8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took thechair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– I layon the table a copy of a telegram received from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is dated the1st November, 1920, and concludes with an invitation to me to be present at the Conference to be held in London in June next. In order that honorable members may have an. opportunity to discuss this matter, I shall conclude with a motion for the printing of the paper.
Honorable members know that, as a result of the vote on the motion of adjournment of the honorable member for Grampians (Mt. Jowett) to consider the question of oversea freights, the business of the House was taken out of the hands of the Government owing to their being in a minority of two.
When honorable members re-assembled on Friday, I moved the adjournment of the House in order to enable the Government to consider their position. During the course of the debate the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), Leader of the Country party, stated that members of his party had not called for a division; that the motion was not intended as one of censure upon the Government; that it was a friendly motion; and his party did not intend to take the business out of the hands of the Government.
The honorable member for Grampians said -
This motton of adjournment is not to be regarded as reflecting in the remotest degree upon the Government or upon any member of it, because for some considerable time past Ministers have done everything possible to bring about a reduction of freights.
The Leader of the Country party further declared that it was most important that Australia should be represented at the Conference to be held in London in June, and that the views expressed by me had received the indorsement of every section of the House. He said that, although he could not give any assurances of complete immunity during my absence, he would repeat the assurances he bad already given, that his party would take no undue advantage of my absence. ‘ He said that, in his opinion, the Government ought to be satisfied with these assurances, and that I ought to represent Australia accordingly. In his opinion, the honorable member said, the Government ought to be satisfied with the assurances he had given, and arrange for Australian representation or make way for a Government that would do So. He voted for the adjournment in order that the Government might reconsider the position.
The Government has reconsidered most carefully the whole position, and on its behalf I desire to say- First, that I accept without reservation Dr. Page’s assurance that the ‘ motion moved by his colleague was not intended to take the business of the House out of the hands of. the Government; second, that I am prepared to accept the honorable member’s assurances as to the attitude of his party during my absence.
I accept these assurances in the spirit in which I am sure they were given, namely, that, while his party felt that it would be wrong to grant such complete immunity to the Government as would preclude whatever proper criticism and action might be necessary to protect public interests, his party had no- intention of embarrassing the Government, or of doing anything that would render Australian representation at the Conference ineffective.
I do not ask, then, for any further assurances from the honorable gentleman than those he has given; and I am not only willing, but most anxious, to pro.ceed with public business and to make such arrangements as will enable me to leave for London next week, if the majority of this House so desires.
But, during the course of the debate on Friday, honorable members on the Opposition benches stated that, in view of the adverse vote, the Government ought to resign, and .that I ought not to represent Australia at the Conference, as the majority of the people of Australia did not desire me’ to do. so. While I do not for one moment accept the views of honorable members opposite as representative of the majority of this. House or of the country, the fact remains that they have been expressed by honorable members . opposite presumably on behalf of that party; and I submit, with all respect to the House, that the Government, and I, as the Prime Minister, cannot,. in view of all the circumstances, ignore them and proceed to resume control of the business of the House, and to represent Australia in London, until this House has had an opportunity of expressing in a definite manner what its opinions are on these points.
In order, then, to afford honorable members an opportunity of expressing and registering their opinion by a vote on these two points - (1) whether it is desirous that the Government should not regard the vote on Thursday as one intended to take the business of the House out of its hands; and (2) whether it wishes me to represent Australia at the Conference, I move -
That the paper be printed.
.- Another stage in the farce has arrived.
– May I say then that “ the bluff has been called “ ? It appears to be difficult to keep oneself in order whilst speaking the truth. Last Friday 1 said something which, I understand, has caused the Nationalist party to pass a resolution. I said then that I believed that, were it not for the hatred - political hatred, of course - that some honorable members bear to members of the Opposition, the Government would not live five minutes. I believed that then, and I believe it now.
– How long do you think you would last if it were not for certain facts, of which you are perfectly well aware.
– I do not know what the right honorable gentleman means. I shall never hang on to a position so tightly that I cannot be dragged off, or prized off with a crowbar, or blown off with a charge of gelignite. Last week the conduct of business was taken out of the hands of Ministers.
Honorable members interjecting -
– I think that honorable members of the Opposition should allow their Leader to be heard without so much interruption. It is my duty to see’ that every honorable member is given an opportunity to express himself without undue interruption, and if honorable members will not observe the Standing Orders they must not complain should I put them in force against them.
– I hope honorable members on all sides will restrain themselves, and that we shall have a full vote when the division is taken. I sincerely hope that no one will be absent. I realize just what the state of parties is, and that the numbers are not as the newspapers have reported them to be on the floor of the House, namely, thirty-eight to thirty-seven. The numbers are actually thirty-seven all. Mr. Speaker’s casting vote is the vote which either keeps the Government in office or puts them out of power. That is the real position, and I am not reflecting on you, Mr. Speaker, when I set out the actual facts. Included in the ranks of the thirty-seven Nationalists there is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who was elected as an opponent of the Nationalist party, and who has not since he left our party received a vote of confidence from, his constituents. There is also the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis), who was not the official Nationalist candidate at the last general elections, but who was returned as an independent member. Then there is the honorable member for “Perth (Mr. Fowler), who is by no means a staunch follower of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– What about the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) ?
– He, at any rate, has received a vote of confidence from his constituents.
– The honorable member for Barrier was elected as a representative of the Labour party, and he has not given a vote against that party, even though he has had a disagreement with a certain branch of the body in New South Wales, namely, the Executive of our movement in that State, and has thereby left the Labour party. However, he can answer for himself.
– The honorable member need not worry. He will have my assistance in putting the Government out every time.
– Those other members, of whom I have spoken, are also at liberty, of course, to speak for themselves.
– You have not mentioned the honorable member forRobertson (Mr. Fleming).
– He, too, can speak for himself. The honorable member for Robertson went to his constituents, who gave him an answer concerning the matter of his leaving the Nationalists and joining the Country party.
– He is a Country member some days, and a [Nationalist member at other times.
– Yes; some honorable members on the other side secured’ the support both of the Country party and of the Nationalist party in certain constituencies.
– They were given the dual nomination.
– It was doubtful, early in 1920, when this Parliament first met after the general elections, whether or not the honorable member for Robertson would join the Nationalists. 1 “When the business of the Government was taken out of their hands last Thursday there were sixty-three honorable members who took part in the division. That number Vas larger than the average total of honorable members dividing in the ordinary procedure of this House. And, considering that it was a snap division, I would not have been surprised, as a-:i old whip, if the numbers had been considerably less. Both the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), as whip for the Labour party, and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), as one of the Government whips, were surprised at the numbers present when the doors were locked.
– I was not. I knew where they were.
– Of the twelve honorable members who were absent, four belonged to the Labour party, there were two from the Country party, and six Nationalists. Every vote in the House is thus accounted for, and still the Government were in a minority of two. Now, the Prime Minister, in order to learn the opinion of this House - as his supporters put it - reads something, which is not new, about something which has not arisen since last Thursday’s vote, but which consisted of a cablegram sent to the Prime Minister in November last, before Parliament had adjourned. The Prime Minister has received an invitation to attend the Imperial Conference. If he takes that as a vote of confidence he is welcome to do so. I think some one should attend the Imperial Conference on behalf of Australia, but I do not think the present Prime Minister should go’, in view of last Thursday’s division. The Government should have entered this
House to-day with a different form of resolution from that which has been moved by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman should have asked for a straight-out vote of confidence. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) stated on Friday last that his party would not give complete immunity, but had no intention of embarrassing the Government.
– Neither had the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
– I am not referring to the action of the honorable member for Grampians, but to the remarks of his leader. I understood the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to say that no complete immunity would be given. In view of the positions of parties, and of the way in which certain honorable members voted, namely, in support of the Government, although they had not been returned to Parliament as Government supporters, there is only one honorable course open, and that is for the Government not to hang on to office for five minutes longer.
– I must express my gratification ,at the conciliatory speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman has moved a motion with the intention of showing that the Government are able at present to resume control of the business of the House. I desire to reiterate my statement of Friday last, namely, that the Country party cannot and will not give complete immunity to this or any other Government during the absence of their leader. We say that their own policy and their own conduct must be the determining factors in the treatment accorded to them by any other party in this House. I repeat that the Country party desires that Australia should be represented at the Imperial Conference; and if the Government select the Prime Minister as their representative, this party will not take any undue advantage of the right honorable gentleman’s absence.
.- It is very interesting to hear the Prime Minister reading a statement which, I suppose, was drafted party by the Country party and partly by the Government. In order that the honour of the Government may, be restored it seems that it is necessary for this House to agree to a motion to print a paper. I do not know what the people of Australia have done that they should have this paper thrust at them, and that they should be put to the expense of printing it. There are many ways in which the present crisis could have been got over. Several alternative courses I might mention for the information of the Government, in order that their honour should be fully restored. For example, they could “ sack “ their Whip. That would be one way of getting out of their difficulty. Another way would be for the Prime Minister’s Secretary, or his messenger, to be reprimanded. There are, indeed, numerous methods by which honour could be satisfied ; but we know that the Government occupy exactly the same position to-day as last Friday - only it is to-day a little more huimiliating. The actual situation is the same, namely, that they have not the confidence of .a majority in this House. If they continue to hold office they will do so at the pleasure of honorable members in the corner. The only honorable course left open to the Government, as I pointed out on Friday, is to resign, for it is not beyond the possibilities that a wireless message may be required to be sent to the Prime Minister recalling him when he has got half-way across to England. The right honorable gentleman and his colleagues should not leave. Australia in that position. The question to be decided by the Government, the ‘Country party, and the Opposition is whether the Government have a majority, and will retain it until the Prime Minister has returned from the Imperial Conference. On the figures, as disclosed in the vote last week, there is no justification whatever for the Prime Minister leaving Australia, because he has not a majority behind him, and has no guarantee that he will be the Prime Minister after he embarks for London. If a political crisis occurs after his departure for the Conference, Australia will be unrepresented at that gathering. The Government and their supporters should pause before they accept a position that is purely temporary, and cannot last. The Government have been tottering for a long time, and now they are practically finished. The foundations upon which their majority was built are unsound. It is likely that two or three of their own supporters and members of the Country party are merely waiting until the Prime Minister embarks before they let fall the sword which will destroy the Government.
.- In order to make my position clear, and to give honorable members an opportunity of a straight-out vote, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and that in the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth the Prime Minister should immediately tender his resignation to the Governor-General.”
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has named several honorable members who have seen fit to revise their political views since last election, as well as others now supporting the Government, but who were not elected on the Nationalist ticket. All these honorable members can speak for themselves. I desire to refer particularly to an interjection made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who asked, “What about the honorable member for Barrier?”
– I meant that you were outside the party.
– If that was what the honorable member wished to convey by his interjection he was simply reminding other honorable members of the obvious, and was not in any way contributing to the debate. I am here in the interests of the working classes, as I see them, and any Government or party whose policy is in their interests will have my support.. For this reason I am in opposition to the present Administration. I submit my amendment to the motion because I do not believe the present Administration are functioning, or can function, in the interests of the working classes. If by the turn of fortune’s wheel some other party become the occupants of the Ministerial benches, their policy will be the test of whether I still sit in opposition or support them. If they do not act in the interests of the working classes, out they will go, if my vote can put them out.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has very obviously receded from the position he took up at the end of last week. He was then charged by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) with having used a vote of this House as a means to bludgeon the Country party into support of the Ministry, and with flogging the question of the Imperial Conference for purely party purposes. Now he has come along with a very tame proposition. He is not affected by the refusal of the Country party to give him those immunities ana guarantees which, at the end of last week, he was so determined to wrench from them. And, while the Prime Minister has receded from his former position, the Leader of the Country party over the week-end made a further statement, in which he insisted more definitely than before that his party owes no allegiance whatever to this Government. In what was obviously a carefully prepared statement to the Sydney Sun, he said -
The Country party is essentially a party distinct from any other, and decides to remain bo, because it is suspicious of the influences behind the other parties. It has its own organization, its own offices, its own party rooms; but has not a signed party discipline that compels its representatives to” vote for principles they disapprove of simply ‘because another party or the Government advocates them. It supports good government and :00, legislation. It does not seek office, ‘but it will not refuse to take the responsibility for its actions if called upon to do so.
Listen to these significant words -
It has given support to the existing Government to enable it to carry on the government of the country, but it disapproves of the continued extravagance and lack of control of the present Administration, and owes it no allegiance, and does not hesitate to condemn and criticise.
The Country party disapproves of the Administration,, of its continued extravagance and lack of control over Public Departments, and as that party owes no allegiance whatsoever to the Government, Ministers are without their majority in the House. Previously & general support was accorded the Government by the Country party; there was no announcement of its complete independence and no announcement of its condemnation of the Government. If the statement made over the week-end by the Leader of the Country party had been couched in the terms of a censure motion, it could not have been more sweeping or more condemnatory, because he states that the party has no confidence in the Government. ‘Still the Prime Minister Ls prepared to carry on, and to leave for London as the rerpresentative of Australia at the Imperial Conference upon the result of a motion for the printing of a cable some six months old. All I can say is that this is a very modern application of the late Alfred Deakin’s description of the Prime Minister being dragged squealing out. of the tart shop. It shows that it is impossible to get the right honorable gentleman out of office, and that no expression of condemnation of his Government by the Country party will suffice to do so. There is no question of expressing confidence in the Government by ordering a document six months old to be printed. In the face of a statement such as that made by the Leader of the Country party, one would have thought the Prime Minister would have definitely challenged the House as to whether his Government possessed its confidence. But he does nothing of the. kind. Quite regardless of this very outspoken expression of want of confidence in his Ministry he is still prepared to carry on the administration so long as the House will agree to the printing of a certain paper. If he is prepared to leave Australia for his mission across the seas under such circumstances he will have only himself to blame if he finds that within a few weeks of his departure the House is in the turmoil of a general election.
– If the honorable member thought there was any possibility of a general election he would tie me down with chains.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that if I could tie him down with chains he would be bound very tightly in regard to his mission, if he went away at all. But, although it is not within the power of the Labour party to tie his hands, it is within its scope to point out the position he occupies in the House, and the fact, upon the declaration of the Leader of the Country party, that the Government have not a majority, and are, therefore, without a warrant to carry on the business of the country. The putting forward of a motion for the printing of a trifling paper is not a proper challenge to the House as to whether the Government possesses the confidence of the House or the country, and, in view of the later utterances of the Leader of the Country party, it is only right that some more definite means should be provided, by the Government or the Country party, to determine whether the Ministry does possess the confidence of Parliament.
.- On Friday last the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) moved the adjournment of the House in order to enable the Government to further consider their position. Evidently that further consideration has been given with the result that the Government have backed down from the position they then assumed. Honorable members will recollect that on the proceeding Friday the Prime Minister, speaking in connexion with the invitation to attend the Imperial Conference, made it very clear that his Government must have immunity during his absence. On the following Thursday a vote was taken in this House which was against the Government by a majority of two, and led us into the present position. On Friday last the right honorable gentleman again said that unless some guarantee was given that the Government would be safe during his absence it would be necessary for him to give further consideration to his position, but the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page) said that while his party were prepared to give reasonable support to the Government during the absence of the Prime Minister they would not grant it immunity, In the absence of such immunity, it was quite evident that, during the Prime Minister’s absence, the Government “ would propose to confine the business of the house to the Tariff, and last Friday the Prime Minister said that nothing else would be dealt with.
– That is so.
– That is to say, although urgent matters might require attention, they must stand over until the Prime Minister’s return. Although the people outside are crying o.ut daily for this Parliament to grant relief in certain directions^ the legislation must stand over during the right honorable gentleman’s absence, because the Government have not a sufficient majority. It would have been better had the House been called together last February, so that these matters could- be dealt with instead of the Prime Minister calling us together at the last moment, prior to his departure, and telling us that we can deal with nothing but the Tariff.
– I said’ so.
– But the Prime Minister went further. He said that if the House so desired, he ‘could see no reason why it should not deal with other legislation. If the Country party add their strength to that of the Labour party upon a matter affecting rural districts which honorable members of the Country party deem urgent, what will become of the Government and of the right honorable gentleman’s mission if there should be one absentee on the Government side when the division is taken ? We all know that old-age pensions ought to be increased. If an honorable member of the Labour party brings forward a motion dealing with these pensions, it is quite possible that he will find support from a majority of honorable members, even from supporters of the Government, and from the party sitting in the corner. In such circumstances, the Government would again be defeated. But it would only be in accordance” with the promise of the Prime Minister that, although the Government propose to take no other business during his absence but the Tariff, if the House so desires, it may take up other business.
– I have said that the policy of the Government was, and is, to submit only one thing to the House, and that is the Tariff.
– But the right honorable gentleman went further the following day, and said that he had no objection to the House dealing with other legislation if honorable members desired to doi so.
– I said a lot of things on the following day. I said, “ Who am I to prevent people working?” But I know that you do not want to work.
– I repudiate that interjection. I want to work.
– Then you are “blacklegging “ on your class.
