus decided to take action to place the situation before the public.
Not Senator Watson, it will be seen, but the Caucus.
Senator Ferricks. What has this to do with the Minister’s defence?
Senator PEARCE. It has this to do with it, that the high-souled gentleman who made the charges lias to be forced by the Caucus - by the scruff of the neck - to make them.
Senator Watson. The only question the Caucus considered was whether I should make the statement before Senator Ready’s resignation was made, or wait until it had been received in this chamber.
Senator PEARCE. As I told the honorable senator before, he must quarrel with Mr. Mathews. These are not my statements, but his.
Senator Watson. I am dealing with the newspaper report, and not with Mr. Mathews.
Senator PEARCE. The newspaper report proceeds
The time was extremely opportune - The time for the Caucus to compel Senator Watson to make the charges was “ extremely opportune “ -
Some people seemed to think that Senator Watson should have disclosed the actions of the former Labour members, Senators Givens and Pearce, and the Prime Minister, sooner than he did; but this would have spoiled everything.
Spoiled what ? It could not have spoiled the charge of corruption if it was a genuine charge. But it would have spoiled their party tactics. That is all it would have spoiled. And that is the explanation of the whole business. The policy of this party, what is it, but to destroy me? To this end they shape all their actions. Senator Pearce proceeded -
A charge of bribery and corruption earlier “ would have spoiled everything.” What would it have spoiled? Honorable senators opposite are endeavouring to pose as honest men, desirous of bringing a criminal to justice; but these honest men, through the mouth of one of their spokesmen, say, “ If we had brought this criminal to justice before, it would have spoiled everything.” What would it have spoiled? It would have spoiled their tactics for the election. That is what it would have spoiled; and tactics before the election are far more to these high-souled gentlemen than is any question of bringing a criminal to justice. I am going to deal fully with Mr. Mathews. That gentleman resumes -
What was said to Senator Watson, by itself, was capable of a more or less plausible explanation, but, clouded as it was with the unexpected and unexplained resignation of Senator Ready, it conveyed an impression to the public mind that would never be eradicated. Therefore, Senator Watson was wise to reserve his revelations till something occurred to support his statement, and the result, he believed, would be to secure for Labour a number of Liberal votes that never came their way before.
It is perfectly clear that the gentleman who says that an attempt was made to bribe him never did anything at all to cleanse his soiled honour - that literally for weeks he went to one man after another listening to what they said, accepting their advice as friends, and that finally the Caucus got hold of him by the scruff of the neck and said to him, “If you do not come up to the scratch and do this - then ! Anathema - you will be struck off the ticket.” What did he say to me? He said, “I cannot live in Newcastle unless I am a member of the Official Labour party.” He does not deny that if he followed his convictions he would have joined my party. Therefore, the only reason why he makes this charge is to save his skin. What can any man think of such a charge from such a man ? I have only one thing to say about him and his charge : I have instructed my solicitor to issue a writ against him. That writ will be out this afternoon. It is returnable in the Supreme Court of this State. Unless he pleads privilege, he must defend it; he must do so publicly ; he must take the consequences of his charge; he cannot, and shall not, be allowed to make such charges for party purposes. The Courts can and shall judge between him and me; it will be for him to make out his case. If honorable members opposite will muster up enough courage to make any other definite charge where the plea of privilege will not shelter them, this Government - I, or any member of it, or. I assume, any member of this party - will take similar action. We are going to appeal to the great jury of the people of this country, and the Courts of this country can investigate these charges. But the gentlemen who have made them can never escape the stigma now indelibly branded on their foreheads. They have failed their country in its hour of trial. In the gravest crisis in our history, they have put the selfish and narrow interests of party before the welfare, the safety, of the Commonwealth and Empire. They have feared to lose their seats. Moved by that fear, they have sacrificed the best interests of their country at the bidding of men outside this Parliament, who exercise a reign of terror over them. They dare not stand up and say what they think. What have I done that they should pursue me with such bitterness? I have still hung on the walls of the little room that I dignify by the name of study in my house a testimonial signed by the secretary of the Australian Workers Union, and by a man on the other side of this chamber - the honorable member for Cook - which speaks of my many virtues, of the things I have done for unionism and labour. When the howling storms of invective burst more loudly than usual on my ears, I sometimes look at this and wonder : I ask, what have the honorable member for Darling - I select him as a type of the men who stand with me - and myself done that we should be thus reviled and slandered? What have we done? We had the courage to face the unions and political organizations of this country, even though it meant our expulsion from them. I, like him, have cut myself aloof from organizations built up by the unremitting and painful work of many years; of a lifetime. No money could buy the services which I have given to the trade unions of this country. I have gone into this hell, in which I now pass my days - why ? Because I believed the course which I had mapped out for myself to be the right course. I could have taken the easy way. I could have hung on to power and postured as a patriot, but taking no risks. I could have kept a smooth face and ridden in peace and security, but I could not have ridden in honour. Now these gentlemen, having failed to unhorse me in the arena in fair combat, attempt to assassinate me. I go to the people. Let my opponents do what they can. The people are to judge between them and us by whom they are to be governed. Upon their decision the future of Australia depends. By whom are we to be governed if not by those who have the courage to put the nation before their part,v ? I say to the people of this country : “ And this I have tried to do, and ask to be judged accordingly.”
The gentlemen who have been clamouring for an election have got what they have asked for. It is now for them to make good their case. There is now provided the jury to which we shall appeal on all matters. There is no escape. Those who are guilty must be condemned and will pass out of political life. But these gentlemen shall not use these tactics to bring this country down. They shall not use these tactics as a sort of shield behind which they can crouch. If they get in, they must get in on their policy. And what is their policy? Apart from their detestation and hatred of me, what is it? I have done. All I have to add is that honorable members will prove that they are ready to go to’ the country by granting us, without hesitation or delay, that amount of Supply necessary to carry the Government over the period to be covered by the elections and until we get back again; to pass the Bill necessary to ratify the collection of the Customs duties under the present Tariff; to give us an opportunity of enabling the soldiers of Australia to cast their votes; and to give us whatever legislation may be necessary - if necessary at all - to prevent alien enemies in our midst from striking a blow for Germany on the side of our political foes.
.- (By leave). - In the few remarks that I desire to make I shall not occupy nearly so much time as the Prime Minister. I wish to point out that during the whole of the Prime Minister’s speech I made no interjections except on two occasions, when I rose to a point of order, while during my speech’ in this House on the question of the extension of the life of this Parliament there were no fewer than fiftyeight interjections, fifty-three of which came from honorable members opposite.
– Get ahead.
– I shall proceed in my own way, and without dictation from the honorable member for Wannon or any one else. Now, I want to say that the speech made by the Prime Minister was not delivered for this House at all. We are all well aware of that. It was an electioneering speech, intended for the country, as were the other two speeches which have been made by the Prime’Minister recently. These speeches will be printed for circulation throughout the country. The remarks just ‘made by the Prime Minister are as remarkable for the omissions as for the statements contained in them. When, on the strength of the charges made by Senator Watson lastweek, we asked for a Royal Commission or some inquiry, it was turned down and not one word has been uttered by the. Prime Minister to indicate whether there is to be any public inquiry into this matter at all. I know that some people will believe the Prime Minister, and, on the other hand, there are others who will believe Senator Watson. It is quite possible that neither will be right, and after all, that is not the proper way to have a trial of such an important matter. I do not know whether the honorable member for Flinders occupies the highest position in his profession or not, but I am quite satisfied that he and all the other legal gentlemen of standing would not think of trying a case of this nature merely on the strength of a statement on one side and a denial on the other, and without further independent inquiry. There is a proper way to ascertain whether the charges made by Senator Watson were accurate or nob. The Prime Minister says there is not. one word of truth in the statements, and he tells us that the Government are determined to appeal to the people. He gives no other reason now for an election. I admit that
Ave have asked for an election, and it is quite possible that the events connected with Senator Watson’s statement, as ‘well as the peculiar circumstances surrounding the resignation of another honorable gentleman, may be mentioned during the coming campaign. But an election will not prove the truth or the falsity of the charges made. ^Neither will an election prove the truth or otherwise of the rumours now going round this city that the senator who resigned on account of illness was in a Minister’s office on the very morning of the day on which he resigned. People who were passing in the streets of the city - people who know Senator Ready and know also the buildings in the city - saw Senator Ready go into a Minister’s office at a certain time and also saw him leave at a certain time. We know of the circumstances leading up to that resignation; but has the Prime Minister said a word to indicate that we were to have an inquiry into this matter ? Not a single word. What is the reason of this alteration in the policy of the Government? Last Friday afternoon, when a resolution was carried in this House, the question was raised, whilst a division was being taken, whether we would meet again today or yesterday. The Government said : “ Give us the division on the motion for the prolongation of the life of Parliament and we need nob meet till Tuesday.” Has something happened elsewhere - not in the Senate - but has anything happened to two honorable senators? Did they practically give the Government notice to quit? Did they advise the Government that they were going to vote in a certain direction on that question ? No doubt the Prime Minister and honorable members on that side will go about the country during the forthcoming campaign saying that we, the members on this side, prevented Australia being represented at the Imperial Conference, and prevented the delegates leaving tonight, as the Prime Minister said they intended to do. But have honorable members forgotten that the Prime Minister said a few moments before that the state of affairs to-day was such that the Government were confidentially advised that no transport or troopship was to leave Australia ? How were these gentlemen to get away ? . It is an open secret that they were going on a transport or troopship.
– At 9 knots an hour?
– Is the Euripides a 9-knot-an-hour boat?
– That information came through this morning.
– Therefore no matter what action was taken by this House, or by certain senators who may have been going to vote in a certain direction, the two Ministers and the other member from that side of the House would not have gone.
– They would -have been brave, and gone.
– How could they if the steamers are not going ? The Prime Minister said that sufficient Supply was to be asked for to carry the Government over the election. Does he mean that we are to pass sufficient Supply to cover the rest of .the financial year, and that we are to be asked before we adjourn to put through the whole of the Estimates without practically a line of them being discussed? He was so concerned in quoting from the Hansard proof of an honorable senator’s speech that he did not matta that point clear. In the sixteen years I have been here I have never had a senator’s proof in my hand on the day it should be corrected, and have never before known one to be quoted from. Yet the Prime Minister had one within a few minutes of the time allowed for corrections to be sent in. Had any honorable member on this side cared to object to the honorable gentleman reading that speech he could have been prevented, bub we were anxious to give him the greatest latitude on this question. He was quite prepared to quote at length on that matter, but he uttered not a word as to the period of Supply to be granted, or as to how the Government propose to deal with the Tariff. He did not tell us, either, whether we were to be asked to pass a motion putting the whole of the Tariff through without any alteration.
– Does that not go without saying ?
– It may or may not. I know of several items, from my intimate connexion with the Customs Department over a number of years, which need amendment. It shows that the Tariff schedule was fairly well prepared when it has been in existence for two years and four months, and so few anomalies have been found in it. I would urge the Government that where anomalies have been found, and the House can agree to make alterations practically without discussion, especially where obvious mistakes have been made, it should be done, for we have no right to allow an obvious mistake to remain in the Tariff schedule a moment longer than is necessary. We have no right to penalize the people. I can give one case.
– Why did you not alter it long ago?
– I was anxious to do so. The honorable member need make no mistake about that.
– The Prime Minister would not allow us.
– I do not say that. I was anxious to make some alteration.
– Was it a one-man party ?
– The Cabinet decided. Obvious mistakes should be altered by Parliament where this can be done practically without discussion, as in the instances I am thinking of.
– What are you referring to?
– It is difficult to refer to any item, because directly one is specified people will come up and point out others. However, I do not mind handing to the Minister of Customs a list showing the four things that I think should be altered immediately.
– Taking the duty off bags.
– That is one instance. I admit frankly that we ‘should take the duty off cornsacks.
– I was a member of » deputation that waited on you, and you refused that to us.
– I did not pub it- on. Cabinet decided some of these- things.
– When you accept the responsibility, it is your Tariff.
– I admit that I am responsible, and am anxious to make some alterations in items which I knew were mistakes twenty- four hours after they were made:
– Are not interjections more disorderly from the table than from an ordinary seat ?
– No. They are all in the same category. All interjections are highly disorderly. I direct the attention of honorable members to standing order 280. which says - No member shall interrupt another member whilst speaking, unless (1) to request that his words be taken down; (2) to call attention to a point of order or privilege suddenly arising; or (3) to call attention to the want of a quorum.
I therefore ask honorable members on both sides of the Chamber to assist me by refraining from interjections altogether.
– I have no intention to name other anomalies, but am quite prepared to advise honorable members as to what I think is the best course to pursue. I will do this without any idea of gaining a party advantage. It was the honorable member for Grey who interjected that cornsacks represented one of the items which needed altering. The Prime Minister, while he went at length into private and semi-private matters, and quoted speeches, gave us no lead as to the intentions of the Government regarding some of the important legislation that we are to deal with before the dissolution. We have a right, in a studied, deliberate statement from the Prime Minister, to learn what action the Government propose to take. He did not say a word as to the inquiry we have demanded. What do the Government propose to do about it? Do they propose to pass over the statement made by Senator Watson and the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator Ready? It is well known to certain citizens of Melbourne, who knew Senator Ready by sight that he was seen going into the office of a Minister of the Crown on the day that he resigned, and that he remained there for some time.
– The office of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– We have a right to have an inquiry into that circumstance, particularly in view of the others that led up to it. I have not by me the telegram that appeared in the Age or Herald of Monday of last week.
– Will not the Supreme Court case bring these things out?
– The Supreme Court will deal with Senator Watson’s case alone. I do not know that Senator Ready’s case is referred to in the action that the President of the Senate is bringing against the Age. I understand that all that is referred to in that case is the alleged interview that took place between the President and Senator Watson. I have been careful all through this matter to put it as if the thing is still sub judice, and as if we were going to have an inquiry. But if the Government burke that inquiry the responsibility will be on every man sitting on that side of the House supporting the Government, and not on the men who are asking for it. The Prime Minister told the House that he waited on His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and that the people are to be asked to say who shall govern. What caused the Prime Minister to arrive at that decision ? Is it a fact that the Government were informed that they had no possible chance of getting the motion for eN tending the life of the Parliament put through the Senate, and if they did not get an extension, then, of course, onehalf of the senators would go to the country. As the Prime Minister himself said, using language which will be found in Hansard, “ I will grant you a Royal Commission, or any inquiry you like, and, by God! if you want an election you can have an election too.” He said, “ I am always looking for fight.” The man who goes out looking for fight gets it, too, as a rule.
– He did not say that he was looking for fight.
– He said that he never shirked a fight.
– That is a different thing.
– I think that the Prime Minister made out that he did not mind going out, and looking for a bit of fight. We are prepared to go, but the people will not be in a position to judge so well as they would if they had an inquiry into the unsavoury matters which have been brought up. Take the last case, namely, the resignation of Senator Ready. What was the Prime Minister’s statement last week in this Chamber when I quoted to him the telegram in the Age stating that the Premier of Tasmania had been called on a mysterious errand to New South Wales, that while he was away at Swansea, on the east coast of Tasmania, a message was received from the Prime Minister to meet him in Sydney on the following Monday? The telegram went on to say that no one was aware of the nature of the business on which Mr. Lee was called to Sydney. The telegram was sent to Swansea on Friday, 23rd February, and five days after Senator Ready was taken ill. To make the matter perfectly plain, five days before Senator Ready is alleged to have fainted in the diningroom the Premier of Tasmania was called to New South Wales, and the Prime Minister, trying to get out of the dilemma, said, “ We heard that a resignation-
– Do you deny that Senator Ready fainted in the diningroom?
– I was not there.
– I saw him.
– If it had occurred in some countries, people would say that Senator Ready was doped. If it had occurred in the United States-
– You are getting as bad as the rest of them.
– They have been pumping oxygen into him since.
– I am going to put the case as fairly as I understand it. Here is the telegram which appeared in the Age of the 26th February-
TASMANIA!* PREMIER LEAVES FOR SYDNEY.
Hobart. - Some mystery surrounds the hurried departure of the Premier for Sydney by the Moeraki early on Saturday morning. On Friday an urgent message was received from the Prime Minister asking Mr. Lee to meet him in Sydney on Monday morning. The Premier was at Swansea completing his eastern tour, and the message was repeated to bini there. Mr. Lee at once came on to Hobart, reaching the city about 1 a.m., and leaving at 10 a.m. for Sydney. The message contained no inkling of the business necessitating Mr. Lee’s visit to New South Wales.
