6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorPEARCE (Western Australia -Minister for Defence) [11.1].- (By . leave) I move -
That this Senate desires to place on record its appreciation of the valuable services rendered to the Commonwealth Parliament by Charles Broughton Boydell as Clerk of the Senate, and its regret that ill-health should have been the immediate cause of the termination of a career which has been distinguished by long and eminent service.
I do not know that I have anything to add to whatI said on this subject yesterday. There is an impression in the public mind that the gentlemen who occupy parliamentary offices hold positions which -are largely ornamental, and that opinion is sedulously cultivated by the press. But those of us who have served on Standing and Select Committees, or have in other . ways been brought inti- - mately into contact . with the officials, and have had the best opportunity of seeing the work that they perform, know that this opinion is fallacious. We recognise that the work which these officers are called upon to do is of a high order, requiring training, experience, and judgment; a considerable knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and the proper conduct of public business. In this regard Mr. Boydell, the cessation of whose _ service we so much regret, has. filled his office with- credit to himself and to the Senate, and with advantage to. the country; because it is of public advantage that the work of Parliament should be facilitated by the adoption of correct procedure. The motion, expressing as it does our appreciation of Mr. Boydell’s services, will have the unanimous support of the Senate. It is sincerely meant, and I have had much pleasure in moving it.
– I second the motion. The Minister has referred to the recognised and admitted capacity of Mr. Boydell, and I have nothing to add to h~is eulogy beyond the statement that T heartily indorse it. Furthermore, honorable senators, in addition, to their appreciation of the manner in which Mr. Boydell has discharged his official duties, have a very kindly recollection of his personal characteristics. In leaving the parliamentary service he carries with him our appreciation of the effective way in which his work was done, and our very deep personal regard. That regard induces me to re-echo the hope which you, sir, expressed yesterday, that the rest which he is about to take may restore him to good health.
– Having been an. officer of the Senate for four years of the period during which. Mr. Boydell was- Clerk, I wish’ to give my cordial support to the motion. No senator has enjoyed better opportunities of appreciating Mr. Boydell’s courtesy, and his willingness, and, indeed, anxiety to help us in the conduct of our deliberations. I have reason to appreciate the assistance which I received from him when. I was elected Chairman of Committees,, without experience of the work of that office. His help was of inestimable value to. mer in the .decision of the points of order that are continually arising without notice during discussions in Committee. I hope that his successor may be equally happy in gaining and keeping the good-will of honorable senators. I trust, too, that Mr. Boydell’s retirement from public life may vastly benefit his health, and that he may live long to enjoy his leisure.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.7]. - I do not wish to let the motion pass without saying- a word ot two in support of it.. I recognise- fully the ripe knowledge that Mr. Boydell invariably brought to bear, upon the performance of his duties, and his unwavering, courtesy to. every member of the chamber. We had in him a man eminently qualified by experience and by nature for the work that he was called upon to perform. I have enjoyed the privilege of knowing him for many years longer than most honorable senators can have known him. When I entered the Parliament of New South Wales he was one of the junior officers of the Legislative Assembly, and I had ‘ the pleasure of seeing him advance step by step to the position of Clerk of the Senate. It would, I think, be well if we added to the motion the request that you, Mr. President, shall convey to Mr. Boydell this expression of the appreciation of the Senate. No doubt the resolution will bo conveyed to him in the ordinary course, but I think that it should be placed on record that honorable’ senators generally desire that this expression of their sense of obligation for the great assistance given to them by Mr. Boydell shall be conveyed to him by their presiding officer.
– I am unwilling to intrude into this debate, because the motion is one upon which we are unanimous, appreciating as we do, the work done by Mr. Boydell while Clerk” of the Senate. During three or four years of Ministerial office in this Chamber, I had a splendid opportunity of estimating the value of his services. His conduct was animated by the constant desire that this Chamber should- not only discharge its duties to the country efficiently, but also that it should maintain its proper position in relation to another place provided lor in the Constitution. Those who have sat in the President’s chair, and those who have held- Ministerial office, have had reason to realize that fact more than once. Mr. Boydell’s services to- the Senate speak for themselves, so that it is hardly necessary for us to extol their value. I should like to say this, though I do not wish to sound any note of discord: Mr. Boydell’s place is filled now by another officer whose capacity for the position no one would for a moment venture to question’. I do, however, ask that with respect to other officers of the Senate, it shall be made abundantly clear that their claims to- promotion, upon the retirement of Mr. Boydell have not Deen overlooked on account of any deficiency in their service-, or of any incapacity. I think it is due to them.
– Order! That matter is not open to ^debate on the motion.
– If that be so, I regret it exceedingly. I do strongly feel that those who have served the Senate in the past loyally and sincerely are entitled at least to have their position in this connexion made abundantly clear.
– Order I
– The honorable senator can raise the question on the Supply Bill.
– I do not wish to raise any question which might appear to sound a note of discord, but I do think that it might very well be publicly stated that it is due to no want of capacity, and no lack of efficient service in the .past, that other officers of the Senate, who, in ordinary circumstances, might have been expected to have improved their positions upon the retirement of Mr. Boydell, have apparently been passed over.
– Before putting the motion I wish to say a word or two upon it. I have very little to add to what I have already said on two previous occasions when my duty demanded that I should refer to the matter in the Senate. First of all, I wish to :indorse everything that was said by the Minister for Defence, the Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable senators as to the great capacity and unfailing courtesy with which Mr. Boydell discharged hia duties. Every member of the ‘Senate had ‘in Mr. Boydell a friend -who made the path of parliamentary procedure easy for him. His services -were especially -valuable to men -who, like myself, .attained a high, .official position without previous experience. His -services ‘were invaluable to me :as a private member, and in my .present position .as presiding officer of the Senate. Nothing “was ‘a trouble to Mr. Boydell, and I am sure that honorable senators were not only impressed by his ripe knowledge and unfailing courtesy, but have a high regard for him because of his personal qualities. He has left the service of the Senate with the esteem and- goodwill of every member of it. I believe that every -member of the Senate most sincerely regrets that the cause of his retirement is in any way connected with the failure of his health. I should like to refer to a matter mentioned by the Minister for De- fence in submitting the motion. There seems to be an impression, which has been very sedulously cultivated by members of the press, who on all occasions desire to magnify their own importance at the expense of Parliament, that such positions as that which Mr. Boydell occupied are largely ornamental. I am sure that if any of the editors, leader writers, or members of the staffs of the great newspapers were suddenly called upon to perform the duties of these offices, they would find themselves in a very considerable fog. To efficiently fill the position of Clerk of Parliaments -requires a large experience, and very special ability.
– And a vast amount of study.
– And, as Senator O’Keefe reminds me, a very considerable amount of study. The forms of Parliament with which the Clerk of Parliaments must necessarily- be acquainted in order to insure the proper conduct of business, and to give adequate assistance to honorable senators in the discharge of their duties, do not represent, as some of the newspapers invite the public to believe, mere surplusage and excrescences upon the public life of .the country. Every one of these forms and methods of procedure has been adopted as the result of long experience, and almost entirely with the object of safeguarding the rights and interests -of the people. Any -one who has given attention to the procedure of Parliament must be aware of this. There is also an impression -that when the Senate is not sitting there is very little to do. T-hat is not correct, as in addition to the ordinary office work, there is a- large amount of very special work in connexion with the arranging and indexing of records, papers, Asc, and it must be remembered that the work -during the session is often of a very strenuous and wearying character. Mr. Boydell was intimately acquainted with all the forms and methods of parliamentary procedure, and the’ reasons which led to their adoption. Whilst he was punctilious in ^urging the observance of those forms, he never allowed them to become a bar to the discharge ‘ of their duties by members of the Senate. He did all that he could to facilitate the discharge of their duties as representatives of the people, and members of this Chamber recognised and appreciated his .services accordingly. No -one regrets more than I do on official and personal grounds that Mr. Boydell has been compelled to retire at this stage. I again express the hope that the rest which he will now be able to take will have the effect of restoring him again to robust health, and that for many years to come we shall have the privilege of enjoying the friendship with him which we have valued so much in the past. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Keating, I wish to say that it will be competent for any member of the Senate to raise that question on future occasions, and if it is raised, I shall be happy to -give all the reasons which guided me in making the decision I have made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the President of the Senate be requested to convey officially to Mr. Boydell the resolution agreed to by the Senate.
– Will the Assistant Minister state why the farmers have not been officially recognised by the appointment of a representative to the Central Wheat Board?
– There seems to be an impression on the part of many farmers, and the public generally, that the Commonwealth alone is responsible for the position to which he refers. As a matter of fact, the Board consists of one representative of the Commonwealth and a representative - the Minister for Agriculture - of each of the four interested States. The Board has decided against the special representation of farmers on it. I do not say for one moment that that decision is final. Representations may still be made’ by private individuals or members of Parliament, but the question is one that must ultimately be determined by the Board itself. I am not in a position to say whether such a proposal would or would not be favorably received at its next meeting.
– Will the Minister take into his favorable consideration the advisableness of having appointed to the Board a direct representative of the farmers who are deeply interested in any decision that may be arrived at as the result of the Board’s deliberation?
– And will the Minister, when replying, also indicate what he means by the “ four interested States “ ?
– There are only four States - the four wheat-exporting States - represented on the Board. Tasmania and Queensland are exempt. The representative of the Commonwealth brought before the last meeting of the Wheat Board a recommendation that a farmers’ representative should be appointed, but the recommendation was rejected. The matter will again be brought before the Board at its next meeting.
– In view of the great interest ‘attaching to the matter, will the Minister representing the Treasurer endeavour to furnish the Chamber to-day with such information as may be available as to the result of the War Loan, subscriptions to which closed yesterday ?
– I shall endeavour to supply the information at the earliest possible moment.
Statement by Professor MCINTYRE
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that Professor Mclntyre, Chairman of the State Recruiting Committee in New South Wales made a statement in Tasmania that during December no reinforcements left Australia. I should like to ask whether that statement is in accordance with fact?
– It is not the practice of the Department to disclose when reinforcements leave Australia. If such a statement was made, I can only say that I regret it.
– Was it authorized?
– No. With the exception cf the Minister or the Secretary of the Department no one is authorized to make a statement on behalf of the Department. No such statement is authorized by the Department.
– Neither is it prohibited.
Senator- PEARCE. - Such a_ statement ought to be prohibited, but censors, like Senator Ferricks, are not infallible.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether, in the event of Australia being represented at the Imperial Conference by the present Prime Minister, Parliament is to be left absolutely in the dark and denied any opportunity of ascertaining before his departure-
– Order ! There is a question on the notice-paper of almost exactly similar purport to that which the honorable senator is putting.
– In view of recent publications in newspapers to the effect that large sums of money have/ been spent in a preliminary exploration of the Papuan Oil Fields, and that such money has been virtually wasted, will the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs present to the Senate, as soon as possible, a statement by the Department, setting out clearly what has been done up to date. in the exploration of these fields, the expenditure incurred, and the prospects as outlined by . the Commonwealth oil expert.
– The whole of the reports on the subject are available to honorable senators. They have been printed from time to time and sent out with other papers. I will see that a complete set is forwarded to the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether he has any objection to laying on the table of the Library all papers relating to the proposed scheme to provide additional ingress and egress to the site of the new telephone exchange in Sydney?
– I have no objection to laying the papers on the Library table.