– I want to give relief to the old people who are suffering because of the high cost of living. I want to give them something more than, they are receiving. ‘Also I want to see that justice is- done to those who are paying income tax. We ought not to be taxing married people with incomes of £156 per annum, Or single people with incomes of £100 per annum, when we know that, since that legislation was passed, the cost of living has increased by 50 per cent. If we do not deal with the matter this session, we must tax these incomes next year and the following year. Every one knows that this is a burning question, because people in. receipt of £200 per annum, who cannot make ends meet, are being compelled to pay income tax. I mention this for the benefit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), because he does not want to go away in ignorance of what may possibly happen. It is quite possible that this House may decide that legislation should be enacted, irrespective of the Tariff, and if a vote is carried against the Government they will be in the position they occupied last Thursday. I cannot see what justification there is for the Prime Minister to adopt the course he has, because the . Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has clearly stated that the members of his party are not prepared to grant immunity. Notwithstanding this, the Prime Minister submits a motion that a certain paper be printed. We have already been forewarned concerning the necessity for Australia to be represented at the Imperial Conference, as an intimation to that effect was received last November. The position now is that, five or six months after that invitation was received,] we are asked to agree to a motion that “the paper be printed,” although it was received last November.
– The printing of the paper is immaterial; it was the opportunity.’
– I admit that the printing of the paper is immaterial. The opportunity for what?
– For this House to declare where it stands.
– It is all very well for the Prime Minister to get away from the position he took up last week, when he said that he could not go abroad as the representative of the Commonwealth without immunity from attack. Will the Prime Minister say, if- this motion is carried, that it will give him the immunity he desires in face of the reiterated statements of the Leader of the Country party that, whilst they will give his Government reasonable support, they will not grant immunity from attack during his absence? That is my argument. The position is just as it was on Thursday last, and I am putting this forward for the information of the Prime Minister.
– The position is no different from what it has been during the past fourteen months.
– It has not altered since the right honorable gentleman spoke last week.
– But there is a difference in the Prime Minister’s attitude.
– The right honorable gentleman now says that he does not want immunity.
– -I did not say that; but that the position of parties is practically the same as it has been during the- last fourteen months.
– There have been several changes during the last fourteen months, and the most recent was on the other side of the chamber, when the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) joined the Country party. The position is not what it has been during the past fourteen months.
– Where has one of the honorable member’s supporters gone?
– The Prime Minister need not be concerned about that, as the honorable member to which he refers will be found voting solidly with the members of my party.
– The Kalgoorlie constituency is now represented by an honorable member on this side.
– We are in the same position, so far as the strength of parties is concerned, and I do not see any difference in the position from what it was last week, when the Prime Minister, made his statement. I can see the danger of the Prime Minister going abroad and the possibility of the business of the country being taken out of the hands of the Government which he will be representing. I am not particularly concerned- about the Prime Minister going to Great Britain, but I am anxious that nothing shall be done to prevent necessary legislationbeing introduced into this House.
– Is the honorable member concerned about Australia being represented . at the Imperial Conference ?
– Yes, and I made my position on that point quite clear last week.
Interruption - .
– Order ! I have repeatedly asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting. As soon as one honorable member interjects a chorus of replies by way of interjection follows, which leads to disorder, and I trust that honorable members will allow the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to address the Chair without any further interference.
– In reply to the interjection by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), I may state that, on Friday last, I pointed out that, in my opinion, it- was necessary for Australia to be represented at the Imperial Conference. On that occasion I mentioned that, in view of the political situation and the statement of the Prime Minister in this House that he was going away, it was his duty to resign, and allow the Governor-General to exhaust the means of government at his disposal. The question would then be whether another Government could be formed with a sufficient majority to enable it to send a representative to Great Britain as early as, possible. I have not moved from the position I took up last week. The only change that has taken place is in the attitude of the Government. I have not changed my attitude in the slightest; but the Government has made a right-about turn.
– The . position has not changed, as yet. We shall see when this vote is taken.
– That is so. The right honorable gentleman now says that the position has not changed; but that we shall see what support the Government have when this vote is taken, which means that, if it is carried, there will be a vote of confidence in the Government, notwithstanding that the Leader of the Country party has said that his followers are not prepared to grant immunity.
– It is also fair tosay that the Leader of the -Country party said that the vote on the motion of adjournment was not intended to be one of lack of confidence, or a means of taking the business out of the hands of the Government.
– But the Government took it as one.
– The Leader of the Country party said that it was not intended to take the business out of the hands of the Government. We must take the two statements together, that of the Prime Minister that he would not go without immunity, and that of the Leader of the Country party that his supporters were not prepared to grant immunity. The thing is so clear that we cannot get away from it, and the position has not altered since last Thursday. As I have already stated, there is urgent legislation demanding the attention of this Parliament, but it now appears that nothing will be undertaken, apart from the Tariff, until the Prime Minister returns. I enter my strong protest, and will vote against the motion.
– It has been said that the present move is a ‘ r climb down ‘ ‘ on the part of the Government; but I am not going to say whether that is so or not until a vote is taken, although, up’ to the present, it appears to be so. The motion submitted by the Prime Minister appears to have a twofold object - to show whether he shall represent the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference, and whether the motion submitted last Thursday by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was intended to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The Prime Minister wants an assurance from the Country party that they did not intend to take the business out of the hands of the Government on that occasion. If the members of the Country party vote for the motion submitted to-day, it will be a clear indication that they did not wish to embarrass the Government on Thursday last, when the honorable member for Grampians moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the question of overseas freights.
– In opening my speech I said I did not wish to embarrass the Government.
– Then , what was it for?
-To get a reduction in freights, and I mean it still.
– And the honorable member desired the motion to be defeated ?
– It was so much “hot air.”
– The honorable member for Grampians now admits that his motion was, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, so much “ hot air.”
– My constituents are suffering as the result of excessive freights.
– And so are mine.
– And the honorable member supported me.
– Order !
– On that occasion I supported the honorable member for Grampians because my constituents are suffering just as much hardship as are those in the district he represents. I thought the honorable member was sincere in submitting the motion.
– So I was.
– But the honorable member now says he did not wish to embarrass the Government.
– I said so at the outset.
– How could the honorable member give an instruction to the Government if he did not desire the motion to be carried ?
– It was the only means of having the matter discussed.
– I could understand the honorable member desiring to have his motion carried as it was carried last Thursday, since we could not hope to secure in any other way the redress of the grievances of the primary producers. The honorable member now says, however, that he did not desire the motion to be carried.
– I did desire to get it carried, and it was carried.
– -The Prime Minister now comes along with a motion in which he practically asks the Corner party to say that, by the vote they gave on Thursday last, they did not in-‘ tend to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. He wants them to reverse that vote. If they do, then the climbing down will have been, not by the Government, but by the Country party. Every honourable member is entitled to “his own opinion, but my view is that, if the Prime Minister induces the Country party to go back on the vote they gave last Thursday, he will have won. The Country party alone will have climbed down. I am not going to say that they intend to climb down until I see how they vote on this question. The Prime Minister is assuming that everything will be satisfactory from his point of view - that the Country party are going to vote for this motion.
– He has a promise that the majority of them will vote for it.
– No doubt. Judging by the expression on the faces of honorable members of the Country party and the supporters of the Government, an amicable agreement between them was arrived at before they met this afternoon. During the week-end, various statements were made by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to the effect that his party did not intend to grant immunity to the Government. Such statements are all very well, but they are of no avail unless they are backed up by a vote in this House. It seems to me that members of the Country party have agreed amongst themselves to make the public statement that the Government will not be granted immunity from attack during the Prime Minister’s absence, but that in actual practice there shall be no attempt to put them out of office. I know that honorable members of the party desire it to go forth to the country that they are not attached to the Government, but I would remind them that the people will judge them by the votes they give in this House rather than by any statement they may make. It is all very well for the Leader of the Conn, try party to say that they are not going to grant the Government immunity. The vote they give on this question will prove exactly where they stand. By voting for this motion, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and those associated with him will simply reverse the vote they recorded here last Thursday, and prove themselves to be in the Prime Minister’s bag.
– The Opposition members have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the Country party, honorable members of which have properly said that they have enjoyed the advantage of a great deal of advice at their hands. I am prepared, however, to say that the Country party have acted consistently since this unfortunate incident took place.
– There was nothing unfortunate about it.
– The Country party have stated distinctly that, in voting as they did on Thursday last, it was not their desire to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. They repeat that statement to-day. They have also said from the beginning that they desire that Australia shall be represented at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. When the matter was before the House some days ago, it was conceded by all three parties that it was not only desirable, but vital, that Australia should be represented, and it was also conceded all round that no one could so adequately or capably represent Australia as could the Prime Minister.
– I do not hesitate to say that there is no man, not merely in this Parliament, but in this country, who, by reason of his experience and knowledge, could so effectively represent Australia at the Imperial Conference as can the Prime Minister. No man coming from Australia could command the power and influence that the Prime Minister does in the Old Country and in the councils of the British Empire. If this be conceded, then why, in the best interests of Australia, should not the Prime Minister be permitted to go? He is entitled to go. He represents the largest of the three parties in this House, and, until Thursday last, his Government had carried on the business of the country without reverse, not only during the whole life of this Parliament, but, with slight alterations in the personnel of the Ministry, for a very considerable period anterior to it. We could have no better guarantee that, having regard to all the interests involved, he is entitled to go to the Conference as our representative.
I intend, however, to appeal to honorable members from another stand-point. The questions to be submitted and dealt with at the Imperial Conference are of the most vital concern to Australia. Nothing could be graver or more serious, for instance, than the question of the naval defence of, not merely the Commonwealth, but the whole Empire. Then, again, could anything be more serious than the question of the AngloJapaiiese Treaty and its renewal ? These are two of the chief matters to be dealt with at the Conference, and in regard’ to each of them the Prime Minister has special knowledge and experience. I submit they are far graver than any local question that could be, in the meantime, submitted to this House. They are of the most far-reaching character, and surely it is the duty of this House to regard Australia’s welfare and interest in so far as they are affected by these questions from an entirely non-party standpoint. The highest duty of the House is that all parties should co-operate in sending the Prime Minister to the Conference, and so securing the very best and most effective representation that the Commonwealth could obtain. From a non-party stand-point, that is the attitude which honorable members should take up. Matters of party intrigue, the reconstruction or resignation of theGovernment at this critical juncture, and questions of domestic concern’ are insignificant compared with the magnitude of the subjects to be dealt with at the Conference. The whole question of Australia’s representation is far too important to be trifled with, or to be subordinated to mere party issues. It is far too serious to be dealt with from any other standpoint than that of the interests of Australia. I have had strong differences with the Prime Minister and the Government, but I dare not, and I submit honorable members generally cannot, challenge for one moment the experience and capacity of the right honorable member to represent us at the Conference. I appeal to honorable members to subordinate everything else to the sending to the Old Country of the best man that Australia can send. My honorable friends, the members of the Country party, have most properly said, “ Whilst we cannot guarantee to the Government complete immunity from attack during the absence of the Prime Minister - that is rather too big an, order to expect from us - we undertake that no advantage will be taken of the Government-
– Oh, no ! We do not say that.
– The Country party do not say that.
– They say, “ Whilst we cannot guarantee the Government complete immunity from attack, we do undertake that no undue advantage will be taken of them during the Prime Minister’s absence in England.” That is a legitimate assurance, which the Prime Minister and the Government are justified in accepting, and I am perfectly satisfied from my knowledge of my . honorable friends of the Country party, that they will see that Australian interests which are to be discussed at the Imperial Conference are not in any way prejudiced by anything which may take place in this Chamber. I appeal to honorable members to look at the matter from the Australian point of view, and also from the stand-point of the magnitude of the interests which are involved.
.- I intend to support the amendment. I wish to express, in as few words as possible, my absolute disapproval of the action of the Government during the past three or four days. When, owing to apathy of the Government, the formal motion foi; adjournment, submitted by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), had been carried, the Prime Minister immediately rose, and in the most indignant manner demanded that the Ministry should be given some assurance by the Country party of immunity from, attack during. his absence in England, failing which he would have to consider his position. As a matter of fact, he did consider it the whole afternoon, and upon the following morning moved the adjournment of the House in order that he might give further consideration to it, at the same time demanding from the Country party an assurance that in the event of his going to the Imperial Conference they would not harass the Government in any shape or form. He failed to get that assurance, and once more considered his position. Yet he has come into the House this afternoon under exactly similar conditions to those which existed when we adjourned on Friday last, and’ has told honorable members that he is quite satisfied with the present position. Although he has received from the Country party no assurance of the character he desired, he is quite satisfied to take anything which that party may give him, so long as he is permitted to hang on to office: To my mind there is only one reasonable course for the Government to adopt, namely, to resign. They have neither the confidence of a majority of honorable members of this House nor of a. majority of the electors of Australia. Consequently, they are merely intriguing for the purpose of hanging on to office. I know of no other Government which would have the audacity to cling to office as they are doing, if its members had suffered defeat in the way that they have suffered it. If this motion be carried it will not be the Government which will have climbed down - it will be the Country party which will have “ caved in.” The Leader of that party stated the other day that under no circumstances would its members “ wet-nurse “ the Ministry, or give them .any definite assurance upon any particular subject. But they had the common decency to say that they would not harass the Government or place any obstacles in the way of the Prime Minister going to the Imperial Conference. Let me read the statement which was made by the Leader of that party at the beginning of this crisis. Upon the afternoon when the motion for the adjournment was carried, he is reported to have made a statement regarding the action of the Country party-
The official attitude of the Country party towards the position was made known by the leader of the party, Mr. E. Page, after the Country party’s meeting had ended. He stated that the situation that had arisen had not been caused through any premeditated action by the Country party, but was due to the Government failing to continue the debate upon the motion for the adjournment. Further than this he would not commit himself, but the Country party members as a whole adopted the attitude that they were hoW simply awaiting developments. The general feeling expressed at their meeting during the evening was that the Government had itself to thank for the muddle in which it found itself, and that it was for the Government to find a way out of the difficulty. On the other hand, it is understood that several members of the Country party would not have been prepared to vote against the Government had they known that a crisis was likely to arise, and that the Ministry’s fate would be involved. The motion moved by Mr. Jowett was not intended by the party as an attack upon the Ministry, and at least one of the Country party members admitted that he had not realized the full significance of the division.
When the Leader of £he Country party was charged with having made that statement, he promptly denied having made it. But I am prepared to say that if one-half or two-thirds of the party had known that a political crisis would arise if they voted for the formal motion for adjournment, they would not have voted against the Government. Had they not been able to escape in any other way, they would have been absent when the division was taken.
– They did not vote against the Government. They voted for my motion.
– The honorable member, by his motion, took the business out of the hands of the Government, and that is why all this trouble has arisen. 1 know that he andhis party are particularly ‘sorry that they did such a cruel and harsh.- thing to the Government.
– Nonsense !
– Your action will never be forgotten by the Ministry.
– Ihope that it will not be:
– You and your party entered the House this afternoon looking as if you had been beaten for three or four days.
– Order! Will the honorable member address the Chair instead of addressing honorable members direct?
– Yes. The look upon the faces of certain members of the Country party when they entered the chamber this afternoon was most pitiful. To the best of my belief, the members of that party intend to vote with the Government upon this motion. They intend to give the Government a further lease of life. If ever a party has been forced to- ‘‘climb down “ it is the Country party in this Chamber. Their attitude towards this question- will be recorded very shortly. The hon- orable member for Kooyang (Sir Robert’ Best) has stated that they have acted most’ consistently since their;advent in this Chamber. I am prepared to say that they have; there has never’ been’ a party which has acted more consistently in its inconsistency than has” the Country party. Those honorable’ members’ have on each’ and every- occasion, vital’ and otherwise,, “sat on the: rails” ; they have never: taken any definite-stand’ on- any particular subject.
To leave the: subject of the Country party ; I. wish to’ say that my main reason for supporting the amendment is- thatI do not believe the Prime Minister should go to the Old Country to- attend the Imperial Conference.- I do not think he will represent the- views of the Australian people - I do not think he has any intention to represent their views, neither do I think he represented their views at- the Feaoe Conference. For those reasons I have no. desire to see him. go’ Home now. I venture to say -there are men in Australia more capable of placing the views of the Australian people before the Conference than the Prime Minister is’.There is’ just a -possibility of’ the Prime
Minister involving Australia in a tremendous expenditure. -He is quite capable of misrepresenting the views of Australia. He has never to any degree respected the interests of Australia’ in the past, and it is not reasonable to expect him- to do so in the future. ‘ But he is prepared to say that. ho will do anythingprovided he is permitted to go to the Conference now. If the vote to be- taken will stop his going I shall do my best . to induce as many as possible to support the amendment. If - the Prime Minister had the slightest sense of dignity he- and his Government would immediately resign.