Five days after that, Senator Ready was taken ill in the diningroom, and the Prime Minister, in his speech last Friday, said, “We heard.”
– And you allege that he was drugged ?
– I said that in some countries people would say that.
– Why do you not make the statement straight out? Do not insinuate.
– “ Insinuate !” Honorable members on the other side are the last persons on this earth who should talk about insinuations. Five days before Senator Ready was taken ill in the diningroom the Premier of Tasmania was wired for to go to New South Wales, and on Friday the Prime Minister said here, “ We heard.” He did not forget this incident as he alleges he forgot the main question on which he visited England. He told honorable members who voted for him to go to England to attend the Imperial Conference that the main thing on which he visited England last year was to get an extension of the life of this Parliament, and that in making his speech, he forgot all about it. He did not forget last Friday, when he said, “ We heard that a senator was going to resign, and that it would be from a certain State, and we got everything in readiness for his successor.” Why? We are told that the successor was in Melbourne before the senator resigned. Either Mr. Earle resigned by telegraph to his own State, or he left his resignation there. It is a certainty that one thing or the other took place.- I understand that the Loongana leaves Tasmania on Tuesday and Friday, and Mr. Earle left there on a Tuesday afternoon, the day before Senator Ready was taken ill, to come over here on other business. He came over about hops.
– He did hop.
– He hopped from the Tasmanian Assembly into the Senate. That is the position, and we are asked to believe it. There are plenty of persons outside who will not believe it; who will believe that something - I will not say crooked - of a doubtful character has been done. We are told by the Prime Minister that alien enemies are not to be allowed to vote. I personally am in accord with that proposal. Alien enemies ought to be interned, and no interned man has a right to vote. If a man is an enemy of our country, and the countries with which we are fighting side by side, he has no right to be out of the internment camp. Let Ministers take the responsibility. There are some men, however, born in what are enemy countries to-day who are not alien enemies. Some of them are as good Australians as any one else, and many of them have sons fighting on our side to-day. If we are to say that alien enemies must not vote, does it mean that we are to go a step farther and say that no alien enemy - I presume that the Prime Minister puts them all in the same category - shall sit in any Parliament in Australia? That is the natural corollary to his statement.
His speech to-day is more notable for the omissions than for the things which it contains. He referred to the gravity of the crisis. We are all well aware of that. No honorable member on this side minimizes that position, but we do say that the personnel of the delegation to the Imperial Conference is not satisfactory. If, the Prime Minister said, the people of Australia could have been got into one meeting to vote on the question as to whether or not Australia should be represented at the Conference, they would have voted that they should be represented. I am sure that they would, but they would not vote to be represented by the three honorable gentlemen who were selected. They would not vote to be represented by the honorable member for Flinders, not by a Minister who said that he would not agree to abide by the decision of the people given on the 28th October last. Is he to go to England to do, as he said he would, his utmost to have that decision upset, to go behind it?
– What about Senator Ferricks ?
– Many would sooner vote for Senator Ferricks than for the PostmasterGeneral. I should prefer an open vote in both Houses of Parliament as to who should go. The representation of Australia at the Conference has been put off, not because of anything that has occurred here or in another place, but because of something that has occurred in the lobbies.
– Perhaps they heard that you had got two of our men.
– I do not think that we have money on this side to buy votes, though it is alleged that there is plenty of money on the other side.
– The members alluded to could not be bought.
– That is so. T believe that they intended to vote in accordance with the dictates of their conscience.
– That is what we think of your men.
– I have more respect for the man who votes as he believes to be right, even though he has changed his view, than for the man who goes away causing grave suspicion by his action.
I wish to make it clear that the proposal to form a National Government came first from the Liberal party. That party met on the 18th January, sitting well into the evening and again on the 19th, and determining before luncheon on the 19th that the Prime Minister should be asked to convene a conference of representatives of the three parties.
– There is no secret about that.
– News about the doings of party meetings always leaks out, no matter what the party, and during the luncheon hour, before the meeting of Mr. Hughes’ party, I had heard of it. I was sitting at a table upstairs, and, as honorable members know, one sometimes overhears what goes on round about. I overheard the Whip of the Hughes party calling together the members of that party for a meeting to consider the resolution of the Liberal party. The Hughes party trooped in behind the Liberal party, and then sent an invitation to me as Leader of the Labour party.
– It is not very edifying to repeat something overheard in the dining room.
– It is highly improper.
– The statement that the invitation to form a War Ministry came from the Liberal party toi the Hughes party and then to me apparently touches some honorable members on the raw.So much has been made of the fact that the Labour party declined the invitation to join with the other parties that I propose to place on record the letters which I received inviting me to a conference. The first letter came from the Leader of the Opposition. It is as follows: - 10th January, 1917.
Leader of the Labour Party.
My party has considered the whole situation in relation to the war, and has arrived at the following decisions, viz.: -
I have already acquainted the Prime Minister of the above.
I received that letter at 2.30 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and three-quarters of an hour later came a letter from the Prime Minister. Upon receiving this letter, I consulted all the members of the Official Labour party who were then in Melbourne and at Parliament House. Mr. Hughes’ letter reads as follows: - 19th January, 1917.
I should be glad if you could make it convenient to meet me and the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Cook) at my office to-day with a view of discussing the formation of a National Government.
To that I replied- 19th January, 1917.
Your letter of even date received, inviting me to meet yourself and Mr. Cook at your office this afternoon “ with a view of discussing the formation of a National Government.”
In reply, I desire to say that as the matter is one which needs consideration I would be pleased if the proposals agreed upon between yourself and Mr. Cook were submitted to me, so that I could take steps to call an early meeting of the Labour party to discuss same.
I then received this letter from Mr. Hughes -
Referring to your reply to my invitation to you “ to meet Mr. Cook and myself in conference at my office to-day to discuss the formation of a National Government,” and to your request that I should submit the proposals agreed upon between Mr. Cook and myself in that connexion to you for your consideration, I desire to say that no proposals of any kind were agreed upon by Mr. Cook and myself, and none were even suggested.
The invitation is not to consider certain proposals already agreed upon between Mr. Cook and myself, but to discuss generally, and in particular, the question of the formation of a National Government representing the three parties in Parliament.
You would, of course, come to the conference - as we all should - perfectly free to make any proposals you thought fit.
I am, yours truly,
P.S. - I should be glad to know if you can attend such a conference to-day, and, if not, when, if at all, you can do so.
I sent the following reply that afternoon : - 19th January, 1917.
I desire to acknowledge receipt of your further letter re conference. Will forward you reply to it on Monday.
On the Monday I forwarded the following letter: - 22nd January, 1917.
In reply to your further letter of the 10th instant, relative to your invitation to attend a “ conference to discuss the formation of a National Government,” I desire to say that I will lay your letters before a meeting of the Australian Labour party, which will be convened shortly prior to the assembling of Parliament, and will inform you of the result when a decision is arrived at.
-The party which includes the honorable member for Bourke arrived at a correct decision, namely, that we would not join in the formation of a new Government, and when that decision was arrived at, I informed Mr. Hughes of it.
– Does not the honorable member think that an invitation of the kind conveyed to him warranted his calling a meeting of his party at once?
– No. I intimated that the party would meet shortly before Parliament reassembled, and if the Government had been anxious that we should hold our meeting early, they could have called Parliament together earlier. The matter was in their hands. Our party met before Parliament reassembled.
– On the afternoon of the same day.
– Parliament met on the 8th February. We met on the afternoon’ of the 7th February. The Prime Minister said in his letter that no proposals had been agreed upon before the conference met which fixed up the present arrangement, but he is reported in the press to have said that he and the right honorable member for Parramatta had been in complete agreement for a long while, and that there was no alteration in regard to their proposals. If there were no proposals, how could they have been in complete agreement on them ? I have placed these communications on record - I also acknowledged the receipt of the letter from the right honorable member for Pararmatta, but there is no need to include that document - in order to point out that the Ministerial party of thirteen acted on the suggestion of the Liberal party. They did not hold their meeting until the Liberal party had sent their resolution to them. I received the letter from the Leader of the Liberal party before I received the invitation from the Prime Minister.
– Will the honorable member complete the story of the negotiations by informing the House of the reasons which actuated the party in not agreeing to the proposal before it?
– I can tell the honorable member what the principal reason was.
– Has the honorable member the last letter?
– No. I merely informed the Prime Minister that the party had not agreed to the proposal;
– Were not the words, “This party declines”?
– I have not a copy of the letter with me. Speaking from memory, the effect of what 1 wrote was, “ The party declines’ to enter into a fusion with the other parties, as suggested by the Prime Minister, and it is not my intention to go to the conference.” The Prime Minister has told us this aftersoon that the result of the forthcoming election will be interpreted by the people outside Australia as settling the question whether Australia is to turn and quit. Those were his words bp-day. Now, let me show what he said on the 22nd February last, in relation to the verdict upon the military service referendum -
It only means that Australia does not believe in conscription; that and nothing-more. It does not mean that she is not as resolute in her determination to fight with every ounce of energy she can gather alongside Britain and her Allies until decisive victory brings the world that lasting peace for which it yearns. That this is Australia’s attitude is certain.
When the Prime Minister says to-day that the people outside will interpret the decision of the people at the forthcoming election as, perhaps, an intimation that Australia intends to turn and quit, I answer him in those words of his own. If the people of Australia turn out the Government, it will be an intimation, not that Australia intends to turn and quit, but that it is not satisfied with the way in which Ministers have been administering the affairs of the country. The Prime Minister claims that animosity towards himself has been the cause of recent happenings, but I defy him to find a single utterance of mine, during the referendum campaign or at any other time, which showed that I was actuated by any animosity towards him. -One complaint against me during that campaign was that I did not attack the Prime Minister. I- was fighting for a principle, and did nob attack individuals.
– Do the remarks of tho honorable member apply to any other honorable member opposite?
– They apply to most honorable ‘members on this side.
– What I can say about our attitude towards the Prime Minister cannot be said in regard to the. attitude of some . honorable members opposite towards honorable members on this side. I have many records of speeches in which honorable members on this side were linked up with the Industrial Workers of the World, - and were called traitors and accused of being bribed with German gold. Yet ^ after saying all these things about us they ask us to join with them in forming a. National Ministry. What sort of honesty is there about a man who will Say these things and then ask us to join a Ministry with his party ? I have statement after statement in which these things were said.
– There was a desire to throw a cloak of respectability over honorable members.
– I do not wish to have any cloak of respectability thrown over me by men who make such statements about me. They do not pick out Jones or Smith and say that either has been guilty of these things; they speak of the Labour party generally, and having said all these things about it they ask it to come in and join them. Honorable members opposite say : “ We know that we are absolutely discredited with the bulk of the people of Australia. We know that the proposal we made for compulsory service overseas was the only one that can satisfactorily carry on the war, hut wc intend to run away from it.” During the referendum campaign honorable members opposite claimed that conscription was the only course that could be pursued, but now tho -honorable members for Henty and Flinders, who say that they will not accept the verdict of the people, are more honest than their friends who sit with them and, apparently, are prepared to sell their principles, or anything they possess, in order to be in the Ministry, or in order to support the Government.. If the cloak of respectability to which the honorable member for Henty has referred covers that kind of conduct, I do not wish to have ib. thrown over me.
– Honorable members opposite stole the platform of the Industrial Workers of the “World, and they are working on it.
– I am surprised-
– Surprised at thetruth ? I .know. it.
– I would be surprised if the honorable member said anything that was true. If I got the truth from the honorable member, even by accident, I should be surprised.
– Surely it is very disorderly to tell an honorable member that you would be surprised even if he bold the truth by accident?
-*-The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked for the retort. Of course, honorable members of the Labour party, past and present, have worked hard for, and in, the Labour organizations, and I believe that probably 90 per cent, of the members of Parliament would not have seen the in-
Bide of these walls but for the existence of these organizations.
– Does that justify the betrayal of constituencies at the behest of outside bodies?
-r-I have never betrayed: my constituency. Nobody knows better than does the Prime Minister where I stand in this regard. So far as I know, that honorable gentleman was never asked’ by the party to interview the leagues and executives, but he voluntarily proposed to interview them.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have on one or two occasions this afternoon appealed to honorable members to keep silence, and allow those addressing the House to proceed. Interjections lead to disorder, and I ask honorable members to assist me in maintaining decorum.
– There is no minute in the party minute-book on the question to which I am referring, but I have a pretty fair memory, and I believe that the Prime Minister volunteered to go to the leagues’. The right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that, even ‘ if the leagues had given us a free hand, it was my intention to oppose conscription, simply because I do not believe in it. I fancy I was one of the first of the party to speak to the Prime Minister on the question, and I said I would not sit. in any Government that either introduced a Referendum Bill or issued a proclamation. My attitude on conscription was perfectly plain. If the leagues had said that conscription had to be supported, I should have walked out of public life - “make no bones” about that; though, of course, in this regard I may be differently constituted from some men. At any rate, my memory tells me that the Prime Minister volunteered to interview the leagues, and he had a perfect right, of course, to hia own opinion if he thought it important that his side of the question should be put to them. According to the statement laid before us, Senator Pearce said that he had broached the question to Senator Watson on several occasions, and added that when Senator Watson had the “third degree” applied to him in caucus he was compelled to make a statement in the Senate. I desire to say that, when we were told that Senator Ready had resigned last Thursday, Senator Watson got up voluntarily in the party room and told us the circumstances as affecting himself. Thala was an ordinary urgency meeting such as is often held in the dinner hour by the party in times of crisis, and the meeting to which I refer was called in consequence of Senator Ready’s resignation. UP to that time I had not heard a whisper of Senator Watson having been, approached, and knew nothing of it until he there made Iiib statement. I fancy, further, that all the members of the party were in a similar position to myself, with the exception of, perhaps, three to whom Senator Watson had spoken. No resolution was passed ab the party meeting calling upon Senator Watson to- make a statement in the Senate; but any honest man, as a representative of the people, when he knew another had been approached by several, would think ib due to the honour of Parliament to make the fact public. It is the feeling of members of the Labour party that Senator Watson made his statement on the first possible occasion.
– Why did Senator Watson not make the statement when the offence was committed ?
– Here is an admission that there was an offence.
– An alleged offence I
– The honorable member said “the offence”; and if I had his skill jat cross-examination, such as he showed in the Home Affairs inquiry, I could use ib with effect how. Senator Watson thought that, as he had declined the proposal of the Prime Minister to go over to the other side, it was not right to make a statement then, but when he found another man had been drawn in, and had been compelled to resign, he felt in honour bound to disclose the facts. Never in the whole of my political career have I known a more honorable man than Senator Watson, or one whose word I would more readily believe. I guarantee that the people of Newcastle would sooner believe the word of Senator Watson than they would believe some other people on their oath. Some honorable members opposite tell us that we have no right to take our present action because they have been connected with the trade union movement for twenty-five years. But what about men on this side who have been connected with trade unionism for an equally long period, and who, in spite of their constant work for the movement, have never had a seat in Parliament?
– They are looking for your seats to-day.
– Is that the reason why honorable members have gone over to the Government side? When any representative of the party fails in those things for which he has been elected, it is right that the people outside should seek to replace him by another to uphold the principles in which they believe. It is suggested that some honorable members on this side needed help in order to win their seats ; and it is a fact that very few of us have got into Parliament at the first time of asking; and, probably, all of us, on both sides, have received much assistance from our various party organizations. No man gets into Parliament without .the assistance of organizations; but some people, when they do get here, develop “ swelled ‘head,” with an idea that “ alone I did it.” This they must get out of their mind; they must not think that because others do not realize their importance so much as they themselves do, people have no right to attempt to enter Parliament. The Prime Minister has told us of something that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is alleged to have said. I know, however, that no press man is allowed into any Labour League meeting in Victoria. Resolutions carried at meetings of Labour leagues and Labour Conferences that the press are not to be admitted to Labour League meetings have been in operation for years. Yet the Prime Minister, knowing that, accepts a statement that appears in the press as a report of remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports at a Labour League meeting. It is a faked report, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will no doubt be able to deal with it. I am merely now directing attention to the fact that the Prime Minister, knowing the practice of Labour Leagues in this respect, has assumed that the alleged report of the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, appearing in the press, is correct.
– Would the Age fake a report?
– The authorities of any newspaper will take a report of a meeting if they believe it is correct. Whether they obtain it from their own correspondent or not, they may assume that it is correct.
