2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, a question.
– Are questions without notice and not questions of which notice has been given to be asked?
– The honorable senator’ is perfectly in order in asking a question without notice.
– If the Government is going to allow its programme to be cut into in this way, I shall object.
– I think that the question had better be given notice of.
– I am only following standing order 62, which provides first that petitions may be presented, and, secondly, that notices of motions and questions may.be given, and questions without notice asked. Senator Pearce is quite in order if he wishes to ask a question.
– I think that Senator Pearce had better give notice of this question.
– I have no wish, under the circumstances, to bring the matter forward to-day. I shall ask the question tomorrow.
– On the ground of urgency, I desire to ask the leader of the Senate, without notice, if he has noticed in to-day’s Argus the report of a meeting at Essendon, held under the auspices of the Women’s National League, at which Mr. Johnson, M.H.R., madethe following statement : -
Mr. Watson had said that he had no desire in his Socialism to interfere with the family life; but this was all very fine, as it did not rest with Mr. Watson.His masters would compel him to dance to their music. A pure family life would not exist under Socialism.
Seeing that members of the Labour Party are constantly repudiating-
– The honorable senator must not argue the question.
– I am not going to enter into any argument, but merely to ask this question, seeing that members of the Labour Party are constantly repudiating these false charges-
– Under our Standing Orders, the honorable senator is not in order in expressing an opinion in asking a question. He has expressed an opinion about false charges, and that is not in order. He can ask a question without expressing an opinion.
– I contend, sir, that the honorable senator is not expressing an opinion, but only stating a fact, namely, that the Labour Party is always repudiating these false charges.
– The honorable senator expressed an opinion as to certain charges being false, and I called attention to a standing order which says that in asking a question no expression of opinion shall be given.
– No opinion has been expressed ; but a statement of fact has been made.
– Senator de Largie has made a statement, and now he can ask a question.
– I beg to ask if the leader of the Senate can suggest any effective method which the Labour Party can adopt to put an end to these constantly recurring statements made in the press and elsewhere by its opponents
– It is impossible for me to answer a question of this sort. Persons outside can make what statements they like. The bigger a lie is the greater chance there is of refuting it; a lie will recoil upon its authors. I have seen these statements reported. I know the aims and aspirations of the Labour Party-
– The honorable senator must not argue in answering a question.
– Then I will only say that I am not at present in a position to suggest any method to overcome the difficulty to which the honorable senator has referred.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia-
Minister of Defence) [2.37]. - In the first place, I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
At first I did not propose to ask the Senate to adjourn on the present occasion, but I found that many honorable senators strongly held the opinion that out of respect to the right honorable the Premier of New Zealand, whose untimely death we all mourn, we ought to adopt a course similar to that which was adopted yesterday by the other branch of the Legislature. This is a preliminary motion.
– - I beg to second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate places on record its profound regret at the untimely death of the right honorable Richard Seddon, and expresses its deep sympathy with his family and the people of New Zealand.