– I ask’ the Minister for Works and Railways whether, in the interests of economy, a full report of the proceedings of the Royal Commission which is sitting in a certain part of this building will be printed and published, and whether the whole of the examinationinchief, by. the present PostmasterGeneral, will be made public in order that the citizens of Australia may understand the length to which he can carry an examination ?
– The report to which the honorable senator refers, will, in due course, be presented to Parliament, and it will then be for Parliament to decide whether or not it shall be printed.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is in a position to state what progress, if any, has been made in the formation of a WintheElections Cabinet?
– The answer is “No.”
The following paper waa presented: -
Members of the A.I.F.
Senator MCDOUGALL (for Senator
Gardiner) asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
Will the Government introduce a Bill to enable the soldiers at the front to vote at the forthcoming Federal election?
– In requesting that this question be postponed, and in order to save time, I wish to intimate that the only question onthe Businesspaper to which a reply has been received since our last sitting is Question 13. I therefore ask that all other questions be postponed.
– Owing to the intimation of the Minister for Defence all questions on the Business-Paper, except Question 13, will stand over till the next day of sitting..
Construction of Barges
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– I ask that notice of motionNo. 1, Private Business, standing in my name, be discharged from the Business-Paper, on the ground that its retention may unduly interfere with the discussion upon the motion for tne first reading of the Supply Bill.
– The honorable senator is entitled to withdraw the motion without assigning any reason for his action.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That standing order No. 68 be suspended up to and including 23rd February, 1917, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
The Liberal Party and the Ministry - The War and Secret Diplomacy - Tipping by German Agents - Imperial Conference : Australian Representation : The Right Hon. W. M. Hughes: Instructions to Delegates - Post-War Industrial and Trading Conditions : Resolutions of Paris Convention - Conscription Referendum proposed national government - Recruiting Campaign - Senator Lynch and the Labour Party - Tariff Revision - Wool Clip : Ports of Shipment - Naval Bases : Building of Barges - War Pensions and Oldage Pensions - Germany’s Submarine Campaign - General Elections.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and standing and sessional orders suspended.
Motion(by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– There is a lack of anxiety on the part of members of the Liberal Opposition to address themselves to the motion. In view of the fact that Liberal members are represented in unusually large numbers this morning, it seems to me that a great change must have come over the scene. Are we to assume from the silence of Senator Millen and his colleagues that all the criticism levelled at the Government during the past twelve or fifteen months was unjust, or that the grounds of complaint have been removed ? Are we to take it that there were no grounds for the many brilliant orations of the members of the Liberal Opposition against the administration of the Government ?
– So many new criticisms of the Government have developed lately !
– To which Government does the honorable senator refer ? Probably when the numbers go up, there will be still greater quietude on the part of those Liberal members in Opposition. Yesterday I was rather interested in some views expressed here by Senator Stewart, and in the reply made thereto by the Minister for Defence. Senator Stewart pertinently, and, in my opinion; very ably and fully, touched on the . evils of secret diplomacy in international affairs, and, in reply, the Minister for Defence gave us the threadbare argument or assertion that it is quite necessary to keep from Parliament and the people everything that goes on in the diplomatic world. I think I am justified in saying that the practice amongst the nations of the world for so many years past - and in no country more strictly than Great Britain, with the exception, perhaps, of Russia - has not been a success. If we have regard to the position of the world to-day, the diplomatic methods of the past have failed.
– What countries have published their negotiations as these were proceeding ?
– My complaint is that there is too much secrecy in regard to the events which lead to war.
– The honorable senator mentions Great Britain and Russia ; can he mention any countries which have published their negotiations ?
– I shall make a brief comparison of the methods, as I have been able to trace them, operating amongst the nations. Yesterday Senator de Largie made an interjection, which we have often heard, in the form of the question, “Has it ever been done before?” What I suggest has not been done before; but that is no reason why it should not be done now ; and a very strong reason why it should be done now is the situation of the world to-dav. If Parliament and the people cannot do better in the all-important matter of diplomatic relations, and in the control of events which lead to or have their ending in war, ifc can safely be said that Parliament and the people could not do worse.
– Of course we cannot all admit your assertion.
– I ask honorable senators to view the world as we find it to-day. Could the world, on the whole, be in a worse position ? I venture to say that it could not.
– Surely the honorable senator does not attribute that to the secrecy of diplomacy.
– That secrecy is one of the greatest evils that lead to war.
– The honorable senator will have to prove that there would have been an improvement if everything had been done open and above board. .
– I am leading to that point. There is a great feeling in human nature that there should be no changes made. That, of course, is the essence of Conservatism - what has been always should be. In spite of that feeling, however, I contend that the question of war, with its future effects on civilization and humanity, should be considered, and, if possible, grappled with by the people of this generation. We must not wait until such time as things settle down again. People are in the habit of saying that we shall be all right after the war - that we shall settle down as before. But that is just what humanity and civilisation do not want. We do not want things as they were before the war ; and in spite of the obstacle of Conservatism, it appears to me that it is time for the Parliaments of the world to take some responsibility and control over the destinies of the nations. It is not a question for kings, monarchs, kaisers, or diplomats, but a question for the higher authority of the. Parliaments and the people who elect those Parliaments. As a preliminary, let me for a moment view war as we now know it at a distance. There is no gainsaying the fact, for it is impressed on us by our returned men, that war is bell ; and we believe it to be hell. It is shuddersome even to read the newspaper accounts of the conflict; and the idea sought to be inculcated by those who regard themselves as the reform parties in different parts of the world, is that, if war is hell, the question must be tackled. Their arguments and aspirations are described as Utopian, as something that would be all very well if it could be realized. Well, if the choice is to be between Utopia and hell, I am going to strive for Utopia, and, at any rate, get a certain distance nearer to it. .
– Abolish hell !
– No; avoid hell - the hell which is war. Just look at the futility of war, a futility that is being brought home to us in Australia.
– This is very academic !
– I hope to make my remarks appropriate to the occasion ; at any rate, they will have to be very academic to be too academic for the honorable senator. People in responsible positions are beginning to ask what will the gain or the result be to Australia if the war goes on for another year or two. If war be as futile as some people are beginning to realise - people who have greater interests in Australia than any of us have - what is to be the ultimate result to this country ? Some people whom I believe to be misguided have said that if we had only had more Australians at Gallipoli, we should have won the Dardanelles. This is said, notwithstanding the fact that there were 40,000 Australians in Egypt at the time.
– Who said that?
– Did Senator de Largie never hear it said that if we had had more men we should have got through the Dardanelles ? Why, that was said all during the referendum campaign, as an argument for sending more Australians to the front. Assuming that to be a correct statement of the case - although I do not think it is - and we had taken the Dardanelles, that part of the country would have been in the possession not of Great Britain or Australia, but of Russia, and with a continuation of the existing secrecy as to diplomatic relations, it is quite feasible that in ten years’ time Great Britain and Germany might be fighting Russia and other nations. Where, then, would have been the reward for the Australian blood that was spilt to capture the Dardanelles? That is not a far-fetched prediction, because only a few years ago Russia and Japan were flying at one another’s throats. To-day they are allies.
– That is an. argument that we should not take part- in any war.
– It is an argument for doing away with the secret diplomatic methods that lead up to these entanglements. Let me briefly review the Imperial diplomatic system. The Foreign Secretary “in Great Britain has greater departmental powers than any similar officer in any of the other nations. All other nations have some guiding committee to let the Parliament know, to a certain extent, what is going on.
– Germany, for instance.
– Yes, ‘ even in Germany. In Great Britain there is a diplomatic foreign service presided over by the Foreign Secretary, who is a member of the Imperial Cabinet. Any member of the Imperial Cabinet is a busy man, yet practically the whole responsibility of what is done in regard to al- liances, treaties, agreements, and arrangements with other powers is left in the hands of that Minister. It is true that he comes before Cabinet and says what he is doing.
– And the Cabinet is responsible to the people.
– The Minister is responsible to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet is responsible to . the House of Commons, which in turn is responsible to the people; but that is after the mischief has been done. In ordinary times the Cabinet, as a matter of course, indorses a Minister’s recommendation. I venture to say that, prior to the outbreak of the war, the Cabinet accepted every recommendation made to it by Senator Pearce as Minister for Defence. The people of Great Britain, or the members of the House of Commons, do not know what the Cabinet is doing. To become a candidate for even a humble post in the Imperial Diplomatic Service one has to be possessed of a private income of £400 a year. The object is to keep out the democracy, . to make it exclusively an asylum in times of peace for the sons of the well-to-do. The positions are practically kept for the sons of lords and dukes, and often illegitimate sons at that - men who can be shouldered off in that way instead of sending them out to what the old Conservatives used to call in their supercilious manner the “Caw- linies.”
– You would not disqualify a man for employment because his birth was doubtful?
– Not at all.
SenatorO’Keefe. - But the illegitimate son of a poor man would not get a chance.
– Nor would even the legitimate son of the poor man. The higher the income the more responsible the post the candidate will be sent to,’ or the more extravagant or costly to keep up. When these men get to the different continental cities they ape the evil manners and customs of those cities, learn continental languages and continental ways, and often become entangled with women in the continental secret services, who, I suppose, find these men with large means and little brains very pliable in their hands. Those are the men employed in a service which has the power to tie up Great Britain behind the back of Parliament and behind the back of the people. The evils of such a system are so apparent- that it is unnecessary for me to enlarge upon them, and no thinking person would say that such a state of affairs is judicious or safe. Illustrations can be given of the bad effects brought about by knowledge of what is being done being withheld from the House of Commons. In the Morocco question, about 1904, a public declaration was made which was supposed to be binding on France and Great Britain. This was openly placed on the table of Parliament, but it was not until 1911 that the fact was revealed that, after the actual signing of the declaration, a code of private or secret rules was drawn up violating and over-riding the actual declaration itself. These were attached to the declaration, but kept secret even from Parliament for seven years. That reminds me of the system that we often find operating in Australian politics.
-Even the Caucus does business in that style.
– I do not think the Caucus does this: An Act of Parliament is passed, placed on the table, and circulated, but regulations come out afterwards containing the sting of the whole thing. In Australia those regulations are made public, but in international affairs in freedom-loving Great Britain they can be kept secret from the people for seven years. Events have shown us that Great Britain, was secretly tied to
France for some time before the beginning of the present war. I suppose we all thought, and a great many think now, that Great Britain entered the war owing to the violation of Belgian neutrality by “Germany.
Senatorde Largie. - Hear, hear.
– Does Senator de Largie say that was the reason ?
Senatorde Largie. - Undoubtedly.
– If Belgium had stood aside and said to Germany, “ Fire away; here is a clear road, go straight through to France,” Great Britain would have had to enter the war just the same, because her secret naval commitments bound her to France.
– She would have had to enter the war for her own future safety.
-That is quite another question.
– You cannot say that the violation of Belgian neutrality was not the reason.
– I repeat that, even if Belgium had stood aside, Great Britain was in honour bound to enter the war on the side of France, or be guilty of tearing up one of those scraps of paper of which we hear so much.
– Do you not see the difference between a real reason of fact, such as this one is) and a hypothetical argument such as you are putting forward?
