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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am merely quoting the language of a senator on the hustings in Queensland the other day. At any rate, I hope that, now my honorable friends have the papers, they are quite satisfied, and, if they are men, they will withdraw the slanderous statements made broadcast on every hustings in the country during the recent campaign. I will only add that some of those papers were not written for publication. They were merely reminders of conversations that had taken place between His Excellency and myself. I have nothing more to say on that question, but perhaps had we known that we were setting out formal documents for publication, the terminology of some of them might have been slightly altered. However, there they are, and I wish honorable members joy of them. I hope they will peruse the papers carefully, and that they will then withdraw some of the unfair and shocking statements they uttered during the campaign.

Meanwhile, I wish to put into the witnessbox on this subject a distinguished and impartial critic, whose words I read in the BritannicReview of July last. Sir John Madden, the Chief Justice of Victoria, writing on the subject of the double dissolution, said -

Australia, from the constitutional standpoint, at the moment occupies a position which is unique. The double dissolution "s >i very interesting experiment. It is the first test of the cure for deadlocks provided by the Constitution of the Commonwealth. M ambers of both Houses were, of course, no more than those of other Parliaments eager to risk their £600 a ye«r by an appeal to the country, and the. action taken by the GovernorGeneral has boon the occasion of some irritation and criticism. But it was quite the only thing to be clone.

I am glad to quote that statement from so eminent an authority, one who is not only an old politician himself, b'H who had to do with many a crisis in his own State.

Mr Riley - He is a great Liberal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Is he? I did not know that.

Mr Riley - Yes, one of the old type.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - My impression is that the honorable member is doing Sir John Madden a great injustice. That gentleman is no Liberal while he is on the Bench.

Mr Riley - He is not on the Bench now.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I had to remain with my hands tied behind my back and listen for a whole month while honorable members flagellated me throughout the length and breadth of the country. Surely the honorable member can listen to me now for a few minutes! Sir John Madden continued -

Clearly Parliamentary Government could not go on with a hostile majority in the Senate, and a Ministerial majority of one in the House of Representatives, that one often consisting of the Speaker. Mr. Cook, the Prime Minister, was compelled against his own inclination to put one of his own supporters into the chair, and the Speaker found himself in an invidious position when Government business could only be advanced by the aid of his vote. The dissolution of the House of Representatives was indispensable; on the other hand, the Senate, which is supposed to be a house of review and delay for more careful consideration, with an overwhelming Labour majority, had become thedetermining factor whatever Government was in office. Mr. Cook's Government could do nothing. Whatever they carried by their one vote in the House of Representatives was rejected by the Senate. Consequence, complete dead -lock. Ministers having passed in two different sessions their Bill "repealing the Labour Government's Act, which gave preference to trade unionistsin Government employment, and the Senate having twice thrown it out, the situation left no room for choice. It now rests with the people of Australia to determine the issue.

The people have determined that issue, and many another issue as well, but I am glad to have confirmation of the course which the late Government took in seeking a way out of the dead-lock.

I think honorable members will agree, at any rate, that they have a working Parliament now. This Parliament ought to work if ever a Parliament did, and I only hope that what we have seen and heard to-day will be no criterion of what is likely to occur during the weeks and months thatare to come. I do not know why the honorable member for Capricorn ia smiles-

Mr Kelly - It is his first smile for three weeks.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I owe the honorable member for Capricornia nothing, and I do not know that he owes me anything. But I will say that he did more valiant work for his party when he was on this side of the House last session than any member then sitting on this side. That is but truth to say, and I say it, who am an uncompromising opponent of his. Reference is naturally made, and this reference is in a commanding position in the Speech, to the Expeditionary Forces and to general war preparations, and if I should make a criticism at all of paragraphs 3 to 7 it would be to suggest that perhaps they are just a little bit ungenerous. All these statements are a simple relation of facts concerning the previous Government, yet, by some accident or other, which always occurs in what they do, there is no mention in them of the preceding Government in any shape or form. Are present Ministers afraid of making mention of anything -the previous Government ever did? Surely this omission was a little ungenerous; some reference might have been made to associate all these preparations, of which the party at present in power cordially approve, with the names of the individuals who were responsible for them. I cannot help saying at this stage that Australia will hardly know what the first three or four weeks of the war meant. I would never have believed, if it had not been my bitter experience to go through it, that a war could smash up things in the way it did. To speak vulgarly, everything was knocked endways. For their work in the difficult task of gathering up the jagged ends which the wrench of war had caused, this country owes a debt of gratitude to at least two men, who bore the brunt of it, and were in the forefront all the time. I refer to the late Attorney-General, who had to tread unexplored country from a legal point of view, to advise and give decisions on all sorts of new points which cropped up from hour to hour, and this country will never know what it owes the honorable member for Flinders for his devotion to duty during those weeks.