– But the honorable gentleman has said that this was a “ faked “ report.
– I say that the report was faked, if not by the man who sent it to the press, then by the person from whom that man obtained it. In their anxiety to secure information representatives of the press very often go from one person to another to learn what has been done at a particular meeting. This is not the first time that the press have published incorrect reports of the proceedings of meetings. Personally I welcome the opportunity to appeal to the people. If, as a result of that appeal, it is shown that honorable members opposite possess the confidence of the country, they will be in a better position to carry on the Government than they are in at the present time, when it is believed that many of them do not enjoy the confidence of the people. We have been asked by the Prime Minister to say what policy we intend to put before the country. I believe that it will be precisely the policy and platform upon which he was himself elected at the last election. That is the policy which we shall place before the people, and I am inclined to believe that it will not be found to differ very much from the policy which, on this occasion, will be placed before them by honorable members opposite. What was the reason for the break-away of the supporters of Mr. Hughes from the Labour party? It was that they contended that conscription was essential.
– That was not the reason that I broke away.
– I believe that is so, and that the honorable member broke away from the Labour party for another reason. 1 do not wish to pose as a prophet, but I am inclined to think that when the elections are over there will be a greater number of vacancies amongst the thirteen or fourteen followers of Mr. Hughes than there will be amongst honorable members on this side.
– The honorable gentleman should not start crowing.
– I am not crowing, but saying what I think will be the effect of the elections.
– The honorable gentleman is a great judge, since he has had such a lot of experience outside Yarra.
– It is suggested by the Postmaster-General that I have not had much experience outside my own electorate, but I have not the slightest doubt that, had I been with honorable members on the other side during the recent campaign, the newspapers that denounced honorable members on this side would have pointed out that I, at any rate, am an international trade unionist, and have held office in trade unions in three continents. That is my experience outside the Yarra electorate; and the PostmasterGeneral can point to no such experience in the trade union movement. I can claim a more extended experience of the industrial movement than can many honorable members opposite.
– Let the honorable gentleman contest one of the pioneering electorates, instead of the soft thing he has in Yarra.
-The first time I contested that electorate, it could not be considered so very soft, because I won by less than 500 votes.
– It is the softest thing in Australia..
– Some of us, by the services we have rendered to the Labour movement, have made electoral contests in many electorates easier than they would otherwise have been for Labour candidates. We have done better work in this way than we could hope to do by breaking away from the principles in which we profess to believe. I welcome the appeal to the electors; but I trust it will not be made on the lines of the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon. I hope that the elections will be fought fairly on principles, and that, before they take place, the Government will grant an inquiry so that the truth regarding the allegations of bribery and corruption made in another place, and the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator Ready may be set before the people by a competent tribunal. The matter should not be left to the decision of the electors. The electors who will vote for the honorable member for Henty, for instance, will do so, whether they believe that ex-Senator Ready was spirited away or not, and whether or not they believe that Senator Watson was offered money to leave his party. It is rumoured that there will be a successor to the honorable member for Kooyong, but, in the same way, I may say that the electors who will vote for the honorable member for Kooyong, or for his successor, will record a party vote, and will have noregard to the facts connected with Senator Watson’s charges, or Senator Ready’s resignation. This is why I say that the Government should, at the earliest moment, appoint a competent tribunal to inquire into those matters, so that the people may be in a position to pronounce judgment upon members of this Parliament when in possession of all that evidence upon these matters which can be secured by a competent tribunal.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister, in his speech this afternoon, quoting from remarks made in another place, mentioned my name in connexion with an alleged report of a meeting which I attended last Saturday. I wish to say that the meeting I attended was a meeting of a branch connected with the Labour movement, to whose meetings the press are not admitted.. I could see every one whom T was addressing, and there was no reporter present, and no one took notes of what I said, and yet next* morning I saw in the Age newspaper what purported, to be a report of my remarks. I at oncerung up the secretary of the branch, who* is on the telephone, and his wife answered the call. I asked her how on earth that sort of stuff got into the Age. She said that I had better get some one else to speak to me on the matter. A man cameto the telephone, and I told him that morning, before the matter was referred to ‘in the Senate, that I repudiated the report appearing in the Age. The moment I read the report, I could seethat whoever was responsible for it did not know what he was writing about. I am reported to have said -
As soon as Senator Watson called his colleagues together in caucus -
Any one who knows anything of these matters would know that Senator Watson did not call his colleagues together, and that it was at an ordinary Caucus meeting that Senator Watson mentioned the matter in question. I deny that I said that Senator Watson called his colleagues together in Caucus. I am reported later on to have referred to Senators Givens and Pearce, and the Prime Minister. I never mentioned the name of Senators Givens and Pearce at the meeting, but I did mention the Prime Minister. It is further stated that I said that if Senator Watson had mentioned the matter - sooner than he did, it would have spoiled everything.
The insinuation contained in that was seized upon by the Minister for Defence in another place to suggest that everything was worked up splendidly, so that the grand announcement might finally be made. I said nothing of the sort. Again, I am reported to have said -
I believe it will secure for Labour a number of Liberal votes.
I did not say that either.
– The honorable member should have denied the report to the Dress.
– I have not denied it to the press; I have not bothered my head about the press. But I will make a statutory affirmation, and the branch secretary will do the same, that I rang him up and repudiated the report. I said to him: “If I have to refute this report, I will subpoena you.” It is evident that after the meeting some person gave to an Age agent some sort of a statement of what had occurred. Somebody asked in the course of the meeting why Senator Watson had not mentioned the attempted bribery earlier, and I replied that until the Ready incident occurred the Watson incident was useless ; the Ready incident was the connecting link. That is the nearest approach I made to the statement with which the Age credits me. The Age report is a garbled one, and was not written by a reporter, because there was none there. I can prove that I repudiated the report before attention had been drawn to it in the Senate.
– I should like to say a word by way of personal explanation. Towards the close of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition gave indirect expression to a rumour, that I know has been persistently circulated, to the effect that it is my intention to either resign my seat or retire from politics.
– It is common rumour.
– There is not the slightest justification for the rumour. I am perfectly satisfied with the confidence of Kooyong. It is not my intention to retire from that constituency and become a candidate for the Senate.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation. Speaking to the motion for adjournment moved by the honorable member for Echuca last week, I was referring to the licence granted for the local manufacture of aspirin, and, speaking from memory, I said that the name of the licensee was Harry Woolf Nicholas. I have since received a letter from the licensee, in which he states that his name is George Richard Rich Nicholas. In order to make myself clear to the House, I may say that the article produced by the licensee does not bear upon the label the name George Richard Rich Nicholas, but is declared to be manufactured by George R. Nicholas and Company. In the first place, the licence was granted to Shmith, Nicholas and Company, the partners in which were Harry Woolf Shmith, George Richard Rich Nicholas, Charles Shmith, Alfred Michael Nicholas, and Joseph Wilhelm Broady. I was evidently confusing in my memory George Rich Nicholas with Harry Woolf Shmith. I should like the Minister for the Navy to promise to look into the present shareholders in this company, and especially to ascertain if George Arnold, or Arnold^ who was prevously the agent for aspirin, is directly or indirectly interested in this company.
– I shall be glad to make inquiries into the matter.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
– I have to inform the House that in the first division taken on Friday last the tellers inadvertently made an error. The name of Sir John Forrest should be included in the list of those voting for the Noes instead of that of Mr. Richard Poster. The error has been rectified in the records.
– Has the Minister for the Navy ascertained, as he promised to do, the complete reasons why the Wool Board declines to make Rockhampton a wool appraisement centre?
– I am sorry to say that I have overlooked the matter. I have not made inquiries, but I will do so.
– I h I have received a letter from Tasmanian tributers requesting me to ascertain whether it is possible to prevent the Sulphide . Corporation, of Cockle Creek, the only concern that purchases their ore, from double banking in their charges. The letter states that the corporation has already raised the return charges on ore three times. I hand the letter to the Minister for the Navy, and ask him if he can do something under the War Precautions Act to protect the tributers.
– I shall be very glad to look into the matter.
– The honorable member for Melbourne asked last week for certain information from New Zealand with regard’ to the payments made to the dependants of Dominion soldiers. I desire to inform the honorable member that a cablegram has been despatched to New Zealand to obtain the required information. An answer has not yet been received.
– Will the Honorary Minister representing the Minister for Defence have brought up to date and made available to honorable members the particulars, as to casualties, published in Hansard of the 8th December last, page 9599?
– I will endeavour to do so.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer the following questions: -
– The honorable member informed me that he intended to ask these questions, and I am able to supply him with the following answers : -
The following paper was presented : -
– Last week the honorable member for Melbourne asked -
Why was Dr. C. H. Griffiths, L.D.S., M.A . C.D., refused a commission in the Dental Corps? Also, why is it that so many single men are retained in positions in the Dental Corps when they could go to the front, whilst married men are refused such positions?
The answer is as follows: -
It has been ascertained that Dr. C. H. Griffiths was not granted a commission for the reason thathe refused appointment to the Reserve, from which officers are selected for the A.I.F., but desired appointment direct to the A.I.F.
No fresh Australian Imperial Force appointments are being made in dental services overseas.
In the Third Military District there are at present ten single men employed in the Dental Reserve. Of these eight are medically fit, one medically unfit, and one over age.
These officers have all volunteered, but there are no positions available in the A.I.F.
– On Thursday, 1st March, the honorable member for Melbourne asked -
Why should Major Hall, Dean of the Faculty of the University of Melbourne, after fifteen or seventeen years of military training, hold a position at Victoria Barracks, as head of the Dental Corps, which could be filled by Major C. Morley, who has just returned from active service in France?
The answer with which I have been supplied reads -
The position of staff officer for dental services is a part-time one. Major Ball was recommended for the position by the representatives of the dental profession, and was actively engaged in the practice of his profession when so appointed. Major C. Morley is a whole-time officer, and, although a registered dentist, he has not practised that profession for many years.
– On Wednesday, 28th February, the honorable member for Yarra asked the following question: -
A statement has appeared in the Argus more than once, that last year a contract for the supply of £3,000,000 worth of boots was offered to Australian manufacturers, and was afterwards withdrawn, owing to the lack of a guarantee that continuity of supply would not be interfered with by industrial disputes. I am in possession of information that the only contract ever offered was for £500,000 worth of boots, and it was withdrawn, not on account of industrial trouble, but on account of the lack of material with which to make the boots. I ask the Prime Minister to investigate the statement made by the Argus, and let the people know whether it is correct or not.
The following answer has been supplied to me : -
Nothing is known by this Department of the withdrawal of an offer to Australian manufacturers of a contract for boots. It was reported in the press that a Melbourne firm were negotiating direct for a large contract for boots for the Russian Government.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will allow a return to be published setting out the names of the censors who are receiving more than £150 per annum, so that citizens may understand how the large amount of money that is annually absorbed by the censorship is being expended ?
– I see no great objection to that. I will inquire into the matter.
– I have been in the habit of addressing the Minister for the. Navy as the “ Acting Prime Minister,” but I observe that that title has been struck out of the Hansard reports. I wish to know whether the Minister for the Navy considers that he is entitled tobe called the “ Acting Prime Minister “
– Of course I am the Acting Prime Minister in the Prime Minister’s absence, but only then.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will take into consideration the advisableness of suspending that portion of our Public Service Act which permits of returned soldiers being granted temporary employment for a period of only six months ?
– The honorable member will see that his question raises a very important matter, and one which goes to the very root of our Public Service Act. I am afraid that it is too large an order to be dealt with just now. Later on it might be appropriately raised, and it will then be a matter for the serious consideration of whatever Government may be in power.
– By way of personal explanation,I would like to direct attention to a report which appears in the Herald of this evening. In dealing with the Prime Minister’s speech, the report sets out his statement that -
Those gentlemen on the other side care nothing for the Empire - except its downfall.
The report then proceeds -
Mr. G. M. Burns rose to a point of order.
– I did not hear the remark. (Uproar.)
– Of course, you never do.
On Mr. Tudor’s being called upon to withdraw, he did so.
I merely wish to explain that I did not make the remark attributed to me; that I was not called upon to withdraw it; and that I did not withdraw it.
– Can the Treasurer say if it is possible to make the total payments under the No. 1 wheat pool up to 4s. a bushel ; and, if so, when it is likely that this amount will be paid ?
– There is already a question on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for Wimmera with regard to that matter.
Enlistment of Members of Parliament : Mail for Soldiers in Hospitals.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence give information to the House setting out the term of military service performed up to date by Privates Fleming and Yates and Lieutenant Burchell respectively, together with the reasons why only one man has received a commission ?
– I shall make the necessary inquiries.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that numerous complaints have been made by soldiers in hospitals in England and elsewhere that they do not receive their mail matter on arrival? I have had particulars of one case in which a lad writing to his parents stated that early this year he was then only receiving letters and parcels sent in June and July of last year. I understand that there are many other similar cases. Will the Minister see if something can be done to expedite the delivery of mail matter to our soldiers in hospitals?
Bounty for Wood-Pulp
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister -
– Both these matters are of the greatest and gravest possible moment, and I shall be glad to bring them under the consideration of the Government,
– What is the intention of the Government regarding business for the remainder of the session ?
– So far as I am aware, the order of public business was set out very clearly by the Prime Minister this afternoon. We do not propose to do anything more than we are compelled to do in the circumstances. That is a wellknown rule of procedure in circumstances such as the present. Supply will be necessary to carry us through the election, and we propose to ask the House to grant three months’ Supply, leaving all other financial considerations for the year to be dealt with on our return from the country.
– Then you do not propose to go on with the War Profits Tax Bill ?
– No. I should think not.
– Do you not propose to get through the Estimates up to the end of the year?
– I am afraid that would be too large an order, and would take us too long. The idea is to do just what we have to do in order to make the appeal to the country which has been decided upon. The next matter is the Tariff. I heard with some surprise this afternoon that the Leader of the Opposition had raised the question of cornsacks, and some other urgent matters.
No doubt they are urgent, and of great and grave importance, but I should have thought that my honorable friend would not raise the question of cornsacks.
– I did not mention any. I said there were four things which I thought should be dealt with. The honorable member for Grey interjected “cornsacks,” and I said, “Yes.”
– I believe the honorable member for Yarra during his administration of the Customs turned that matter down quite half-a-dozen times.
– I would suggest that if the item is dealt with at all it is far better to have a fixed duty than an ad valorem duty, so that the people may know what it is. It could be made 6d. or 8d. a dozen, for instance.
– I would remind the honorable member of the great difficulty of re-opening the Tariff at all at the present stage.
– There are some matters which must be dealt with.
– The honorable member says “ must be.”
– Yes; because they involve serious injustices and great anomalies.
– The honorable member knows that once we re-open the Tariff it becomes a very troublesome question. Not only are there reasons relating to the crisis in which we find ourselves, but there are others which my honorable friend knows quite well, that make it quite impossible to re-open the schedule generally for the discussion of various anomalies.
– If there are simply technical alterations to be made, surely you will agree to them ?
– I should very much prefer even technical alterations to stand over till later on. They can be raised just as well three months hence as now. Speaking from a prolonged experience of Tariff matters - and I suppose I have had as much to do with them as most men - I believe that any one who has had to do with Tariffs would eschew, as far as possible, the re-opening of these matters now, for the reasons I have given. That measure, and the one providing for taking the votes of soldiers at the front, are the only ones that I am aware of at the moment. Some other little matters may crop up, but, generally speaking, we propose to finish up here at the earliest possible moment, so that we may get to the country.
– Will the Treasurer during the week consider the necessity of giving Parliament an opportunity to amend the Old-age Pensions Act so that the pensions of widows or mothers of returned soldiers will not be cut down when they get the war pension ?
– It is a wonder that the honorable member did not do anything to rectify that injustice when his party was in office.
– Wil Will it be possible for the Treasurer to frame his tariff in such a way as to tax heavy expenditure more than he taxes incomes?
– The only Tariff Bill that I know of awaiting consideration is that introduced a couple of years ago. I understand the intention is to validate that so as to secure to the country the revenue that has already been collected.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give us any idea of the probable date of the election ?
– I should think within seven or eight weeks from now. It will be at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state on what date he proposes to lay on the table of the House the Estimates for the year ending 30th June, 1917?