– I will endeavour to give the honorable senator a real fact now. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1856, after the Crimean War, and Russia, as a party to the treaty, agreed to neutralize the Black Sea. But within a comparatively few years, Russia repudiated that condition of the treaty, and every other , party to the agreement broke away at its own time. It may be said that what Russia did is no indication of what Great Britain would do, but I come to an instance in which Great Britain did tear up a “ scrap of paper.” In 1852, by the Treaty of London, Great Britain and other nations agreed to maintain the integrity of the Danish Monarchy, and approved of a certain succession to the Crown as being the safest guarantee of that integrity. But when, in 1864, Prussia and Austria, the two Central Powers which, in the last three years, have been guilty of tearing up scraps of paper and of all manner of brutalities in war, seized Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark, Great Britain calmly looked on without making any protest. At that time Great Britain had no fine sensibilities about the crime of tearing up an international treaty. Here is another instance of more recent date. In 1877, when Germany and France were about to fly at each other’s throats, there was a very active agitation by influential writers and newspapers in England in urging that, as the treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium had been made prior to the closing up of all the military passages between France and Germany, and as the only passage remaining was Belgium, it would be- quite right for Germany to violate the neutrality of Belgium in order to reach France. These instances prove that treaties and alliances are honoured or dishonoured, according to the dictates of expediency. All the nations of the earth can be accused of lapses in that way from time to time. I do not defend, the tearing up of scraps of , paper, or the dishonouring ‘ of international arrangements, but the official record of the questions in the House of Commons will prove that existing secret naval commitments to France were denied in the House of Commons on the 24th March, 1913, only sixteen months before the outbreak of war, notwithstanding, as was afterwards divulged, that the naval commitments existed before 1912. Another instance proves how contemptuously even the House of Commons is treated in these matters’. A questionwas asked on the 11th June, 1914, eight weeks before the outbreak of war, and a denial was given that Great Britain was in any way committed navally to France. But the record of -debates in the House of Lords will show that on 6th’ August, of that year, Lord Lansdowne, representing the Foreign Minister, said, “ The negotiations constitute obligations of honour, obligations no less sacred because they are not embodied in a signed and sealed document.” There we see that two days after the declaration of war an announcement of these commitments was made in the House of Lords, although they were denied eight weeks earlier, notwithstanding that they had existed before 1912. This brings me back to the interjection by Senator Gould, that Cabinet is responsible to the people. Before Cabinet can be held responsible the mischief has been done. When Cabinet has entered into an agreement to help an ally, the House of Commons is bound to support the Government, and the people in turn fall in behind the House of Commons. What are the systems operating in other countries? In the French Chamber of Deputies there is a Budget Committee consisting of forty-four members who are elected .for one year. That Committee examines all Budget matters and issues reports. In addition there is a grand Committee for external and colonial affairs, also comprising forty-four members elected for four years. That Committee has power to send for and examine persons and papers in connexion with foreign affairs, and to issue reports to the Chamber.
– Who . is your authority for that statement?
– I have obtained my facts from a little publication called Democracy and Diplomacy, by A. Ponsonby, M.P., pages 88-9.
– I think you will find that the functions of those bodies are suspended in time of war.
– I am discussing pre-war conditions, and, so far as Australia is concerned, am endeavouring to prevent their continuance in the hope that we may avoid any other war. In Germany there is a Budget Committee comprising twenty-eight members appointed by the leaders of the various parties in the Reichstag. When the Budget Estimates are under consideration, the Committee examines all proposed expenditure, inquires into foreign affairs, and issues reports.
– That Committee has nothing to do with treaties.
– That is no reason why Great Britain should not lead the world in the reform I am advocating. It is true that in the British Parliament also the Estimates are discussed/ but for many years past there has been a policy of hush in operation, and Parliament has not been able to discuss international affairs, because, by so doing. Great Britain might disclose her hand to the enemy. Just prior to the outbreak of war the discussion on the Imperial Naval and Military Estimates occupied only a day and a half, and even then the day’s discussion was the result of an accident. Half a day would have sufficed, but members had nothing else to fill in the time with and so they gave another day to the Estimates. Members, however, did not touch upon international relationships; they talked about China and Korea, or some other places, and referred perhaps to little grievances in the Crown Colonies. The policy in Great Britain, as elsewhere, has been to keep these matters secret from the people. The opinion appeared to be that Labour members of the House of Commons were useful enough as being conversant with industrial matters, but of course could not be expected to know anything about big national issues.
– They .are right at the head of affairs now at Home.
– I am speaking of what has been the attitude in the past. Labour members, it -was said, could not be expected to know anything about big national issues, and the leisured classes were too busy with their social engagements, so it was the policy not to allow members to know anything about the arrangements in regard to treaties. Now the position is different in the United States. With all its evils the great Republic has reserved to itself the right to declare that the President shall have no authority to enter into any treaty, obligation, or agreement unless it has been indorsed by two-thirds of the members of the Senate. Therefore, before any treaty can be made the Senate must agree to it. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate there are Committees to deal with these matters at the negotiation stage, and the Senate, as being possessed of treaty powers, quite properly conducts its sittings in secret. In the House of Representatives, on the other hand, the discussions are open to the public.
– But still the treaty must be ratified by the Senate, which conducts its negotiations in secret.
– Yes, that is quite right, and I am not asking that in all such matters our cards should be placed on the table as Senator Pearce suggested yesterday.
– I understood the honorable senator was advocating that course of action.
– No, I was not. I only asked that as representatives of the people we should know what game was being played, whether we lost or won it in the conduct of our negotiations.
I defy the honorable senator to- uphold this custom under which Imperial naval commitments to France were kept from the House of Commons for seven years. There can be no justification for such a procedure. This brings me back to the impending Imperial Conference. Is Australia going to perpetuate all that is worst in these many bad old British and -other traditions? Many of these evils have already permeated our national life, for since the outbreak of the war the Defence Department of the Commonwealth has been exclusive and secret to a ridiculous extent. We have been told that no discussion can take place on certain matters for fear it might assist the enemy in some way.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is that not a wise provision?
– Will Senator Gould say that if a paper declared that Senator Pearce was a weak administrator it would be. of any assistance to , the enemy ?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The honorable senator will realize that if the enemy believed that we had a weak administrator it might be of great assistance.
– Does not Senator Gould give the enemy credit for possessing more information than could be obtained from what has been allowed to pass the censor? That brings me to another evil which has been operating in Great Britain, and which is operating here. I refer to the evil of tipping, which Senator Gould upholds.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I do not.
– Prior to the war German waiters and “flunkies” were to be found employed in all the Naval and Military Clubs in Great Britain, because they were servile and cringing to the popinjays that frequented those places. British employees could hardly get a look in for these menial positions, because they were not able to pay the premium which the German agents were able- to offer.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - You do not suppose anybody supports that custom, do you ?
– No ; but the honorable senator would like to see servility engendered among the ‘employees in Australia,
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Civility, not servility.
-The result of this system in England was the employment of a great number of. German spies, who, with secret service money, were able to outbid all applicants for posts in places where they were likely to be of value to their country. They were to be found employed not only as waiters, but as hairdressers, and in dozens of other occupations.
– And we have had German agents here selling German goods.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And all our people buying them.
– Yes, our commercial people would buy German goods twenty-five minutes after the war. Make no mistake about that.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They will not buy German goods unless the people you represent support them by purchasing from them.
– All this talk about not trading with the enemy after the war is unworthy of any sane thinking person who knows the ways of capitalists and commercialism in Australia. It is all so much lip-loyalism and brummagem patriotism, because if they can buy articles ½d.- a gross cheaper from Germany they will do so. I am not going to be a party to the proposal to send any delegate from Australia to the Imperial Conference - I do not care whether it is Mr. Hughes, Mr. Cook, or Mr. Tudor - because I . think that the Imperial Conference only requires the Australian opinion, and no man is better able to supply that opinion than our present High Commissioner. Recent events in Australia should have opened his eyes to the position here, and he should now be much better able to express the Australian sentiment than when he left the Commonwealth - jockeyed out by the present Prime Minister.
– That is most unfair, and there is no basis for the statement.
– Absolutely none.
– I am not saying this because of the party split, and I want the Senate to understand that I am not speaking in a hostile spirit to Mr. Hughes. I view the position in which he has landed himself more with amusement than with anger.
– Was- there ever a suspicion at any of our party meetings that he was doing anything to the detriment of Australia?
– There was a suspicion in my mind all the time. Mr. Hughes has not injured theLabour movement in Queensland. He has been the means by which it has been purified. He has landed himself on the lap of the Liberals, his lifelong enemies, and is now taking instructions from them. I. fail to see how he can be elated over his present position.
– The idea of Mr. Hughes taking instructions from any one is too comical to those who know him.
– He must take instructions, for I contend that he cannot interpret the Australian sentiment of today.’ Despite all that Australia, and the Labour movement in particular, have done for him, by raising him out of the gutter of oblivion to the highest position in the land, he has not yet become imbued with Australianism.
– In my opinion he is the greatest man in Australia. There is not even a good second to him.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his opinion; but I am not prepared to allow Mr. Hughes to go to the Imperial Conference and run amok as he did at the Paris Conference, at any rate from an Australian standpoint.
– Well, if we are to be bound by the resolutions agreed to at the Paris Conference, it will be an end to all Australian industrial conditions and our high standard of living. Mr. Hughes did run amok’ at that Conference, so far as Australian nationalism and industrialism are concerned; and if he goes to the forthcoming Conference without’ any instructions, and without knowing what the people of Australia desire, or what this Parliament desires, he will be no friend either to Australia or to the Imperial authorities. He will be misleading the men attending the Conference when he says, “Yes, I guarantee it on behalf of Australia.” He must have given such an assurance at’ the Paris Conference. Before leaving Lloyd George, he must have given the Imperial authorities a guarantee regarding conscription, and as he is likely to- give a similar guarantee again, it is too dangerous to let him go without instructions. A critical time may come in the history of the
Empire, and Australia may find itself tied up at some secret function by an irresponsible delegate. Of course Mr. Hughes will not be a delegate if he goes; he refuses to take instructions as to what the people he purports to represent desire; he claims to be’ the interpreter of what the people of Australia require, just as he imagined that they required the enforcement of conscription, and the adoption of the impossible conditions agreed to at the Paris Conference.
– What were his ‘instructions at the last election? Was not the voice of the people, “The last man and the last shilling” ? That is what the honorable senator went to the country on.
– I have previously stated what my attitude was at the last election, and I repeat it for the honorable senator’s information, as I repeated it the other Sunday when speaking in Brisbane, where I could have been challenged had my statement not been correct. At every meeting I addressed during the last election the only reference I made to the war was that I regretted it, and would like^ to see it over, but if I had my way I would put in the front rank of the firing line all those people who caused it, embracing those irresponsible diplomatic agents to whom I have already referred, and I would have the workers back on the hills, waving the flags, lighting the bonfires, banging the drums, and singing “ Rule, Britannia !”
– The honorable senator went up for election under the shelter of Mr. Fisher’s manifesto.
– No. That is the only reference I made to the war, though I added that I would include in the firing line all the capitalists who had caused the war.
– Did the honorable senator repudiate the “last man and the last shilling” statement?
– That was a platitude” impossible of realization. The trouble is we are perpetuating the old system of keeping everything from the public until too late. Mr. Hughes goes to a Conference, and does what he thinks is right, and returns to us after the mischief is done.
– He had his instructions at the last elections.
– What relation had the “last man and last shilling’’ assertion to the Paris Conference and trade relationships between Australia and the other Dominions and the Allies ? Mr. Hughes is discredited from one end of Australia to the other.