.- The -need for the representation of Australia at the Imperial Conference is agreed on- equally by all members of the House. I take it there is not a single individual who does not- consider that in the present state of the world’s politics it is not only desirable, but essential that Australia’s voice should be heard. The position in this House is a very unusual one. My name has been mentioned here to-day as one who has left the Government party for the Country party. I say detinitoly that there are ott lor members in the House who were elected j just as I was, on the nomination of the Nationalist and Country parties. Under no- conditions can the Nationalist Government claim those members as absolute supporters. The members- of the Countryparty owe allegiance to the people who sent them here-to people who expect their representatives to play-fair-to every countryinterest and’ surely ‘those representatives, having’ that dual nomination,, are always” free - at any ‘ time- to give their adherence to the party which they think will do most’ in the interest of- their -con-; stitueats. - The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) > this afternoon treated -us to a eulogy of the Prime Minister -(Mr. Hughes),; and told- us that he is the only man. who- can- adequately represent . Australia at the Imperial Conference. Is it any wonder,- when we hear, that- sort of talk, that the Prime Minister becomes, imbued with -the idea that he is the- only man fit to represent Australia? I am strongly of opinion thatA if possible, an Australian- should represent - Australia. At <the back of that idea there- is something, that has- -never been raeotkmedhere, and which, under other circumstances, I should not- have- mentioned-. When- we are told that there’ is only- one -person- fit to* represent Australia, it is time Australia saw the position with more widely-opened eyes. Despite the magnificent efforts of our boys at the Front, there .is, as any man who knows the East at all must be aware, a belief in more than one Eastern nation, that Australia will not fight. That belief arose quite naturally from the position which was taken up here whilst the war was on, -and the Prime Minister, above all, is responsible for. the position. The Prime Minister, who was the most aggressive man in Australia, is now speaking in the most humble way. When he spoke here last week on this question he was “ as mild a mannered man “ as ever addressed this chamber. Those people who have in their minds the idea that .Australia will not fight, get it from the attitude .which. the. Prime Minister himself has shown here. In the days when we were not in danger from Eastern quarters he talked in an aggressive way, but in the days when there may be some danger, not from any particular nation, but from the whole of the teeming East, he speaks more mildly than any man before. Australia is not ‘’ looking for fight “j Australia’s motto, I hold, should always be to defend and not defy. But we must surely make it plain that we men born, as we are, of British parentage, will not crumple up at the first sign of opposition. Australia can easily be better represented at the Imperial Conference than by a man who has taken up the attitude that I have described on the part of the Prime Minister, and who has talked as he did here last week. The Country party has given- a definite assurance, and the Prime Minister cannot ask for complete immunity for his Government. What party with’- any self ‘ respect, with any principles or programme - with, any. consideration for the interests of those who sent them here - could give immunity to any Government f
There are various matters in connexion with the administration’ of the Government which I propose to speak on at another time, and which are enough to cause any man to consider his position very carefully. The legislative acts of the Government have received the sanction of all on this side of- the House, but their administrative acts have met with a great deal of objection, both in this corner and in many places throughout the country. It would be suicidal, it would be worse than suicidal, for we should be false to our constituents, if we gave’ the Prime Minister or the Government any - anm unity during his absence. The Govern, ment, like all Governments, must accept full responsibility for the position in which they find themselves
.- I am more convinced than ever as the de. bate goes on, and as the position develops, that the Government, in desperation, are using the Imperial Confer,ence in order to get out of the awkward position in which they find them, selves. During the debate to-day we have had many interjections to the effect that Australia must be represented at the Con.ference. To that I raise no objection, but I say emphatically that I would rather there should be no representation than that the National Parliament of Australia should be degraded’. It seems to me that the representation of Australia at the Imperial Conference is being used by the Government and the National party as they used the old flag-wagging business in the past, that is, to get themselves on to the Treasury bench, and, being there, to stay there. The further the position develops the more undignified becomes the action of the Prime Minister .(Mr. Hughes), the Government, and the Nationalist party. The Prime Minister rode the high horse when the first thing happened. Erratic, as he always is, he made several threats of the dire penalties which he was going to hand out to all and sundry if- the thing was not rectified at once; hut he immediately receded from that position, and comes down now with the very mild and simple motion that a paper should be printed, saying, that the’ vote on that motion is to test whether the Government have the confidence of Parliament. It seems to me that the whole of this action of the. Government, undignified as it- is, is being forced upon them by the vested interests that they represent. Apparently, it does not matter how undignified they are, or what attitude they take up to discredit themselves in this regard, they must hang on in order that the in- terests that the Prime Minister represents shall be represented at the Imperial Conference. We are told that nothing else can -be brought before this Parliament now but the Tariff. The interests of
Australia, no matter what may arise, have to be sacrificed to the interests of the Prime Minister and his Imperialistic friends. “Whatever questions of vital importance may arise during the next’ few months, it matters not how the interests of Australia may suffer so long as the Prime Minister is in Great Britain with his Imperialistic friends during the sittings of the Imperial Conference, where possibly he may sacrifice Australia’s interests as he sacrificed them when he was over there before. It is very unfortunate indeed that Australia should be represented by the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference, and more unfortunate still that that representation is to be brought about by worse than an indignity being heaped upon this National Parliament.
In conclusion, I wish to make reference to the interjection in which the Prime Minister tola the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that if he wanted work he was “black-legging” on his class. Those are the interjections that cause Parliament to be ridiculed outside.Of course, they tell us now that that was a joke, like the vote which the Farmers’ party brought about the other day; but these undignified interjections, making Parliament a laughing-stock, come from the gentleman who holds the highest position in the House. They are the drops of water that are gradually wearing away the stone. The Prime Minister sometimes becomes very indignant when the newspapers criticise Parliament and speak contemptuously of it, but interjections of that sort, particularly when they come from the Prime Minister, are inviting that sort of thing. If we are going to have parties here like the Farmers’ party, which will give a vote on one day and eat it the next, and tike the Nationalist party and Nationalist Government, which will be defeated and hang on to office in spite of their defeat, then we are fast coming to a time when we must have some other method than the parliamentary system for solving our national problems.
I am opposed to the printing of the paper because it is an unnecessary cost and useless for the purpose for which it has been moved, and because, so far as Parliament and the country are con cerned, whether the motion is carried or not, the Government will be still an undignified one hanging on to office in spite of any and every vote.
. . - The paper laid on the table this afternoon, and the resolutions passed by the Nationalist party as to what they intend to do in the future, are most amusing to me. I wish first to speak seriously to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). In the first place, he moved the adjournment of the House to draw attention to the excessive rates of freight, both on the coast and overseas.
– That was quite enough, too. In moving the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Grampians questioned the Commonwealth Line of Steamers-
– I never referred to it once,
– That makes it all the worse. I am glad that the honorable’ member has made that interjection, and that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) confirms it, because there is no doubt in my mind, or in the mind of any other member of the House, except those who are supporting the Government, and blind supporters of the Government at that, that the Commonwealth Line of Steamers is in the Combine.
-I think there is no doubt about that.
– There the honorable member is again! He blows hot one minute and extremely cold the next.
– Not at all. It is only a question of fact.
– If there was no fight in the honorable member’s motion, what did he move it for?
– In order to ventilate a question of great public importance, namely, the excessive rates of ocean freights.
– It was of such public importance that it has caused a crisis in the Federal Parliament during a whole week. That shows how very important it was.
– You did not have freights in your eye when the honorable member for Grampians moved the motion, or when you called for a division on it.
– As to the motion which the Prime Minister asks the House to pass to-day, all I have to say is that if the Country party vote for the second clause, they are not made of the stuff that I think they are made of.
– How can they vote for it?
– How can they vote for it? Because the country knows, and every man in the House knows, that the Country party is the tail of the Nationalist party. At the election, their slogan was “Anti-Labour” all the time. They said, “ We claim all the antiLabour votes,” and they got them.
– Not in every case.
– In the majority of’ cases they did.
– Settle it among yourSelves
– The day of judgment is not far off for the honorable member for Grampians. He is the cause of all this “rumpus.” He moved the motion, and admitted afterwards, and still admits, that he did not know the gun was loaded.
– No; that is your statement.
– He has already told the Prime Minister so, and. the Prime Minister told the House on Friday last.
– But it was your picture that got into the illustrated press !
– I shall deal with the picture business afterwards. “ Every picture tells a story “ - honorable members all know the advertisement of Doan’s backache cure. The honorable member is suffering from backache to-day. The honorable member did not know that his gun was loaded, but he could not run away from his own motion when the Opposition called for a division.
-So you say. I had no desire to do so.
– If he had run away he would have been politically dead for ever and ever, amen.
– I voted for the motion because I was in favour of it.
– If the honorable member understood parliamentary procedure, he would have known that if such a motion is carried the business is taken out of the ha ads of the Government. >
– I know that quite well.
– And when that is done, what is the consequence?
– What has been the consequence ?
– We are waiting for the result; but if the members of the Country party vote for the second motion submitted by the Prime Minister to-day they are a lot of political mongrels.
– Order! That remark is a gross reflection upon honorable members, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– If it is offensive, I withdraw it.
– It is most offensive.
– I do not wish to be personally offensive to any honorable member; but the matter that is now before us means life or death to the Government.
– It is a case of the ins and the outs.
– What is the duty of the Opposition but to pull the Government from’ the Treasury bench at the first- opportunity. While I am Whip of my party, I shall take advantage of every opportunity to catch the Government napping. Last Thursday was not the first occasion on which I have done that, and I hope it will not be the last. The second motion submitted by the Prime Minister is a whitewashing proposal, and I have heard it whispered in ‘the lobbies, and pretty loudly, that three or four members of the Country party will be conveniently absent if the Government are challenged while the Prime Minister is in England. I could mention the names of those honorable members.
– Let us have the names.
– I shall wait to see how events turn out, and, if necessary, I shall disclose the names when the occasion arises.
– Cannot you let me have the names now? They would be of great interest to me.
– The information would” do the honorable member no good, for it would only reveal to him how shallow is human nature, particularly in the case of some gentlemen in whose integrity he has the greatest faith. But I have not the slightest doubt that the Prime Minister has been given the tip; otherwise he would not have acted as he has done to-day. As the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) said, he is as mild as a sucking dove. Compare the Prime Minister now with the Prime Minister three years ago, who used to come to the House in a truculent mood and try to flog us to perdition. But many of those who were members then are still in this House, and I hope that we shall return with an interesting majority after the next election.. It has been suggested that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has a secret understanding with the Prime Minister. It will be remembered that recently a conference of the Farmers and Settlers Associations and the Country parties of the different States was held in Sydney. At that time the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) was Leader of the Federal Country party, and in a press interview he stated the objects and! intentions ofhis party, particularly in regard to matters that would be brought forward on the re-assembling of this Parliament. The interviewer pointedly asked the honorable member, “ Are the whole of - your party in favour of that policy ? ‘ ‘ and the honorable member replied, “ I cannot answer for the party. We’ decide things in the party room, but when members go into the House they are free to vote as they choose.” That is the position in a nutshell. Honorable members in the corner are not a party at all; they are only a rabble.
– Are we to infer from the honorable member’s remarks that members of his party are not free to vote as they like?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of that question. He is the one man in this Parliament upon whom the eyes of all Australia are fixed to-day. That is why the Governor-General has returned to Melbourne from Sydney; he wants to know what the honorable member intends to do. The honorable member voted on Thursday last to turn the Government out of office, and we shall be interested to see what he willdo to-day. But the Prime Minister seems to be very sure of his ground. I have been in Parliament with him for many years, and I have learned from him a lot of what I know of political tactics, butI tell him that the Government may claim immunity from attack only when they are in recess. No one knows that better than does the Leader of the Government, and, knowing him as I do, I cannot for the life of me understand why he convened Parliament three weeks ago instead’ of continuing the recess as long as he possibly could. I warn him that unless he has honorable members of the Country party in his pocket they will “ sell him a pup “ at the earliest opportunity.
In regard to the Imperial Conference, I agree with many honorable members on both sides of the House. The forthcoming gathering of Empire statesmen will be the most momentous for Australia that has ever been held. I have been fighting for the White Australia policy ever since I have been in active politics, and that is nearly forty years. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) said that the Prime Minister, not being an Australian, could not represent Australia. I am not an Australian born, but I take second place to no man in my loyalty to this country. My home is here, my interests are here, and my family are Australian, and I would die for Australia.
– Those who were born here understand Australia better than others.
– I ‘ understand Australian sentiment, and I think the Prime Minister does, too. I say emphatically that it would be a crime if Australia were not represented at the Imperial Conference. Our whole national life may depend upon what takes place at that Conference. That is why I am in favour of some man from Australia representing us there. I am quite at a loss to understand the attitude of members of the Country party. If they vote for the motion submitted to-day by the Prime Minister, they will make it clear that he knew what was in their minds when he said that a number of them did not know what they were voting for on Thursday last, and that they did not know that the “ gun was loaded.” Perhaps some of them will be able to explain their position, and particularly the honorable member for Grampians, whom I cannot forget in connexion with the present position. I ask the Prime Minister now to say whether he honestly believes that the honorable member for Grampians did not, on Thursday last, know that the “ gun was loaded?” No reply.
– Questions at this stage are disorderly.
– Then I might ask the right honorable gentleman to repeat now the reference he made to the Sphinx the other day. It is clear that he can be a sphinx when it suits him. The honorable member for Grampians will surely not tell me that when the vote was taken on Thursday last, on his motion for the adjournment of the House, he did not know what he was voting for.
– I knew exactly what I was voting for, and, on a similar motion, I would vote again in the same way.
– How will the honorable member vote on the motion now before the House?
– That is another question altogether. This is not a question dealing with ocean freights.
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Grampians that, if he finds he cannot refrain from interjecting, he had better retire temporarily from the Chamber.
– The Prime Minister is, to-day, giving honorable members an opportunity of registering a vote on’ two points - Whether the House is desirous that the Government should not regard the vote on Thursday as one intended to take the business of the House out of its hands; and whether it wishes the Prime Minister to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference. If the honorable member for Grampians did mean what he said, he is the greatest conjurer with words I have ever heard of. I have always believed that the honorable member was serious, but we are now told that his motion was merely by-play to ventilate something. Honorable members will recollect that I told them on Thursday, long before the vote was taken on the motion, that members of the Country party would not vote for it. I did not dream that a vote would be taken on the motion. I assumed that honorable members opposite, if not of the Country party, then of the Nationalist party, would have sufficient nous to talk the motion out. If I had been sitting on the Nationalist side, certainly no vote on it would have been taken.
– If I had been here there would have been no vote taken on it.
– I can quite believe that. In conclusion, I say that if the members of the Country party are true to their statements and to the vote they recorded on Thursday last, it will not be possible for them to reverse that vote to-day.
.- I am pledged to vote against “the Government on each and every opportunity, and I shall do so. I have sincerely welcomed the members of the Country party to this House, because I recognise that, usually, the members of a new party are more honest and more steadfast than others in their pledges to their constituents, and more determined to carry them out. According to an old proverb, little dogs just leaving tbeir mothers may expect to meet a lot of cuffs and kicks in going through the world. The Country party has had its first rebuff and, probably, as long as they live, members of that party will, in future, know that once a motion -is lodged in this House, and carried to a vote, it may turn out to be a loaded gun, and its explosion be fraught with dire consequences.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) spoke of the East, and referred to the idea amongst certain nations that Australians will not fight. The honorable member will agree that Australians have emblazoned their name with a noble record on the firmament of war, and no nation can now have any doubt that if the cry of Australia is raised Australians will fight. A sense of bashfulness, and not the colour of the cover of the volume, forbids me quoting at length from a book which I have here, because I was one who supplied some notes for it. In 1905 I became converted to a view I did not hold previously. When I saw the mighty millions of the East living in good health under conditions under which Europeans could not possibly exist; and when I recognised the genius of the nation which was then fighting Eussia, I came to the conclusion that if the East were led by that nation the world would be at its feet. I have always taken up the position that, if I had been born an Eastern, whether in China or Japan, I should have but one motto, and that would be, “ Death to the white races.” Our record in the East would deserve that, if the white races who injured the Eastern people were to be punished for what they did. Following up the remarks made by the honorable member for Robertson, I shall make a quotation from page 54 of this volume, from a statement made by Baron Katsura, at a time when there was an idea that the East would be led by Japan.
– I was not speaking only of. Japan by any means.
– -I quite understand that the honorable member was referring to China, India, and’ other Eastern nations. I have no desire to misrepresent him. Baron Katsura said -
Whether or not it is the destiny of Japan to be leader of the East remains to be unfolded, but if ever that responsibility shall be hers, there is one thing of which the world may be sure, and that is, that she will not willingly retrace her steps, and she will, at least, endeavour to persuade the East to do what she has done herself, and more perfectly.
I will make one other quotation, from memory, of a statement made by the general who led the Japanese against the Chinese and conquered them. He said that in the middle of the century in which we now are, Japan would be fighting Europe for the domination of the world. I recognise what Japan has done for Australia. I appreciate it, and pay that country reverence for it. My belief is that, had Japan been joined to Germany, the members of this Parliament might to-day be speaking in Japanese or German. Japan was a loyal. ally, but, asI said in my book, when I thought of the East in conflict with the West, I hope should such a conflict come, that the European nations and the great United States of America will then be united, Great Britain leading the AngloSaxon races, Germany the Teutons, France the Latins, supported by Italy and Spain, and Russia, whose territories touch the frontiers of the Eastern nations, the Slavs. At that time we never dreamed that the terrible war through which we have just passed would take place. As I said then, we have one great friend in America, who to-day stands sentinel between us and the East. The words uttered by Admiral Sperry in New Zealand should be taught throughout Australia. He said, “You have no reason to fear while the Stars and Stripes float on the oceans of the world.” We reciprocate that offer of assistance. Were the offer made to me ‘of a treaty with Japan against the wish of America, I would say “No.” Our greatest hope is in that immense nation whose people speak our tongue. As to the choosing of a representative of Australia at the Peace Conference, the Senate, of course, would be all but unanimous in voting for the Prime Minister, and, although I have fought the right honorable gentleman year after year, and would like to kill him politically, I do not think any one man would have a chance of beating him if a similar selection were made by this House.