It was only last week that we had the pleasure of meeting the right honorable gentleman. For the first time I had the gratification of sitting alongside him when you, sir, and the Speaker gave a luncheon to the members of the Legislature. He then appeared to be in his usual health ; he certainly was in excellent spirits, and I much enjoyed his conversation. To my surprise, when walking along a street in Adelaide on Monday morning, I was met by a gentleman, who said, “Have you Heard the news? Mr. Seddon is dead!” Never dreaming for a moment that he referred to the right honorable gentleman, I said, “What Mr. Seddon?” as I thought it must bc another gentleman of that name; and he replied, “ The Premier of New Zealand.” Of course the news of his death came upon us as a great blow. An unexpected calamity has fallen not merely upon his family, not merely ‘ upon the people over whom he has presided for many years with conspicuous ability and success, but also upon the whole of the people of Australasia, and to a considerable extent upon the people of the Englishspeaking world. The right honorable gentleman was well known. He was what is called in military parlance a “ ranker “ - a man who had risen from the ranks to a high and important position. He had no silver spoon in his mouth when he was born, but he> had to force his way by sheer strength of character and ability into the position which he so ably occupied. The legislation which he originated is well known to honorable senators. They know his history from the press. It may be recapitulated in a few words. Born in Lancashire in 1845, he learned the trade of an engineer, left the old country for Melbourne, worked in the Government workshops at Newport, went to the diggings and worked as a miner at Bendigo and at ballarat, married in Victoria, and then left for the gold-fields in New Zealand, where he worked with pick and shovel as a miner, and afterwards went into business. When local government was extended he became one of the members of the first local government board on the gold-fields, where he had made himself well known and respected among his fellows. He took a very great Interest in all matters affecting the wellbeing of the community. He was an Oddfellow. He was at the head of all movements for the purpose of bettering the conditions of those with whom he came in contact. After serving for a time on this local government board, the constituency with which he was associated elected him a member of Parliament. In that capacity he served for twelve years before he attained Ministerial office. During that time he was known as a Liberal, and was a follower of that old democrat of whom we have heard so much and whom we all respected, the late Sir George Grey. He joined the Balance Ministry. On the death of its head, he became Premier, and for some fourteen years he held that position with credit to himself and with great advantage to his country. I do not know that I need say very much about the legislation which he introduced, and yet I think it advisable to shortly refer to a few matters. He liked to call himself, not a Liberal, not a labour man, not a Socialist, not an antiSocialist, but, as he did when he was here, a humanitarian working for the benefit of humanity as a whole, irrespective of creed, and of any names which parties might choose to give him. Take the humanitarian legislation which has contributed so much to his reputation. The first great measure which he got enacted - it was first originated bv the Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston, in South Australia - was a measure with regard to arbitration for the purpose of preventing strikes. He introduced supplementary legislation for the purpose of enabling a workman to get fair hours of labour and a reasonable wage for his exertions. He started to break up the big estates, not by unfair means, not by confiscation, but by taking compulsory power to purchase at a fair price. Up to the time of his death he had spent ^4,000,000 of the people’s money in the purchase of these properties, with beneficial results to the people of the community. Where sheep once roamed human beings are now living, and living, too, in competence, if not in affluence. Mr. Seddon also did what was looked upon as a very dangerous thing. He agreed to lend money to the people. He started a system of State loans for the purpose of assisting struggling farmers and settlers. Those who have had experience of land occupation know that the first few years of a settler’s life, when he has to clear and plough, and wait before he can get a return, is a time of stress and trouble, but that with a little help and assistance to tide him over that period of struggle, he can go alone. Mr. Seddon was also the means of getting enacted an, oldage pension scheme, womanhood suffrage, and a number of other laws. He did not get all his advanced legislation passed without opposition and without an immense amount of labour on his part. He had strong opposition for years. He had an Upper House to fight and to conquer. But, sticking, to his colours, fighting strenuously for what he believed to be right, he accomplished the legislation to which I have alluded ; and, although in his own State it was considered by many, and outside his own State, especially in Australasia, it was considered by many more, that the legislation that he introduced would result in disaster to New Zealand, we know that, instead of its resulting disastrously, Mr. Seddon was able only last week to assure us - and on more than one occasion in his tour of these States he assured our people - that New Zealand has never been more prosperous than she is to-day. He made an unique statement - a statement which. I only wish we also could make in regard to our States in this great continent - that was that there were no unemployed in New Zealand. That spoke volumes for the prosperity of the country. And it is in consequence of this legislation that Mr. Seddon’s name is known throughout the civilized world to-day. He was a man of strong individuality, a man of great determination, and of resolute will, a far-seeing man. Sum up his character as we will, we must say that he was a thorough statesman. And now we have lost him. He has gone to “ that bourne from which no traveller returns.” We have to mourn his loss. To his family - to his beloved wife and his children - that loss is irreparable. To the people of New Zealand it may not be irreparable, but still it is a very great loss. Great man as he was, however, he had disciples. He founded a school. He educated those who came in contact with him, so that they will be able to take his place, just as Socrates educated Plato and Xenophon, and as Our Lord educated His Disciples. I have no doubt, therefore, that New Zealand will be able to find some one to take his place, and to take it with credit. But, still, after all, his death is a great loss. He was only sixtyone years of age, and’ in ordinary circumstances at least ten years of good, active life might still have been before him - aye, if we consider some cases, we can say that he might have been expected to have fifteen years of useful life before him, for we have known statesmen to be, not perhaps in their prime, but still capable of filling an exalted position with distinguished ability, when they have been over 80 years of age, as in the instance of Mr. Gladstone. When we compare Mr. Seddon’s case with such instances as that, we may say that he has been cut off in his prime. But he has at least died in harness ; and I think that, if he had chosen the mode of his own death, he would have chosen that mode in preference to any other. His end was painless. He was spared the fate of lingering on a sick-bed, perhaps, for weeks, months, or years. What more can I say on the subject? I can only add that we condole most sincerely with his family, and with his people in New Zealand, and, as a proof of our deep sympathy with them, I ask the Senate to pass the motion which I have submitted.