– What basis has the honorable senator for asserting that Mr. Hughes went to the Paris Conference without instructions?
- Mr. Hughes has said that he did not represent Australia, but was representing Great Britain. At least- he has said this since the referendum was defeated, but every one knows that he was at the Conference as the mouthpiece of Australia and the other Dominions.
– If Mr. Hughes did not represent Australia at that Conference, he could not pledge it to anything.
– He posed as having represented Australia until . the referendum vote was taken. When he saw the trend of Australian opinion, he made the statement that he did not represent Australia at the Conference. What does the world think ? What did the contracting parties at that Conference think as to whether Mr. Hughes represented Great Britain or Australia? Was it reasonable to expect sane men to regard the Prime Minister of Australia as the representative of Great Britain, who had displaced other men who would have attended the Conference in that capacity without the fact having been mentioned ?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Mr. Hughes was selected to attend that Conference by Mr. Asquith.
– At any rate he is the most discredited man in Australia to-day: There is no seat that he can get. I have been waiting for some of the Watts, Manifolds, Poyntons, or other great patriots to resign, and give him a chance of election to this Parliament, but I do not see any great rush to do so.
– It will be some member of the honorable senator’s party that will have to provide Him with a seat:
– I think Senator de Largie will find that Mr. Hughes will go to Great Britain as Prime Minister, and hand over everything else to Mr. Cook, who will have a majority in the Cabinet. Mr. Hughes will retain the Prime Ministership until election day, by which time. he will be engulfed by MrLloyd George in the Imperial War Cabinet .or some other similar body. I was touching on this subject some months ago, when Mr. President called me to order. On that occasion I was leading up to the point that if Mr. Hughes on his return to Australia had been successful in inducing the people of Australia to shackle the manacles of conscription on themselves, ne would have said good-bye to Australia, because he would. have been too big a man for this continent to hold, and would have gone Home, and perhaps had the position of Mr. Arthur Henderson in the inner War Council, representing, not only Labour, but also the Dominions. He would probably have had a seat in the House of Lords as the Earl of Anzac. What reason has been advanced by the Government for copyright- . ing and keeping inviolate the word “Anzac” ? This was done because the word was to be retained by Mr. Hughes.
– Why does the honorable .senator assume that there was any connexion between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Arthur Henderson ?
– I Jo not say that there is any connexion between them, but I say that there is connexion between Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Hughes, and that Mr. Hughes would have had the place now filled by Mr. Arthur Henderson. I think it is patent to most persons that . events trended in that direction.
– You must remember that Mr. Arthur Henderson was the elected Leader of the Labour party, and a very capable man. ‘
– I think that Mr. Hughes would have had Mr. Henderson’s place in the War Council. Some time ago I stated my belief that Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Hughes were in collaboration for inspiring press messages to Australia just before the referendum campaign, and my remark evoked indignant howls of protest all round the chamber. Since then there have been none of these significant appeals from Mr. Lloyd George, specially directed to the people of Australia. There were many of these appeals arriving here just prior to referendum day, and I do not believe that .there is a thinking person in Australia, unless his judgment be clouded by prejudice, who is not of the opinion that there was an arrangement between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Lloyd George to send’ out cable messagesto Australia prior to- the taking of the referendum vote. So that I am- quite entitled, as I suppose every man in a free Parliament is- entitled, to express his belief as to what is- likely to occur in the present crisis. I think that Mr. Hughesis going, to get out. I think that he is going away as Prime Minister, and- that . Mr. Lloyd George, in- return for what Mr. Hughes has tried to do, will see that Mr. Hughes is all right. Events will’ show whether I am- exuding so much hot air as Mr. Hughes does when he lets gohis dominating personality. The positionthen is that Mr. Hughes has done, as I said, no evil to Australia or the- Labourparty. What his intentions in that direction were is, of course, a horse of another colour. But, so far as animus is concerned, my objection- to Mr. Hughes representing Australia is not dictated by that feeling. He is a man whose head, in my opinion, runs away with his juda;- . ment. Without speaking with any disrespect of Mr. Hughes I regard’ him. as a. man who, on- this question of Imperialism, is semi-demented. I do- not think that the man is rational. Let us for a moment examine his actions before he went to. England. Can a man say. that his action in leaving Australia was- the action of. a rational man, giving publicity all over Australia to. the statement that he would be leaving Adelaide by the Osterley on such and such a date? It was advertised throughout the length and breadth of Australia that Mr. Hughes was going by the Osterley. He. slipped over to Fiji for a start, and then he went to Vancouver.
– -I do- not know whether it was the case1 or not, but doyou know that Mr. Hughes was responsible for the statement that he was going by the Osterley?
– If Mr. Hughes was not personally responsible, he- should have had the1 statement, contradicted, because 1,500’ persons were to travel by that’ steamer:
– I was in Sydney with Mr. Hughes the week before he left Australia, and I did- not hear, him’ say that he- was- going- by-“ the Osterley.
– Mr. Hughes left Sydney by the Melbourne express train, and got out. of- the train- at Homebush, and bolted back to Sydney.
Senator- Russell. - That is not the point. Do- you- know that Mr. Hughes definitely made the statement that he was going away by the’ Osterley?
– Yes; on the night on which he was farewelled.
– His Cabinet colleagues were not told that.
– That is nothing. Mr. Hughes did not consult his colleagues on the conscription campaign. He knew that 1,500 passengers were to leave Australia by the Osterley. It did not matter if the Germans submarined the 1,500 bodies and- souls who- were aboard the Osterley for all Mir-. Hughes would care, but it did matter about his precious hide. I would not like to see Mr. Hughes- submarined. Here is the- monumental position which he built- himself into by that action. Did he think for a moment that all the energies of the German, destroyers, battleships, and so forth were awaiting his departure, saying in effect, “ Look here. If we can only get that man< Hughes, Germany has won the war?” That is the corollary to the attitude of Mr. Hughes. In my view it is not the attitude of a rational- man, and there is nobody who will deny that after Mr. Hughes’ return to Australia he absolutely ran amok. I know his stock on the other side of the world has deteriorated. Since the defeat of the referendumcampaign it will have received a pretty hard blow; it ‘ will have suffered a great slump ; it will be at a- low ebb now. On his next visit he will be shorn of .the assistance of the Northcliffe’ press. Those newspapers used Mr. Hughes as a stick’ with which to beat the- then Liberal Government dog.
– Do not make too sure that he will lose that assistance yet; There is another objective in sight of them.
– Quite so. The Northcliffe press wanted to destroy the then- Liberal’ Government. . Lord Northcliffe, and his newspapers’ “boosted” Mr. Hughes and used him for the pur* pose, and with their aid Mr. Lloyd George acceded to power. Senator Turley has rightly interjected that the Northcliffe press may not discard Mr. Hughes yet: Certainly they may use- him a bit more. But in the end, as with a sucked orange, they will- throw him away. I, for one, am not pre- pared, and I do not think that the reform movement of Australia is prepared, to see Mr. Hughes go to the impending Conference and speak with a free tongue and run amok generally in regard to Australia, because I fear that Australia might be irretrievably bound up, and then a time would come, perhaps in ten years, when if .the Empire were embroiled, the cry might have to go up, “ Australia will .not go there.”
– Bid you protest to the Sydney Labour junta when they invoked the aid of the Northcliffe press?
– Does the honorable senator expect me to know all these things ? I ask him if he desires any knowledge about a new junta to go to the Liberal party, who sat up till halfpast 11 o’clock last night in dealing with the fate of the honorable senator and his colleagues.
– You were silent as to the action of the Labour junta in regard to the Northcliffe press.
– They are dealing with the honorable senator’s fate at the present time, and he does not know that they are. Since he has been good enough to lead me on to the question, I will mention that only to-day I was reading in the Argus, the official paper of the new junta, that the Liberals have been very magnanimous to the Hughes party, because a proper calculation of the strength of the respective parties, thirty-six Liberals, and twenty Hughesites, cuts up the eleven available Cabinet seats in the proportion of 6.6 for the Liberals, and 4.4 for the Hughesites. The point is that the Liberals are treating the Hughesites liberally. That is to say,* ‘their generosity amounts to .2, I will not say of a Minister, but of a Cabinet seat.
– What did your party propose to Mr. Cook?
– I am not dealing with that matter now.
– Absolutely nothing.
– Are they going to cut and dry matters in this way with the fate of Australia, as we are told, hanging in the balance since the commencement of the war ? Just prior to the last adjournment the Senate, exercising its undoubted right, and what has turned out to be its wisdom, curtailed Supply from three months to two. From the anti-Labour senators in this chamber there was a concerted howl against the patriotic attitude of the Labour majority. They said, “ You are stopping members from going out recruiting. The cry from the Empire, is for men. The fate of Australia hangs in the balance.” The Labour party, thinking that they .were doing the right thing for Australia, as has undoubtedly been- proved since, stood firmly and granted only two months’ Supply, and we went home on the eve of Christmas. Yet, even before the 1st January, the newspapers were referring to the negotiations between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook that were impending. Thereupon all these ultra loyal persons, these energetic defenders of the interests of Australia, dropped their recruiting intentions, and hastened back to Melbourne to be in .at the death should anything happen. The loudest roarer of them all, that patriotic, jingoistic blusterer, Sir John Forrest, had booked his passage to Western Australia to assist in the recruiting campaign there, but it was announced that “ important public business .detained him,” and he did not go to Western Australia at all.
– He has worn a track -between The Grand and Parliament House since.
– Yes, and has been waiting at the keyhole, of Joe Cook’s door. These are the persons who howled about the need for men, and spoke of their burning anxiety to assist recruiting. Was there ever such smug hypocrisy before? In their desire to grab the spoils of office, they have not hesitated to trample on the interests of the Empire and of Australia. Senator Lynch expressed the fervent desire to do all that he could for recruiting, but he had no sooner gone to Western Australia than he came back by train, with relays of camels to help him over the tract of country where the line is not yet laid.
– Was he afraid of submarines ?
– He was afraid of being submarined by Joe Cook. Many of them are “afraid of the political submarines. Senator Bakhap is behind the scenes, and knows that what I say is true. If the people of Australia disregard the hypocrisy of these men, who are shamelessly juggling with their interests, they will stand anything. I trust, for the sake of the good name of Australia, that there is -no parallel in her political history -with the disgraceful proceedings of the last five or six weeks. The Argus has published the resolution of the Liberal Caucus regarding the proposal of the Prime Minister for the formation of a National War Government. It was resolved that - subject to the adjustment of certain questions the settlement of which at the -present time is essential to ensure general efficiency in war administration-
I ask the Senate to mark those words -
A committee of three representatives of the Liberal party should be appointed to confer with the same number of members of the Mini- sterial party as to the basis of an arrangement.
The Argus goes on to say that -
The outstanding questions referred to in the resolution as requiring adjustment were not discussed, but that it is understood that great importance is attached by a majority of the Liberal party to the representation which it is to have in the new Cabinet.
The knowledge is common property that the party is not prepared to accept its proportional representation of 6.6. Now that the Labour party has put Mr. Hughes ‘ down, the Liberal partv is not going to iet him up. Mr. Hughes and Mr.- Cook have invited the- Labour party to join them, although only a few months ago Mr. Hughes and most of those associated with him were describing the members of the Labour party as traitors to Australia and to the Em-, pire, as pro-Germans and the receivers of German gold, as Huns, and as members of the I.W.W. According to a newspaper report, Senator Lynch, speaking, I think, at Kalgoorlie, said that the Labour movement in the eastern States was rotten to the core.