-The Estimates are now almost completed, and will be laid before the House as early as possible.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I think that the honorable member does not put the matter quite fairly. He asks for “ the names of the contractors who, it is stated, endeavoured to supply hydatid and flukediseased livers for food for the soldiers on the transports.” If I could be satisfied that these men had endeavoured, as he suggests, to do this kind of thing, they ought to be pilloried.
– It was proved and acknowledged by the Department.
– Surely my honorable friend will make a distinction between a thing which creeps in accidentally and a thing which is done of malign intent?
– Hear, hear! But it was done repeatedly, and the meat was refused repeatedly.
– Ascertain from the Department. Its head will tell you that it was.
– These men are still contractors for the Department, and it regards them as honorable contractors; it finds no fault with them.
– It did.
– I wish to remind my honorable friend that all the meat which was supplied, and in which the percentage of trouble occurred - and I understand that it is only a small percentage
– Some 3,000 lbs. weight of diseased livers.
– My honorable friend is wrong, I think.
– It was admitted by your predecessor.
– I will tell the honorable member the facts if he will listen to me.
– I will.
– About 1,100 lbs. was condemned.
– On one occasion.
– But not all of it was infected; only 5 per cent.was infected.
– That is 5 per cent. too much.
– I wish to remind my honorable friend, too, that this meat was provided for acceptance by the contractors after it had been passed by the City Abattoirs authorities.
– Then the Abattoirs authorities ought to be punished.
– Very well. Does not the honorable member see that he must make a distinction between a man who deliberately sets out to supply diseased meat to a Department and a man who supplies meat which has passed all the tests prescribed by the State?
– I know that the names of these men were promised and have not been given.
– Order !
– You can name me again if you want to do so.
– I am trying to make a reasonable explanation.
– The people want to know the names of the men who are supplying rotten meat.
– Order ! The honorable member must not interject.
– I want to make it clear to the honorable member that the Department does not regard these men as trying to deliver rotten meat.
– No, diseased meat.
– Diseased meat, yes.
– You had better look at the answer.
– The facts are, as the honorable member suggests, that a certain quantity of diseased meat was supplied.
– By very rich men.
– And detected at the ship after having passed through the City Abattoirs.
– That was not stated by your predecessor.
– After having passed the prescribed inspection set up there by the State Government. Really, my honorable friend must look at this matter in a reasonable way. . Everybody reprehends, as much as he possibly can, any man who deliberately supplies diseased meat to be sent away in this fashion. He must make a distinction-
– Cover it up; cover it up!
– Order !
– I do not want to cover it up, and I will say no more.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the long delay in the payment of a further dividend from the old Wheat Pool is causing sales of the equity of wheat scrip at rates below their real value, and if he will, in order to stop such sales, as well as relieve the financial needs of wheat-growers, especially those in newly-settled districts, indicate approximately the date of payment of the next dividend?
– I am informed that over £24,200,000 sterling has already been paid on account of the old Wheat Pool, which is nearly double the amount received for any former wheat harvest. There has not been any delay in making payments; and the date of the payment of the next dividend entirely depends upon the progress made in shipping the wheat.
Recruiting Scheme : Soldiers in United Kingdom Camps : Army Pay Corps.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding Three million seven hundred and ninety-eight thousand six hundred and fifty-two pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1917.
I am asking honorable members for three months’ Supply to carry on the Government until a little after the end of May. We think that by that time the elections will be over, and that Parliament will be able to deal again with the question of Supply. There will be only about one more month of this financial year to run after this Supply has been granted. If there had been time, and the exigencies of the position had nob been such as they are, I would have preferred to bring down the Estimates. They are practically ready; but they could not be placed before honorable members in the form in which the Budget-papers have been generally submitted in less time than ten days. I therefore ask Parliament to grant three months’ Supply. The Appropriation Bill will be brought along after the new Parliament has been elected.
– What about the old Senate being alive to the 30th June?
– That will not matter, I think. We shall have to get through in the best way we can. If they give us three months’ Supply they will deal with the Appropriation Bill in the interval between the meeting of the new Parliament and the end of the financial year. I believe that an Appropriation Bill has been passed after the end of the financial year, but it is not a practice which I would like to follow if it could be avoided. Excluding the item for refunds of revenue this Bill appropriates £3,698,652 to carry on the services of the country for the next three months. During the financial year Parliament has already granted Supply amounting to £9,212,507, not including amounts made available under the Treasurer’s Advance for refunds of revenue. These are respectively £1,700,000 and £270,000. The present Bill provides, with a few exceptions to be hereafter referred to, for expenditure for a period of three months based on the appropriations for the services for the year 1915-16, and at the rates then provided for.
The item which shows by far the largest increase in expenditure compared with that of last year is “ War Pensions,” the expenditure under that head for eleven mouths of this year being £959,600 over the amount provided for the corresponding period of last year. This large increase is due to the regretably heavy casualties among our soldiers at the front, and the consequent increase in the number of pension claims.
Another item which shows a considerable increase in expenditure is “ Trading vessels,” for which the provision for this year exceeds that for the corresponding period of last year by £327,000. Some vessels which were originally used as transports are now being used exclusively as cargo carriers. Their working expenses as transports were charged .to the vote for Expeditionary Forces; their expenses as cargo carriers are charged to the vote for trading vessels.
The full annual training prescribed by the Defence Act for the members of the Citizen Forces has been resumed for the first time since the beginning of the war, which accounts for an increase of £169,000; another large increase of £104,000 for “Other War Services” being due to additional expenditure in connexion with interned enemy subjects, the erection of military hospitals, &c.
An increase of over £60,000 is provided for in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the working expenses of which have increased because of the increase in the length of line opened up for traffic.
As against these increases there are considerable decreases in several items, totalling over £300,000; being chiefly War Census, £44,000; Maintenance of Naval Ships and Vessels, £45,000 ; Naval Dockyards, £93,000, and Interest and Sinking Fund and Loss of working in connexion with the Port Augusta railway, £120,000. If honorable members desire information regarding particular items in the schedule I shall be glad to give it later.
I wish now to make a statement regarding the financial position of the Corn-
Sir John Forrest. monwealth, which will be found interesting and instructive. As soon as I came into office - unexpectedly on this occasion I may say - I set about inquiring what were the financial obligations of the country. The Treasury officials have been compiling the information, which I now submit, to the Committee, as a general view of the Commonwealth finances.
The outstanding features of the Estimates of 1916-17 are a great increase in revenue and a greater increase in expenditure.
This is a very startling increase. It is made up as follows : -
The increase in the interest and sinking fund on loans includes £105,000 interest on loans raised for States. The increase of £105,000 is set ofl by a similar amount to be paid to the Commonwealth bv the States, and included in the Estimates of Revenue.
With regard to the increase in the cost of working the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, I may say that the estimated increase in revenue is £52,590.
The new works estimates of 1916-17 have been analyzed, with the following results : -
Leaving war out of consideration, the Estimates of 1916-17 show the following position : -
This leaves a balance of . . £4,269,835 which, without the £3,000,000 referred to hereunder, would not be sufficient to meet the estimated war expenditure necessarily payable from revenue, namely: -
It is intended to pay the whole £6,903,551 from revenue, and that is possible, because, from the year 1915-16 there was brought forward an amount of £3,000,000 ear-marked for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, which, altogether, will cost £3.660,000 in 1916-17. The balance of £4,269,S35 referred to above and the £3,000,000 amount to £7,269,835. After paying the £6,903,551 out of that, a surplus of revenue amounting to £366,284 will, apparently, remain at the end of the financial year.
Although we can pay our way out of revenue during this year, owing to the £3,000,000 brought forward from last year, there is really a deficit on the year’s transactions of £2,633,716, calculated as follows : -
The position of the accounts is, therefore, very unsatisfactory. If we had not had that £3,000,000 in trust funds for invalid and old-age pensions and other purposes, the real deficit would have been £2,633,716. Expenditure has been incurred on most of the items provided for, and the savings which might have been made at the beginning of the year are not now possible. Much can be said in favour of all the expenditure, but, in a time like this, it is not a question of whether an object is desirable, but whether it can be done without. A policy of self-denial is required, and though the estimates of expenditure in 1916-17 have been considerably reduced, further immediate action is desirable to curtail expenditure, so that next year’s finances may be relieved. Owing to the increase of interest, sinking fund, war tensions, &c., it is not possible to provide out of the revenue of next year for the services which are now borne upon the revenue and which were previously chargeable to loan funds. It is useless our trying to pay out of revenue for works that we have been accustomed to pay for out of loan funds. The stringency that faced the honorable member for Capricornia and others who have preceded me at the Treasury was nothing compared with the stringency which now confronts me.
I come now to the position of the revenue account in 1917-18. The position of the Treasury in each succeeding year of the war will be much worse than has been shown above, because the liability for interest, sinking fund, andwar pensions is rapidly increasing. “We shall have to raise money for payment to the British Government of the cost of maintaining Australian troops abroad, and shall have to pay interest and sinking fund upon it from revenue. Our public debt, with its annual charges, will, therefore, be largely increased.
The war expenditure from loan, including the liability to the British Government for maintenance of Australian troops abroad,amounts at present to something like £80,000,000 per annum. Interest on this at 5 per cent., and sinking fund at 1 per cent., amount to £4,800,000. For each additional year of war it may be calculated that, even if the number of troops be not increased, we shall require additional revenue to meet the following increased charges: -
That is to say, for every year the war lasts revenue must be found to meet expenditure amounting to £6,800,000 in addition to the amount of revenue which is being raised in 1916-17.
The position in 1917-18 may be roughly set down as follows: -
In this £9,684,000 there is no provision for interest and sinking fund on any loans that may be raised for new Federal railways and other works.
– How is it proposed to raise the millions that will be required for repatriation purposes?
– I shall deal with that matter at a later stage. It would be unwise for any Treasurer to say what he is going to do in order to finance a year that has not arrived. I am dealing with the present year, and only forecasting what we shall require without laying down any rule as to how the money is to be obtained. This is a matter for the Treasurer at that time dealing with the finances of the then pending year.
If the items of revenue which now exist maintain their yield, probably £5,000,000 will cover the additional revenue which must be. obtained in 1917-18. The manner in which so much more money can be raised will have to be decided upon, and it is undesirable to indicate at tie present time how it can be doue.
It is incumbent that, under existing war conditions, such permanent works as must be proceeded with shall be paid for out of loans.
As to the Australian Notes Fund, at this date, the notes in circulation amount to £46,568,069, and the Treasury holds £16,139,482 in the Australian Notes Gold Reserve. The gold amounts to 34.65 per cent. of the circulation.
The Australian Notes Fund is now earning interest at the rate of £1,260,787 per annum, made up as follows: -
This interest is earned by investments as follow : -
I now come to the war expenditure. As I said at the beginning, I propose to keep the war expenditure separate from ordinary expenditure.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45p.m.
– I ask leave to extend my time.
– I come now to the war expenditure, which is very interesting, and the figures relating to which are very large.
War Expenditure. The expenditure on war in 1916-17, not including interest, sinking fund, war pensions, &c., which must be charged to revenue, is estimated at £78,782,364. This includes £750,000 to be lent to the States to enable them tq settle returned soldiers on the land. Also included is £32,000,000, being the estimated amount payable to the British Government for the maintenance of Australian troops in the field. Of the £32,000,000, arrangements have been made to pay £8,500,000, which was due up to 30th June, 1916. It is proposed also to make arrangements to pay the remaining £23,500,000, and this amount has been included in the annexed statement as part of the expenditure of 1916- 1917, during which the liability will accrue.
The estimate of £78,782,364 does not include any money for the repatriation of soldiers except the £750,000 provided for settlement on the land. Other expenditure for repatriation is a responsibility of the Repatriation Fund Trustees. They have in hand £304,000, which is more than sufficient to meet demands up to the end of 1916-17.
The war expenditure of next year, 1917-18, may be roughly estimated at the same amount as in 1916-17.
Repatriation of Soldiers. The expenditure on repatriation may be divided into two classes, namely: -
The land settlement (a) is to be carried on by the States, which will receive loans from the Commonwealth for the purpose. The lands themselves are either owned already by the States, or will be acquired by the issue of State debentures given in exchange for the land. Other assistance to returned soldiers (b) is a Commonwealth matter, which at present is provided for by moneys placed in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund.
At the recent Conference ofPremiers the following particulars were given : -
Estimated number of soldiers who can be settled on the land -
Amount said to be required by States for land settlement, irrespective of purchase of land -
This estimate seems toohigh. It does not, however, include provision for New South Wales.
– “ I desire, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, to say that, after discussing the matter with the Treasurer, we are prepared to make available a sum not exceeding £2,000,000 for the calendar year 1917. This is to be allocated amongst the States as agreed upon, as follows : -
We have further agreed that the States may draw on the Commonwealth up to £1,000,000; that is, for half the amount set out in the schedule up to the 30th June….. It has been decided, as a broad principle of policy, that these moneys are to be used exclusively for the purpose of land settlement under this scheme, and not for public works.. It is understood that the State of Queensland does not at present come into the scheme. It therefore follows that for the year 1917 the amount allocated amongst the other five States will be £1,500,000.
The assistance to be granted to returned soldiers, other than assistance towards land settlement, will be provided as it is required every year. For this purpose, the Repatriation Fund Trustees have received £325,000, including £250,000 paid out of Commonwealth Revenue in 1915-16. The expenditure to 31st January, 1917, has been £21,000, leaving a present balance of £304,000.
Loans to States. Soon after the outbreak of war, the Commonwealth lent to the States out of the Notes Fund -
The money was lent under agreement to repay it three years after it was paid to the States.
On 6th November, 1915, the Commonwealth entered into an agreement with the States (except New South Wales). The agreement includes the following: -
The foregoing arrangements do not apply to renewals by the States of their existing loans. The moneys referred to in the agreement are for the ordinary public works, &c, of the States, and are not for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, or for other repatriation purposes.
In June, 1916, the Commonwealth raised £4,000,000 in London at5¼ per cent., the price obtained being par. That money, less expenses, has been handed to the States as part of that which the Commonwealth undertook in the agreement of 6th November, 1915, to raise. Loans cannot now be obtained in London without the consent of the British Government, which approved of the Commonwealth raising a further sum of £3,500,000 for the States, but requested that we should not go on the market without further permission, which has not yet been given. At the same time, the Imperial Government informed us that, within the limit of £3,500,000, the Commonwealth might advance money to the States out of war funds supplied by the British Government. Of that £3,500,000 we have already advanced £2,605,500 to the States out of war’ funds. We are awaiting permission from the British Government to raise the loan of £3,500,000 in order to reimburse the advance of £2,605,500 and to complete the payments to the States.
On 17th January, 1917, a cablegram was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking what arrangements the British Treasury intends making to enable the Commonwealth to borrow the £3,500,000. The British Treasury has also been asked for permission to raise the additional amount of £1,440,000, which is required to makeup the full amount of £8,940,000 included for 1916 in the agreement.
On 3rd February, 1917, the Secretary of State was reminded, but to date no reply has been received.
The agreement of 6th November, 1915, provided for-
But at the Premiers’ Conference last month the figures were modified as follows : -
Up to date the Commonwealth has not raised any money for, or advanced any money to the States in respect of this £5,400,000, undertaken to be raised for 1917.
Public Debt of the Commonwealth. Including subscriptions of £18,246,580 (not fully paid) to the fourth War Loan, the public debt, ofthe Commonwealth is now £159,068,758. Further subscriptions to the fourthWar Loan have been received since the 9th February, on which date the total was £18,246,580, and the approximate total is now £20,000,000, but particulars thereof are not yet available.
The public debt, totalling £159,068,758, is made up as under: -
War Loans -
The following are particulars of the War Loans raised in the Commonwealth : -
There is authority to borrow £2,000,000 more from the Imperial Government, and that Government has agreed to lend this sum.
The total amount authorized to be raised in the Commonwealth for war purposes is £88,000,000. Of this amount, £76,979,040 has been raised, leaving an amount of £11,020,960 which may yet be raised. In computing these amounts, the proceeds of the fourth issue (which is still open for subscription) have been taken as £18,246,580, though the subscriptions have already reached £20,000,000.
Purchase of Ships by Commonwealth. In June, 1916, the Prime Minister purchased a fleet of fifteen steamers, at a cost of £2,052,476. The capital cost is being treated as an overdraft account at the Commonwealth Bank. It is not an overdraft in the ordinary sense of the term, because the Bank requires the Commonwealth Treasury to maintain at the credit of other accounts kept by the Treasury in the Bank a minimum credit balance corresponding to the amount of the overdraft.