– Would you vote for him ?
– If the choice were between a gentleman who represents the void and the Prime Minister, I would vote for the latter, because, with all his faults he has courage, and that I do not think the other man has.
– What about sending Jowett ?
– His company is too pleasant to lose. If I might ‘make a suggestion to the Country party, it is this, a gift bestowed grudgingly is never welcomed. If you are going to support the Government, do it thoroughly; do not take half and half measures. Do one thing or the other. Some members speak like lions and act like cats. This is a turning point in the history of Australia. I firmly believe that the colour that dominates this continent will ultimately rule the world, and I want to hand Australia down to the white races as a legacy for ever. We must be represented at the forthcoming Conference. If it were possible to send a representative from each of .. the three parties in the House, together with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), the independent member whose party is absolutely unanimous, and if the Prime Minister led that representation of four, he would be so supported that Europe would know that Australia is for the White Australia policy for all time. The tone adopted need not convey the slightest insult to that country which helped us so much during the war. I shall on another occasion quote the greatest letter ever penned by the hand of man, or ever framed in the brain of man; that of the great philosopher Herbert Spencer. It is the only letter that was ever acted upon by a nation. When he was appealed to by
Japan to say how that country could best avoid entangling alliances so as not to quarrel with the white races, he replied, “Do not part with any of your landGive no rights to foreigners in coasting vessels, no rights on the railways, and no mining rights.” He concluded his letter by saying that, as his years were many, he must be nearing the end of them, and therefore asked that his letter might not be published until he had passed away. The Japanese Government loyally complied with that wish. Then the Times, of London, printed a criticism of Herbert Spencer that was as infamous as the brain that conceived it. Japan paid the greatest honour to our race and language in asking our greatest philosopher to advise her. If we followher example, there will be no trouble. J apan, as the Prime Minister has truly said, will not allow any foreigner to own her land. She goes further. As the right honorable gentleman said, she actually returned to China Chinese labourers who had been sent to Japan. I believe that, excluding religious concessions, no European owns an acre of land in Japan. Could we not approach that country with the _ word “ reciprocity,” which is held sacred in the mind of the Eastern, and has been handed down by that great Oriental philosopher Confucius, and say, “ You cannot blame us if we follow your splendid example in taking the advice of our greatest philosopher, Herbert Spencer. You would like to come to Australia. Our territory is exactly 11.4 times the size of yours. For every Australian who owns an acre in Japan we shall be willing for a Japanese to own eleven times as much in Australia; as your population is 11.4 times the size of ours, -for every Australian who visits your country we will gladly allow eleven Japanese to visit us.” As imitation is the sincerest flattery, we could not be accused of rudeness if we said “We are willing to follow your splendid example.” That is the White Australia policy in one sentence. I have no doubt how the vote will go.
– How will it go?
– I think that the country members will vote like lions for the motion. Can you expect anything else in the present state of things, when this created thing that we call Parliament has made itself more powerful than its creator, the people outside ? Is it any wonder that party government prevails?
– Give us a referendum.
– We want it, and the recall. The Nationalist party has accepted that, lock,’ stock, and barrel. The members of my own party have accepted two-thirds of my programme. The Government of Victoria have accepted the whole of it. The Australian Natives’ Association, the strongest friendly society in Australia, has carried the referendum, initiative and recall.
– Did not this House do that?
– Thanks to the astuteness of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), to whom I again acknowledge my obligation, this House did so unanimously. I have no doubt how the present vote will go, and I again advise the members of the Country party not to “shilly-shally.” Their actions should accord with their votes. When you make an offer to the Government, do not draw it back again. Give with a heart and a half. If you are going to support them, do so,, and vote straight.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) seems fairly confident as to the . result of the division; I am not satisfied that he is correct, though, as the Prime Minister has brought this motion forward, I Qlo not doubt that the right honorable gentleman has received veTy considerable assurances that all will be right. I should like to have a clear understanding of the attitude of the members of the Corner party. These occurrences are likely to become the subject of discussion upon the public platform, and to be mentioned during electoral campaigns. It is well, therefore, that we should at least understand the views of each other, and that there should be no mistaking where we stand . and our reasons for standing where we do. I was once, in another Parliament, quoting the speech of a member when he interrupted with the question “How did I vote?” and on looking up the division list I found that his vote had been directly contrary to his speech. If the Prime Minister is justified in his expectation of a favorable division., some of the members of the Country party will vote contrary to their speeches. The motion is not illuminative. It orders the printing of a paper. I have not seen that paper, nor, I think, have other honorable members j and I was reminded a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that considerable misunderstandings sometimes arise through not having papers properly authenticated. An instance of the kind occurred within the last forty-eight hours, quite a sensation being occasioned by the receipt in Bendigo of a document expressing the intentions of the Prime Minister which was not properly authenticated. I hope, therefore, that the right honorable gentleman, if <he can do so, will be good enough to let us have a copy of the invitation to attend a Conference in June, of which he has told us. Personally, I should like to see it. To, my mind, two parties have backed down since the House adjourned last week. .. The Prime Minister has obviously’ backed down from the attitude which he adopted in this chamber, because he definitely stated then, in as plain, language as he is capable of using - which is saying a good deal - that he required an ‘assurance of immunity from the Country party.
– No, I did not; the honorable member is wrong.
– Then, may I inquire, what did the right honorable gentleman ask?
– When the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was speaking he used these words, “ YoU want to bludgeon out of us an assurance of complete immunity.” And my interjection was - as honorable members will see from Hansard - “You are quite wrong.”
-Yes, I agree that the Prime Minister was quite wrong in endeavouring to bludgeon immunity from the Country party.
– I meant’ that the Leader of the Country party was quite wrong in entertaining any such suggestion.
– I am going upon published reports of a public statement made in this House by the Prime Minister. Am I to take it now that he does not want immunity?
– I : did not say that.
– The right honorable gentleman either wants immunity or be does not; but this much . ‘is certain, namely, that this House and the country understood that the Prime Minister was asking for - I will not say “bludgeoning” - an assurance from the -Country party that his Government would be given immunity from serious attack during his absence in the Old . Country. And I understand that the Prime Minister _ is still asking for that. Indeed, I am quite sure that he would not leave these shores unless he had secured a guarantee in that direction. Whether it will have been, given in this House or not, the right honorable gentleman will have had a private negotiation, before going on board ship, which will have led him to the conclusion that the Government will be quite safe.
– I refer the honorable member to what I have said. I am satisfied with Che assurance which has been given by the -honorable member for Cowper.
– And I am satisfied with it, too. ‘ I am satisfied that the Leader of the Country party, on behalf of its members, has no intention of embarrassing the Government during the absence of the Prime Minister, and that he intends . to give, or has privately given, a guarantee of immunity.
– The Prime Minister clearly gavo this House and the country to understand that he desired immunity from honorable members in the corner; and the latter clearly and emphatically refused to give an assurance of such immunity. Now we have before the House a formal motion, in regard to which- the Prime Minister says that if it is carried he will take it as an assurance that he can go with safety to the Imperial Conference, and also as an assurance that this House desires that he should be the representative of Australia there. ‘ That amounts to a complete climb-down from the position which the right honorable gentleman took up last week. He had an air of confidence about him when he spoke in this chamber then. He strutted into a difficulty, and has now crawled out of it, not for the sake of physical exercise, but from political necessity. The honorable member for Cowper has had some conversations, I take it, with the Prime Minister since the House adjourned last week. I may be wrong in coming to that conclusion, but I repeat that, outside this chamber, and between the moment of the adjournment last week and the time when you, Mr. Speaker, took the chair to-day, conversations occurred between representatives of the Country party and of the Government with respect to the situation that has arisen. I can be told by interjection whether that is true or not, but that is the conclusion at which I have arrived. I repeat it. Between the date of our departure from these precincts last Friday and the hour of meeting to-day, honorable members sitting opposite, belonging to the two parties, learned exactly . how they were to vote on the motion, which has been moved by the Prime Minister. Since no assurance has been given in this House, openly, that the Prima Minister will be granted immunity during his absence, the impression will go out- and justifiably, too - that some secret understanding has been arrived at, a kind of rapprochement between the two parties, whereby the Prime Minister will not be disturbed during his absence. It is due to this House and to the country that some representatives of the Corner party should state whether or not that is true.
– There is no secret understanding whatsoever.
– Then, may I ask the honorable member, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether any discussions have taken place, since the adjournment’ of the House on Friday, between honorable members of the Corner and members of the Government ?
Honorable members interjecting,
– That, I take it from- the general tone of the response, is admitted. It is due, then, to honorable members and to tie public that they should know exactly what those discussions upon a public matter were, or what was the nature of them. I suppose that in a few minutes we shall witness the sorry spectacle of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and those other honorable members associated with him, actually voting to impress the Prime Minister that they do not wish that the Government shall regard Thursday’s vote as having been intended to take the conduct of business out of the hands of the Government.
– The honorable member for Grampians will only be doing, in such event, exactly what he did on Thursday. He stated that his motion for adjournment was not to be regarded as reflecting upon the Government in the remotest degree.
– Then, why all this fuss? Responsibility is thrust on the Prime Minister, in the circumstances which he now sets out, of having wasted the time of this House and the country between then and now ; that is, if he Bays the position is the same to-day as it . was when Thursday’s vote was taken. However, I differ from the Prime Minister in this regard : If the honorable member for Grampians did not know on Thursday what he was doing-
– I did know, and I know now what I am doing.
– Then, if the honorable member did know, he voted to take business out of the hands of the Government.
– I did not. I voted for my own motion.
– Perhaps the honorable member will admit that the carrying of his motion did take the business out of the hands of the Government.
– No; I do riot agree with that.
– It appears to be quite impossible to conduct a serious discussion with the honorable gentleman. Every - individual who has come to the use of reason - which usually arrives at or about the a’ge of seven - will know that when a private member moves and carries a motion, “-.That the House do adjourn “ - such motion not having been moved by the Government - the effect is to take the business out of the Government’s bands. Everybody knows that the honorable member for Grampians moved the motion of adjournment, and that the motion was carried.
– Quite right, I did; it was.,
– Therefore, the honorable member’s motion did take the business out of the hands of the Government. The honorable member says he knew what he was doing. Well, if he did know what he was doing, he must have known that he was taking the conduct of business out of the hands of the Government.
– I did know what I was doing, and I intended to do it.
– I know that the honorable member knew. I know that he would nob have made the great financial success which he has in his business career if he did not know what he was doing. He is not one of those who doe3 not know, and I am merely trying now to persuade him that, since he did know what he was doing, <he did intend to take, and did succeed in taking, the business out of the hands of the Government.
– I did not do that.
– What I want to know is this - and I ask the honorable member if he will tell me cm behalf of his party-
– I speak for myself,
– Then, on behalf of himself, in view of the fact that the honorable member knew what he was doing, will he tell me how he intends to vote on the motion of the Prime Minister to-day ? The right honorable gentleman has moved for the printing of a certain paper in order, as.. he says, to afford honorable members an opportunity of expressing and registering their opinions ‘ by a vote - and that is definite enough - on two points. . Tho first of these is whether it is considered desirable that the Government should not regard the vote of Thursday last as one intended to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. That ako is definite enough.
– It certainly is definite.
– I am glad it so impresses the honorable member; and now may I ask again, does he intend to say that he is desirous that the Government should not regard Thursday’s vote as having been intended to take the business out of their hands?
– My motion was obviously never so intended, but to draw attention to a matter of urgent public importance.
– If it was the purpose of the honorable member merely to draw attention to a matter of urgent public importance, he should have known, with his long experience, that the practice in such circumstances is not to press one’s motion to a division, but to ask leave to withdraw it.
– I do not agree with that at all.
– It is the practice of the House of Commons, if the honorable member does not know that.
– Then it is quite time the practice was altered, both in the House of Commons and here.
– It has been altered in this House. It - was altered here on Thursday last.
– And a good thing it was.
– I hope the practice4 thus established will be continued.
– I am with the honorable member there.
– And that the honorable member will know, for the future, when he moves a motion, and presses it to a division, which is carried against the Government, that he is doing something which can only have tho effect of taking the business of the House out of the hands of the Government.
– I am prepared to take full responsibility for what I did on Thursday.
– If the honorable member is so prepared, and his party, as a party, is similarly prepared, he and they must vote against the motion of the Prime Minister.
– Not at all.
– They must do so to be consistent. If they do not, then it ‘is no personal consideration of mine. I have nothing but the most friendly feelings for the honorable member for Grampians, and would be sorry to know that anything had happened to him. of a damaging nature - other than that he should lose his seat in this House - but, if his constituents truly appreciate the situation, they will know what they should do. They will perceive that his action in voting in support of the Prime Minister’s motion will be - just as in regard to the votes cast by the honorable member’s colleagues in the corner - a direct retraction of what he and they did last Thursday ; for which he and they will be branded as insincere, not truly representing his and their constituents, but a mere appendage to the Government. If we cast our eyes over the divisions that have been taken in this House since members of the Country party were returned as a party at the last election, we shall find that on every occasion when the life of the Government, was at stake the votes of the members of the Country party saved it.
– That showed their common sense.
– My honorable friend from Wide Bay may say that. I am only concerned with showing that honorable members on the Ministerial side are one and the same party. I am not after their votes. I am after their seats in the interests of the farmers themsalves, and therefore I want the electors of the Commonwealth to thoroughly understand the nature of this party, and know whom they are voting for when they cast their votes for our honorablefriend’s in the corner. Of. course, I may be deceived as to how they are going to vote on this motion. They, may vote against the Government, so I keep an open mind on the subject; but if, when the division bells ring, they cast their votes for the motion submitted by the Prime Minister, they will stand condemned in the eyes of the people of this country.
.- I have no desire to prolong this debate, which concerns a matter of urgent importance to the people of Australia and the Empire, but my name has been so frequently intruded into it by honorable members of both sides that I am afraid silence on my part now might be misconstrued. I regret, indeed, the necessity for my attendance here to-day. I should have been in another State for urgent, private reasons, but I felt that my absence from this Chamber while this subject -was under discussion might be misunderstood and misrepresented. “Remarks which I have heard this afternoon confirm me in this belief. It will be recalled that on Thursday last, after having given you, sir,’’ due notice and also, as courtesy demanded, the Government, I submitted a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of considering a matter of urgent public importance, namely the excessive rates of ocean freights charged on Australia’s exportable products.
– Will you repeat your arguments now?
– Some other time_ I shall be pleased to engagein conversation with my honorable and learned’ friend, the member for Batman. But now is not the moment. I adopted that procedure because I felt that it presented the best opportunity of drawing attention to the extreme disabilities under which our producers, and those dependent upon them, are labouring owing to the exces sive ocean freights now ruling. I knew of no other method by which my purpose could be served. That was the means frequently used in this House, hitherto, and I have no doubt that it will be the means frequently to be adopted in the future. I have heard nothing, in the course of the debate during the last few days, to dissuade’ me from pursuing the same course on future occasions when 1 may consider it my duty, m the interests of the people, to direct attention to some matter of urgent public importance. My purpose -was not, as has been suggested by people with sinister motives-
– Are you reflecting on honorable members ?
– I am not reflecting on any honorable member of this House. Could it be conceived’ that any member of this Chamber should impute such a motive to any other honorable member? The only object of my motion was, as stated, to call attention to a matter of urgent public importance. It was not intended to reflect in any way upon the Government, because I do not hold the Government responsible for what has taken place.
– Then why did you introduce the motion ?
– Because it was the only method! I knew of to direct attention to an urgent matter, and it is the well recognised method of this House,
– What good did you nope to do by the motion ?
-I hoped to do a great deal of good, and I may tell the honorable member for Ballarat, in whose constituency a large number of people are gravely oppressed by the excessive ocean freights, that the debate upon, my motion last Thursday has done an enormous amount of good. I have nothing to regret and nothing to recant.
– You held the Government responsible for the position ?
– I did not. I stated last Thursday that I had no desire to reflect in any way upon the Government in ‘the matter of ocean freights. How, then, in the name of common sense, could such a meaning be construed into my motion ? How could it be regarded as one of want of confidence in the Government? My honorable friends have twitted me with my previous experience and career before entering this House.
– Who twitted you ?
– The honorable member himself did. ‘
– No. I congratulated you upon your career.
– Then I thank the honorable member for his congratulation as well as the generous manner in which he referred to my previous experience; but Imay say that during my business life I have been accustomed to a plain meaning being attached to plain language, and I must confess that I am astonished at what has taken place since the vote on my motion. I realized that if the motion were earned it would necessarily involve the adjournment of the House.-
– Did all the members of your party know what they were voting for ?
– I am here to speak for myself, not for members of my party. They are able to speak for themselves. I repeat that. I realized that the carrying of my’ motion involved the adjournment of the House.
– Of course it did. You knew that last Thursday.
– I did, and the motion was carried partly because I voted for it, and partly because other members, including my honorable friends opposite, voted for it; but, curiously enough, they seem to be very angry at the outcome. I am surprised at this avalanche of talking, which has been entirely misdirected, and that honorable members, one after another, have taken for granted what obviously was not a fact. I trust I am not exceeding the privilege of parliamentary language when I say that I give honorable members opposite credit for persuading themselves that what they have alleged was a fact, but I am equally certain they have not persuaded the people of Australia to their view. The people, as most honorable members will admit, know that my motion was intended purely, as stated, for the purpose of calling attention to a matter of urgent public importance, and not to indicate any want of confidence in the Government.