– I rise, sir, to second the motion which has been moved by the Minister of Defence, and to indorse, so far as indorsement is necessary, the expression of regret and sympathy which, by means of that motion, it is sought to place on record. The loss which we deplore to-day is not merely the loss of New Zealand or of Aus tralia, but is the loss of the Empire. The nature of the loss is indicated not merely by the widespread expressions of regret, and the numerous resolutions of this kind which have been adopted throughout Australia, but also by the just and spontaneous estimate- of the value of the deceased statesman’s work by the great public journals of the Motherland. Mr. President, to whatever phase of Mr. Seddon’s life we look, we are compelled to admiration. Whether as a miner, bouyant and resolute, taking his part in the early pioneer work of this State ; whether as the moving spirit and guiding hand in the public affairs of New Zealand; or whether as a vital force in matters of Imperial concern - Richard Seddon has won for himself an honorable place among the men who have done so much to make the Empire what it is - who have broadened its foundations, who have increased its prosperity, who have brightened its present, and have secured to us an assurance of its future. It is ian looking on Mr. Seddon, whether asan individual or as a public man, that we begin to recognise his true and sterling character. Tireless in his work, patriotic in his ambitions, broad and far-seeing in his views, masterful in his methods, he has erected his own best monument. No resolution which Ave can place on record can secure to him or to his memory that which he has honestly earned bv his own inherent ability. When, Mr. President - and it will come before long in his own State - those who survive him seek to perpetuate his memory in stone or marble, let us not forget that nothing which we can do in that way can secure to ,him that whichhe himself has secured, and that is the recognition of the fact that the field of his immediate labour is the richer for his life, and that the Empire to-day is the poorer for his death. It is fitting that we should place on record our sense of the loss we have sustained, but in doing so, may I express, the hope set out in the resolution, that while in it we record our sense of a great public loss, it mav also be a source of consolation to those whose hearts to-day are suffering the first anguish of bereavement.
– [2.55I. - I rise to support the motion with the sincerest feelings of regret on mv ownbehalf and that of the party which I represent. I am sure that we may say that the same deep sense of the loss we have sustained stirs the breast of every Australian and of every progressive indivi– dual in the whole world. I, as representing the party to which I belong, may, with stronger feelings, express our sorrow, because it was amongst us last Friday afternoon that the Right Honorable Richard Seddon uttered his last words of a semipublic character. I, as well as others who were there that day, was deeply touched by the human sympathy to which expression was given by him. 1 am very glad, with every other person who supports progressive movements, to find that the memory of Richard Seddon is so universally revered to-day. We know that in the earlier part of his public career he had’ very severe struggles. He had to contend with the prejudices and the injustices against which every public man professing a progressive policy has had to fight since the world began. But we find now that every one is beginning to recognise that after all the Right Honorable Richard Seddon was right. The policv that has been so long advocated and delayed in Australia must be right also, because it is exactly the same as he passed in New Zealand years ago. When we come to realise these fact’s, the party to which I belong cannot but feel verv sincerely the deepest regret at the setting of a star that has guided them for so long. I, therefore, join verv heartily in supporting the motion : and I know that the memory of the Right Honorable Richard! Seddon will live in the hearts of the people of Australia for generations to come.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I may intimate that the resolution has been carried unanimously.
Senate adjourned at z.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 June 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060613_senate_2_31/>.