It is intended that all moneys earned by the ships shall be paid into the credit of the overdraft account, also that moneys required for meeting the expenses of the fleet shall be paid out of that account. That is to say, the overdraft will be from time to time reduced by the amount of the net earnings of the steamers.
It is estimated that the excess of receipts over expenditure up to 30th June, 1917, will be £500,000. If the estimate be realized, the overdraft account will at that date be. £1,552,476.
Legislation is required to cover the purchase of ships as well as to legalize the proposed method of accounting.
Sugar. The refining, importation, and sale of sugar is controlled by the Commonwealth. Under the Sugar Purchase Act 1915 the Treasurer has power to borrow from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia moneys for the purchase of sugar by tha Commonwealth, and for the payment of Customs duty on sugar imported by the Commonwealth, but so that the indebtedness to the Bank shall not at any time exceed £500,000. To date ‘the only moneys charged to the account referred to are for the payment of duty .to the Customs Department.
Under agreements with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and the Millaquin Sugar Company Limited, those two companies handle the whole of the business. They purchase raw sugar, refine, and distribute it. The agreements provide for payment to .the companies ‘ at specified rates for their services. Apart from the charge to the overdraft account in the Commonwealth Bank in respect of Customs duty on imported sugar, the Commonwealth has not had to find any funds to carry on this business.
Wheat. The Treasury is nob directly concerned in the Wheat Pool. Moneys for payment to the growers, in anticipation of the sale or shipment, are advanced by the British Government and the Australian banks. The moneys do not pass through the Treasury.
Information recently supplied to the Treasury shows that the cash payments already made to farmers on account of last season may be taken as £24,200,000. As the balance of the crop has now been disposed of, further payments of £8,000,000 may be expected. This will give a total of over £32,000,000, which the Australian Wheat Board will distribute to growers of the 1915-16 harvest.
The present season 1916-17, though not so bountiful as the last, will, in all probability, be a year of unusual production. A. pool of at least 120,000,000 bushels is anticipated, and arrangements have been made to advance 2s. 6d. per bushel at country railway stations. These payments will absorb £15,000,000. In addition, an amount of £3,000,000 will be required to meet railway freights, handling charges, and’ other expenses.
The recent sale of 3,000,000 tons. (112,000,000 bushels) effected by the Prime Minister to the Imperial Government has considerably eased the task of financing the new harvest. Payments are being spread from’ 1st February to 1st December, so that there should be excellent prospects of further payments being made this year, both to last season’s and this season’s growers.-
The British Government has agreed to advance £18,000,000 to the Pool, to be made available in nine equal weekly instalments,’ commencing 1st February, 1917, with interest adjustment when the payments from 1st February to 1st December fall due.
Wool. The Imperial Government purchased the balance of the Australian wool clip for the season 1916-17. The price paid is ls. 3£d. per lb., flab rate, all over the Commonwealth, on greasy wool basis. The Commonwealth Government is the sole agent for the Imperial Government. The Prime Minister is controlling the business. He delegates his duty to a Central Wool Committee of eight representatives of different departments of the wool industry. The Central Committee has assisting it a Committee in each State. Each State Committee has a subcommittee of six, representing sheepskin scouring and fellmongering industry. In addition to these bodies, tlie Central Wool Committee has an Advisory Board of the leading wool experts in the Commonwealth, to which technical matters are referred. All of these bodies are honorary.
Finance is arranged by the Central Wool Committee with the Army Contracts Wool Committee in London. As soon as an appraisement has been completed, the figures are sent to the Central Wool Committee. That Committee cables to the Army Contracts Wool Committee in London, intimating that so much money is required to meet the appraisement. The money is then placed to the credit of the Central Wool Committee with the Commonwealth Bank in London. That institution transfers it to Australia as required.
The grower sends his wool to one of the appraising centres, and the Commonwealth Bank in Australia, on instructions of the Central Committee, pay so much money to tlie wool-selling establishment, which divides it and hands it to the woolgrower. The value of the wool clip is estimated at from £20,000,000 to £22,000,000. In addition, there are the sheepskins. The Central Committee will begin appraising the sheepskins in the course of a week or so. The local fellmonger has the first opportunity of purchasing, so as to maintain the industry in Australia. The Imperial Government requires 4,000 bales per month of sheepskins. Should there be a surplus above the amount required by that Government, the Central Wool Committee will call for tenders for the purchase. The fellmongers have the call upon the sheepskins before the British Government can be supplied, and the same applies to wool in respect of local requirements.
The following statements show the Commonwealth receipts and expenditure for 1915-16 and 1916-17 in some detail: -
The conclusion to be arrived at from the foregoing statements of the financial position of the Commonwealth is that, subject to the estimated revenue being secured, the requirements of the present year ending 30th June, 1917, are provided for, but an immense increase of revenue will be required for 1917-18 and succeeding years. I have shown that £6,800,000 will be required next year, and succeeding years, in addition to the revenue which is being raised this year, and that does not provide for any expenditure from loans on the railways and public works of the Commonwealth. The manner in which that increased revenue will be raised I have not disclosed in this review. It would be very unwise to reveal how the business of this country is to be financed during the next financial year. It will be dealt with at the proper time by the Treasurer of the day.
– Certainly not. Does the honorable member expect me to blazon forth that the Tariff is to be increased in some particular? He must have some consideration for those who have to shoulder responsibility. The honorable member will cease to have my regard if he acts like that. The manner of providing that increase of revenue is not dealt with in this review. It is incumbent that the greatest economy, consistent with progress and efficiency, shall be practised and that wealth-producing industries shall be stimulated and encouraged in every way possible so as to enable the Commonwealth to bear the heavy burden necessitated by the vast expenditure on the war.
– What provision has the Treasurer made for the £S00,000 which he anticipates getting from wartime profits taxation?
– That is included in the revenue - £400,000 - for 1915-16, and a similar amount for 1916-17. I have to thank honorable members for their attention while I have been reading this statement, which had been prepared with a considerable amount of care, and which, I think, will . show clearly and without any reservation the exact position of the finances of this country.
.- I regret that the Treasurer has not carried out fully the system which I introduced into this House. When making a financial statement, I always had copies printed and supplied to every member of the House in order that they could follow the Treasurer throughout the whole of the statement.
– Perhaps you were not called upon so suddenly as I was.
– It was as easy for the Treasurer to obtain 100 copies as one.
– They are coming down now.
– I do not accuse the Treasurer of discourtesy, but I point out that the practice of former Treasurers has not been followed in this instance. Hitherto, the Treasurer, before making his financial statement, always handed a copy of it to the Leader of the Opposition. This document has been in my possession for only ten minutes, and I do not propose - indeed, I would not attempt - to offer any detailed criticism of it this evening. There are, however, one or two things which may be referred to. I think the Treasurer will have to abandon the proposed sinking fund of 1 per cent., because the country will not be able to set aside that amount for the extinction of the public debt. I believe the Treasurer will have to come down to per cent. It is true that we had a sinking fund of 2£ per cent., but there were certain political reasons for that policy which I do not feel called upon to deal with at this stage; but there was a question of war profits and taxation generally. In regard to war profits, we were compelled, out of courtesy to the Prime Minister, to wait until he returned from England, before proceeding with the War-time Profits Bill, which, although introduced, was postponed. The predecessor of the present Treasurer also found it necessary to postpone the measure, and now the present Treasurer is in the same position.”
– It is all ready.
– What will result from these various postponements ? The companies likely to be levied upon by the war time profits tax will, no doubt, make such arrangements, by the disposal of surplus profits, as to leave very little for the Treasurer to collect when that measure is put into operation.
– The dates are the same as in your Bill.
– But the Treasurer will see that it is very unlikely that managers or directors of companies will leave anything undone in the way of maintenance and repairs to plant, machinery, or buildings, if by that means they can legitimately use up surplus profits. Tha Treasurer, I think, has acted wisely in cutting down the amount expected from this source to about £500,000 per annum.
– It is £400,000’..
– The other point to which I would like to draw attention was raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who said that the Treasurer has not told us how he proposes to raise taxation to meet the increased expenditure under various items.
– He said there was n& reservation about the statement; but it is all reservation.
– The Treasurer is certainly very reserved, in regard to this matter. The public know very well that the Liberal party are not in favour of direct taxation. The Australian Labour party introduced the Income Tax Bill, which, of course, provided for direct taxation and, in spite of the opposition of the Treasurer and his colleagues, we collected by that means about £4,000,000.
– Did I say anything against that measure?
– I wish you would tell me what it was.
– When we come back again from the elections I will quote what the right honorable member said. We have not the time now, because we do not want to delay the elections, but I might say that the Treasurer and his colleagues pointed out that income taxation was a matter for the States, and not the Commonwealth, and that direct taxation was never contemplated by the Federal Constitution.
– I never said that.
– I am satisfied that the Minister was opposed to it. The people, I say, will remember that the Liberal party are not believers in direct taxation in the way of income tax or land tax, and, that being the case, they must naturally have recourse to indirect taxation, which I think, means the taxation of tea, as one item, and kerosene as another. The Treasurer, of course, is anxious that the electors shall return the Liberal party to power before anything has been said as to the nature of proposed taxation. He tells us it would be unwise to enlighten the electors concerning the means by which it is proposed to raise money to meet the increased expenditure. Why would it be be unwise? It would be unwise because the electors would decline to vote for the right honorable member for Swan and his colleagues.
– That would not prevent them.
– Of course, I can quite understand that anything may be possible for a candidate who, like the Treasurer, can write to practically all the ladies in Western Australia, and conclude his letter with the words, “ Your dear old friend, John Forrest.” As I have already said, the Treasurer has not given honorable members a fair opportunity of examining the statement in order that we might criticise it at this stage. I admit freely that we cannot offer much adverse criticism of the large amounts of money that are being spent, because the war is on, and one finds it very difficult to oppose naval and military expenditure. The Defence Department asks for so many millions, and the Navy Office asks for so many more. The duties of the Treasurer of the day are so numerous that it is not in his power to go into the items in detail, but he ought to insist upon the inquiry asked for lately into the naval and military expenditure. We were promised a Committee of Inquiry into the administration of the Defence and Naval Departments. What has become of it? Is it not to be appointed, and are we to wait until the elections take place? I say, as one who has had a little experience, that the defence expenditure is extravagant, and there is not the supervision that there ought to be over the officers responsible for it. It is very difficult for the Department to obtain officers who have that experience, as accountants, which is necessary, because most of the accountants in Australia are either in the employ of the States or Commonwealth, or in excellent positions in private employment. We cannot get, merely by putting an advertisement in the paper, an accountant qualified to act, for instance, as pay officer in the Defence Department.
It is time an inquiry was made as to whether the audit of the Government accounts in the Commonwealth is properly carried out, I saw the other day that a gentleman named Ling had been appointed, and made a Major, to carry out an investigation into the accounts of the Defence Department. My experience of that gentleman was such that he ought really to have been disrated. He ought not to have been intrusted with such an examination. I drew the attention of the Auditor-General to his qualifications, and the Auditor-General, apparently, in spite of that, has recommended him as the officer to make an examination of the accounts of the Defence Department. Will it be believed that this Mr. H. H. Ling was the officer recommended by the Auditor-General to act on behalf of the Government in connexion with the sugar agreements? It was his duty to see that the Commonwealth got a fair deal as between the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The Prime Minister asked the AuditorGeneral to send a man qualified to look after those accounts. When Mr. Hughes went to England, the sugar control was handed over to me. That added to our duties in the Treasury. I was extremely busy, and when the question of the renewal of the agreements between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company came forward, I asked the executive officers in charge to draw up the draft of a new agreement to be submitted for my signature. I sent them over to Sydney to interview the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who were complaining about the agreement. They went, and a new draft agreement was submitted to me for signature. I asked Colonel Oldershaw, who was in charge, in company with Mr. Ling, if the new draft was all right. He said, “ Yes, it is perfectly all right.” Then, I said, we will go through it. I took the draft, and asked the Colonel to read out the original, paragraph by paragraph. When we reached the paragraph in the old agreement providing that a rebate of 10s. in the £1 should be allowed to the Commonwealth on the £1 per ton capital charge allowed to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for managing the business, I found there was no mention of the rebate in the new draft, and asked why this was. Various excuses were made, none of them, to my mind, satisfactory. That 10s. rebate meant anything up to £70,000 or £80,000 to the Commonwealth.
– “What was the object of the rebate in the first place?
– The Colonial Sugar Henning Company said that they agreed to it on account of the existence of a state of war and I think they said also that it was in order to enable the Government to let the public have sugar at 3Jd. per lb.
– Could they not afford to do it for so much less without having the rebate?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company preferred to have it that way, and allow a rebate of 10s. in the £1 on the capital charge.
I asked Mr. Ling why he had not drawn my attention to the matter, and he had no reasonable excuse to offer. I went to Brisbane on a holiday, so called, and, Mr. Knox, being away up the coast, I made an appointment to meet him . at Brisbane, and discuss the new agreement. I asked, also that Mr. Ling should be sent to Brisbane to be present. I discussed the agreement with Mr. Knox in Mr. Ling’s presence. We could not come to terms because Mr. Knox declined to allow the rebate. I. asked Mr. Ling, as he informed me that he knew quite well what the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were, and that he had them at his fingers’ ends, as he was going down to Sydney on the same boat as Mr. Knox, to point out to that gentleman the profits that the company were making, and inform him that I declined to sign the agreement unless we got the rebate. I also said, “ Meet me in Sydney, and in the meantime send me a list of the profits that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been making.” He promised to do that, and to meet me in Sydney. I went up the coast to Rockhampton, returned in about a week’s time, and went to Sydney to meet Mr. Knox. I expected to find awaiting me in Sydney the statement showing the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and to find this Government officer there also; but neither was the list of profits there, nor was Mr. Ling there.
A curious incident in the whole of the proceedings was that I got a most familiar wire from Mr. Ling inviting me to “ sit tight,” that Mr. Knox was wavering, or something to that effect, and that “we held the key to the position”; also, “ wishing me good luck.” I wired to him at Adelaide in these terms, “ You promised to send a list of the profits to me at Sydney; why did you not do so ? You promised to meet me in Sydney; why are you not here?” He replied to the effect that there must be a misunderstanding, and asked whether he would come over to Sydney. Of course, I wired back to him not to come..
I drew the attention of the AuditorGeneral to the conduct of Mr. Ling. The Auditor-General said that he was very much surprised, for his experience of Mr. Ling had been highly satisfactory, and he pleaded for him. I replied, “ Since you have spoken so highly of Mr. Ling, I shall not ask for his dismissal ; but you will please appoint another man to look after the interests of the Government in connexion with this matter.” I believe that another man was appointed at Brisbane - Mr. Brown, I think. But after all this, Mr. Ling was appointed to look after the sugar accounts at Adelaide, and this is the gentleman who has been, appointed to carry out an investigation into the defence expenditure.
In my opinion, there is something wrong with the Audit Department. It may be that the Auditor-General has got past the retiring age. I think that he must be over seventy years of age. I feel, of course, some reluctance in referring to this matter; but one cannot afford to allow personal considerations to intervene when the public interest is at stake. There ought to be an investigation into the naval and military expenditure. I believe there ought to be some investigation as to whether the audit of the Government accounts is being carried out satisfactorily. Certainly my experience of Mr. Ling would indicate that the audit is carried out in a rather perfunctory manner.
– Can the honorable member say whether the 10 per cent, was allowed in the agreement eventually?
– Yes. Later, as the result of my representations on this matter to the manager, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company said, “ We will allow you a rebate of £60,000.” It allowed that rebate after my discovery that the clause had been left out of the new agreement.
I shall refer for a moment to an inquiry by a Commission in which the
Postmaster-General is engaged. What sort of a Government audit is it that allows the Administrator of the Federal Territory to permit the architect who required the use of a horse, to hire from a groom in the Commonwealth Service a horse at 25s. per week? The horse was hired for something like two years. It contracted some complaint which one of the Government experts diagnosed as glanders. The horse was segregated, all the buildings were disinfected, I believe, and a portion of the animal sent to the Bacteriological Department to be examined to see whether the horse was suffering from glanders. Eventually it was stated by a high expert that the horse was not suffering from that complaint. However, the horse died, and a bill was sent to the Commonwealth. Tne horse, which, as I have said, was owned by a groom in the Commonwealth Service, cost the Commonwealth something over £200.
– Who was responsible?
– I think that the first man who was responsible was the Administrator, Colonel Miller, who approved of this expenditure.