– But it had that effect.
– That is a pure invention, about which some honorable members of this House have been able to deceive themselves.
– That is rough on the Prime Minister.
– It was not intended’ as a motion of want of confidence, though its adoption involved the adjournment of the House.
– Do you riot realize that to take the business out of the hands of the Government is a vote of want of confidence?
– I do not believe it.
If I were asked for my opinion - -
– Well, you know now.
– I do not. If I were asked for my opinion, I would say that it is preposterous nonsense to suggest that the carrying of such a motion implied want of confidence in the Government. It may be regarded as such according to precedents of this House and precedents of the House of Commons. I do not know. There are some “members who “ scorn delights, and live laborious days” reading ancient volumes dealing with precedents and procedure; but, if they believe that the carrying of such a motion as mine implied want of confidence in the Government, then it is high time such precedents were discarded. Any such suggestion makes no impression upon me. I did not intend my motion as one of want of confidence in the Government, and I am equally certain that not one person in 10,000 in Australia holds that view. But it has pleased some people, for their own ends, to try to persuade the public that it was intended as a motion of want of confidence; and we hear this view repeated as parrots repeat with damnable reiteration some stupid cry. I am ‘satisfied, however, that it will make no impression upon the people of Australia.
– Youmerely wanted a holiday after your effort.
– After the strenuous life which some of my honorable friends have been leading lately, no doubt they desired a holiday.
– If all that the honorable member contends is correct, it was his obvious duty to vote with the Government on the division which was taken upon bis own motion.
– Not- at all. There are, apparently, many hcnorable members who do not care how these ocean freights are crushing the producing industries. I brought forward my motion because I believed that it was a matter of urgent public importance, and as such it has been regarded by the whole of the people of Australia. I have no regrets concerning it. I am glad it was pre.sed to a division. I thank the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) for having called for a vote. I am glad that I voted for it. I am glad that the honorable members of the Country party supported me. But I do not admit that the motion should have, by the remotest stretch of imagination, been construed as it was by some into a motion of want of confidence in the Government.
– Why did the Prime Minister accept it in that way?
– That question should be properly addressed to the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has laid down an entirely new doctrine of government. He wants government by minority, which would be all right if the Labour party were in power, but whilst we are sitting in Opposition we will stand for government by majority. Of course, the Farmers party will vote for the Government to-day. They must support the Prime Minister, that marvellous man who pleased every one by the great speech! he made upon the necessity for his presence at the Imperial Conference. The Japanese were pleased with it. They saw, in him an ally. They laud him to the skies for his marvellous diplomatic speech. The British Government were pleased atj his marvellous diplomatic speech. The Tory press, their followers, were pleased. The Yanks were also pleased. What a marvellous man the Prime Minister is! There is no need now for ah Imperial Conference, because he has. at once brought all the contending parties into agreement by what he has said.
The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) says that he did not mean his gun to be loaded.
– That is wrong. What is the use of talking in that parrot fashion ?
– If the honorable member did not mean his motion to be a want of confidence motion, surely by this time he can see that the’ Government took it as such.
– That is their look-out.
– If the honorable member meant his vote the other day seriously, he must vote against the Government this afternoon. The honorable member admits that, by submitting the motion for the adjournment of the House to . bring under the notice of the people the very high rates of ocean freight the people of Australia are obliged to pay, he obtained all he desired. Yet he deliberately voted against the Government, who, he said, were not to blame for those rates.
We would like to know exactly where the Farmers- party stand. I claim that they are exactly the same party as the Nationalist. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), the latest recruit to the party, may say nasty things against the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister may retort in an equally nasty way, but we believe that, if necessary, the honorable member will vote with the Prime Minister. Likewise the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). He cares little whether the Prime Minister is a statesman or a mountebank; but when the time arrives, and if it is necessary for him to do so, he will vote with the Prime Minister. Why, therefore, allthis nonsense as to whether it is safe for the Prime Minister to leave Australia without a promise of immunity for his Government? The right honorable gentleman knows, as well as we know, that in the Farmers party there are always four or six members who are prepared to vote to save the Government from defeat. They would have done so last week only that they made a mistake. The whole of the party will at any time vote to save the Government from the Labour party.
Mr. Hector Lamond__ That is the aesurance for which the Prime Minister has been waiting.
– The honorable member has struck the point. Some member on the Government side may be anxious to split his party, but as long as the Nationalists keep solid, the Farmers party must fall in behind them. In these circumstances, we have wasted the last four days. But the country ought to know what the Farmers party really mean - whether they will keepthe G-overnment in office until the Prime Minister Teturns, or whether they intend to , put them out as soon as he leaves.
– Why does not the honorable member allow us to have a vote on this question? Then we would soon tell him what he wants to know.
– Unfortunately, the vote will not prove it; otherwise it might as well have been taken hours ago. We want an announcement from the Country party as to what they really intend to do. Their leader tells us that he will not eat dirt, and will not give a promise of complete immunity. The people ought to know what the party have actually promised to do. They claim that the greatest respect should be paid to constitutional government and to the carrying out of pledges. In those circumstances, I am sure they will let the people know what they intend to do. Otherwise the Prime Minister will not know his position. The only assumption we can make, if he does leave Australia, is that the Farmers party are still under the wing of the Government, and will keep them in office during his absence.
.- While the history of the past week of the Commonwealth Parliament might be somewhat interesting because of its sensational character, it is most unedifying to those who desire to see the application of those forms of constitutional government which receive , the unanimous confidence of the people of Australia. Such proceedings are likely to destroy the prestige of constitutional government; and we know that during recent years there has been a feeling in the community that the existing forms of government are not working in the best interests of the people at large, and certainly do not faithfully represent those measures of progress which the people desire to see instituted in Australia. Unfortunately, this is not the only occasion on which similar circumstances have arisen in the public life of this country. Not long since, the Prime Minister gave a definite assurance to the people that if he did not secure their approval of a certain matter submitted to a referendum he would not continue in office. We remember that, while technically he may have kept to his word by walking out through the back door, he very conveniently found his way back again, evidently having been assured before he left that he would be reinstated in the position he was vacating. What took place on that occasion did not add to the prestige of this Parliament or lead the people to have confidence in the existing forms of government. In fact, it afforded to those who are endeavouring to destroy constitutional government a very good argument and an opportunity of undermining that feeling of respect which the people should have for it. I regret ‘that I have been associated with a Parliament in which the circumstances of last week were recorded. At one time, the Prime Minister asserts with the greatest indignation that he will not carry on if he does not secure absolute immunity for his Government during his absence at the Imperial Conference, yet now he is prepared to accept the meanest of assurances given to him privately as to the support that his Ministry is likely to receive. The adverse vote recorded against him last week is not sufficient to cause him to reconsider the position of the Government. Sir Henry Parkes, when Premier of New South Wales, was confronted with a similar set of circumstances, but, in keeping with the highest traditions of constitutional government, as observed by those intrusted with important positions of State, he tendered his resignation to the Governor immediately he found that he was not in the possession of the . confidence ‘of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly, and the Leader of the Opposition at the time was intrusted with the formation of a new Ministry. It was not so with the present Prime Minister, who did not allow the House to exhaust its opportunities and show that he or some one else was the best person to be intrusted with the leadership of a Government. Irrespective of whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) proceeds to Great Britain or not, the prestige of Australia has been depreciated because of the fact that he has not adopted the constitutional course, to ascertain whether he possessed the confidence of a majority of honorable members. The action of the members of the Country party reminds me of persons playing with political firearms, whilst ignorant of the danger likely to arise from careless handling. If these honorable members are so inexperienced in parliamentary procedure that they do not know the result of their actions, the people of” Australia have a right to demand an explanation. I do not think that the representatives of that party should be placed in a position of responsibility if they do not know what their actions are likely to lead to. Certainly they should not be given a licence to use political weapons, and I am hoping that at the next general election that such honorable members as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and the honorable member for Pe/th (Mr. Fowler), as well as others who occupy seats on the corner benches, will be called upon to explain their behaviour last week. It is probable that the electors will recognise their incapacity, and will see that others are sent here in their place. After the experience we have had, and anticipating the vote that will be recorded on this motion, their incapacity and inconsistency is clearly shown. It will be demonstrated beyond’ all doubt that their actions are inconsistent, and cannot in any way be reconciled with those of men who should understand what they are doing. That being so, I feel sure that upon. the first occasion that presents itself the people of Australia will not fail to record strong condemnation of their conduct, and - if I am allowed to say it - their lack of sincerity and their incapacity in not knowing the value of the votes they were1 recording. Their action of last week is revolting to intelligent men, and is not in accordance with the best form of parliamentary government.
There is no doubt that some will endeavour to misconstrue the result of the vote that is to be taken, and I desire to state most emphatically that, although we on this side may vote against the printing of the paper, we are not opposed to a representative of Australia proceeding to the Imperial Conference. That is not the question involved at all. We, as members of the Opposition - I think I can speak for all the members of my party - do not object to Australia being represented at the forthcoming Conference, but we are not desirous of the present Prime Minister, who is holding his position on sufferance, and who has been proved by the vote of last Thursday not to possess the entire confidence of the House, proceeding to Great Britain and pretending to represent Australia. At the same time I feel that our position should be made quite clear. The deliberations at the Imperial Conference will be controlled largely by Imperial considerations; but we must remember that we are a people claiming a constitutional form of government with full legislative power. It should not pass without notice that it is not our desire to be controlled by certain decisions which will be absolutely binding upon the whole of the people in the Commonwealth. Personally I am not prepared to delegate to any individual or group of individuals outside of Australia the right to determine Australia’s destiny. If it is said that the members of this party are imbued with disloyalty, and desire to cut the painter, I give that a most- emphatic denial, because honorable members on this side of the House, and the people they represent, are as loyal, if not more loyal, than many honorable members supporting the ‘Government.
– We should be loyal to the working class first.
– I quite concur with the honorable member; we should be loyal to the people we represent. We are desirous that the best interests of the people shall be conserved, and the Prime Minister in his present position does not represent the feelings of a majority of the people of Australia. I offer no apology for my contribution to this debate, because when 1 see in this House such strong Imperialists as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) giving their indorsement to the proposal for the Prime Minister to proceed to Great Britain as Australia’s representative, I have great fears of the Commonwealth being committed to some form of Imperial control, which we do not desire or sanction. I protest against the unseemly conduct of last week, and the manner in which parliamentary procedure has been manipulated by the members of the Country party and those supporting the Government. After having witnessed what has transpired during the past few days, I believe there is a good deal of justification for the words used by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who, when speaking at a meeting at St. Kilda last week, definitely stated “ That men who had been in politics for many years had noted a gradual decline in the intellectuality and. personality of the parliamentarians of Australia.” Those present at the meeting ( loudly applauded that expression of opinion, and, after the experience of last week, there is a number in this House who would say that the behaviour of the Prime Minister and his supporters has justified the remark. I am satisfied, although I sincerely regret it, that there appears to be a decline in the quality of the public men of Australia. Unfortunately, we have too many politicians and too few statesmen ; I hope in the near future that the people of Australis will rectify the present position by returning a party with a majority who will see that what is done is in accordance with the highest traditions of constitutional government, which we have the right to demand.
– During the course of this debate I have been referred to as one who has changed his attitude to the Government, and the honorable member for. Maranoa (Mr. James Page) made some reference to the raising of the white flag. I think that honorable members who know me will admit that I have been through a good many strenuous political battles in my time, and have never sought shelter under that banner. I can assure the honorable member for Maranoa, and other honorable members who do not know me as he does, that I have no intention of ever raising the white flag. I would rather go down in the fight.
– I withdraw the accusation.
– And I accept it in the’ spirit in which it is ‘tendered. I desire to make my position quite clear-. Some time ago I intended to move a motion of a somewhat momentous character, and I now desire to state that I have not changed my mind in the least regarding the necessity for such a motion being carried by this House. I repared that motion, and was. going to ring it forward at what I thought was a fitting time.
– The honorable member never moved his motion.
– I had prepared a motion which I was willing to move in the House in the event of the necessary support being afforded.
– I would have supported it.
– And so would I.
– I appreciate the promised support. Honorable members will realize that I was entitled to support in other quarters before I was justified in moving it. The present position, however, is one which necessitates putting aside for the time being the upsetting of an arrangement which would enable Australia to be represented . at the Imperial Conference. That ought to be the paramount consideration with every honorable member of this House. It is with me at the present time, and my course of action for the time being will be determined by that all-important necessity.
.- I desire to refer to the humiliating position in which the representatives of the Government are placed. A motion for the adjournment of the House was submitted and carried against the Government. It does not matter to me who moved and seconded it. A motion, such as that carried on Thursday last, which takes out of the hands of the Government the conduct of the business of the House is of the gravest political significance; and had the Government desired to retain the honour and respect of their fellow-citizens they would immediately have followed the constitutional course of resigning from’ office. The fact that they did not do so - that they ignored the principle underlying a vote of censure - shows that they are no longer worthy of the confidence of the people. Tha Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), by his action, has belittled the whole of his party. Tie has practically told the Parliament and the country that those whom he . leaves behind when he sails for the Old Country will not be capable of carrying on the business of the Government. He has said, also, in. effect, that he is the only trained man in Australia fit to hold the position of Prime Minister. I dispute that contention . We have on this side of the House men who are as able and as capable as any occupant of the Treasury bench. Had the Government adopted the constitutional course of resigning when the motion was carried against them on Thursday last, the Labour party would have come into power, and it would have been found that we have in our ranks men just as likely to make their mark at the Imperial Conference as is the Prime Minister himself. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman will not have power to commit Australia to any proposal made at that Conference. He cannot bind us to any decision arrived at by it. It is for the Parliament itself to determine what attitude shall be adopted by Australia towards every question dealt with by the Conference. As representatives of a democratic country, we are not going to leave to the decision of any one member of this Parliament grave questions which might involve Australia in war. History is full of incidents showing how careful we should be to avoid anything of the kind. I am certain that there are on this side of the House honorable members who would fill with dignity and efficiency any position to which their country might see fit to appoint them. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has very properly asked whether during the absence of the Prime Minister we, as a Parliament, are practically to be dormant. Are we to be dumb-driven cattle while the Prime Minister is away ? Are we such mere creatures of circumstance that we must be deprived of all legislative power while he is at the Conference? Are we to cease to be representatives of the people and to allow the legislative business of the country to remain at a stand-still ? Those who are prepared to agree to anything of the kind are not fit to be the representatives of a free and enlightened Democracy.
It is not my desire that Australia shall be unrepresented at the Imperial Conference. I want Australia to be fitly represented, and I certainly do not wish it to go forth that only one man in Australia is capable of acting for us. I contend that the Prime Minister, for the time being, whoever he may be, should alone represent Australia at a Conference of this kind. Under our constitutional form of government, the Prime Minister for the time being should have the majority of the Parliament behind him. Within the last few days, however, it has been shown quite plainly that the present Prime Minister has not behind him a majority of the people. Parliament, after all, is but a reflex of the views of the people. Member’ after member has said this afternoon that he is going to support this motion. Do honorable members opposite intend to take that course because they fear something ? I fear nothing, because I do nothing that is not in accordance with the best interests of my constituents. If the Government ignore, as they propose to do, the motion of censure carried against them last Thursday, I am sure that, throughout the country, I shall receive the support of the people when I say that, although the Prime Minister had not the confidence of the House, he clung to office. I shall vote against this motion, not with the object of preventing the representation of Australia at the Conference, but because I feel that the Government has not acted in the best interests of the country. That is the position which we should all take up. If the Prime Minister were made of the same stuff as myself, he would decline to remain in office after the reverse with which the Government met last week. He ‘would decline to run the risk of being humiliated at the Conference by being told that he has not the confidence of a majority of the people. The position taken up by the Government in this matter is without parallel in Australian politics. I could refer to many instances in Australian politics where, on meeting with such a reverse, the Government of the day has resigned, and the mover of the censure motion has been invited to form a new Administration. I remember the late Mr. Want on one occasion moving in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales a motion that no one thought would be attended with such serious consequences as the resignation of the Government. On the carrying of that motion, however, Sir Henry Parkes, who was then Premier, moved the adjournment of the House, and, later on, sent in his resignation to the Governor, with the result that, on the following day, Mr. Want was sent for. The Prime Minister should have adopted the same course. A few nights ago, an honorable member, speaking at St. Kilda, where, I understand, most of the aristocracy of Melbourne live, declared that the intelligence of the Parliament of Australia was fading away. I dare say that he had more particularly in mind the political company he keeps, and, judging by the attitude being taken up by honorable members opposite in regard to this motion he is not far wrong. It is painful to think that our standard of political honour is go low that the Government are prepared to ignore an adverse motion, and to come forward with a proposition of this kind, in the hope that Providence will give them still another opportunity to mismanage the public affairs of Australia. The Government would have risen very much in the estimation of their fellow citizens had they resigned » from office after the vote taken on Thursday last, and invited the GovernorGeneral to send for the Leader of the Opposition. Unfortunately, at the last general elections we were not returned with a majority. This was due largely to the hostility of the press, and to the fear of many people that, if we were returned to power, the condition of the workers would be improved. I have always endeavoured to avoid personalities, but I cannot help remarking that if the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who submitted the motion which was responsible for the defeat of the Government, would exercise a little more judgment as a member of this House, he would do more credit to himself and raise himself in the public esteem. I suppose that it was with a desire to get into the limelight that he submitted his motion for the adjournment of the House, in order to discuss the question of ocean freights. But when an honorable member votes in opposition to the views expressed by him, he belittles himself in the eyes of the public.