I must also say the same of the late Minister of Defence. That gentleman occupied in the late electoral campaign a unique position. Not only do I refer to his work in the preparation of the Expeditionary Force, but I allude to him in another way. The honorable member for Capricornia at least will remember his motion in this House urging the Government to reduce the defence expenditure. I will not refer now to those fierce demands from so many members on the other side of the House, couched in unequivocal terms, that the defence expenditure should be ruthlessly cut down. As a result, we undertook to do our best to reduce the defence expenditure.

Mr Higgs - You agreed with that view at the time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am pointing out that Senator Millen went loyally to his task, and cut down the expenditure by about £700,000, without, I believe, diminishing the efficiency of the Forces by one sixpennyworth. What is his reward ? He nearly lost his seat. He made himself most unpopular in the Defence Department. He did an unpopular work, and that is why I wish to pay a tribute to him to-day, because he carried out the wishes of this House in particular, saving the country a great amount of money, whilst at the same time preserving the efficiency of the Forces.

As to what happened when the war broke out, the simple statement of facts in the Governor-General's Speech is sufficient testimony. But what I regret was the display of pure savagery during the election campaign on the part of the present Attorney-General. That honorable member was brutal, bitter, and unfair in his criticism of the late Minister of Defence. He was brutal in his conduct all through the campaign, and I cannot help feeling strongly about it. One of the things he said, and said with all the emphasis and all the specious and flamboyant rhetoric of which he is a master, was that the late Minister of Defence had done nothing. Yet here in the Governor-General's Speech is Senator Millen's record. This is what he did, and this is what the Attorney-General calls nothing. There is such a thing as fair fighting, and I say it is brutally unfair when a man attacks another whose hands are tied behind his back, and declares that he has done nothing, and then, with his tongue in his cheek, he pens sentences which tell the people of the great work that that man has done for the country, without ever mentioning his name. I speak strongly, because I feel strongly; that I candidly admit.

I should like to call the Prime Minister's attention to clause 6 of the Governor-General's Speech -

Proposals for a pension scheme for Australians engaged on active service and their dependents will also be laid before you.

I should imagine this ought to be the very first business of the session. Those men are going away, leaving their wives and children behind them. Their pay is small, and I say that the sooner we let them know what they have to face, and the sooner we let their dependents know what they have to face in certain contingencies, which at tha present moment seem very likely, the better for all concerned. To deal with this matter immediately would be a simple act of justice to our soldiers and their dependants. I hope that we shall see this one of the first measures of the session in order that those who are going to fight for us may know what their fate is to be. It will add to their comfort, no doubt, to know that those they are leaving behind, those near and dear to them, will be provided for, that Australia is rich enough to find sufficient to keep them, at any rate, beyond the fear of want.

In paragraph 7 we are told -

Upon the declaration of war the Australian Navy was immediately placed at the disposal of the Admiralty. Acting in conjunction with Expeditionary Forces of New Zealand and the Commonwealth, it has rendered considerable service to the Empire in Samoa and New Guinea. By its presence and activity these waters have been kept clear of enemy ships, and our maritime commerce has been continued uninterrupted ; thus amply vindicating the policy of an Australian Navy.

I cordially agree that the policy of an Australian Navy has been amply vindicated. May I add that the policy of the late Government regarding the character of the boats has also been amply vindicated? The fact is that the flotilla of small boats, the Naval programme sketched by my honorable friend in his Gympie speech a year or two ago-

Mr Fisher - A year or two ago ? It was early in 1909.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - So long ago as that? I had no idea of it. I thought it was only a year or two ago. But I am sure my honorable friend will be the first to admit that the programme he first laid down would have done nothing to save Australia in this crisis. Those twenty small boats for which he was providing, and which constituted the whole of his

Naval programme at that time, would not have kept one of the German raiders from our coast or prevented our commerce from being suspended and hung up, or perhaps prevented our capital cities from being sacked. Our protection came through the bigger proposal, for which the late Government, at any rate, may take some credit, seeing that they put the Bill through Parliament, and ordered the lighting ship which is now doing such great service for Australia. Therefore I think honorable members on this side may stand in for some of the praise bestowed upon the Australian Navy and its effectiveness in these trying days.