– Would they hire a few more horses on the same terms?
– That would be a matter, I think, for the Treasurer to inquire into. The Acting Prime Minister has been about New South Wales making very violent speeches about Federal extravagance in the way of expenditure and the necessity for economy. I invite both the Treasurer and the Acting Prime Minister to inquire how many horses are being hired for the Public Service on the same terms as the horse was hired under the approval of Colonel Miller.
– We cannot have much more of that now.
-It occurred during your term, did it not ?
– I can assure the honorable member that I knew nothing about the matter. Colonel Miller was evidently responsible in the firstplace, because he approved of the expenditure.
– The sum mentioned by the honorable member included the feed of the horse, I think.
– Yes, but if the Commonwealth had done what the honorable member, or any other business person, would have done, it would have bought a horse for about £25. I dare say that in the country it could have obtained a decent buggy horse at about that price.
– For a good deal less than that.
– That may be. The item of feed, I suppose, may be put down at £25 per annum. The Commonwealth could have bought and fed a horse for the sum of £75, as against, I think, about £250, that it must have lost about £175 by the transaction. Colonel Miller was responsible, but when he made that mistake what became of the Audit Department? Was there an audit ? Did the AuditorGeneral instruct his officers to investigate the expenditure at Canberra ? And if he did not, why?
– Is not the Audit Department under the Treasurer ?
– No; that would never do. The honorable member thought that I was responsible there ; but he will see at once that the Audit Department must be kept entirely separate.
– Which Department runs the Audit branch ?
– I think that it is under the control of the Prime Minister.
– The AuditorGeneral is under no Department.
– The Auditor-General has an Act of Parliament to himself, and may be dispensed with only by Parliament. No Minister has any control over him, and. rightly so, too.
– Is it not his business to check the figures?
– We cannot expect the Auditor-General to go to Canberra and investigate the accounts, but we can expect him to send an officer there for that purpose. If an officer did visit Canberra and go through the accounts, how is it that he failed to discover such a piece of maladministration ?
– When did this matter come to your knowledge?
– It only came to my knowledge when the Postmaster-General cross-examined a witness before the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Federal Territory.
– How long ago ?
– It was about six weeks ago, but I wasnot in the Treasury at the time. I think that the Treasurer ought to see to the appointment of some outside qualified investigators to go into the question of the audit.
– Order! The honorable member has exceeded his time limit.
.- I only desire to say a few words more. In the time at our disposal, we will not be able to go into the accounts of the Commonwealth, and I do not propose to say more about them. I wish to refer shortly to the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon. The Prime Minister obtained leave of the House this afternoon to make a statement. We thought that the Prime Minister would have contented himself with saying what the Government proposed to do; that, having stated that there would be an election, he would briefly give the reasons for the course that he proposed, and tell us the preparations that were necessary to bring us to the country if possible. Instead of doing that, he indulged in a tirade of abuse of this party, intended for the electors. He said not a word about the position of ex-Senator Ready, whose resignation cannot be separated from the charges of Senator Watson. Senator Watson made those charges only after Senator Ready had resigned in such a sudden way, and, apparently, after having been, for some days before his resignation, in negotiation with the Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania.
– What charge is the honorable member making in regard to exSenator Ready?
– The honorable member for Darling Downs is inclined to adopt what I might describe as the tactics of a pettifogging lawyer, though I do not say that he is one. Sir William’ Irvine adopted the same tactics the other afternoon. Senator Ready was a trusted member of the Labour party. He sat in our executive meetings, taking minutes for us, and was acquainted with all that the party proposed to do in regard to the motion for the prolongation of Parliament. He was a trusted man, and knew everything that was going on in the party. But at the same timehe was in negotiation with the members of this Government as to his resignation. You cannot separate those circumstances from the statement of Senator Watson.
– Do you suggest that if Senator Ready had not resigned Senator
Watson would not have made his statements ?
- Senator Watson’s speech was perfectly clear. He was not prepared to make a statement that would bring upon him the accusation of having spoken for the sake of notoriety. But when Senator Ready resigned as he did, Senator Watson felt called on to say what had occurred in his own case.
– He has a chance now to prove his statements.
– It is suggested that he should repeat his statements outside Parliament, thus rendering himself liable to an action at law which might ruin him in legal expenses.
– You suggest that he should speak only under privilege.
– Surely the honorable member for Wannon cannot agree with the attitude of the Government in this matter. Surely, although he voted against the motion for a Royal Commission, he did so only as a party move, and is of opinion that there should be an investigation by a competent tribunal, such as the High Court. Is he prepared to say from the platform that no investigation was needed ?
Senator Watson is entitled to take up this position: “I have made certain charges, which I am prepared to repeat on oath.” The Government, which is the guardian of its own honour, should appoint a tribunal, consisting of Justices of the High Court, to make an investigation. Why should Senator Watson be put to expense in this matter? Why should he be called upon to fee barristers to oppose the numerous and highly-paid legal gentlemen who would be employed by the Government and by the conscriptionist party in defence of the Prime Minister? Senator Watson having made his charges, it is for the Government to appoint a tribunal to inquire into them. The honorable member for Flinders has lost irreparably by the stand that he took in this matter. I thought it impossible that he, the honorable member for Parramatta, and the right honorable member for Swan, should oppose the motion for inquiry.
– You do not mean to say that you believe Senator Watson’s story ?
– I do.
– Well, I do not.
– The honorable member for Flinders was chosen by the Government to go as a delegate to the Old Country. He is a man who poses as the embodiment of rectitude. His manner and voice convey that he would not do anything derogatory nor be associated with anything dishonorable. But he saw a trip to London in prospect. His passage was booked by a vessel which was leaving today. He would appear to have said to himself, “ If an inquiry takes place, I shall miss my trip, so I shall suggest that no charge has been made.” But a charge was made. It could not have been made more plainly than it was by Senator Watson and by the honorable member for Yarra.
– What is the charge?
– Senator Watson said that Mr. Hughes asked him if money stood in his way, and said that he “ would lose nothing by it,” that is, would lose nothing by selling his party and going over to the Hughes party. He says, too, that Mr. Hughes stated that he had never deserted any man who had stood by him, and suggested that Senator Watson should resign his seat, and allow the vacancy to be filled by some one else, promising that a position would be found for him.
– Mr. Hughes denies that. How are you going to prove it? You have only one man’s word against another’s.
– Senator Watson said that the Prime Minister offered him a position. The charge is that Mr. Hughes offered Senator Watson money or a position.
– On whose word?
– On Senator Watson’s word.
– We have only his word for it.
– It is true that the Prime Minister denies it, but I ask honorable members and the public whether they will believe Senator Watson or the Prime Minister, who, when asked in this House whether any regulations had been issued by him or any of his officers with reference to military questions being submitted to electors at the polling booths, denied that any had been issued, though Senator Millen, in another place, said that regulations had been issued. I cannot believe that Senator Watson would make a bogus charge. Let the Government appoint a tribunal.
The Prime Minister has adopted his old practices. When introducing the Bill for the military service referendum, he said that we were in a bad way, that things never looked blacker for the Allies, and that men were in the trenches, and could not be relieved because we had not the necessary reinforcements.
– That was the case. I have proof of it from men who are at the front.
– After the referendum we were informed that, at the very time the Prime Minister was endeavouring to influence the public mind by saying that the position was so bad that men could not get relief in the trenches because the reinforcements were not available, the King was reviewing 50,000 Australian troops on Salisbury Plain.
– Untrained men.
– There have been Australians on Salisbury Plain for as long as eighteen months. The Prime Minister said that he was in receipt of cables from Mr. Lloyd George, General Haig, and General Birdwood, and a number of other people, impressing on Australia the necessity for adopting’ conscription ; and to-day his latest move is to produce a cable showing that the British Government have stopped all sailings from Australia, and prohibited transports from leaving these shores.
– They are denying it.
– The Prime Minister has come here with that statement with a view to creating a panic throughout Australia, with the object of inducing the public to vote for him and his party. He told the House that the statement must not be made public; but, if I am correctly informed, it is very strange that, while he was making it here, it was being set up in type, and that it was afterwards issued in the Herald this afternoon. If, as the Prime Minister says, ships are not allowed to leave Australia, and all sailings are cancelled, what has become of the British Navy ? This would appear to be another electioneering dodge on the part of the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable member say that the statement is not correct?
– When the election i3 over I suppose we shall find, if honorable members are returned to power, that the raider they were afraid of has been sunk, and sailings have been resumed.
– The only man who is trying an electioneering dodge is the honorable member.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I call upon the honorable member for Denison to obey the Chair. If he does not obey the call to order, I shall have to name him. I ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Capricornia to proceed in silence. There are far too many interruptions, and some action will have to be taken if they do not cease.
– The Prime Minister made an electioneering speech this afternoon, and I admit that I am following his example, to a small extent. I am endeavouring to warn the electors that if they return the Prime Minister and his party to power we shall have conscription.
– Are honorable members running away from it now? The Prime Minister in his statement to this House said, in effect, “ The opinion of the public, as announced at the referendum on the 28th October, 1916, will be respected, but, of course, there is no telling what the future may bring forth.” That is what the public have to fear. If they vote for honorable members opposite, they may expect to have compulsory military service introduced in the Commonwealth.
– Not before another referendum.
– That is merely the opinion of the honorable member. “When Senator Pearce was asked in another place whether compulsory military service would be imposed by means of a referendum or by a proclamation under the War Precautions Act, he said, “ We shall see.”
– The honorable member for Hume said that men ought to be dug out like rabbits.
– The honorable member knows that his statement is an unmitigatedlie; but he is always a liar.
– Order !
– I observe that the Prime Minister is likely to give us a surprise in regard to the electorate he proposes to contest. There has been some talk of his going to Indi, Bendigo, or Fawkner, and a rumour which was spread around Melbourne was to the effect that the honorable member for Kooyong was about to retire, and the Prime Minister was to run for the constituency.
– The honorable member denied that rumour. Whyrepeat it?
– The honorable member for Kooyong has denied it, but we wish to know where the rumour came from.
– That is very easily answered. Do you wish to have a Royal Commission on that matter also?
– I wish to know if this is not part of the political strategy of honorable members opposite. They wish to make out that the demands on the Prime Minister are so great that he has had quite a number of constituencies offered to him. I suppose some constituency will come forward and invite him to contest it. But I venture to say that, after the exposure by Senator Watson, and after the resignation of Senator Ready under such curious circumstances, there will be very few constituencies in the Commonwealth to invite the Prime Minister.
– I understand that the honorable member for Capricornia has been saying that the statement as to the sinking of ships is an electioneering dodge.
– You do not wish to misrepresent me, do you?
– I do not.
– I spoke of stopping the sailings of ships - I do not deny the sinking.
– May I tell the honorable member, in order to dispose of this myth at once, that the information came in a cable from the Admiralty to-day, and there is no doubt whatever about the facts. However alive to the possibilities of electioneering we may be, I hope that neither this Government, nor any other, would so trifle as to try to make political capital out of so serious an occurrence. It is far too serious to tamper with for any such purpose.
– You know it was done during the military service referendum!
– If it was done for the referendum or for any other purpose, it was most reprehensible, and ought to receive countenance from no quarter whatever.
– There was no proof that it was done.
– I am merely saying that if it were done, that is my opinion. I cannot bring myself to the attitude of mind of men who would use events of the kind for any political or ulterior purpose. Such events are too big with importance in this country - are too serious altogether - to trifle with in any way; and I regret very much to hear of the suggestion that has been made in this chamber. The simple fact is as stated by the Prime Minister - and he made the statement to-day on his own responsibility; I was totally unaware that he proposed to make it - that we have been warned by the Admiralty at Home that there are to be no more sailings of troop-shins from Australia at present. Honorable members may make what they like of the statement, but to me it is one of the most serious, and indicates the tremendous risks by which we are surrounded, quite justifying the statement of the Prime Minister , this afternoon that the war dangers are coming nearer to Australia. As to the conscription question raised by the honorable member for Capricornia, it is of course well known that he and his friends in the various States are doing their best to make it the issue at the elections so soon to be upon us. Indeed, in the State elections of New South “Wales to-day that is being done, so much so that, according to the newspapers, Mr. Holman and his braves are signing a pledge on the subject. I question the necessity or the advisability of doing that, for it only shows the length to which my friends opposite are going.
– It shows the weakness of those conscriptionists ; they are “ running away from it “ !
– Does it show a weakness? I should think it shows the strength of their Democracy, inasmuch as they are quite prepared to accept a Democratic decision when given in Australia. All these bogies that my friends are conjuring up will not, I am afraid, help them when we go before the country.
– We need only quote the honorable member for Flinders and Senator Lynch!
– All I have to say is that we, on this side, do not seem able, somehow, to muzzle our men as our friends opposite are able to do. We have a habit of expressing our opinions over here, and, though sometimes it may be inconvenient, it is a fundamental principle of Liberalism and Democracy that a man shall speak the faith that is in him.
– Do you think that the honorable member for Flinders would sign such a pledge?
– No; and I do not think that he will be asked to sign a pledge of the kind.
– Do you think Senator Bakhap would?
– I do not know what Senator Bakhap might do, but I do not think that he would sign such a pledge.
– Neither do I!
– So far as I know, it will not be suggested to any honorable member on this side that he should sign a pledge of the kind. We shall go’ to the people of this country, as my friends opposite will go, and say what we have already made clear to the people that, Caesar having spoken in the electorate on the question of conscription, Caesar only can reverse the verdict in the future, if circumstances make it necessary to do so. In other words, this question has been decided by the people for the time being, and there can be no alteration of that decision except by the same people who gave it so recently. Caesar has said “ No,” and only Caesar can say ‘ ‘ Yes ‘ ‘ in the future.
– As to what the Minister for the Navy says about a certain cable of which we heard this afternoon, I have only to remark that, if there is a little suspicion cast on its genuineness, there is only one man to blame, and that is the Prime Minister himself. Suspicion is quite justified in view of what happened during the recent conscription campaign, when quite a number of cables were alleged to have been received from General Birdwood, Lieutenant Jacka, and scores of others whom I need not name. But there is this interesting point, that, if this menace is as suggested by the cable, how is it that the proposed delegation to the Imperial Conference had no misgivings about sailing?
– The cable only came to-day.
– I understand that the delegates were to have sailed to-night. Was there no importance attached to what might have happened to the cargo of to-night?
– “ Cargo ! ‘ ‘
– Well, the right honorable member for Swan, Sir William Irvine, and the Prime Minister, together with, I believe, ten attendants.
– Do you call the right honorable member for Swan “ cargo”?
– Perhaps I ought to have used the word “ ballast.” I have only to say that we can hardly accept as absolutely genuine the cable that is supposed to have come to hand, seeing that the delegation appeared to have no misgivings about sailing.
– I never heard of the cable until to-day.
– I suppose that is the reason the delegation has not set sail.
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– However, this is all by the way, and I should not have referred to the matter if it had not been mentioned by the Minister for the Navy. I rose to very briefly refer to the statement by the Prime Minister, to which we listened this afternoon. It was the usual sensational speech which the right honorable gentleman delivers here. He asked honorable members on this side what is their policy, and he referred to the now historic Watson charges. The Prime Minister made a. very lengthy statement, and we might have expected that in the course of it he would endeavour to answer those charges from his point of view. So far from doing that, he spent practically the whole of his time in reading the reply made to them in another place by Senator Pearce. He accepted all that Senator Pearce had said as gospel, and made no attempt to give us his own version of the facts.
– He did that on Friday.
– The honorable member will not say that Mr. Hughes answered the Watson charges on Friday.
– Yes, he did.
– As a matter of fact, he apologized to this House to-day for not having answered the charges on Friday by saying that he did not have time on that day to do so.
– I do not think he said that.
– Yes, he did. The House, therefore, expected today to hear his matured reply to the charges. The right honorable gentleman absolutely failed to make such a reply.
– The honorable member would cut the throat of the Prime Minister if he met him in a dark lane.