This Parliament ought not to be obliged to mark lime during the Prime Minister’s absence in England. Urgent legislative work awaits our consideration, and we should concentrate upon that work immediately. The electors of Australia would never indorse a period of legislative inaction. They k would, if given the opportunity, unhesitatingly affirm that we should proceed at once with the business which we were elected to transact. Many problems confront us, the financial problem being the most acute of all. This matter must be dealt with in- the immediate future, because delay will be both dangerous and harmful. Let us bend all our energies to the solution of the pressing problems which await our attention. It is for the Ministry to set us an example in this connexion, instead of resorting to intrigue to retain their positions. No visitor to our parliamentary galleries to-day could arrive at any conclusion other than that Ministers are insincere. Their conduct is plain evidence of that. They do not possess the confidence either of this House or of the electors of the Commonwealth. If we wish the administrative work of the country to be carried on efficiently, we must have in office a Government which is a reflex of Parliament, whilst Parliament itself must be a reflex of the people. Otherwise we shall never be able to make any real progress.
– Unfortunately, owing to ill-health, I was absent from the House last week when the present political crisis arose. Consequently I had not the pleasure of witnessing the circus performance here, when members of the Country party discovered that there were more votes upon the Opposition side of the chamber, when a division was taken upon ,a formal motion for adjournment, than they anticipatedThe profuse apologies to-day of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who loaded the gun and injured the Government, will, I am sure, be accepted by the Prime Minister.
– I never apologized.
– I am sure that the honorable member’s profuse apologies will be accepted by the Prime Minister and his colleagues, who are, of course, intent upon holding on to office at all costs. The honorable member told us to-day that he did not mean anything.
– I did not say that.
–*The honorable member did not intend that the Government should be defeated. But we can scarcely accept his protestations as being entirely without guile. I believe that he thoroughly understood what he was doing when he submitted the motion for adjournment, and that he fully appreciated the seriousness of closing this Parliament for a day in opposition to the wishes of the Government. That is precisely what occurred. Parliament met to transact business for eight or nine hours, . and a couple of hours after it had, assembled it was, upon a motion moved by the honorable member for Grampians, closed for a day in spite of the wishes of the Government and of their followers. The control of public business was thus taken out of the hands of the Government, and the press in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia recorded the occurrence under the heading, “Defeat of the Ministry.” Of course, the honorable member for Grampians has said that he did not mean to defeat the Government. In other words, he is prepared to vote against the Government only when he knows that there is not a majority against them. I am merely a novice in parliamentary procedure, but I thoroughly understand the seriousness of taking the conduct, of business out of the hands of the Ministry. The honorable member for Grampians is far older in the head than I am. He has made a success of business outside of this Parliament, and consequently we cannot accept his assurance that he voted as he did without knowing what he was voting for. He submitted a motion, and every honorable member who wished to speak upon it did so. A vote upon it was then taken and carried against the Government. The Prime Minister at once became very angry, and straightway^ threatened the Country party with all ‘sorts of pains and penalties. He said that he would refuse to attend the Imperial Conference in the absence of a guarantee that his Government would be immune from attack during his absence. The Leader of the Country party refused to give any such guarantee. He declined to do so both in this chamber and in the public press. The fact is so well known that the dogs are. barking it in’ our streets. But between Friday last and to-day, conversations have taken place between representatives of the Government and of the Country party with the result that, although it is publicly denied, a guarantee has been given that the Ministry will be immune from attack during the Prime Minister’s absence in England. Every member of the Country party knows that a secret understanding has been arrived at between that party and the Government, and that the motion which we are now discussing is the result of collaboration between members of the Country party and members of the Nationalist party.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I was saying that discussions have taken place between the representatives of the Country party and the Government, and an understanding has been arrived at, resulting in the motion submitted to-day.
– Is that correct?
– Where did you get your information from?
– My information is quite correct; if not, what has taken place between the parties since Friday? The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) still publicly refuses to give the Government a guarantee of immunity. The Prime Minister has receded from- his previous position; and it is now for the public to judge whether the Country party or the Nationalist party has backed down. We on this side are of opinion that both have backed down. The Government have been forced to back down openly, whereas the Country party has backed down secretly, and an understandinghas been arrived at between them. It is all very well for the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to say that the Country party is a separate party with a separate room and a separate policy, but if the members of the Country party support the Government, they become accessories to the actions of the Government. During the period the Prime Minister is away in England, if the Government continues to live, a Royal Commission’ will inquire into the administration of the Cockatoo Dockyard - a matter of grave public importance. Three or four Ministers have a “finger in the pie,” though none accepts any responsibility. Apparently the Country party is prepared to carry the odium that will be attached to the Government if the Royal Commission bears out what the Prime Minister has indicated in connexion with the Dockyard. Our friends of the Country party will endeavour, to. convince the public that they are not allied with the Nationalist Government; but on Thursday they helped to defeat the Government, and closed- up Parliament for a day, and, if they are sincere, they will, by their vote to-night, show that they stand by the vote they then gave. I have a vivid recollection of reading, in my boyhood, of the defeat of Governments, and I know that a Government with any telf-respect would not tolerate the business being taken out of their hands for five minutes, much less to allow Parliament to be shut up for a day.
– It shows the stage the Government have reached.
– Quite so; itshows how responsible government is being dragged into disrepute. That is the position which the electors see - that is how the Government stand. The honorable member, for Grampians, who submitted the motion on Thursday last, says he would move again in the same direction under similar circumstances. If so, this Parliament may be shut up for a day, or for a week, and the Government still hold on to office. Whatever balm the Country party may apply to its conscience, and however it may vote to-night, its members cannot escape the fact that they helped to take the business out of the hands of the Government last week, and to-day are prepared to reverse the vote they then gave on the important question of the freights charged, not only by private firms, but by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. We on this side have repeatedly drawn attention to the manner in which the Commonwealth steamers are used to bolster up high freights, but, with the exception of one or two, we cannot induce the members of the Country party to vote with us. On Friday, owing to a mistake-
– There was no mistake; it is your mistake, my friend !
– It is said that every circus has one clown, and I quite believe it.
– Speak for yourself.
– When a gentleman says that there was no mistake, and then apologizes for the way he voted-
– I did not apologize.
-Such a gentleman has no fixed or definite ideas in regard to his actions in Parliament, whatever he may have in regard to his actions outside.
– You know I did not apologize.
– I think your apology will be accepted by the Prime Minister. No censure motion from this side could be so severe as the motion carried on Thursday last. No matter what may be said, we cannot accept the protestations of the members of the Country, party as being sincere; they cannot dissociate themselves from the Nationalist party, despite what they say about their separate room or separate policy. Their policy, when it comes, to votes, as I think will be shown to-night, runs hand-in-hand with that of the Nationalist party.
– ‘See how you will flock over to save the Government on the Tariff!
– The members of the Country party had an opportunity to support the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) if they did not agree with the Tariff. They had an opportunity to throw the Government out of office before even the discussion started; but they did not embrace it. They now say that they will adopt a policy of Free Trade for one section of the community, while granting Protection to another section. Briefly stated, the Nationalist party has eaten humble pie. The Prime Minister is so intent on his trip to England that he is prepared at all costs to hang on to office; indeed, I could go so far as to say that in this he pays great disrespect to the high office he holds. A man who will go, presumably, to represent the whole of Australia, after having suffered defeat at the hands of the Chamber he is supposed to lead, is in a humiliating position. It is for the electors to say whether they approve of the attitude adopted by both of the parties who are opposed to Labour. Honorable members opposite may call themselves the Country party, or they may call themselves Progressives, Liberals, National Labourites, or whatever they like, but when it comes to votes here they are all simply anti-Labour, and their policies run hand-in-hand. In, short, the parties are one and the same, and they are only adding to their long list of broken election pledges. Prior to the elections the members of the Country party gave pledges of hostility to the Nationalists, and I remember reading their speeches in condemnation of the Nationalist administration. Many of the Country party defeated members of the Nationalist party; but what has been the result ? Has it been to the benefit of the people of Australia? Not at all. On every occasion when the life of this condemned Nationalist Government was in danger, it has always been the members of t£e Country party who saved it. The Prime Minister did not approach the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in order to get immunity from attack. Why ? Because the Prime Minister knows it is no use approaching this side in order to establish a safeguard for smothering Up those scandals for which the Government are responsible. The right honorable gentleman knows that it is from the Country party he must get immunity from attack; it is from that party he expects support in smothering up his bad administration, a sample of which is afforded in the case of Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Two of the men who have been most active in condemning the management of the Dockyard are the most active supporters of the Government. What will be the position of the Prime Minister when the findings of the Royal Commission-
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter now.
– There is a danger that the Prime Minister, if he goes as the representative of Australia to the Imperial Conference, may’ find himself without a majority in this House, if all honorable members opposite live up to their pre-election pledges. In my opinion there is a new secret coalition. Those concerned are afraid to come into the open, and so secret conversations are held, and secret understandings arrived at.
-Intriguing is going on; the bad old system of secret diplomacy is adopted by the two. parties opposite in order to secure the present Government in office, the administration of which the Country party itself has been most vigorous in condemning. I trust the members of the Country party will never again have an opportunity of foisting themselves upon the electors as a . separate body from the Nationalist party.. When the vote is taken to-night, I believe it will be seen that the members of the Country party are prepared to keep the present bad old administration alive, despite their protestations on the public platform.
– I think it is only right for me to say that what the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has stated is absolutely correct. Many honorable members opposite who represent country districts seemed to think nothing of the motion _ submitted by the honorable member last week, but I remind them that the freights on primary products between Australia and England mean all the difference between success and failure to a large number of our primary producers.
– Do you say that we think the freights do not matter ?
– Those honorable members to whom I refer sneered and jeered throughout the debate on that motion.
– We supported that motion much to your chagrin, and we are going to be consistent!
– And honorable members opposite have been jeering at me ever since.
– May I break off here to say that the most extraordinary part of this business is that the Country party received the support to a great extent of my honorable friends opposite until we happened to beat the Government, and now they cannot say a good word for us. The motion which the honorable member for Grampians brought before the House is one with which the primary producers from one end of Australia to the other are closely associated. I am firmly convinced that the freights on primary products, with the slump that has taken place in Australia’s primary produce, will mean, unless there is a great, a drastic, and immediate reduction, the spreading of disaster among many of the farmers of Australia.
As to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) going home to England, I have held from the date of the incident, that it was a great mistake that Australia, was not represented in 1917, and it would be worse than a mistake, it would be a criminal blunder on the part of Australia, if we were not represented at the’ approaching Conference. One has only to take up the daily papers to see what is happening in the Pacific. Who can tell what will happen there? There is no part of the world which is so vitally interested in a disturbance in the Pacific as this Australia of ours. We are the furthest removed from the Old Country, and are surrounded by alien races, and not far from those from whom we have aright, perhaps, to expect a friendlier attitude than we have found. This is a time when the whole Empire must stand shoulder to shoulder, or go asunder. Believing that, I say it would be a calamity for Australia if our voice were not raised at that Conference. As to who goes, it is an insult to Australia to say that only one man in the Commonwealth is competent to represent it at the Conference. You, Mr. Speaker, nave been through all this sort of thing with myself and other old members. First it was Mr. Barton, the one man in all Australia fit to “be Prime Minister; then we had Mr. Deakin ; then we had Sir George Reid; then we came down to Mr. Watson; and now we have the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes). All these men take their little turns in the firmament, each as the one man that can represent or deal with Australia; each in his turn disappears, and we find that another man takes his place. So far as my opinion goes on this matter, I stand for every word that the Leader of this party (Dr. Earle Page) said in this House and in New South Wales. We were asked as a party to give immunity to the Government, and we declined to give it.
– Then what do you give to the Government?
– Your Leader did not say that.
– I think honorable, members who know me are aware that I am no apologist for the Prime Minister. I give this House my word of honour that the assumption which I have just heard from the honorable member for Gwydir in his speech has not one tittle of foundation.
– We know different.
– So far as I am aware, and I am in as close touch with my Leader as any other member of this party, the policy of this party has not changed one iota.
– They changed their Leader, I notice.
– They did change their Leader, but that is not a nice remark to make. For twelve months I led my party to the best of my ability. I left that position with honour, and’ I call upon my present Leader to say if there is one member in this party who is giving him a more loyal support than I am to-day. The honorable member’s remark was not a generous one. ,
– I did not intend it in an ungenerous manner for the honorable member. I only wished to point out that the Country party “ sacked “ the honorable member so that they would not have to follow him-
Order! It is quite out of order for . an honorable member to interrupt the honorable member who is addressing the Chair.
– As to the Prime Minister going to England, I say it is his duty to go, but the attitude that this party has taken up, as I amsure my Leader would have said if he had spoken at any length on this motion, has not altered one iota from the utterance which he made here on Friday last. I am not betraying any secret when I say that in that utterance on Friday he expressed the opinions of every individual member of our party. On the question of immunity, I repeat that our party stand unaltered. We have said that we shall take no unfair advantage of the Prime Minister during his absence. We should have followed that course if this discussion had not occurred. I do not believe there is a member in this House - Nationalist, Labour, or Country - who would take an advantage of any member during his absence that he would not take during his presence. Our attitude is that we will take ho unfair advantage of the Prime Minister during his absence. The Government stand or fall on the merits or demerits of their legislation and on the merits or demerits of their administration during his absence as they must do during his presence.
The members of this party have been taunted with not being National and with not representing Labour. I say the Country party are the true Nationalist party of Australia, representing as we do the national primary production of Australia. I say we are the true Nationalists, and I say also that we represent Labour.
The honorable member for Maranoa loudly interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the honorable member forMaranoa, who is an old parliamentarian, and should know better, to assist the Speaker in trying to secure a fair hearing for every honorable member who is called upon to address the Chair. I hope there will be no further interruptions, especially immediately after the Speaker has called for order.
– The Country party represent the true Labour of Australia. Go out into the district that I o’” any other member of this party represents, and you will find there the men who work the hardest and get the least return for their labour. I said in Sydney that if you compare the life of the men out in the Victorian mallee, or in the back-blocks of Western Australia, Queensland, or Tasmania, struggling as they do from morning to night - no eight hours for them - if you compare the labour they perform and the remuneration they receive with the remuneration of the aristocrats of labour in the cities, you will soon see who is the true labourer. The men we represent are the real workers of Australia.
– They are about 30 per cent, of them.
– The honorable member and others know that organization is going on freely and strenuously - I am not complaining of it - against the members of this party. All the bitterness comes because we dare to say that the country men shall send country men to represent them in this Parliament.
I wish to make my position clear. If the Prime Minister accepts the offer that our Leader made to him, that offer stands to-day, the same as it was on Eriday, the same as it was when this discussion began, and the position of this party remains exactly the same to-day.
– Then why has the Prime Minister altered? Why has he backed down ?
– I am not the Prime Minister’s keeper. I do not know why the Prime Minister should alter his views. He must speak for himself.
– He generally has something in his bag when he does.
– This party are in nobody’s bag. It is because this party refuse to walk into a bag that we are sometimes assailed from both sides. I repeat that, on all matters of administration, this party remain absolutely free, untrammelled, and unchallenged tp exercise their right as individuals and as a party, no matter whether the Prime Minister is in England or in Australia. Australia should be represented at the Conference. The’ attitude which the Leader of our party took up is the correct one, that if the Government were not prepared to send their man Home then the alternative course must be taken.
On the question of immunity, and the suggestion that there has been intrigue, I wish on the flooT of this House to state that, so far as I know - and I am, perhaps, in- as close touch with the Leader and officers of this party as any of the individual members of the House - I can give my solemn word of honour that there has been neither intrigue nor improper action by this party during the whole of these proceedings.
.- There are two motions pending before the House, each of them being that a paper should be printed, so that the country may flatter itself with the pleasing thought that, as the result of these long deliberations, there is a reasonable prospect that two papers will probably be printed eventually. The most extraordinary thing about the discussion so far is that none of the debate has been on the papers that it is proposed to print, either in connexion with this motion or the other motion that was suspended to enable this one to be determined. I should like to say a few words to this interesting Government of ours on the position in which they find themselves at present. I shall not be so severe on the Country party as some honorable members have been. I shall not bait the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) on his notorious position in the matter, but I should like to suggest these considerations to the Government and to the Country party : The Government took up the stand that by reason of the motion carried in this House last week their position was challenged and compromised, and that if that expression of opinion stood, the Government must resign. In other words, unless the Country party were prepared to make something in the nature of a retraction of, or compromise with, what they had already done, the Government would be in such a position that they must resign.
– Does not the honorable member think that they should resign?
– I have thought so consistently for months, and I have advocated that course as an easy way out of the manifold difficulties in which this country finds itself, but the Government have not yet taken my advice. I suggest that if the Government had such a sensitive conscience that they felt that they must do something to rehabilitate themselves, an easy and direct course was for them to have asked the Country party whether on mature consideration they indorsed what they had done’ last week. That would have been a very straight question. As the Country party’s vote was vital, and if persisted in would be fatal, the question should have been, if a question was to be asked at all, “Do you on deliberation and reflection adhere to the stand you adopted last week?”