– The Official Labour party is rotten to the core, though the heart of the Labour movement is sound.
– The Minister also said that we were pro-Germans, the receivers of German gold, and members of the I.W.W. Yet his leader - I suppose with his support - has invited us to join with him to save his political skin. The proposal was hypocritical and ludicrous. Such conduct as has disgraced the control of national affairs during the past two months has never occurred before, and I hope will never occur again.
.- I regret that the Minister for Works has reaffirmed his statement that the members of the Australian Labour party who opposed conscription were in receipt of German gold. When Senator Ferricks referred to that statement, Senator Lynch said, “Hear, hear.” He said “Hear, hear” to every statement attributed to him by Senator Ferricks.
– If the honorable senaator had read my speech he would admit that there is no occasion for him to speak as he is speaking.
– I want Senator Lynch to say here, and now, whether there is any member of the Australian Labour party who is “ rotten to the core,” as he said a moment, ago. I want him to say whether there is any member of it who has received German gold, or who is a pro-German, or a Hun. It is reported in the press that he has made these statements respecting members’ of the Australian Labour party, and he has not contradicted those reports. Only just now he applauded Senator Ferricks when he attributed those statements to him.
– I am trying to be respectful to the honorable senator, but it is pretty difficult.
– I ask no quarter and no mercy from Senator Lynch. I am quite prepared and able to defend myself, and to set my character personally, privately, or . publicly against that of the honorable senator at any time.
– The honorable senator is a pretty keen student of the press reports in Western Australia, and as such he should know that there are no grounds for the statements he is now making.
– I am referring to the honorable senator’s acceptance of the statements attributed to him to-day from press reports. I say that thetime has arrived when men should understand each other, and I refuse to be dubbed as pro-German, a Hun, or a man who would receive German gold, because, in the exercise of my rights, as a free citizen of Australia, I have seen fit’ to express views opposed to those held by Senator Lynch. By interjection the honorable senator made some reference to an offer which he suggests was made by the Australian Labour party to Mr. Joseph Cook.
– Hear, hear !
– I tell the honorable senator that the Australian Labour party made no offer to Mr. Cook, or to any other person, and I can prove that statement up to the hilt. Senator Lynch is under the impression that the Australian Labour party did make some offer to Mr. Joseph Cook during certain /negotiations. I repeat that the party made no offer of any’ kind. All that happened has been published in the press. When the negotiations between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Joseph Cook had arrived at a certain stage, each of those gentlemen sent a letter to Mr. Tudor, the Leader of the Australian Labour party, inviting him to come to a conference to discuss the question of the formation of a National Government. Mr. Tudor replied to each of the letters, saying that the matter would be submitted to the Australian Labour party. It was submitted to that party on last Wednesday.
– To the “ Official Labour Party.” Honorable senators opposite should not run , away from their title.
– I say the “ Australian Labour Party.” The “ Official Labour Party “ is the title which Senator Lynch, and those with whom he is associated, and the press of Australia, have given us, but we are the same Australian Labour party to-day as we were when Senator Lynch and I, as delegates from Western Australia, attended the Brisbane Labour Conference, at which that name was adopted for the party.
– Honorable senators opposite object to the title which they deliberately chose for themselves.
– No, we did not. It was Senator Lynch and others opposed to us who invented that title for us. In common with the press, they dub us as the “ Official Labour Party,” but, as a matter of fact, we are the “ Australian Labour Party.” I say that this party made no offer to either Mr. Hughes or Mr. Joseph Cook on the subject of the formation of a National or Coalition Government. In reference to the impending Imperial Conference, I have not the slightest objection, and, on the contrary, I should be quite pleased to see the present Prime Minister of Australia go to that Conference. Although I am not a supporter of his to-Hay, arid differ from certain of his statements and actions, I do not know of any man in Australia who could represent the Commonwealth as well as could the present Prime Minister at the very important Conference that is about to be held.
– From the honorable senator’s point of view, that is indeed a very generous statement for him to make.
– I make it. freely, and am prepared to reiterate it publicly from any platform in Australia. I know of no man in the Commonwealth who could so ably represent Australia at the Conference than could the present Prime Minister, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes. I make that statement with all the sincerity of my nature.
– It indicates that the honorable senator is able to get away from prejudice and deal with facta.
– I do not bother myself about prejudice. I ‘desire to be fair to all men, since I look to other men to be fair to me. Whilst I have every respect for the right honorable gentleman who may, and who I hope will, be the delegate of the Commonwealth to the War Conference, I think it is only right that he should leave Australia’s shores with full instructions from Australia’s Parliament. I venture to say that if Mr. Hughes had acted as Australia’s representative under instructions when he was last in England, the Commonwealth would not have been involved in the recent conscription campaign. That is past and gone, and I do not want to refer to it again. The people’s verdict on the point has been given. The War Conference about to assemble in Great Britain will be the most important Conference ever held in the history of the British Empire. As a component part of the Empire, we should be represented at it, but I contend that our representative should go to the Conference with full instructions from this Par- >liament. so that he may not commit Australia to anything which may, in the light of after events, prove injurious to this young nation. The question may be asked : Are these instructions to be given to our representative at a public or private session of the Parliament? That is a very important point. I know that the questions which will be considered at the Conference will be of vast importance, and it might well be neither diplomatic nor wise to give the enemy any indication of what they are.
– Does the honorable senator suggest a joint and secret meeting of the members of both Houses of this Parliament before the Prime Minister leaves for the Old Country?
– I am one who will oppose any more secret meetings.
– I am not saying definitely that there should be a public or a private meeting of the members of both Houses, but I believe that the majority of the people of Australia- would prefer that their delegate to the Conference should be instructed by their Parliament before he leaves to attend it.
– That is, that we should tie his hands?
– It would not be tying his hands, but it would safeguard the interests of Australia. If a referendum on the subject could be taken, I am satisfied that the people of Australia would say that by all means the Nations! Parliament should instruct Australia’s delegate to the Conference.
– The honorable senator must realize the difficulty that members of this Parliament are not fully apprised of what is going to be discussed at the Conference.
– I feel confident that the cable communications that have passed have enabled the Prime Minister of Australia to be fairly well informed as to the questions that will be submitted for the consideration of the Conference.
– While that may be true, many of those questions could not be publicly discussed.
– That is’ the difficulty with which I was dealing. I realize the grave danger to the Empire’s cause which might be involved in the public discussion of those questions by this Parliament.
– They could be so discussed, but I think it would be indiscreet to discuss many of them publicly.
– I agree with the Assistant Minister. I think it would be wiser in the circumstances that the members of this Parliament should be assembled together to consider in secret the instructions which should be given to Australia’s delegate to the Conference.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The vast majority of the people of Australia would like our representative to go to the Conference armed with full instructions. Not only will the question of peace terms be discussed, but very important matters vitally affecting the future of Australia.
– How can we instruct our representative on these questions if we do not know what they are ?
– I am confident that the Imperial Government have by this time acquainted the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of the character of the questions to be discussed. I come now to the Tariff, which I should like to see taken up before this Parliament ends by effluxion of time.
– It must be dealt with.
– Quite so; but there is more than one way of dealing with it. We are all aware that under the Constitution Parliament must put its imprimatur upon the present Tariff before it expires by effluxion of time, otherwise it would be necessary to refund all the duties that have been collected under it. That, of course, is inconceivable. It might be possible to get over the difficulty by passing a short validating Act; but I contend that the Parliament should go into the whole question of the Tariff as it stands to-day. Even in this time of war, when our importations are compulsorily restricted, we find that our Customs revenue continues to increase. Recognising that it is the express will of the people of Australia that we should have an effective Tariff, and that the Tariff laid .on the table of another place towards the end of 1914, and which has been operative ever since, is anything but protective in its incidence
– In certain circles even prohibition is suggested,
– Pronounced Protectionist as I am, I would not under any condition be a party to prohibition. There is, of course, a difficulty, so far as our Allies are concerned, in altering the incidence of the Tariff at the present time, but I think this Parliament could very well devote three or four weeks to the remodelling of it.
– What time was devoted by Parliament, under normal peace conditions, to the consideration of the Tariff ?
– Nearly three years.
– Eighteen months is the longest time that has been occupied by this Parliament in dealing with the Tariff.
– But what about the time occupied by the Tariff Commission ?
– This is not a matter for a Commission. I am referring to the schedule of the Customs Tariff Bill laid on the table of the House of Representatives towards the end of 1914. It is for this Parliament to finally determine the present Tariff. I. remember taking part in a debate on a Federal Tariff which extended over something like, ten months.
– Does the honorable senator think that in these troublous’ times anything like careful consideration could be given to the details of the Tariff in three or four weeks 1
– We could with advantage devote three or four weeks, and a considerably greater time, to a consideration of the incidence of the present Tariff. It would not be- wise to go into it too comprehensively at the present time, so far as trade relations with our Allies after the war are concerned, before this Parliament expires, but we should revise the Tariff and remove, the varying anoma- lies that now exist. The. Australian wool clip, which, is now in the hands of the Government, is another matter to which I desire to refer.- It is not fair to any of the States, and particularly to Western Australia, that wool-owners should be compelled to send all their wool to the one port in each State. The whole of the wool raised in Western Australia, for instance, must be sent to Fremantle, there to be appraised. Thousands of bales of wool are lying on the Geraldton wharf, where they could easily be appraised and sent direct to London.
– Has wool ever been sent direct from that port?
– Yes. When privately controlled, under ordinary conditions, it was always sent direct from there; the greater portion of the wool from the north-western coast of Australia went direct to. the London market.
– Went to Singapore, where it was transhipped and carried by black labour. Is that what the honorable senator wants?
– No, I do not want the honorable senator to put words into my mouth or thoughts that are nonexistent into my mind. So far as I am concerned, the honorable, senator- knows that I am an opponent of black labour.
– The honorable senator knows that the wool to which he refers used to be sent to Singapore, and from- there was conveyed to London by black labour.
– I know that it went direct to the London market. I have been in communication with the Department, and it has promised to consider whether or not wool coming into Geraldton can be appraised at that port, so as to do away with the necessity of sending it down to Fremantle. The people of that part of the State, I understand, are willing to pay the cost of sending an appraiser to Geraldton.
– Is there not a question of finding freight?
– The intimation I had from the D’epartment was that it was considering the matter, and that there was not much difficulty with regard to freight. The Department, however, desired to have all the wool at the one place, so that it might be readily appraised. I hope that the Minister will make a note of my representation, and that, if possible, relief will be granted to these people.
In reply to a question which I put to the- Minister for Defence in regard to the building of barges to be used in the Naval Bases of Australia, I was told that no barges were being built on the River Clyde. I have been handed an extract from, I think, the Age, in which it is stated : -
A 512-ton hopper barge, built at Port Glasgow in 1914 by Ferguson Bros. Ltd., and Glassed 100 Al at Lloyd’s, has been purchased by the Navy Department at a cost of approximately £18,000, and is now being used at the Henderson Naval Base, at Fremantle. The vessel is 154 feet long, 30 feet in beam, and 10 feet in depth. Two larger barges, of a somewhat similar type, are now on order by the Navy Department, and are expected to be sent shortly to Australia. The vessels are being built on the Clyde, the approximate cost of the two being £5-7)000:
Now either the foregoing statements are wrong or the reply given, by the Minister to-day is wrong.