– That is cheap sort of talk. The Prime Minister will not say that. I have no antipathy to the Prime Minister. I do not think that there is any man on this side who has any personal animosity to him. I have not, nor have I any personal animosity to the honorable member for Grey, or any one else. Surely we may indulge in criticism from a political point of view without honorable members regarding what we say as a personal attack. I have never been guilty of making a personal attack upon any one in this chamber, and I have no desire to begin now. I say that the charges made by Senator Watson are the most serious charges that have ever been levelled against a public man in this country. They cannot be answered in the way suggested by the Prime Minister - by an appeal to the country. What the country demands, and has the right to demand, is thatan independent tribunal shall be appointed to investigate the charges, and that an endeavour should be made to have the verdict of that tribunal before we are called upon to meet the people. If the Government do not adopt this course, they will be actually shirking the question. There is only one honorable way in which these most serious charges can be met. They will not be met by a refutation which is merely that of one man’s word against another, nor can they be met by an appeal to the country.
– We shall have evidence on oath on the matter before the Courts, and that will settle it.
- Senator Watson said that he is prepared to make a sworn declaration that what he has said is true. Why will not honorable members opposite give him the opportunity to do so? The Prime Minister has said that there is nothing in the charges, but if that be so, he should hail with delight the suggestion that the matter should be placed in the hands of an independent tribunal. By interjection some honorable members have asked what the Watson charges are. An honorable senator gets up in another place and tells the Senate and the country that money was offered to him, that if he did not choose to live where he is living to-day another place would be found for him. Will honorable members opposite say that that ig not a charge of bribery and corruption ?
– Why did Senator Watson not make the charge three weeks ago?
– Because the offer was not made three weeks ago. The honorable member for Calare should read the statement made by Senator Watton.
– I have done so.
– The honorable senator says that the next day after the offer was made he reported what took place to his leader and others of his colleagues.
– But not to the Senate.
– He did not allow three weeks to elapse. He did the honorable thing next day by reporting it to his colleagues, and then at the earliest opportunity, owing to the cloud that was raised by the Ready episode, he put the matter before his party.
– There is something very suspicious about the whole of the circumstances
– There is a lot of suspicion about them, and the only way in which that suspicion can be removed is to have the matter investigated by an independent tribunal. Let us consider the circumstantial evidence which is apparent to’ every one. What are the leading facts in the case? On Saturday, 24th February, the Premier of Tasmania, in response to an urgent cablegram, left that State for Sydney to meet the Prime Minister. On the following Tuesday we read that the Premier of Tasmania was called over by the PrimeMinister to Sydney to discuss matters connected with apples, hops, and wheat, and we know how much wheat is grown in Tasmania. On the Monday Mr. Earle received a messagefrom the Prime Minister, and from the Premier of Tasmania, telling him to come to Melbourne to have a talk about hops. He arrived by the steamer on the Tuesday, and met the State Premier as appointed, and later in the presence of reporters. The reporters were no doubt called in to make it appear that the meeting was not a secret one, and the talk all the time they were present was about hops and apples. On the Wednesday the State Premier left for Tasmania. On arrival there he said he was surprised to find that Mr. Earle had resigned from the State Parliament, and that there was talk about Senator Ready resigning from the Senate. What did he do? On the Wednesday he hurriedly called a meeting of the State Executive at the State Government House, and before midnight Mr. Earle was toall intents and purposes a member of the Senate. Looking at the facts, must not one think that it was a happy coincidence that Mr. Earle, before coming from Tasmania to Victoria, should have resigned his seat in the State Parliament ? Connect up his movements with those of Senator Ready. The latter left Melbourne on Monday, arrived in Tasmania on Tuesday, and returned to Melbourne on Wednesday in company with Mr. Earle. On Thursday he became sick, and at one minute past 6 o’clock that evening he resigned from the Senate. On Friday morning Mr. Earle was waiting on the Senate door-mat to take his seat. In the face of information like that, honorable members opposite ask, “ What are the charges, and why are you suspicious?”
– Ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to tell us what he knows about the matter.
– The Minister sits in the chamber at peace with all the world, and the familiar smile with which he meets every question disarms his attackers. This afternoon we heard a statement from the Prime Minister which was supposed to be a fuller version thanthe statement he made on Friday in reference to the Watson charges. On Friday the Prime Minister said, “ I did hear rumours of the likely resignation of a senator some weeks ago, and I had an idea as to what State he represented. I made my arrangements accordingly.” What were the arrangements ?
– You desire to know too much.
– We know what they were. He immediately telegraphed to the Premier of Tasmania to meet him in Sydney, and talk about apples and hops, and to Mr. Earle to come to Melbourne also for the purpose of talking about hops. The great outstanding fact that will sink into the minds of the public, and which neither the Prime Minister nor his associates can explain away, is that Mr. Earle resigned his seat in the State Parliament on Tuesday the 27th February, and came post haste to Melbourne, arriving here on Wednesday, to be ready to take his seat in the Senate, although Senator Ready did not resign until Thursday night.
– He did not take ill until Thursday.
– That is so, and yet Honorable members ask, “ What is the charge?”
– We know what the insinuations are.
– Mr. Earle resigned his’ seat in the State Parliament, and arrived here before the other man took ill, and then the sick man did what has never been done by any other sick member of the Federal Parliament - he resigned his seat without consulting even his own leader.
– He is one of your men, not ours.
– We have our doubts about that now.
– If the Government endeavour to blind the public to this incident they will have to raise more dust than I think they are capable of raising. Ex-Senator Ready is to all intents and purposes a poor man so far as his circumstances are known to his friends. If he was genuinely ill he could have obtained leave of absence, as every sick man before him has done. He could have continued a senator until the day of election, and even if his term of office were not renewed he would have drawn £200 “in salary between the present date and the expiration of his term, in June next. But, apparently, with no position awaiting him, he said,”Although I am a poor man, I will resign without consulting my leader; I will forego £200 in salary, and cast myself on the waves of the world.”
– Has it never occurred to you that he became tired of the company that he was in ?
– Then, why did he not go over to the other side ?
– Why did he not hop, as the Postmaster-General did? The Government were looking for hops.
– We have heard the statement of Senator “Watson as to the pressure brought to bear upon him before the attempted bribery, and the inquiry by the Prime Minister, “What is to become of you if you seek re-election in company with Peter Bowling and Arthur Rae?” My answer to that is that Peter Bowling, Arthur Rae, and David Watson are represented at the front by ten sons.
– That ought to make you think.
– It ought to make the Postmaster-General think, after all his insinuations, telegrams, and clap-trap about the shirkers. I do not wish to boast about myself, but I did offer my services.
– I know.
– The PostmasterGeneral does know, but he can do nothing but refer to others who are not at the front as “ cold-footers.” However, I do not wish to recall to the honorable gentleman’s mind the historic telegrams he sent during the referendum campaign. Compare these three selected Labour candidates, who have ten sons at the front, with the Postmaster-General or the Minister for Works and Railways, who belong to the Win-the-War party. I say, unhesitatingly, that I would rather stand with Peter Bowling, Arthur Rae, and Senator Watson on a recruiting platform to-morrow than I would appear there with the honorable member for Balaclava. We all recollect his absence from the recruiting depot some months ago when the honorable member for Batman challenged him to enlist. We know that a few nights after that episode he was asked at a meeting which he was addressing. “What about yourself?” His reply was, “ I am going to enlist.” The question was then put to him, “When?” His reply was, “Later.’.’ A few weeks afterwards he said, “ Next September I will reach the military age, and then I will shoulder my responsibility to this country.” September came round, but the honorable gentleman never got to the front, except it be the front of the Ministerial bench. Then there is Senator Russell. He, too, was going to enlist after the conscription campaign. He, also, came to the front - the front Ministerial bench. These are the gentlemen who endeavour to discredit men like Peter Bowling and Arthur Rae. When the whole conspiracy to which I have referred had reached an advanced state of decomposition there was one honorable member on the other side of this chamber, who, to his eternal credit, would not stand up to the unsavoury business. Even that fact did not thwart the three delegates to the Imperial War Conference in their determination to proceed to England with their retinue of ten. But further developments took place, and the little island which has played so prominent a part in this conspiracy was again concerned. In justice to the honorable member for Franklin, it must be said that he adopted the attitude which I have outlined before the publication of the leading article in the Hobart Mercury on Saturday last; but that article, I believe, was responsible for the Government being deprived of their majority in another place.
– No, it was not.
– The Hobart Mercury is one of the most Conservative newspapers in Australia. In Tasmania it carries a great deal of weight. When honorable members quitted this building on Friday last the Government must have been assured of their majority in the Senate.
– I know nothing about that.
– On that day, Senators Bakhap and Keating evidently had not made up their minds as to how they would vote on the motion for the prolongation of the life of this Parliament, otherwise the Government would not have determined to proceed with it; but on Saturday last the Mercury published the following leading article, which is headed “Juggling with Senators “ : -
The conjuring trick by which Senator Ready, sitting erect in view of the whole people of Australia, waa suddenly made to disappear and to give place to Mr. Earle, was performed with a neatness which must evoke some admiration of the talented conjurer, Mr. Hughes.
His assistants in the performance of the trick - Senator Ready, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Earle, did their parts neatly enough, and without undue ostentation; but they were all working under the direct guidance of a great master of political sleight of hand. But admiration of the cleverness with which a trick is performed does not necessarily imply approval of the trick itself, or love of the trickster. Even his assistants, allowing them full credit for their industry and pliancy, may not appear to the bewildered audience entirely admirable. Several admissions may be made in this matter with entire cheerfulness.
It then goes on to state the difference between Senator Ready and Mr. Earle, after which it proceeds -
It will be further agreed that the whole scheme worked without a hitch, that a sweetly pretty story has been prepared for the public, and that a certain number of people will believe it; but not all. A summary of the leading facts is interesting.
It detailed the movements ofSenator Ready and Mr. Earle.
– I suppose that is not the only attack which this newspaper has made on the Prime Minister ?
– It is an attack on the whole of the honorable member’s party. I do not believe in singling out the Prime Minister in this connexion. Everybody behind him is equally culpable.
This curious coincidence apparently struck the Premier as something in the nature of a direction and a leading, and, tired as he was after his journey, he hurriedly called a meeting of the Executive at Government House, and before midnight Mr. Earle was a senator. It was a most happy coincidence that Mr. Earle, before going to Melbourne to talk about hops, should have written to the Governor resigning his seat, unless, indeed, he wrote the letter in Melbourne, and gave it to the Premier to post on the train. Much sympathy may, perhaps, be expressed for Senator Ready, who quite recently was full of energy, but whose illness was so sudden and severe that he sent his resignation to the President of the Senate without telling even the leader of his party anything about it. This sympathy will, perhaps, be modified later on if the ex-senator recovers his health sufficiently to devote his abilities to the administration of an office of profit under the Crown. As 99 people out of 100 are asking if this is part of the bargain, we may as well join in and ask it openly.
Thus, according to theHobart Mercury, 99 people out of 100 in Tasmania are asking if ex-Senator Ready has been offered an office of profit under the Crown as part of the bargain -
The trick is a clever one, and well executed in the style which Mr. Hughes, in the service of the Labour party, made particularly his own. The object, too, may be quite praiseworthy, and certainly the exchange is a good. one. But the business, from start to finish, ia utterly discreditable. We refuse to believe that the national crisis demands the use of intrigue and trickery of this kind, and can but deeply regret that it has been practised. We find no fault with Mr. Earle, who, apparently, was offered the reversion of the seat, and, having accepted it, resigned his seat in the State Parliament, in order to render himself eligible for the other. But the Prime Minister and the State Premier show out very badly indeed. It is regrettable, if such trickery was considered necessary or desirable, that Tasmania should have been selected as the State to play the part of “buttoner.”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to say a few words in connexion with the speech delivered this afternoon by the Prime Minister. I was struck by the statement made by the Prime Minister that, in asking for an extension of the life of Parliament, he was acting strictly in accordance with the decision arrived at by the Labour Caucus, when he was leader of the party. That statement was received with acclamation by the Postmaster-General and the honorable member for Barrier, as well as the honorable member for Denison. I want to give an absolute contradiction to the statement made by the Prime Minister the other day, and repeated by him to-day, that the Labour party, in caucus, unanimously instructed him to obtain an extension of the life of Parliament in the manner as described by him. This question of the extension of the life of Parliament was considered by the party in conjunction with the six other questions for the alteration of the Constitution. The Labour Government, then headed by Mr. Fisher, had forced the Referendum Bills through this House, and the Government had incurred an expenditure to the extent of £40,000 in making all the necessarypreparations to submit those questions to the people. Then Mr. Hughes suddenly convened a meeting of the Labour party and requested members to agree to the withdrawal of those Bills. When this matter was under discussion, the party decided to submit a seventh question, which had to do with the extension of the life of the Senate, so that when the elections for the House of Representatives became due, members of this Chamber and half the members of the Senate could go to the country at the same time. That is the distinction between the deci sion arrived at by the Labour party in caucus and the case as stated by the Prime Minister. While we desired to submit this question dealing with the extension of the life of Parliament in the form of a referendum to the people, the Prime Minister’s statement was to the effect that the party unanimously agreed that he should ask the Imperial Government for this extension. The Postmaster-General has continually been indorsing this expression of opinion by the Prime Minister. The Postmaster-General knows that he himself was responsible for this question being considered in our party. He came back from the last election with a platform, one plank of which related to this proposed extension of the life of Parliament. He advocated it at every meeting, and we desired, as a party, to submit it to the people. If they approved of this course, we were to pass the necessary enabling Bill to give effect to their wishes. To-day the Prime Minister pointed to members of the Labour party on this side, and said that all we desired, and all that we hoped for was the downfall of the Empire and this country. Mr. Burns, the honorable member for Illawarra, rose to a point of order, and took exception to the statement, with the result that the Prime Minister, under pressure, withdrew it, but qualified it by saying, “ I will admit that it does not apply to all, but it applies to some.” As the honorable member for Capricornia pointed out, the Prime Minister was not speaking to this House at all, but to the electors of Australia. The Prime Minister is setting out on the coming campaign with the same policy that he set out with in connexion with the referendum. That is a charge of disloyalty against every Labour member and against the tens of thousands of men and women connected with the Labour movement throughout Australia. He launched his policy here to-day, and concluded his speech by saying, “ What is this party’s policy ?” I ask, What is the Prime Minister’s policy, and what is the policy of the Government?
– Win the war.
-Win their seats! They are not thinking of their country. The Prime Minister, since he was appointed Leader of our party, has wrecked four Governments, and in each case he hashad no other object in view than to attain his own ambition, and he will continue in that line. What has the Prime Minister done since he came back to this country; what have the present Coalition Government done; and what did the Hughes Government do, when they had the support of the Liberal party, after the split in the Labour party? What new legislation have they initiated that differs in any way from the policy first put forward in this Parliament by the Fisher Government? The Prime Minister left this country a united country with a united people. In the Old World he had honours conferred upon him for what Australia had done in the war. What Australia has done in the war was done under the direction of the Labour Government, with the support of the Labour party. After basking in the sunshine and smiles of the aristocracy of Great Britain, he returned, and from that moment there has been nothing but disunity and discord in the community. When he came back he wrecked his party; he forced his opinions against the majority of his party. He went to the country, and a united people were immediately broken up into disunited factions. He went to them with his referendums, and paralyzed and killed the voluntary enlistment system. He came back from the country a defeated man, and he tells the House to-day that the Labour party was responsible for all that has taken place. The bitterness that has arisen amongst the people is solely due to one man - the Prime Minister. Since his return to Australia he has not passed one piece of legislation, or made one original proposal that differs from the policy of the Labour Government presided over by Mr. Andrew Fisher.
– He wants to carry out Mr. Fisher’s policy - the last man and the last shilling - and you will not let him.
– The honorable member was in Australia when the Prime Minister was in England, and was then an anti-conscriptionist. He wrote to the Labour organizations of New South Wales just prior to Mr. Hughes’ return pledging himself in black and white to a lifelong opposition to the principle of conscription.
– I did not.
– Mr. Hughes returned and hypnotized or chloroformed him. The Prime Minister to-day made sympathetic reference to the honorable, lifelong connexion of the honorable member for Darling with the Australian Workers Union and the industrial movement of Australia. I state now, without fear of contradiction, that the honorable member for Darling was pulled against his own convictions to support the Prime Minister in his proposals.
– That is not correct.
– The unfortunate position in which the honorable member finds himself to-day is the tragedy, so far as this Parliament is concerned, of all that has taken place since the return of Mr. Hughes from Great Britain.
– The honorable member should wait until the honorable member for Darling is present.