I have already said that the programme submitted by the Government in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral is a challenge to the party instincts of this Chamber. I return to this point for a few moments. When one contrasts the policy submitted to the House with the responsible statements made by the present Ministers prior to the election, a very wide discrepancy will be found to exist between them. Here, again, the arch offender is the AttorneyGeneral. He played a deep game, if ever a man did ; he took every party advantage he could of the war, and we suffered in consequence on our side.

Mr J H Catts - Did the Daily Telegraph do a mean thing ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am not talking about the Daily Telegraph. Let me tell the honorable member that the Daily Telegraph had occasion to remind his party of their brutal conduct afterwards, and to accuse them of unfair fighting and of twisting and contorting things that the paper had said to the advantage and purposes of the party - of actually taking away from their context the words of the paper, and making them serve a purpose entirely different from what the paper intended. Surely the honorable member remembers that. He will not range himself, I hope, with the Daily Telegraph with regard to all that was done, as I am sure the Daily Telegraph would not range themselves with him, seeing that on several occasions during the late campaign they repudiated him and all his associates.

Mr J H Catts - They made no reference to me in the matter of which you are speaking.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Why should they? What had the honorable member done to be specially singled out? I know that the honorable member thinks that he renders great services to Australia.

Mr J H Catts - I think nothing of the kind.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - But the honorable member does; and he has put it oi> record, and told all his confreres of it. also; and then did not get the position, after all. The honorable member and I suffer many injustices, and that is ona one of the number. I was alluding to the Attorney-General, who, I am sure, isquite capable of looking after himself.. This is what he said before the elections,, and it bears upon the programme submitted to us in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. I shall quote what the Attorney-General has said in order to p,16 it on record. On the 3rd August, speaking of the " Stop the election " agitation that had sprung up, he said - -

In my opinion, speaking offhand, and without a copy of the Constitution by me, no such course (postponement) is possible. The Constitution lays down certain conditions, which the Electoral Act necessarily follows. These conditions prescribe certain intervals which must elapse from the time of the issue of the writs to their return. Parliament has been, dissolved; the writs have been issued; and they must be returned.

On the 5th August he thought that Parliament should be called together, and suggested means by which the old Parliament could be revived. Two days previously he was convinced that it was impossible. After two days he is convinced that is quite possible and easy.

Mr Riley - He then had a copy of the Constitution, before him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Tell that to the marines. This is what he said on the 5th August -

Of course the suggestion, if it were put forward, would not in any way affect the ultimate settlement of party issues lately set before the people. It would not be a settlement of party difference, but a truce. The Parliament, whether the old one re-created or a new one, would last only during the currency of the war and thereafter as long as it was decided by mutual agreement, and would only deal with the war and the consequences arising out of it.

Here was the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral before the elections. He deliberately said that this Parliament should not be engaged in general party business, but should be engaged with the war and the consequences arising out of it - that and nothing more - and that as to party measures there should be a truce.

Mr J H Catts - And you refused it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Does that alter the facts? Has the Attorney -General a different opinion now ?

Mr West - That was before the elections.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member is quite right. It was before the elections - when they did not mean it. What is in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral is what they meant all the time. They take advantage of every passing wind that blows. I hope honorable members will realize that I am not sorry as to what has happened. I wish them all the joy that they may get out of their next three years, and I tell them that if Ministers will leave party issues alone, they will have no stauncher supporters than those sitting in opposition.

Mr West - What nonsense it is to talk like that! We cannot leave legislation alone for three years.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Why did you not tell the people at Paddington that all this talk about stopping the issues was nonsense ? It is all nonsense now, according to the honorable member, and that evidently is the opinion of the Caucus, of the Prime Minister, and of the AttorneyGeneral. Of course, it is all nonsense. But it was the best of good sense before the elections, when honorable members used these statements for party purposes and secured a great many thousand votes by doing so. There was no nonsense About it then, but now that the election is over, now that honorable members are away from the people for three years, they say that it is all nonsense. I call the attention of the electors, who gave honorable members votes believing in their sincerity, to the fact that things are different - at least, so they say - now that honorable members are returned to the House with a majority. However, I must proceed with what the Attorney-General has said. He went on to say -

We cannot have party warfare and united action. We cannot go on the platform and denounce the Government, and, at the same time, work with the Government..... For the time being party has ceased to exist. With most miraculous celerity, the din of party strife has died down, the warring factions have joined hands and the greatest crisis of our history is faced by a united people. On all hands it is agreed that there is no room for party fighting now.

Later on he referred again to the " indecency of party strife." He said -

I had hoped that even at the eleventh hour Mr. Cook would have come forward with some proposals that would suspend party strife during this great national crisis, but he has not done so.