– I have the reply before me, which is signed by the Minister, and. it is quite apparent that the newspaper statement, is wrong.
– I accept the as- .surance of the Minister. I think we can build all the barges that we may require in Australia.
– I do not think that we could get thein built in England today.
– If we can build cruisers in Australia certainly we can build barges.
– So long as we can get the material.
– Certainly. There is just one other question to which I desire briefly to refer. When we were discussing the War Pensions Bill I asked the Minister for Defence whether its administration would be kept entirely separate from that of the Old-age Pensions Act. I asked him whether, if any citizen was in receipt of a war pension as the result of the loss of, or injuiry to, a loved one on the battle field, that circumstance would militate against him or her receiving the full amount of the old-age pension. In reply I was assured that the fact that any person was in receipt of a war pension ought not to operate adversely against the receipt by him of the old-age pension, but that if it did the Government would bring down a Bill to amend the Old-age Pensions Act, so as to make the two pensions quite independent of each other. Now there are in Australia to-day persons who are receiving war pensions, and these same individuals have been refused the full amount of the old-age pension because of the fact that they are in receipt of war pensions.
– Which are so much income.
– Instead of getting the 12s. 6d. per week to which they are entitled under the Old-age Pensions Act, they are not receiving that amount because of the fact that they have been granted a war pension.
– How much are they getting from both sources?
– I know that the Old-age Pensions Act definitely provides that the income of a recipient from all sources must not exceed £52 per annum.
– The honorable senator wants certain persons to receive two pensions.
– As citizens of Australia they are entitled to the old-age pension. Because they are in receipt of perhaps £1 a week as a war pension, owing to the loss of one of their family either in Prance or Gallipoli why should they be denied the full amount of the old-age pension ? Is this the reward which we offer these people whose relatives have sacrificed their lives in defence of the liberties of the Empire? If it is, it does not harmonize with the promises made by the Government from the inception of the war, or with the pledge given by the Minister for Defence when we ‘ were discussing the War Pensions Bill.
– Suppose that a man had an old-age pension of 10s. per week, and an additional income of 10s. per week from rent.- If his lad got killed at the war would he be regarded as being totally dependent upon his deceased son?
– Whatever the applicant for an old-age pension may be getting from the war pension fund ought not to be set off against the amount of the old-age pension to which he would be entitled.
– Supposing that a man went to the front, leaving an invalid wife behind him, and that he was killed, ought his widow to receive both a war pension and the invalid pension ?
– As a citizen of the Commonwealth, she is entitled to the full benefit of the Invalid and- Old-age Pensions Act, and because she had lost her husband why should she be deprived of her allowance ?
– Suppose that a young fellow goes to the war, and becomes . crippled. Ought he to be entitled to an invalid pension and also to a war pension ?
– If his invalidity were the result of war operations, most certainly he should.
– That would mean piling up the payments which the Commonwealth would have to make.
– That cannot be avoided. It is inevitable that this war will cost us many millions of pounds. But because that is so, it is not right that the relatives of those who have suffered on the battle-fields of Europe should be penalized. In all fairness, the fact that an applicant for an old-age pension is in receipt of a war pension should not be taken into account; and I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill will refresh the memory of the Minister for Defence, and see whether there cannot be an amendment in the Act in the direction suggested.
– I congratulate Senator Needham on what I may call the temperate tone of his speech, which was in marked contrast to the one of the honorable senator who preceded him. The position of the few Liberals in. the Senate, and the division of parties, are such that each individual vote’ here is of considerable importance at this juncture; and circumstances have so altered as to make the position of the few Liberal senators very much more important than it was a few months ago. Certain references have been made by Senator Ferricks, and, I think, by Senator Needham, to the position occupied by the Prime Minister, and to the over- . shadowing importance of the representation of Australia at the Conference which has been convened by the Prime Minister of the Imperial Government. It is, of course, well known to the public that certain negotiations have been on foot here for some time past with a view to the formation of what has been called a National Government. These negotiations have been initiated, and rightly initiated, somewhat in imitation of what has >taken place in the Old Country. There, the position of the Empire is regarded as so serious that it has been . thought wise to’ invite the co-operation of the best minds in all political parties in the formation of a Government to prosecute the Empire’s cause in this great and far-reaching struggle to what we nope will be a victorious conclusion. This is no ignoble object, but a truly imperial object, which has been1 held in view by minds at the Empire’s seal of government. I do not think that there is anything derogatory in the stand taken up by any political party on the suggestion that we, in this important part of the Dominions overseas, shall imitate the Imperial example. We know that, in America. - which is, perhaps, on the eve of being drawn, almost against the will of its people, and certainly against the will of its President, into this great, world struggle - assurances have been given by political leaders that there shall be unanimity of action, if not of opinion, in the great Republic should it become one of the parties to the war.
– That is so in all countries except Australia !
– Quite so. In most countries party is being subordinated to national interests. Undoubtedly the Empire is in a state more crucial than it has ever been since it had legi timate claims to be considered an Empire, rather than a collection of two or three isolated kingdoms and races in the Northern seas.
– One would not think so when we see political parties here squabbling over portfolios!
– If any man could be rightly accused of politically throwing kerosene on a fire, it is the honorable senator who interjects. Let me, as one who believes in Liberalism, say something in regard to the present position. I was elected as a Liberal, and Liberalism, as regards domestic politics, and, indeed, Imperial .politics, is a sufficiently good political philosophy for me. But I regard the necessity for unity at this juncture as imperative. Although I differ, as I have always differed, from the party on the Government benches in regard to many matters of domestic policy, I think the consideration of these matters might be very largely, if not completely, subordinated to the greater question of how we, as a unit of the Empire, may do our best at this ‘ critical stage. Beyond all doubt this great struggle is going to be lost or won within the next few months. Much greater men than myself have pointed out the difficulty of putting a period to this war; but the submarine campaign, if it is not squelched, and very rapidly squelched, will bring about a decisive stage in the conflict in the next eight or ten months at the outside. I am sorry to say that if the menace is not properly counteracted, the result of the war will be disastrous to our Empire and our Allies. Those honorable senators who have studied the classics will remember how the. maritime supremacyof Carthage was destroyed through the invention of a Roman Consul. He saw that the Romans were not a maritime people, and that it was absolutely necessary to reproduce on the seas the conditions of land fighting before the Romans could have a chance of victory. He invented a sort of drawbridge which the Roman sailors could attach to the Carthaginian galleys; and thus the Roman legionaries were enabled to reproduce the conditions of land fighting, and practically destroy the maritime supremacy of Carthage. Germany, beyond all doubt, recognises her naval inferiority as compared with Great Britain, but she also sees that the mercantile marine of Great
Britain is our heel of Achilles, and, leaving our naval might untouched, she is attacking the mercantile marine, and thus creating the conditions for England in regard to food supply that we hope to create in Germany by means of the naval blockade. I hope that the German attempt will not succeed, but the position is sufficiently dreadful at the present time to deserve the serious consideration of every man who has been honored with a seat in one of the King’s Legislatures. I am not a man fond of saying, “ T told you so.” I do not know that there is any great merit in such an attitude; at any rate, the only merit is to rouse the people to a proper appreciation of the problems in front of them, without regard to problems past and gone. I do say, however, that the key to my actions and utterances in this Chamber, from the beginning of the war up to the present time, is my very keen appreciation of the Empire’s danger, and its weakness in the particular spot at which it is now being attacked.
– Will the German submarines wait until Cook and Hughes have patched things up 1
– The honorable senator’s mind is obsessed by “ Cook and Hughes.”
– And so is the whole mind of Australia.
– At the beginning of the war, I said that it was absolutely essential for Great Britain and her children dominions to recognise the desirability of bringing the war to a successful conclusion in a few months, if possible, and to do so by throwing in the whole strength of the Empire. Why ? I think I can almost from memory reproduce the words I uttered; at any rate, they were reported at the time in a Labour newspaper. Mr. Martin, a member of the Labour party in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, had a controversy with me in the Labour paper over this very question. I remember writing over two years ago that, it was necessary for the Empire to bring the war to a successful conclusion before the Germans so improved the submarine as to constitute the approach of a merchant vessel to the ports of the United Kingdom a matter of the greatest difficulty and danger. The event has now come upon us. I am not a slavish admirer of all the men who have held the helm of the ship of State in the Old Country during the war. At the present moment many of them are hesitating to adopt measures that they should adopt at once. We are told of solicitations by one particular Imperial Minister, charged with the matter of food supply, to the people to voluntarily curtail their daily and weekly diet. Why does not the Government ration the people at once, as it will- have to ultimately, and as is being done in other countries? As Mr. Lloyd George says, we are always dogged with the spectre of “ Too late.” The Germans organized their nation ; we have had to follow suit. There does not seem to be any initiative about our rulers. The Germans are rationing their people, but the people in the Old Country are told by the Government to voluntarily curtail their dietaries. The position has to be gripped in such a way as will admit of no misapprehension, and no mistaking in regard to the ultimate result. I urge every honorable senator to read The Day of the Saxon, a book published two years before wa.r was declared, in which the actual areas of conflict were defined, and the coming war regarded as inevitable. Let honorable senators read it, and realize how serious is the position of this territoriallydisintegrated, but, I hope, racially-united, Empire. I am naturally optimistic,- and have all along said that the resources of the British Empire are sufficient, if properly and intelligently exercised, and the powers of the Empire great enough, if properly wielded, to defeat the German Empire even if we were fighting it single-handed. I am sorry to say that the resources of the Empire have, in many instances, not been intelligently organized or vigorously exercised. There is in the minds of our race too much of that denseness which foreigners have sometimes attributed to the foggy atmosphere of the islands from which most of our ancestors came. We do not seem to be quite quick-witted enough, although we have all the virtues of tenacity and stubbornness. I should like our politicians to have a little more imagination and a little longer vision in dealing with the great crises of Empire, one of which is now upon us. The mind- of Senator Ferricks is much exercised by the question whether Mr. Hughes should go to London, and whether we shall have a
National Government. Mr. Hughes has never been my leader. He became the leader of a political party whose domestic policy I opposed, and to many items of whose domestic policy I am still opposed. His Government is the successor of the Government which displaced the Liberal Administration from the Treasury bench. When the war came upon us, the Liberal party decided that its proper and patriotic course was to support the existing GoVernment in all its legitimate legislation in relation to the Empire crisis. The Minister for Defence has from time to time in this chamber acknowledged the support which we gave the Fisher Administration, that subsequently became the Hughes Government, in all its measures for the prosecution of the war. Subsequently a line of cleavage showed itself in the Labour party, and Mr. Hughes remained on the Treasury bench, but with a somewhat different Ministry, and followed by only a section of his party. We did not displace him. We realized that the matter did not greatly concern us. We supported the reformed Hughes Administration, and, so far as I am concerned, that Ministry would have received continued . support if it had decided to be content with it. The Liberal party sought no alliance with the Ministerial party. It did not bargain for anything when it gave its support to Mr. Hughes’ latelyformed Administration, and I have not the slightest doubt that if Mr. Hughes had at once published the fact that he had received an invitation from the Imperial Prime Minister to a Conference to be held in England, and had decided to accept it, the Liberal members of this Parliament, so far as was, and is, in our power, would have prevented him from receiving any parliamentary affront during his absence. Let the people of Australia understand that. But Mr. Hughes himself has, in the interests of the Empire and of political unity in Australia in regard to the prosecution of the war, solicited a closer association between our party and his. Who is to say that we are not preserving the dignity of our party, or that we are regardless of Australian and Imperial interests by listening to .and entertaining his invitation? We decided that, in order to follow the Imperial example in all particulars, the official Labour party, which is quite ready to pro fess its loyalty and its adherence to the Imperial ideal, should be invited to cooperate in the formation of a National Government. It declined to do so, and the matter now rests with the two parties who believe that unity is essential at this juncture. If in the United States, where there is such a keen feeling between Republicans and Democrats, the sinking of all party animosity is regarded as desirable, since the great Republic is, perhaps, on the eve of having to step into the war, surely in Australia, where there are only 5,000,000 of people, almost purely of British extraction, unity is not a bad objective.