– We never thought of that.
– The Treasurer has thought tremblingly of every aspect of this case for the last week. And I suggest to honorable members of the Country party that, if they are consistent, as they claim to be, and as some of their apologists amongst the Nationalists claim that they are, they should have said - We mean to-day what we meant then. Now go on’ with the work or get out. We have nothing further to say.” But what is the result of the Prime Minister’s lucubrations on this matter? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has come to this House and carefully quoted what the members of the Country party said, and has asked the House to affirm that they meant what they said, and if they meant what they said,« then he, as Prime Minister is satisfied, they are justified, and after the waste of a week we can proceed with the consideration of the Tariff and other matters or importance. That is the position very briefly stated. The Prime Minister said -
In order to afford honorable members an opportunity of expressing and registering their opinion by vote on these two points - (1) whether it is desirous that the Government should not regard the vote on Thursday as one intended to take the business out of its hands - having already received the positive assurance that the members of the Country party did not mean anything of the sort- and (2) whether* it wishes me to represent Australia at the Conference.
Having already received a positive assurance from the members of the Country party that they were quite willing that lie should represent Australia at the Con ference, the right honorable gentleman, initiated a debate to affirm by resolution of a majority the very things which the Country party had said. Therefore the motion can carry us not an inch further than we were at the close of Thursday’s sitting when the vote adverse to the Government was carried. This motion, if carried, will not whitewash the Government. It will be sufficient for .the Prime Minister, who is accustomed to disregard both his own pledges and the votes of the House, and for the docile supporters who sit behind him, and for the go-betweens who talk against the Government and vote with them, but it will not serve any real purpose in undoing anything affirmatively done last week by the carrying of the vote against the Government. I listened to the tearful speech of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) ; he was emotional and eloquent. First of all he turned to his friends and supporters of the Country party, loyal in their vote, though hostile in their speeches, and said, in effect at all events, “ My friends and brothers, you have been consistent in everything.’ Last week, you said that you did not wish other than that’ the Prime Minister should represent us on the other side of the world ; to-day you say the same. Last week you said you had no desire to unduly embarrass the Government; today you say the same. You are consistent, in everything you have said.” And the honorable gentleman was right. But this protagonist of consistency failed to point out that there was grave inconsistency between what members of the Country party said and what they did on the floor of the House. That was the only matter of real interest and importance. Honorable gentlemen in the corner talk nicely, and every sentence is consistent with the preceding one, but ib is only the direction they take when the Speaker asks the House to divide that marks them inconsistent with their speeches. So I leave them in the company of their friend, the honorable member for Kooyong.
It is suggested by the honorable member that our minds should be bent particularly upon the question of our representation at the Imperial Conference, and he has urged that the voice of Anistralia should be heard at that gathering..
The voice of Australia ! I am not quite sure that it is so vastly important that the voice of Australia should be heard at the Conference. I am much more concerned that the voice of Australia should be heard and registered in the Australian Parliament. But if the voice of Australia is to be heard at the Conference, God forbid that it should be piped through the gramophone of the Prime Minister. I should be sorry to think that anything the Prime Minister might say at the Imperial Conference on the other side of the world should bind either my conscience or my outlook upon Australian affairs.I should be sorry to think that the people of ‘this country should ultimately, or ever, feel themselves bound in the slightest degree by the representations made by the present Prime Minister at that Conference.
– He did not do too badly when he was there before.
– He did as badly as he could, and he has always been a genius in doing badly for this country. We are told that, in regard to the question of naval defence, it is important that we should be represented’ at the Imperial Conference. We should be better represented in Australia than we are on questions of naval and other defence, and I should be sorry to think that the Prime Minister spoke for the Parliament of this country on the other side of the world, at all events, to the extent of binding us upon the question of naval defence.
– He tried to bind us on the question of conscription.
– There have been many things in regard to which he has found that he has in this House pliant instruments who will enable him to defeat the will of the majority of the people outside the House. But I leave the matter at this stage.
I do not intend to discuss now the matter of foreign affairs, which will more properly come forward upon another motion. I simply say that it is worse than absurd, it is almost tragic, that this motion should have been tabled to-day for the deliberate purpose of creating a purely fictitious expression of loyalty on the part of members to the Prime Minister. If carried - and it is intended to have the support of the Country party, and it will get the support of that party, because the members of it know that, although they may irritate the Prime Minister with impunity, they may not defeat him with impunity-
– So they will not make good their vote, of last week. There is no danger of their doing so. Therefore, let this paper be printed without further delay, so that we may get on to the consideration of wider and more important Imperial matters, and so that we may have an opportunity, more fittingly in the discussion of. another motion, to register the views of some of us as to where Australia should really stand in Imperial matters, and so that we may have an opportunity of calling attention to the dual voice of this Government, who . with ‘one voice, say - “ We owe everything to Britain; we are subservient to Britain; we are as dross to Britain; we have no independence, we have nothing, and we enjoy nothing but what we get from Britain.” And with the other voice they declare, “ We are going forward with our chest thrown out, a new-born giant nation ‘to give expression to , Australian sentiment.” They do not know what Australian sentiment is. The Prime Minister has not, and never had”, any idea of what real Australian sentiment is. He is now, and always has been, alien from Australian sentiment, and he, with his Government, are- mere toadies and makeshifts for Britain. There is no Australianism in them. But it will be more proper to deal with those matters on another motion, upon which I hope to have the honour of expressing in this Australian Parliament the Australian view. This motion - I may not call it a farce - having been debated, let it be carried by the full strength of the Nationalists, whipped up so that there may be no mistake on this occasion, and let the paper be printed. It is a somewhat informal paper, anyhow, for it is not signed. We should be careful of these unsigned papers. I do not wish the right honorable the Prime Minister to be again misrepresented by an unsigned document. Already an unsigned paper has gone forth which has greatly embarrassed some people and misled them, as to the nature and extent of the Prime Minister’s benevolence.
.- At the outset of my remarks I desire to reply to the statement made by the honorable member forFranklin (Mr. McWilliams) that, although the motion for the adjournment of the House in order to discuss excessive shipping freights was one of vital importance to the people of Australia, it was jeered’ at by members of the Labour party, and did not receive their support.
– I said I was jeered at.
– The statement was that the motion was jeered at and was not supported by honorable members of this side. It may be all right for the honorable member for Franklin to try to mislead the people in some obscure part where there are no press representatives, but it is useless for him to try that sort of thing in this Chamber. As proof that we considered the shipping freights a matter of vital importance, not only to the producers, but to every section of the community, we supported very effectively the motion moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) - too effectively, in the opinion of the mover and the Government. We supported and indorsed the motion submitted last week and voted in favour of it much, as I have said, to the embarrassment of the Government and of our friends in the Ministerial comer. Not only did we support the agitation against the present high oversea freights on that occasion, but we shall further support it to-day in order to emphasize the fact that we meant the vote which we recorded on Thursday last. I mention ‘that in reply to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr.» Jowett).
In common with that honorable member and other honorable members who have spoken, we are of opinion that Australia should be represented at the Imperial Conference, but honorable members on this side are not of the opinion that Australia can be represented by the Prime Minister. .
– We might not lose anything if we were not represented there at all.
– We shall not lose anything if we are not represented by the Prime Minister. T believe, however, that Australia should be represented at the Imperial Conference, but not by the Prime Minister, and I shall do’ my utmost on this and every other occasion to prevent him representing this country. It has been apparent to every honorable member and to all outside who have fol lowed recent events closely, that on Thursday last the Prime Minister thought that he had an excellent opportunity to suggest that the vote then recorded pievented Australia being represented « at the Conference in order to secure a promise of absolute immunity for the Government from members of the Country party. There is not the slightest doubt, judging by the reports given to the press by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and the statement made by the Prime Minister on Friday morning, that he did receive that assurance, and it would have been faithfully carried out had it not been for the f a et that in the remarks which he made the Prime Minister made it too hot for the members of the Country party.
– That is not correct.
– Apparently, the Prime Minister misjudged some of the men with whom he was dealing, and he made it so hot for them that they were forced either to admit publicly that they were so incompetent to represent the electors that they did not know what they were doing and did not know what their vote meant, or to assert their manhood and put up a fight. The Prime Minister overdid things, and made it too hot for members of the Country party, with the result that a number of them repudiated the promises which they had already given him. So we find the right honorable gentleman using the Imperial Conference as a whip with which to flog the Country party into absolute subjection.
On Thursday evening last, when the Government were defeated on the motion submitted by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett),, the House immediately adjourned, and honorable members opposite immediately held a Nationalist party meeting, at which they sat late into the night, and adjourned till the following morning. They met again on the following morning, and when they came into the chamber the Prime Minister made his speech in which, amongst other things, he stated that, although the Leader of the Country party and the Whip .had assured him that the members of that party had no intention of embarrassing the Government or of taking the business out of the -Government’s hands-
– That is incorrect.
– He went on to say that that did not get away from the fact that by their action the members of the Country partydid take the business out of the hands of the Government, and he further said that no self-respecting Government could carry on in the’ circumstances. He went on to say that he must, in this Chamber, have an assurance of immunity from the Country party or otherwise he would not carry on. He put before the House a motion for the adjournment in order to enable the Government to further consider their position. That motion was carried, and the House adjourned so that the Government might further consider their position. In the interval between last Friday and to-day we have found the Leader of the Country party in the press of two States adopting a firm attitude. We have found the Prime Minister stating to-day that having had the assurance of members of the Country party that by their vote they meant no harm to the Government he intended to accept that assurance in spite of the fact that on Friday last he said he could not accept it. Then wehad the spectacle of the ‘ Leader of the Country party standing up here and indorsing the remarks made by the Prime Minister to-day. So not only did the Prime Minister climb down, but the Leader of the Country party also climbed down.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Calare is making deliberately incorrect statement, both in regard to the speech I made to-day, and my attitude during the week end. I demand that these statements be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member has raised no point of order. If the honorable member who is addressing the Chair has made references to the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that are not in accordance with facts, or has misrepresented the honorable member’s utterances in any way it will be quite in order, when the honorable member for Calare has resumed his seat, for the honorable member for Cowper to get up and make a personal explanation in order to correct any such misrepresentations, but he is not in order in doing so in the middle of the speech of the honorable member for Calare.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Country party should think that I am misrepresenting him intentionally or unintentionally. I have no desire to misrepresent him or any other member of the House. I have merely set forth accurately what transpired in this House this afternoon and on Thursday and Friday last. And I have shown that both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country party have climbed down, and have receded from the attitude they took up on Thursday and Friday last.
The proceedings of last week have merely served to prove more conclusively than ever that after all the Country party and the Nationalist party are one and the same. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) in his opening remarks to-day, stated that at the last election he was one of those who were indorsed by both the Country party and the Nationalist party. He said, that other honorable members on the Government side were also indorsed by both parties. We all know well that if a candidate is indorsed by two political parties there must be very little, if any, difference between those parties. I am sure that the electors, if they were not previously of that opinion, are certainly now of the opinion that the Country and . Nationalist parties are one and the same. A certain course has been adopted to-day in order to give thePrime Minister an opportunity, and, apparently, he does not want much of an opportunity, to find! a way out of the difficult position in which he is placed, because he is determined to go to the Imperial Conference. He is going there whether it involves a loss of dignity and prestige or anything else, so long as it does not involve a loss of his position as Prime Minister. A great deal of time has been taken up in debating a motion for the printing of a certain paper dealing with cables which the Prime Minister received from England in November last, but . every member of this House, and every person outside is aware that this is merely a weak move on the part of the Government to find a way out of the difficulty in which they have been placed by the vote taken on Thursday. Having listened to the assurance given to-day by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who moved the motion upon which the Government were defeated on Thursday last, and also to the assurance given by the ex-Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) that they did mean the vote which they then recorded, I intend to move the” following amendment -
That after the word “printed” the following words be added: - “but this House indorses the vote taken on Thursday last on the motion of the honorable member for Grampians.”
– Hear, hear. That’ is to the point.
– That, I think, will be to the point, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) interjects.
– The House did adjourn on Thursday, so the vote was put into execution.
– 1 intend, by my amendment, to prove that, so far as honorable members on this side are concerned, we shall indorse the vote taken on last Thursday, and will at the same time give members of the Country party an opportunity of showing whether they meant the vote they recorded on that occasion, or did not. It is useless for them to say that they did not mean to take’ the business out of the hands of the Government, and I wish, by the amendment I intend to propose, to see if they are sincere in the opinions they have expressed on the question of ocean freights. I hope that a division will be taken on my amendment before iong, and that it will be carried.
– Can the honorable member for Calare move his amendment after the amendment now before the House has been disposed of?
– Order! The honorable member having spoken, cannot move the amendment; but any other honorable member who has not already spoken can move it if he so desires after the amendment before the House has been disposed of. There can only be one amendment before the. House at a time.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Considine’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … ..23
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move-
That the following words be added to the motion printed “ : - “ but this House indorses the vote taken on Thursday last on the motion of the honorable member for Grampians.”
– I submit that the amendment has no relevancy to the question.
The amendment is out of order for the reason that a vote of the House cannot be dealt with in the manner proposed. A vote once given stands, and needs no further action of the House to indorse it, and it can only be again revived on a substantive motion for if? refusion.
Original question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Land System and Applications for Business Sites
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the “honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Have any suggestions been made regarding the convenience and saving that would be effected to holders of Commonwealth War, Peace, and other bonds and stock if the Commonwealth Bank could act as intermediary between buyer and seller, and arrange for the transfer of bonds and stock from holder to purchaser without both having to pay commission thereon ?
– In 1918 a suggestion was made that the Commonwealth Bank should purchase £10 bonds at the market rates, and that no commission should be charged. After careful consideration it was decided not to goon with the proposal. The present position in regard to commission is that the purchaser pays no commission, but the seller is charged a commission of1s. on each £10 bond.
asked the Minister in Charge of Shipping, upon notice -
– It is not considered desirable to publicly supply the information asked for, but the honorable member will be furnished with the particulars privately if he so desires. i
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to tne honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Position of Nurses
asked the Minister re- presenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Directorate and Salaries
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The British Australian Wool Realization Association Limited is a company registered under the Victorian Companies Act 1915. The articles of association govern the appointment of directors; the remuneration paid to the directors is provided for in the articles of association;; and the conduct of the business operations of the association are necessarily on similar lines to those of any public company working under the same Act. The Commonwealth Government are not concerned as to the number of directors or the salaries paid them, but Sir John Higgins, Chairman of the Australian Board, has in this instance very courteously supplied me with particulars which will enable me to reply to the questions asked by the honorable member. The replies are as follow: -
I am advised that the business of the association embraces, in addition to the disposal of wool and other assets of its own, large wool transactions as agent of His Majesty’s Government, in which the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand and the Government of United South Africa are also interested. It, therefore, follows that the usual privacy between principal and agent must be observed. It is also stated that the business at present conducted by the association comprises 70 per cent, on agency account, for which a satisfactory rate of commission is paid to the association, and 30 per cent, on account of the association’s own wool. The association’s expenses are very largely paid for out of agency business, which, promises to be materially increased, in the near future, thus further reducing realization costs on Australian carry-over wool.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
Will he provide the following information: -
The amount of wheat gristed into flour for the years 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920, for the respective States ot the Commonwealth ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as available.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consider the desirability of discontinuing compulsory military’ drills on Saturday afternoons, thus affording to Australia’s youth the same opportunities as other sections of the community for recreation and pleasure?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As regards the Citizen Forces, it is not considered desirable to discontinue drills on Saturday afternoons. Thq number of days’ home training required under seetion 127(e) of the Defence Act is only eight days. This home training period is divided up into whole-day, half-day, and night parades, the proportion of each varying according to the arm to which the trainee belongs and also to meet local con ditions and requirements in districts. Except in the case of Light Horse, this ‘home training is done in half-day. and night parades, the half days rarely exceeding ten; thuB, leaving out the period spent in camp, the . trainee has at least forty Saturday afternoons to himself. Special facilities are given in the country districts to the Light Horse to vary their parades so as to allow of as little inconvenience to any industry or individual as possible. To be of value, certain classes of training must be carried out in daylight, and if this is not done on Saturday afternoons, it would require to be done during the trainee’s hours of employment, involving a loss of wages, which would be a distinct hardship. As regards Senior Oadets, the annual compulsory training required is 64 hours, 35 hours of which are carried out in the employers’ time, the remaining 29 hours being performed in the cadets’ own time. Four of the 29 hours are set aside for annual championship athletic meetings, and the remaining 25 hours are spread throughout the year,, which is approximately 6 hours per quarter. The duration of parades held, in the Senior Cadets’ own time, for cadets who are attending schools, is, as a minimum, 2) hours, and these drills are held, on the weekly halfholiday. The Department does not think it equitable to ask employers to increase the number of drills held in the employers’ time, which <is the only procedure whereby a corresponding number of drills may be reduced in the cadets’ own time. The policy of holding a certain percentage of drills in the employers^ time opened up the way for the abolition of night drills, which step received the unanimous approval of all the boys’ parents, and for the reduction of. the number of parades held on the weekly half-holiday in the cadets’ own time.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of. the Library all papers in connexion with the pension claim of Mr. Thomas Nicholson, of 37 Sixth-avenue, Maylands, Western Australia?