The national crisis is still in existence. There is still a grave condition of affairs confronting us on the Continent of Europe, and if the condition of affairs before the elections required the cessation of party strife, the conditions have since been accentuated. The war will be a tremendously long one, taxing all our resources and . those of the whole of the Empire and of the Allies. There can be only one ending, I believe, but that will only be through tremendous suffering and self-sacrifice on the part of our Empire. These conditions remain to-day, and if honorable members believed . what they said - that party strife should cease - why do they now submit a programme which raises the very fiercest of party contentions, and must lead to party turmoil in the House and a great deal of bitterness and many hard words?

Mr Finlayson - That is a very nice promise.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Does the honorable member think that there is to be no debate in this House on the referenda proposals? Under the cloak of the war, do the Government want to sneak them through? If they do, I promise them that they will not succeed. That is not playing the game. It is taking a mean party advantage of the war to throw proposals of this kind before Parliament, when all parties, so the Labour party told the electors, should be united in an effort to see the war through, and when we should concentrate all our argumentation, convictions, and judgment on the one supreme task of insuring the national safety, and winning victory for the Empire in the crisis through which it is passing.

Mr Riley - If the Liberal Government had accepted the offer to call a truce, there would have been some justification for the right honorable member's criticism; but it was refused.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I still hold that what the Labour party proposed was impossible. Their Attorney-General of to-day said so at the time, and he was right. I say deliberately, now that the tide of battle has turned, now that the Labour party have got all that they could out of it, that to take any other course than we did was practically impossible.

Mr Finlayson - I am glad.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Of course the honorable member is glad now.

Mr Finlayson - I was opposed to the Attorney-General's opinion as expressed at the time, and I said so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Such is fame. If the honorable member gave expression to that opinion, I can onlY say that we never heard of it.

But where is the evidence of the cessation of party warfare in connexion with the whole proceedings of the present Government since they assumed office ? Let us take, for instance, the officering of the House. Mr. Speaker stepped down when the Labour party stepped out of office, and he steps up again now that they have again stepped into power. He would not sit in the chair with a Liberal Government in power. It is only when the Labour Government comes back to office that he decides that he can again occupy the position. I am pointing out these evidences of a truce - of the utter absence of party feeling and of the cessation of party strife ! We have evidence of it on every hand. Rumour says that, in connexion with the Public Works Bill which I had the honour to place upon the statutebook - it was one of the measures which the Labour party described as "nothing at all " during the elections, although they evidently think it is of some importance now - that the Government and their supporters desire to monopolize the Committee to be appointed under it. Is that true?

Mr Fisher - We are only to have a proportionate share, according to representation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Is it true that the Government are proposing to insist upon six nominations to that Committee?

Mr Fisher - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - And there are to be only three from this side of the House. On what ground?

Mr Fisher - Proportionate representation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is to say, party representation. The right honorable gentleman, who, before the general election, was shrieking all over the country for a party truce, now says, "Because our party is bigger than your party, we must have more representatives on the Public Works Committee."

Mr Boyd - The worst type of the policy of " spoils to the victors."

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The policy is raging here with hurricane-like force. My impression is that some honorable members opposite, when on this side of the House, urged that there should be an equal representation of parties on the Committee - that it should conduct its business on a non-party basis. We are now told that the Labour party must have two representatives to our one on the Committee.

Mr Fisher - Does the honorable member claim that there should be five representatives of his party ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - There is an odd number, and the Government are entitled to have the odd number, but to say that there should be six representatives of the Labour party to three representatives of the Liberal party on the Committee seems to me to suggest a mendacious grab. Here we have the policy of "spoils to the victors" in its most perfect form. May I remind the Prime Minister that, although he has a large preponderance of members on his side of the House, while in the Senate we are, so to speak, out of sight, nearly one-half of the people of Australia voted for our candidates. It is only the accident of the grouping which gives these anomalousresults within the Chamber. If the right honorable member consults the public opinion of Australia, therefore, he must recognise that we are entitled to have at least four members on the Committee, and to be treated in a different manner from that proposed by the Caucus. But here again we have evidence of the non-party spirit - of the truce which was to be called while we were dealing unitedly with the war"!

Mr Mahon - The right honorable member is honouring that truce in his present speech.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I never agreed to the sort of truce proposed. The authors of it came from the Labour side, and since their return to power they arefalsifying every statement which they made from the public platforms of the country during the election campaign.