– Then what is all the trouble about? Why do not they unite?
– We have only just received the answer of the honorable senator’s party in the negative. They will not unite at all; yet the honorable senator expects us to do it in a day.
– The only trouble is about the question of who is to get the billets.
– There is a good deal of talk about the billet question. If I deferred the utterance of my opinions on this matter, all sorts of vulgar recriminations would be indulged in by my political opponents. I am, therefore, going to say what I have to say on the matter at this juncture, before the political association now projected is actually consummated. I do not approve of all Mr. Hughes’ doings, even in regard to the prosecution of the war.
– Do you approve of all your own doings a fortnight afterwards ?
– I approve of all the doings of my party, because they have been confined” to supporting the Government of which the Minister has been a member ever since the war began. The question I propose to deal with is that discussed by the preceding two speakers, viz., the representation of Australia at the Imperial Conference. Undoubtedly Mr. Hughes received some sort of despatch from the Imperial authorities in regard to the representation of Australia at that Conference.
– And why have we not got it before us?
– I deprecate the secrecy in which Mr. Hughes is alleged to have kept this matter. I understand that this invitation, which was surely not a war item, was known to the- people of the United Kingdom, and presumably known to the people of the other selfgoverning Dominions, and to the Germans, and it is not a matter such as should have been withheld one hour from the people of Australia. But responsible papers, which are urging the alliance of parties in the interests of national unity, state that they were prohibited for at least one or two days from publishing the statement that the invitation had been received. What good purpose is served by action of that kind ? The people of Australia should have been immediately taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister, and he had no reason for suspecting that the Liberal party would withdraw the loyal and disinterested support which we had given him thitherto. Why did he not say that, having received an invitation to attend the Conference, and being Prime Minister, he intended to go to England ? Why did he not define his attitude in regard to this matter? After all, the shuffling of portfolios does not greatly concern this Chamber. If we rightly understand, our functions as legislative’ censors, we will not be particularly concerned with what is happening in another place in regard to the formation of Governments. The impulse of popular power is from below, and although the . Senate has coordinate powers with the other Chamber in most matters, it is well known that rarely do we initiate legislation in this Chamber. That being so, our constitutional province in theory, and certainly in practice, is to act as legislative censors of measures that come before us, and not of Governments formed in another place. I do not intend to be vitriolic in my criticism of Mr. Hughes. He has had a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders in the last year or two, and it may be that a mind somewhat distraught by the cares of office does not always come to the wisest conclusions on important matters. But Mr. Hughes had better understand that a great statesman in a Democracy does not indulge in an undue amount of secrecy. Some secrecy there must be, but the best and boldest course for a man worthy of the name of statesman is to take the people at once into his confidence. On that ground, I object to the course taken by Mr. Hughes in regard to the Imperial invitation. Outside electors who did not understand the disinterested attitude of the Liberal party, were beginning to accuse us of preventing Mr. Hughes from representing Australia at the Conference. So far as we were concerned, he could have accepted the invitation at once, and gone to England. And I say of the Liberal party that, although we may be few in this Chamber, nothing we would have done, would have impaired the power and prestige of Mr. Hughes as the Australian representative at the Conference.
– Nobody challenges that statement.
– But did Mr. Hughes make that clear? The Liberal newspapers attacked us for preventing the acceptance of the invitation, when the nonacceptance was due to the Prime Minister’s own vacillation.
– He is not responsible for what the newspapers say.
– I know he is not; but one generous word from him would have dispelled the mists that were rising in the public mind. We were supporting him disinterestedly, and would have continued to support him in the same spirit if he had accepted the invitation. If we have been solicited to join with Mr. Hughes - and I say the objective is a national one,, and will be salutary in the national interests - the initiative and the solicitation have come from him. There has been no resigning of the Liberal interests. The Liberal party has not wanted, to use a vulgar expression, to get its snout into the dish. I have no desire to delay the passage of this Bill; but I could infer from the interjections that we Liberals would be challenged with having kept our own counsel until the situation had developed. I say now that I have supported the war administration of Mr. Hughes and his colleagues ever since the war started, and I would have continued to support it unless gross mismanagement was disclosed. There is nothing sordid or indecent in the attitude of the Liberal members towards the party on the Ministerial benches at the present juncture. It was the Liberal party that caused the invitation to join in a National ‘Government to be extended to all parties. The refusal of the Official Labour party tp support that project is on their own shoulders. If the majority of the people of Australia desire that that refusal be indorsed, then all I can say is that “ for the people who like that sort of thing it is just the sort of thing they like.”
An Honorable Senator. - You knew we would not join you ?
– Why not? Are not the sons of the Labour Opposition fighting side’ by side with the sons of Liberals and Hughesites in France? If we had taken it for granted that Mr. Tudor’s followers would not join in a National Government, they would have said that their loyalty had been gratuitously impugned by us, and they would ‘ have asked how we could have known that they would refuse to join the Government when no invitation to do so had been given ?
– Our honour was not impugned during the conscription campaign, was it?
– My withers are unwrung. I impugned the loyalty of nobody, but I tell the honorable senator that I believe the party of which he is- a representative took a wrong and misguided course. However.. that is a matter which may be left to the judgment of posterity. Whilst I am prepared to support any Government which I believe to be loyal and sincere to the Imperial ideal, which includes the national ideal of Australia, I do not approve in every particular of the vacillation, nay, the irresolution of Mr. Hughes, and I apologize for it only because .the cares of office are perhaps somewhat too great for his mind in a somewhat frail and attenuated body.
– I do not think he would take it as a compliment if you apologized for him.
– If the. Minister would like me to mention in detail - the improper and irresolute acts of the Prime Minister, I will willingly do so ; but I am not one of those who desire to pour oil on fire. I will support any Ministry, even if Mr. Hughes is at the head of it, which acts properly and imperially at this juncture. But if I were to hold my tongue now, and were to utter the.se criticisms later, my political opponents would say that I was one of the disappointed portfolio seekers. We know that, at the Melbourne Town Hall, a banquet was held at which the sphinx was to declare himself. Australia, it was said, was in a state of expectancy. The Prime Minister said that he accepted the verdict of the people at the poll, but that the men who had been called into camp under the procla mation would have to obey the law. He declared that they would have to go into training, and that those who disobeyed the law would be punished. Inside aweek, however, a notice appeared in the Commonwealth Government Gazette rescinding the proclamation, and absolving those men who had not obeyed the law from any punishment. That was an act of irresolution which I could hardly pardon. I can overlook many indiscretions in a leader of a political party, but I cannot pardon irresolution to any great extent. In this case the irresolution of the Prime Minister may be accounted for to some extent by the fact that he has had imposed upon him such a vast amount of responsibility of late as to impair his judgment. We have been told, in connexion with these negotiations, that the Liberals are out for office, but I can say that Liberalism has always been good enough for me, and in regard to the war I am prepared to support any responsible party that has for its object national unity, which I believe to be imperatively essential.
, - I do not intend to take up very much time, but I would like to say a few words in connexion with the subject that has been touched upon by various speakers this afternoon. There can be only one opinion concerning the present political situation in Australia, and that is, that it is a most unfortunate one. As an Empire we are engaged in a life and death struggle, and at the present moment we have not, in this Parliament, any political party which can be truly said to represent the opinions of our people. Such a position should not exist in a country governed by the people, and in which the franchise is the widest to be found in any part of the world. At the last election two parties went to the constituencies - the Labour party and the Liberal party - and as the result of that appeal to the people, the Labour party came back with an. overwhelming majority in one House, and with a respectable majority in the other. This was an indication at the time that the people of Australia accepted not only the Labour platform, but chose the Labour party to see Australia through the war. Since then, however, something has happened, and the Labour party is. now divided into two parts. I do not intend to go into the reasons which brought about this condition of affairs. All that concerns us at present is the fact that the party which was returned to power at the last election is now divided.
– Some stuck to their pledges to the people, but others did not.
– The honorable gentleman can take it whatever way he pleases, but I have already pointed out that I do not intend to discuss that aspect of the question. We are now only concerned with the fact that the Labour party is divided into two portions, and it can no longer be said to have a majority in the Parliament. It has a majority in one House certainly, but not in the Chamber which more directly represents the people.Now I take up the position that when Mr. Hughes found himself no longer the leader of his party, and no longer’ capable of carrying on the government of the country, his only honorable course was to resign.
– Because some members of the party evaded their responsibilities.
– It does not matter what was the cause of the present state of affairs. The fact is that under our system of parliamentary government the party in power must have a majority.
– That practice has been departed from in every other country in the world.
– That does not justify it here.
– The war justifies it.
– When Mr. Hughes found himself unable to carry on it was his bounden duty to resign. I am not making any reflection upon the party now behind the Prime Minister, but I point out that it is a very small one in the House of Representatives, and in combination with the Opposition it cannot command a majority in the Senate. But instead of resigning, Mr. Hughes immediately formed a new Government, and went on as if nothing had happened. He understood, of course, that it would be impossible for him to continue the government of the country unless he could get a majority in the House of Representatives. What did he do then ? So far as we can discover - nothing has been divulged to us - Mr. Hughes must have entered into an arrangement with the Opposition. To do what? To carry out the Labour platform? The arrangement could not have had that object in view, because the Opposition, as Senator Bakhap has pointed out, is bitterly opposed to nineteen out of twenty planks in the Labour platform. The Labour and Liberal parties are diametrically opposed to each other, and so far as general legislation is concerned, they can no more unite than oil can be mixed with water.
– It is just the samewith the honorable senator and Senator Grant.
– Senator Grant and I are one on the most important question in Australian politics to-day except the war.
– What about the Tariff ?
– I do not wish to be led astray by the interjections of honorable senators. They do not care to hear any mention of these matters, but they must be talked of, because the present situation is a politically immoral one. Several references have been made to billets. If it were not for the word ‘ billet ‘ ‘ and its accompaniments we would not have the present situation in Australia. Why did Mr. Hughes hang on to office when he found himself without aa army?
– Because he liked the bawbees.
– There may be something in what my Scotch friend has said. I was going to say that in all probability he is fond of occupying a high position in the councils of Australia, or he thinks himself a heaven-ordained saviour of the country in its present difficulties, In any case, whatever his opinion of himself may be, he has been trained in the school of Democracy, and must have known that when he lost his majority as Prime Minister he was no longer entitled to hold office. My first ground of complaint against Mr. Hughes is that he improperly continued in his position after he had no warrant for holding it. The only warrant a man has for holding the office of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is that Parliament supports him. Does the Commonwealth Parliament support Mr. Hughes?
– The House of Representatives supports him, but the Senate does not, and he is supported in the House of Representatives only by what I may designate an immoral fusion.