– These papers are of a confidential and personal nature, and it is not considered that they should be placed in any position where they may be viewed by . uninterested persons. If the honorable member so desires, he may view the papers at the Commonwealth Treasury at any time he may care to call-.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Egypt. - Chatby (Alexandria), Hadra, Cairo, Minia, Tel-el-Kebir, Suez’ lsmalia, Kantara, Fort Said, El Arish.
Palestine. - Dier-el-Belah, Gaza, Beersheba,Ramleh,. Jerusalem, Haifa. Syria. - Beyrout, Damascus.
Later information than the above will be furnished to the honorable member when replies are received to the cabled inquiries now in course.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Cost ofadministrative Buildings in melbourne.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whatis the total amount paid by the Commonwealth under the following heads in con nexion with the retention of Melbourne as the Seat of Federal Government: -
Cost of building construction in Melbourne and its vicinity for administrative offices since Federation was established, and annual “interest charge on same?
Cost of acquisition of land and buildings in Melbourne and its vicinity for governmental purposes up to date?
Total amount paid up to date for rent and interest in regard to administrative and other buildings connected with the retention of Federal parliamentary activities in Melbourne?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Experts’ Opinions : Indentured Labour - Bores
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The total cost of the oil-boring operations in Papua prior to the Anglo-Persian Company taking control was - 1
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are-
On Thursday last the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me certain questions respecting the oil loring operations in Papua. I have looked into the matter, as promised, and am now able to supply the following information : -
As far as can be gathered from the reports received to date, no bores have actually been put down by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, its work having been confined to carrying out geological surveys and mapping, with a view to the selection of two or more favorable locations for drilling. So far, it has been decided to put down only one test bore, namely, at Popo.
The first step taken by the company was to examine all available maps and records of previous work performed on the Papuan oil-fields, following upon which it decided: -
To carry out a geological survey and examination of the Gulf Coast region north-west from Yule Island to the Kapuri River district; and
To re-examine Upoia and the neighbouring areas in the Valaila region, and to extend and correlate areas surveyed by Dr. Wade and the Commonwealth Oilfields Geological Staff.
The maps examined were prepared by Dr. Wade, or under his supervision.
In the course of its re-examination, the company found certain indications which led it to disagree with Dr. Wade’s conclusions in regard to some of the areas; but this disagreement was not such as to cast any reflection upon the work of Dr. Wade.
As a matter of fact, it was owing to the preliminary work performed by Dr. Wade, and tohis recommendations, that a further examination was made of the Kira-Ie Hills district, where -very encouraging indications of oil have now been found.
The following papers were presented : -
Basic Wage - Royal Commission - Further Report dealing with the corresponding Cost of Living during the years 1915- 1919.
Oilfields in Papua- ‘Reports of Operations of Anglo-Persian Oil Company, January and February 1921.
Ordered to be printed.
League of Nations - Report by the SecretaryGeneral to the First Assembly of the League on the work of the Council. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Public Service Act -
Appointments, &c, of R. P. Allen, R. Grant, J. M. Davidson, H. O’Boyle, J. J. Bourke, R. A. Dowling, F. V. Col- lins, R. H. Heywood, H. W. Bennetts, W. H. B. Finney, C. McNicol, C. W. Nye, E. J. Tomlin, Department of Trade and Customs.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 12.
War Service Homes Act -
Land acquired at Campbelltown, New South Wales; Double Bay, New South Wales; Goulburn, New South Wales; Kogarah, New South Wales; Waratah, New South Wales (2).
Debate resumed from 13th April (vide page 7427), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the paper - League of Nations Mandate for German Possessions in the Pacific Ocean situated south of the Equator, other than German Samoa and Nauru - be printed.
.- It is only on very rare occasions that the Commonwealth Parliament has the opportunity of discussing such an important question as that of the foreign policy of Australia.’ Indeed, too much of our time is occupied in the discussion of parochial matters which concern State* Parliaments only. We shall never reach the heights we ought to attain in this Parliament until we give less attention to many of the small matters with which we now deal, and take more profound interest in issues of largely national concern.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) hopes that every honorable member will “express himself freely on this question of the Imperial Conference, remembering only that every word said here in relation to other nations must be well weighed before utterance.” I accept the right honorable gentleman’s invitation on those terms, and I hope I shall say nothing to offend either Japan or the “United States, to which I shall have reason to refer. If we desire the friendship of any nation, we must refrain from saying anything which is calculated to injure the feelings of its people. Anything I say about Japan or the United States of America will certainly be said with no idea of reflecting upon the people- of those countries, or the eminent men controlling their destinies.
Australia will agree with the remarks of the Prime Minister concerning Japan. He says that we admire the bravery of its people, their splendid achievements in the arts of peace as well as their prowess in war, and that we desire to live in peace and friendship with them. But it is also true that we desire to keep. Australia for the Australian people and the British, who have sacrificed so many lives and spent such a great deal of money in developing this country since the first settlement at Port Jackson in 1788.
Japan must remember that the Japanese islands are larger than the British Isles, with an area of 147,655 square, miles, as compared with an area of 121,391 square miles. The population of the British Isles before the war was 45,000,000, and was, to that period, increasing at the rate of two to three millions per annum. Its population is now, I believe, about 42,000,000. Our objection to the permanent residence in Australia of Japanese immigrants is mainly economic and industrial. During the last twenty-five years we have endeavoured successfully to raise the standard of comfort and living of the masses. We do not hew anything to-day of antisweating leagues because the work of such organizations has been the means of succarefully stamping out the employment of children of a tender age. We have our Factories Acts limiting the hours of labour in industries, and Wages Boards, and Arbitration Courts, which have been so successful during the past quarter of a century in improving the lot of the mass of the people in Australia that we have set up a standard of comfort and living which is higher, perhaps, than in any other part of the world.
The Prime Minister has said that Japan has her ideals, and we have ours; and I believe that, as time goes on, the Japanese ideals will approach our own, because it is not so many years since the conditions prevailing in Japan as regards child labour obtained in the British Isles. It is certainly not more than 100 years ago.
– Child labour was common in Great Britain- up to the sixties or seventies.
– That is so; and there is no doubt that, in time to come, the philanthropists and high-minded people of Japan will endeavour to stamp out the evils associated with factory life which are reported to obtain, in that country. I trust that Japan will not be offended with me when’ I say that we appear to have done more for our working people than they have done for theirs. Quite recently, I wrote to the Government Statistician asking him to be good enough to supply me with a brief table in relation, to our industries showing the hours during which workmen, were employed, and the wages paid, in, say, Melbourne, as compared with one of the chief towns in Japan. I received the following reply: -
The number of. hours worked are not given in the above letter, but the average in Australia may be taken as eight, whilst, I believe, in Japan, it would be at least ten hours per day. When we consider the wages we pay to waterside . workers, coal lumpers, cloth workers, and women and girls, as compared with the Japanese rates, the difference is great indeed. The Australian wage-earners fear the competition of the wage-earning immigrant from Japan. The Japanese will more clearly understand the Australian point of view, if they follow what is appearing in the daily press. In Australia, they will see that the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney has arranged for Mr. J. Howie, the President of the Council, and Mr. W. P. Hearman, of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, to proceed to England to warn British emigrants not to come to this country. I believe the Prime Minister’s Department is continually receiving from societies like the Building Trades Federation protests against bringing immigrants to Australia, so the Japanese will see that not only are the Australian workmen against Japanese labour coming to Australia, but they are even opposed to their own relatives coming from the Old Country. This policy is shortsighted, but it exists, and the objection in those constituencies where a Labour vote is strong enough actually to determine the class of representatives to be sent to the Federal and State Parliaments.
The Prime Minister mentioned the revival of the Anglo-Japanese treaty.
– It was a renewal of the treaty.
– Yes, in a form acceptable to Australia and to the United States of America. I desire to say that I believe in the League of Nations. As an Australian born, I have had very little opportunity of living in a European atmosphere, and, consequently, know little of the racial hatred which prevails in Europe; and as a supporter of the League of Nations I may be taking up the position of a dreamer. I know that several of our public men have a very poor opinion of the League of Nations.
– They are afraid it is a League of Peace.
– Some of our public men are afraid that the League is not likely to. function, and that the Covenant is a mere paper document.
– It is functioning.
– On the 8th July, 1920, a declaration was made by Great Britain and Japan in these words -
The Governments of Great Britain and Japan have come to the conclusion that theAngloJapanese agreement, dated 13th July, 1911, now existing between the two countries, though in harmony with the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations, is not entirely consistent with the letter of that Covenant, which both Governments earnestly desire. to respect. They accordingly have the honour jointly to inform the League that they recognise the principle that if the said agreement is to continue after July, 1921, it must be in a form which is not inconsistent with that Covenant.
That declaration was signed at Spa on 8th July, and on being forwarded to the British Foreign Office was registered the same day. - That action on the part of Great Britain and Japan is a silver lining to the gloomy clouds that have been hovering over a storm-tossed world. I cannot see that this document or agreement, if it is satisfactory to the League of Nations, can be unsatisfactory to the United States of America. I believe it is impossible that it shall be otherwise than satisfactory. Indeed, the present agreement between the United States of America and Japan has established a position under which it is impossible for Great Britain to quarrel with the United States of America.
– Where is the honorable member’s authority for that statement ? /
– In Article 4 of the present agreement between the- United Kingdom and Japan, which reads -
Should either contracting party conclude a treaty of general arbitration with a third Power it is agreed that nothing in this agreement shall entail upon such contracting party an obligation to go to war with the Power with whom such treaty is in force.
Mir. Considine. - There is no treaty of arbitration in force between Great Britain and the United States of America. The proposed, treaty was not ratified by the Senate.
– A treaty of arbitration between Great Britain and the United States of America was signed at Washington on 3rd August, 1911, or within a few weeks of the date on which the Treaty between Great Britain and Japan was signed. That treaty has a preamble which, with the indulgence of the House, I shall read, because it states clearly the relationship between the people of the United States of America and Great Britain
The United States of America and His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, being equally desirous of perpetuating the peace, which has happily existed between the two* nations, as established in 1814 -
Over one hundred and six years ago - by the Treaty of Ghent, and has never since been interrupted by an appeal to arms, and which has been confirmed raid strengthened in recent years by a number of Treaties whereby pending controversies have been adjusted by agreement or settled by arbitration or otherwise provided for; so that now, for the first time, there are no important questions of difference outstanding between them, and being resolved that no future differences shall be a cause of hostilities between them or interrupt their good relations and friendship.
The High Contracting Parties have therefore determined, in furtherance of these ends, to conclude a Treaty extending the scope and obligations of the policy of arbitration adopted in their present arbitration treaty of the 4th April, 1908, so as to exclude certain exceptions contained in that Treaty, and to provide 4 means for the peaceful solution of all questions of difference which it shall be found impossible in future to settle by diplomacy. . . .
The treaty signed on 4th April, 1908, made certain exceptions, which were outside the treaty of arbitration; but this arb>tration treaty of 1911 included all questions in dispute between the United States of America and Great Britain which could not be settled by diplomacy. I, therefore, cannot believe it possible that the United States of America and Great Britain will ever again fight each other.
I was pained to read the cabled reports of the speech made to Congress a few days ago by President. Harding. I want to reiterate the statement that I would deplore any utterance calculated to hurt the feelings of that eminent man or, indeed, any American, and I hope not to make any such observation. But I think that there must have been some misunderstanding on the part of the responsible authorities in the United States of America who rejected the League of Nations Covenant, or failing that, that there must be objections which it ought to be possible to remove, since the United States of America has been foremost in all movements making for peace. On 15th December, 1914, thirtysix States agreed with the United States of America -
That all questions of whatever character and nature in dispute between them shall, when diplomatic efforts fail, be submitted for investigation and report to an International Commission, and the contracting parties agree not to declare war or begin hostilities until such investigation is made and report submitted.
Nearly all the States which are members of the League of Nations signed that agreement.
President Harding, according to the cable message published in the press, said that the United States of America would take no part . in the existing League of Nations, but would heartily join any association to promote peace. What is the League of Nations but an association to promote peace? The Covenant begins -
The High Contracting Parties, in order to promote international, co-operation and to achieve international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just, and honourable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments, and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all Treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another, agree to this Covenant of the League of Nations.
Then follow the articles of the Covenant. ‘ President Harding went on lo say that America was ready to co-operate with other nations to approach the subject of disarmament, but prudence forbade her disarming alone. There is nothing in the Covenant to the League of Nations calling upon the United States of America or any other country alone to disarm. Article VIII. of the Covenant reads -
The members of the League recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations…..
There is nothing in that article calling upon any country alone to disarm. The League of Nations at the present time is sending out what is known as a Questionaire - a book of questions - to each State in the League, asking what their military and naval votes are, and the information thus obtained will enable the
Council of the League to suggest to them how they might effect this disarmament. When we remember the hundreds of millions of pounds which were spent before the war by the principal nations in main- - taining their armies and” navies in times of peaces - when we think of the thousands of millions of pounds spent during the great war and the millions of lives that were sacrificed - surely we should be prepared to consider some method of bringing about a general disarmament which will relieve the people of the civilized world from the grievous burden of war expenditure which they will have to bear for many years.
– There is no suggestion that that is part of the business of the Conference. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) did not say. a word about the question of disarmament.
– I presume that, in the limited time at’ his disposal,, the Prime Minister could not deal with all the questions to be submitted to the Conference, but I should be very disappointed if, among the many subjects discussed at that Conference, that of the League of Nations does not find a place. I believe that there will be at that Conference friends of the League, who will discuss the question of the extent to which it is necessary to maintain a large army and navy, in view of the agreement which has been entered into by Great Britain and the other parties to the Covenant.
There are several articles in the Covenant which are very attractive to the political student. Take, for example, the statement in Article VIII. that -
The members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections.
The -pronouncement on the part of the forty-three States is extremely important, because we are informed that the same private shareholders held shares .in munition works in different countries, and it was to their pecuniary interest to see the nations fighting. Article 10 qf the Covenant of the League of Nations is of great importance to those countries which fear that they may be subject to invasion. It reads -
The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League.
If we in Australia have any fear of invasion, surely we ought to be satisfied to get. some help from the forty-three States which comprise the League of Nations, and which include all the great Powers except the United States of America. I sincerely hope that the United States will yet see its way clear to join the League.
President Harding has said that he is willing to enter into an association of nations for the purpose of promoting peace, but in my opinion he would be wisely guided if he initiated a movement to induce the present members of the League to consider America’s objections to the Covenant.
Article 11 reads -
Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise or effectual to safeguard the peace of nations. *
The discussion which has been proceeding between Japan and America during the past five months regarding the Mandate over Tap, in the Caroline Islands, relates to a matter which might well be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for the purpose of avoiding a quai rel between these two countries. Here is another article of the Covenant which must commend itself to those who wish to avoid war : -
The members of the League agree that if there should arise between them any dispute likely to lead to a rupture they will submit the matter either to arbitration or tq inquiry by the Council, and they agree in no case to resort to war until three months after the award by the Arbitrators or the report by the Council.
– Was it not the Council of the League which issued the Mandate over Yap to Japan?
– I do not know what nations were represented at the negotiations. There is a difference of opinion, I understand, and I regret that I am unable to give the honorable member any information upon the point. It may bethat a full report of President Harding’s speech will modify the construction which b can be placed upon the cabled report that the United States will give no sanction to the League of Nations. I refuse to believe that the aims of the covenant of the League of Nations have not President Harding’s sanction. What are they? They may be thus summarized: - (1)
Limitation of armaments; (2) a mutual guarantee of territorial independence; (3) an admission that any circumstance which threatens international interests is of international importance; (4) an agreement not to go to war till a peaceful settlement of any dispute has been tried; (5) the non -recognition of secret Treaties.
The Covenant of the League of Nations, I repeat, has been signed by forty-three States. I have here a statement which was made by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons on the 8th November last. It sets out the names of the States which constitute the League, and I have inserted in round numbers the respective populations, the figures having been obtained from the Commonwealth Tear Book, No. 13. It is as follows: : -
In the course of his statement to the House of Commons on 22nd December last the Right Honorable A. J. Balfour indicated the changes which have been
made in the above list as the result of the meeting of the Assembly. He explained that Greece was not re-elected to the Council of the League, and that China had been elected to the vacant place. The following six States had been admitted to the League : -
I have not included China, because I am unable to say whether she is in the League. China, I understand, was elected to the Council, and I presume, therefore, must be a member of the League of Nations, although she is not included in the list which was read by Mr. Lloyd George to the House of Commons on the 8th November last.
I believe that the Covenant of the League of Nations, though it may appear to some in the present disturbed state of Europe to be unequal to the work which the League has set out to do, will, in the course of time, take a higher place in history than Magna Charta, which was obtained from King John by the barons of England so many years ago.
– Magna Charta was intended to benefit only one class, whereas the League of Nations Covenant will benefit all classes.
– The Covenant of the League states that each nation will endeavour to improve the conditions of the working classes, and to bring their wages to something more nearly approaching an equal level. In the opinion of the author of the book which I hold in my hand, the Covenant is of special interest to Australia. Sir Geoffrey Butler writes: -
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of Article 1 in the Paris scheme. It is arguable that it is its most significant single measure. By it the British Dominions have their independent nationhood established. . . . The Dominions will always look to the League of Nations Covenant alike as their declaration of independence and their Treaty of Versailles.
I ask leave to continue my remarks upon a future occasion.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210420_reps_8_95/>.