– The honorable member for Darling was not here to-day when Mr. Hughes was referring to him’. Mr. Hughes referred also to members on this side of the House, who, according to him, sank their convictions and voted against conscription. At the same time, he gave every credit to the men who followed him on the conscription issue. There are men who followed him in that direction, partly, as I say, because they were hypnotized or chloroformed, and partly because they thought conscription was going to be their political salvation. The Prime Minister said, to the party, “As a party opposed to conscription, we shall be wiped out of existence. We must save our party; the people of Australia want conscription, and therefore we must go for it, and save the movement. If we do not, the Liberal party will come in on this wave of enthusiasm, and wipe us into political oblivion.” Those, as near as I can remember them, were the Prime Minister’s words.- All the patriotic sentiments that one hears expressed to-day; all this highsounding, patriotic talk, requires a great deal of examination, and will not stand the acid.
– Your action requires examination, too.
– Yes, at 2 o’clock in the morning you were in a very funny position.
– Twelve months ago, speaking publicly, I said that, under no circumstances, would I vote for conscription. As the honorable member for Denison knows, I voted in the party against even the Government submitting a question to the people. I came to this
House, and voted against the Referendum Bill. For twelve months prior to the question coming up in the House, every member of this House, and of our party in particular, knew the line of action I was going to take both outside and on the floor of this chamber.
– I know a number of other people who took tlie same attitude as the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Fawkner has been consistent right through the piece, and the PostmasterGeneral knows it.
– My statements on the floor of the House, my statements on the public platform, and my votes in the House are all the testimony which I require to refute the inference of the Postmaster-General. The Prime Minister asks what is our policy. Did he tell the country to-day of his policy ? Did he utter one word of policy here? No; but in his usual dramatic way he said, “ The Labour party’s policy has only been one policy.” He has heaped abuse upon us since the date on which the referendum was proposed. Why? When the Referendum Bill was going through the House, he turned round and pointed to certain honorable members sitting in the corner, and said, “ Within the next few weeks the people of this country will unmask you and know you for the men you are.” From that moment until the date on which the referendum vote was taken the most vile and abusive man who ever went on a public platform holding the responsible position of Prime Minister of Australia was William Morris Hughes. What did he say? He accused the men and women of Australia who would dare to vote against conscription of being murderers. Because by their action they would be murdering the boys in the trenches. He accused every man and woman connected with the Labour movement who were fighting the conscription issue of being disloyal and unpatriotic. He told the members of this House, and the people of this country, that the money which was coming to the anticonscriptionists to be utilized by them in their fight was German gold, that we were disloyal and unpatriotic, that we were murderers. He heaped upon us every vile name which his marvellous tongue could employ. When the fight- was over a (meeting of our party took place, and this gentleman walked into the room where were assembled the representatives of a movement against whom he had made all these infamous charges and took the chair. This man - a man who is only animated by the highest possible patriotic motives - was still prepared to walk into our room, preside as leader of the party and leader in this honorable House if we chose to allow him to remain as our leader and our Prime Minister. My conduct was perfectly consistent again, because from the moment that the right honorable member went into the chair I took exception to his action. I said that he had no right to be in the chair until he had explained his conduct to the representatives of the movement in the room. I submitted that any man who held the opinions of the Labour movement, and of the men and women connected with the movement and its representatives in this House, which he had expressed, should not for one moment have consented or desired to associate with them again. But the Prime Minister was quite prepared to associate with us, provided, of course, that we would keep him in power. When the Labour party was no longer behind him what did he do? He sought the support of the Liberal party of Australia - the Conservatives, the wreckage of all parties as he had described them, the flotsam and jetsam of the black labour movement, the sweaters of the Employers’ Federation, the men for whom he could never find words strong enough to express his contempt collectively and individually. When he came back from the conscription fight and had no longer the support of Labour members he was quite prepared to accept the support of his lifelong political enemies, provided that they would retain him in office, because, according to his statements, upon his retention of office depended the issue of the great war raging in Europe. From A to Z examine his speeches and the message which went out to Australia and its people was this: “ Without me, Australia and the Empire must fall.” Therefore it was essential, come what might, that William Morris Hughes, the ex-Labour leader, and now the recognised Labour traitor, should be Prime Minister of Australia.
– Brotherly love seems still to prevail amongst you band of brothers!
– There can be no brotherly love once there is an unpardonable act of treachery. Brotherly love and affection for all time ceases when that occurs.
– We have not heard the word “brother” so often lately.
– The Prime Minister wants to know what the Labour party’s policy is. Our policy is the policy which the party initiated here when it came back from the elections in 1914.
– The policy of “the last man and the last shilling.”
– The Labour party said at that time that it would give every possible help to the British Empire in connexion with this fight.
-And they have not done so.
– The party believed that in doing that it was only fulfilling what the people of Australia expected it to do. I ask the honorable member for Henty: “What has any one member of his party or of the Hughes party done outside of what was initiated by the Fisher Government in 1914, and what do they intend to do in the future “ ? Because there is only one distinction between the policies of the two parties. The Labour party and Government stood out for all that Australia could do under the voluntary system, and that is our policy to-day. There was only one form of action which cur opponents could take, and that was to introduce compulsory military service. What is their attitude to-night? It is that, even though the safety of the Empire depended upon compulsory military service, rather than advocate that policy and bring about their political death, they are prepared to sink it and save their political skins.
– Because the people have spoken on the question.
– “ S.O.S.”
– Their policy is, “ Save our Skins. For Heaven’s sake put conscription out of the way. There is to be an appeal to the people, and even though conscription might save the honour of Australia, and of the Empire, far better that we should save our seats and come back to power in this Parliament.” That is the policy of the Coalition Government; that is the policy with which they are going to the country.
.- I have listened with amazement to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner. He omitted to tell the Committee that on one memorable occasion upstairs he, with tears in his voice, asked the Prime Minister, whom he has been traducing to-night, to go to the Labour executive and liberate him from a promise that he had made before the Prime Minister came back.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– It is not.
– It is absolutely true.
– I say, as God is my judge, that it is true. The honorable gentleman has said nothing about the fact that Senator O ‘Keefe moved a motion at the recent conference held in Melbourne providing for the prolongation of the life of the Senate until October next.
– We turned that down. We do not bake our advice from outside.
– That motion, had it been acted upon, would have required an application to the Imperial authorities. Another honorable senator who has had a lot to say about the Watson business, and spoke with self -righteousness and holy horror of what has transpired, once made grave charges of corruption against the then Premier of . Queensland - I refer to Senator Ferricks. When his statements had been tried by a Court of law, he was compelled to pay £600 for his lies, and he levied blackmail on the Queensland members to help to pay the costs.
– He did not levy blackmail. They came to his assistance.
– Didthey? The honorable member for Fawkner says that the Labour party, of which he is a member, is in favour of prosecuting the war. Has he read this evening’s Herald, and the business to be put before the Melbourne Conference? A number of societies have declared emphatically that they intend to vote for the repeal of a portion of the Defence Act, of which the original Labour party were proud, and for which they took the credit of having put it on the statute-book. They wish to have repealed that portion of the Defence Act which provides for compulsoryservice for home defence.
– As an old member of the Labour party, the honorable member knows that there may be fifty such proposals, but it is only that which is indorsed by the party as a whole that can be regarded as part of the policy of the party.
– Listen to this proposal -
By the Agricultural Implement Makers Union: “That this conference is entirely opposed to the economic and coercive methods of conscription now being practised upon the working classes, and calls upon the organized Labour movement to enter an emphatic protest. Further, the conference expresses dissatisfaction at the weak-kneed attitude adopted by the Central Executive with respect to recruiting by Labour members of Parliament.”
They protest against Labour members taking part in recruiting, and in South Australia have refused to appoint any ©ne to the recruiting committees which are trying to get enlistments under the voluntary principle.
– Have these motions been carried t
– They have not been carried, but if there are many more like them they will be. The honorable member for Fawkner asked the Prime Minister to go to the executives and ask them to release him from a promise that he had made to them without knowing the facts.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– I appeal to my colleagues on this side.
– It is true.
– It is not true.
– I remember when the honorable member for Indi got his first notice from the junta. He showed it to me, and asked me what I thought of it.
– You are talking a lot of twaddle.
– The hon or able member said it was like their impertinence to try to bind him on a question on which he should have absolute freedom. But a very short time afterwards they bad brought him to heel.
– The man has gone mad ! I say that that is a deliberate misstatement. If my honorable friend will reflect, he will remember that I never did such a thing.
– The honorable member for Grey told me of the occurrence when it happened.
– I reiterate the statement that the honorable member for Indi showed me the letter.
– That is a deliberate lie 1
– He asked me what I thought of it, and expressed the opinion that it was a piece of impertinence.
– I ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw his remark.
– Yes; but why should he get up and make these silly statements? This is a put-up job.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark without comment.
– I withdraw it.-
– The other night a number of honorable members on the opposite side rose in their places, and denied in toto certain statements made by the Prime Minister, although twentyfive of us who were members of the same party are ready to state on oath that the statements were correct. There is nothing in the policy of honorable members opposite but scurrilous abuse of the Prime Minister.
– He is pretty good at abusing others.
– The honorable member admits it. There has been nothing but scurrilous attacks on this man since he returned from England to Australia. All he asked us to do was what we thought agreeable to our own consciences; and when we do so we are called “ traitors “ and “ rats.” I am glad there is going to be an election, because I believe it will afford some possibility of clearing the atmosphere. It has been perfect hell in this House and Parliament for some time past. Honorable gentlemen opposite will now have an opportunity to justify their attitude in regard to the war. At this stage of the war and of our history there ought not to be two opinions in this House. Honorable members opposite would to-day support the Liberals if the present Prime Minister was not at the head of the Government. Does that not prove that the whole of their policy is animosity to the Prime Minister ? Do not the admissions conveyed in the interjections we hear prove the fact ? Ever since the Prime Minister came home to Australia efforts have been made to ruin his character, and the remarkable statement of Senator Watson is only in keeping with the tyranny that has been practised. I said to-night that there were some honorable members who would cut the Prime Minister’s throat if they found him in a dark place. I remember that on one occasion a man who was sent to the Industrial Workers ofthe World was shot; and that vindictive spirit from outside goes back to the speech which the Prime Minister made before he went to England, and in which he referred to the alien element which had got into the Labour movement. Honorable members know well the truth of what I am saying, and anything and everything that could be done has been done to ruin the Prime Minister’s character. Yet these men talk about fighting fairly and of their belief in an honorable fight! One man, the honorable member for Brisbane, has had a lot to say about the Prime Minister, but the first Labour vote that that man ever gave in his life was a vote for himself; and such are the men who hold up the Prime Minister as a renegade to the Labour movement. What greater proof could we have that he has been true to his principles? The honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Indi have said that the only legislation introduced by the present combination is part of the Labour policy.
– Mr. Hughes has wrecked three Governments, and will wreck this one !
– The honorable member for Fawkner was very eager that the Prime Minister should go to the executives, and relieve the honorable member of a promise that he was sorry he had made.
– I deny that!
– The honorable member would deny his Maker if he denies that.
– You must accept an honorable member’s denial.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Grey has repeated that statement on three or four occasions, and I wish to deny it, and say in reply-
– You cannot do that now.
– Then I ask that the honorable member for Grey be called upon to withdraw his statement. I shall take an opportunity, later, of effectively replying to it.
– I think that the honorable member for Grey should accept the denial of the honorable member for Fawkner.
– I accept the denial, but I say that there are twenty-five men in this and in another place who are prepared to support me by declaration. The whole of this stage performance of the last two or three weeks, or days, is only in keeping with the persecution that hasbeen indulged in by the other side for some time past. I shall not be ashamed to go to the country and justify the Prime Minister.
– Was Ready’s a stage piece, too?
– I should not like to have said of a colleague of mine, as the Leader of the Opposition said to-night, that he had been drugged up-stairs?
– Does any one believe he was ill ?
– I say that the hatred and bitterness of honorable members opposite are so great that very often they do not know what they are saying; and what I have indicated just now is about the cruellest thing that could be said about a colleague. I do not know anything about the Ready resignation, or what led up to it.
– It is said that they havebeen pumping oxygen into him ever since.
– It would do the honorable member for Illawarra some good if a little patriotism were pumped into him. I cannot sit in silence when I hear a man being traduced. The honorable member for Indi sneeringly said that the cables that came from England prior to the referendum were faked.
– During the referendum.
– A man must have a beastly kind of mind to think that. I say that, as a matter of fact, we saw the cables.
– Did you ? We asked to see them.
– The honorable member knows that the cables were not faked.
– We asked to see them, and were not allowed.
– The honorable member’s mind is so twisted that even today, when a statement of the most serious character was made, he wished to make out that the cable referred to was also faked.
– Ah, well, I am suspicious of his cables.
– There was a time when the honorable member ran after the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes.
– Never !
– When the honorable member wished to win his seat, he was glad to get the support of the present Prime Minister.
– Never ! He never supported me.
– All this is in keeping with the statements made by honorable members opposite.
– Look up the records, and see what meetings he addressed for me.
– No doubt, the honorable member for Indi has his troubles in front of him, like the rest of us. I, ah any Tate, have a clear conscience; and I say, at once, that I would sooner see the whole of my race wiped pub than I would see us lose this war. Can it be thought that we can win the war with a House like this? Every kind of insult is hurled at a right honorable gentleman who has received more recognition for Empire work than any other man in Australia to-day.
– Does the honorable member not think that the Prime Minister ought to set an example, not only to members of the House, but to the people of the country, in his own conduct? He is the most insulting man on the public platform.
– This is a most remarkable attitude on the part of honorable members opposite. They seem to think they have a sort of privilege to hurl the most offensive language at the Prime Minister and others, and when they are asked to take their “ gruel,” they whine like “kids.”
– I do not whine. I have never used the language complained of.
– Howcan the honorable gentleman say that in view of what he said about ex-SenatorReady to-day?
– I believe that absolutely.
– What did the honorable gentleman say about whining ?
– I have no need to whine, because I never said an insulting word aboutthe Prime Minister or honorable members on the other side.
– Does the honorable gentleman think we have no right to take exception to the very cruel statement which he made to-day?
– I believe that about the man.
– You believe that he was drugged?
– Yes; I think he had been doped.
– Who by?
– Let the honorable gentleman ask some of those on his own side.
– These gentlemen will not Bay these things outside. All their talking is done here under privilege. Let them go outside and make the statements there that they make here. I understand that they will be given an opportunity to do so before a Judge, because those affected by their statements will not let them rest here. They will be given an opportunity to produce their evidence. They make their attacks here where they can make them under privilege, but if they have any courage, let them take it in both hands and go outside, and say that’ the Prime Minister offered to pay Senator Watson to come over to his side. They are not game to do that. They hurl their insinuations and dirty statements at the Prime Minister from their privileged benches. Let them go outside and make those statements. I am prepared to say outside anything that I say in this House.
– No, always; and long before the honorable member for Maribyrnong was heard of in politics. He is another new development. He is one of the black-coated brigade. He partly crossed the road to follow Mr. Hughes and. then discovered that he had an important engagement.
– The honorable member must be hard up when he goes on repeating that.
– Then the honorable member had to go before a committee to explain why he walked out of the Caucus room. I am never ashamed to speak the truth to honorable members, and they know that what I have said to-night is absolutely true. The honorable member for Melbourne is a man who is supposed to be doing a lot for the Labour movement. I notice that the other day ho said he was for Australia, but he did not say anything about England.
– I have done more for England than the honorable member ever did in all his life. I volunteered in the first two weeks of the war, and the honorable member ought to know it. I am night after night on the platform, and the idea of exhibiting pictures all over Australia in connexion with the recruiting movement was taken from me. What has the honorable member for Grey done ?
– The honorable member . can play to the gallery better than any other man I know.
– If we do not recruit they say we are disloyal, and if we do they say that we are playing to the gallery.
– Do not mind the honorable member. Did he not crawl into the Labour party to save his political skin?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask honorable members to try and restrain their feelings and keep order. The honorable member for Grey has a right to be heard in silence. If these constant interruptions continue I must take some other course with honorable members.
– I know that we shall hove a further opportunity to refer to these matters, and I have some more stuff ready for. honorable members opposite. I will reserve it to get under their skins a little later on.
The following paper waa presented: -
Finance - General View of Commonwealth Finances by the Sight Honorable Sir John Forrest, Treasurer of the Commonwealth, 6th. March, 1917.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the Validation of Collections of Duties of Customs nnder Tariff proposals and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
*Debate expunged by direction of Mr. Deputy Speaker, the House assenting thereto.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the Validation of Collections of Duties of Excise under Tariff proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170306_reps_6_81/>.