Wo are told that the only reason why the Liberal party is supporting him, and why he is accepting the support of the Liberal party, is to win the war. Every member of the Commonwealth Parliament is anxious to win the war; there is no man in the Labour party who has not done his very best to help in winning the war; there cannot be two opinions upon the matter; but honorable senators overestimate the importance of Australia in this regard. If we sent every man, woman, and child from Australia across to Europe, and exhausted all our resources, I doubt very much whether it would have any great .effect on the winning or losing of the war. If ‘the war is to be won it may be won without any assistance of Australia. It can only be won by Russia, Great Britain, France, and Italy. If they cannot -win the war the position is hopeless so far as Australia is concerned. But all parties are united in regard to the matter of winning the war.
– It is an insult to suggest anything else.
– Of course it is. The present position is that a party is in power which was defeated by the electors of the Commonwealth when the last appeal was made to the people. Who is iti power now? Mr. Hughes or Mr. Cook ?
– I think it is a case ot a little of both.
– My experience o’f parliamentary matters is that the party which has the biggest numbers in Parliament is the party which lays down the policy of the country.
– Mr. Hughes is in o’ffice, but Mr. Cook is in power.
– I think that states the position exactly. When the people were consulted on the last occasion did they accept Mr. Cook and his party ? Mr. Cook offered himself and his party, and . proclaimed his platform, but the country turned him down and turned down his platform, and accepted the Labour party and the Labour platform. Yet now, by the hands of Mr. Hughes, the country has been betrayed - the country which refused Mr. Cook nearly three years ago has him now foisted upon it by the man representing the party who, on that occasion, was intrusted with power by the electors, and placed in office for the purpose of carrying out the Labour platform and seeing the war through. It is an act of- grossest treason towards the people of Australia.
– Others beside Mr. Hughes had something to do with the foisting. The Political Labour Council Executive had something to do with it. What plank of the Labour party has been betrayed ?
– As I have said before I have no intention of going into that aspect of the question.
– But that is the kernel of the whole matter.
– It is not. No political leader with any sense of what is due to himself, or to the country, would consent to hold office for a single instant after finding himself deprived of his majority.
– But the honorable senator said more than that. He said that Mr. Hughes had betrayed the people.
– I say that he betrayed the people by hanging on to office and placing Mr. Cook in power. Is it not a fact that Mr. Cook is in power ?
– It is not a fact.
– I know’ that the honorable senator will deny it, but we all know that it is a fact ; we all know that Mr. Cook has Mr. Hughes on a chain, and my friend Senator de Largie also, and every member of that party.
– As Mr. Hughes had you for a long time.
– Mr. Hughes had me when he was leader of the party.
– For a lon? time.
– When Mr. Hughes was .Leader of the Labour party no doubt he was my leader, and on many occasions, as the honorable senator knows, I had reason to .differ from him.
– You would differ from your wife, if you had one.
– I think that <that is more than likely. But to come back to matters which are of more present importance here is a most unfortunate situation for the people of Australia - a situation which has been created for them, not by themselves, but by men whom they elected to Parliament to do a particular thing, and to see the war through in a particular way. Let me repeat once more that Mr. Hughes ought to have resigned his position the moment he found himself without a majority. Why did he not do so ?
– Who would have been at the head of the Government if he had resigned?
– Mr. Hughes had nothing whatever to do with that question.
– Oh, yes, he had.
-r-That was nothing to Mr. Hughes.
– It would have been a minority Government whichever party was in power.
– The moment that Mr. Hughes found himself without a majority he should have sent his resignation to the Governor-General, and left it in His Excellency’s hands to send for whom he pleased.
– Which he did. He sent his resignation in.
- Mr. Hughes sent his resignation in, not with the purpose of resigning the position of Prime Minister, but simply with the object of rearranging the portfolios. . But my contention is that he should have completely abandoned the office. He ought to have said, “I have no longer a majority. I have no longer the power to carry out the platform on which I was elected, therefore I vacate the position.” But he did not do anything of the kind. He hung on to the position because, as one honorable senator said here this afternoon, he is fond of the “ bawbees.” That is one of the most sordid reasons imaginable for hang7 ing on to any public position. That may be the right reason, or it may be the wrong reason, but if it is the reason it is one which is disgraceful in the extreme. The duty of Mr. Hughes, as I have pointed out, was evident. If he had resigned his position the probability is that the Governor-General would have sent for the Leader of the Opposition, and the latter would have found that, although he might’ have a majority in the House of Representatives, he could not carry on owing to the existence of a majority against him in the Senate.
– He has not a majority in the House of Representatives, as you know.
– The majority is in Opposition.
– Mr. Cook has not a majority, but the Opposition is the largest party in the House of Representatives. ‘ The Opposition is larger than either of the other two parties.
– But it is not a majority. ‘
– Probably Mr. Cook would have found himself in the same situation as Mr. Hughes, and would have abandoned the position. Next, the Governor-General might have sent for the representative of the Labour party, and he, too, would have found himself in exactly the same - position as the others. And then no doubt His Excellency would have taken the course which I think should have been taken in the circumstances. He would have directed an appeal to the country, and given the people an opportunity of saying what kind of Government they desired in the present critical juncture in their history.
– And Australia would have had a spectacle which has not been seen in any other part of the world, and that is a general election held during the war.
– It was asked for last week by the Premier of Western Australia.
– There may be worse things than a general election, even during a war. The present .situation is a most immoral one. The people of Australia have been bought and sold like bullocks in tha market place.
– What !
– It is a fact. The people chose one party two years ago, and they find now that they are ruled by a party practically which they then turned down. What position could be more immoral than that, and what is the reason for it? I do not wish to think hardly of Mr. Hughes. I was associated with .him for many years, and I say here and now that I have a greater admiration for him in many ways than ever I had for any other member of the Labour party. He is undoubtedly a man of very great ability, but it appears to me that his ambition has run away with him.
– What ambition ? What did he do wrong to the party to which he belonged ?
– I am not saying anything about it.
– It is interesting to know, because you are posing fca a moralist in the matter.
– AH that I contend for is that the moment Mr. Hughes found himself without the power to carry out the platform on which he was elected he ought to have resigned his position’. That is the head and front of his offending as far as I am concerned.
– No, no. You spoke about his betrayal of the people, and all that sort of thing. I do not know whether you are in a position to do that.
– The honorable senator can have his own opinion on these matters. I have mine. Does he contend that Mr. Hughes was right in continuing to hold the office . of Prime Minister when he found himself shorn of the power which ought to accompany that high office?
– But he has not been shorn of the power.
– He has been.
– He could not live for five minutes with a minority.
- Mr. Hughes was elected as a member of a party three years ago pledged to carry out the Labour .platform.
– And he has never broken a plank of the platform.
– Will the present supporters of Mr. Hughes help to place the Labour platform on the statutebook ?
– Has any one of us ever broken a plank of it?
– Those who belong to the Labour party-
– Why do you assume the right to say this?
– The honorable senator assumes that I am assuming more than I am doing.
– You are assuming that we are all wrong.
– I am not assuming anything of the kind. I am simply pointing out to the honorable senator what he knows perfectly well, and that is that Mr. Hughes was elected leader of a party which was pledged to the Labour platform, and that by that party he was appointed Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Can he now with his new following place a single plank of the Labour platform on the statutebook ?
– Yes, certainly. Senator STEWART. - Will the new party follow him ?
– Will the Cook party help Mr. Hughes? He cannot do it without the assistance of Mr. Cook and his followers.
– The party sitting behind Mr. Hughes has as long and as clean a record as yours. If they have not, point out where they have gone wrong.
– My honorable friend is wilfully misunderstanding me.
– Not at all.
– I am making no accusation against the honorable senator or any other member of the present party who was a member ° of the old Labour party.
– If that is your intention, your speech will not read in. that way.
– That is not my intention. It ought not to be necessary for me to repeat it so often. ‘ The present Government cannot put on the statute-book any one plank of the. Labour platform without the permission of Mr. Cook and his followers.
– Neither could the Official Labour party.
– No; we have not a majority.
– Then of what good would it be to hand over the government of the country to you ?
– We do not want it. What we desire is an appeal to the country. That is the only way to straighten out the present tangle. But Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook, having met in solemn conclave, have decided not to send Parliament to the country - the members of the House of Representatives do not wish to risk their skins - but to send the Senate there. Personally, I welcome an early appeal to the country; but the people should not be put to the expense of two separate elections when one would be sufficient.
– Is that economy ?
– It is not economy of public money, though it may save money to some persons. The Senate is to be sent to the country in April or May, the. Government hoping that it may thus obtain a majority of one or two here.
– When was that proposal put forward?
– It has, not been made public, but I am entitled to draw my deductions from the facts, and it seems to me that that is the arrangement which has been, or may be, come to.
– It is easy to assume things.
– When one sees clouds, it is natural to assume that rain may follow. The present immoral situation cannot be pleasing to the people. If Mr. Hughes, or Mr. Cook, or any other man be sent to the Old Country now to represent Australia, he will not be the accredited representative of the people. Had there been no division of the Labour party, we could have sent Mr. Hughes Home with some degree of certainty that the people of Australia would be behind him.
– They are behind him now.
– : I think not. Why are Ministers -afraid to put their positions to the test of an election ? ‘The Labour party three years ago had the people behind it, but it is now divided into two sections, one of which is formally or informally allied with the traditional enemies of Labour. It is ridiculous to think that as things stand any representative that might be sent could authoritatively voice the opinions and aspirations of the people of Australia. There is no need to go into details; I rose merely to point out that the present position is intolerable, and can be ended only by an appeal to the country by the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament. If such an appeal does not take place, and Mr. Hughes is sent Home, the people may not consider themselves bound by what he engages to do. They may not regard him as their duly accredited representative. It would be a misfortune were any one to be sent Home at this juncture who could not truly represent Australia.
– Is not Mr. Hughes the Prime Minister?
– He ought not to be.
SenatorBakhap. - But he is, and the honorable senator, being a Scotchman, should recognise the fact.
- Senator Bakhap is a man of great intelligence, possessing a good deal of spirit, and I am sure that had he been elected leader of a party possessing a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and had subsequently found himself without a majority, and unable to carry out the platform on which he was elected, he would have resigned. I am sure that he would not cling to office if he found himself impotent. No one with the spirit of a man would. I do ‘not wish to detain the Senate longer, but I ask honorable senators to consider that we have arrived at a time when we are confronted with a position which we should meet with faces of flint.
– And courage.
– Yes, and courage. Let us send both Houses of this Parliament to the country at the earliest opportunity. If the electors want Mr.
Hughes and Mr. Cook, let them have them, and if they do not. want them, let them get somebody else. The sooner we come to a resolution in connexion with the matter the better.
Debate (on motion by Senator Turley) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That the ‘Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to announce to honorable -senators that the first report available of the result of the war loan indicates thatno less than . £18,179,580 have been subscribed.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– In view- of the fact that this is the first report, and is by no means complete, I think that we may one and all congratulate Australia upon once more making a magnificent effort to see the war through. At the present time, when big issues are before the people, the result of the war loan is -an indication that whatever may be the differences existing amongst us in Parliament and in the country, the people of Australia desire to see the war brought to a close by a satisfactory victory for the Allies at as early a date as possible. I feel that we may exchange mutual congratulations between ourselves and Australia upon the result of the latest war loan.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate . adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170209_senate_6_81/>.