Mr Mahon - Did not the right honorable member promise that if Labour were returned to power he and his party would cordially co-operate with them?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - And I tell the honorable gentleman now that, so far as this war and all the things relating to it are concerned, we shall follow the Government implicitly. There will be no party feeling on our part. I am entitled, however, to ask that this spirit shall be reciprocal, and that we shall be treated fairly while we try to treat the Government fairly. Is it the honorable gentleman's idea of a truce that we should be utterly and absolutely subservient to the Government and their supporters'! Does it mean, in his opinion, our absolute prostration ?

Mr Mahon - The honorable member's party in the whole Parliament numbers only thirty-seven.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes, here it is again ; the honorable member and his colleagues are totting up the parties all the while, although they said before the election that the question of parties should not be taken into account during the war. We were told then that there was to be a truce, but the moment Labour was returned the party was numbered on a party basis, and they declared that they were entitled to have six representatives to our three on the Public Works Committee.

My complaint is that honorable members opposite do not consider these things in the spirit of the truce they suggested, and that they are using the war to cloak a lot of things which they would have done much better by leaving undone. They would have consulted their own respect, in my judgment, had they left those things alone. The public outside will know, at any rate, how much credit to attach to these statements on the part of the Labour party. I wish to say something more regarding the composition of the Senate. If ever there was a gross democratic anomaly in any country we have it here in connexion with our National Parliament. There was a nearly equal party vote, and yet we have only five members of the Liberal party in another place, while Labour has thirty-one.

Mr Mahon - In reality, only four. The Liberal representative from South Australia was elected by Labour votes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - -Then honorable members opposite give themselves thirty-two representatives "as of right" in the Senate, and think it is right that- 1,000,000 voters should return thirty-two representatives, while the Liberal party has only four representatives for nearly the same number of votes.

Mr Mahon - Seeing that the right honorable member was in office for two years, and never proposed any alteration

Mr JOSEPH COOK -- Two years?

Mr Mahon - Yes, twelve months in two different Governments.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable gentleman is seeing: double since taking office. He knows that we could do nothing in the last Parliament. We were struggling for our very lives during the whole twelve months, and we had no right to remain in office a minute longer than we did. The appeal just made to the country has emphasized that fact.

Mr Brennan - It proves that the honorable member and his party had no right to go there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - We had to go.

Mr Brennan - This House should have gone to the country straight away.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - This is the first time that the honorable member has made such a contribution to the discussion of the question.

Mr Brennan - No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Why did not the honorable member think of it before? We might then have gone to the country and have come back with a majority of ten in this House, just as the Labour party have to-day. We tried to do the best we could in difficult circumstances, and I for one am very glad to be out of it all. I had enough of it. I shall be much happier on this side than I was when we were making an heroic struggle to keep our heads above water while fighting the bashi-bazouks who were arrayed against us.

There are some proposals in the Ministerial programme which are of a nonparty character, and I hope the Government will give them first place since they have seen fit to mention them. We have, for instance, in His Excellency's Speech a reference to the late Premiers' Conference - a gathering which the Assistant Minister of External Affairs once described as an excrescence on the Constitution.

Mr Mahon - I repeat the statement.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yet the Government propose to take advantage of what the Premiers' Conference did. Whydo they not repudiate what this " excrescence " did ? They are glad, however, to take anything useful that is proposed by a Premiers' Conference, and to denounce it afterwards.

Mr Archibald - We were only recording an historical incident.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - But there have been others since that to which I have referred. These criticisms were made by the Labour party in connexion with the last Premiers' Conference. One honorable gentleman said that if the destiny of the Commonwealth was going to be controlled by a State Premiers' Conference we did not want the Federal Government at all; whilst another sapient critic - I think it was the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament - declared that these Conferences were being foisted " like a growth " upon the people, and that they were an abuse on our own form of government. Abuse or no abuse, some exceedingly useful things were done by the recent Inter-State Conference, and the Government appear to think so, since they have embodied in their present programme some of the most useful proposals made at it. So much for the " excrescence " and for the " growth." I congratulate the Government on taking these proposals into their programme. While trying by this bitter, unfair, and acrid criticism to poison the wells of the InterState Conference, they are glad enough just now, shall I say, to lave in the waters of the River Murray, the springs of which were unlocked by that very useful Premiers' Conference to which I have alluded. I am glad to welcome into this House one of the moving spirits of that Conference. I do not hesitate to say that we could not have achieved the results we did at that meeting but for the spirit of compromise and fairness and statesmanship which characterized the actions of my now colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava. We shall help, the Government to put these matters through. I venture to say that the Murray waters proposal is the biggest one ever put before Australia for finding employment here and developing the country.

Mr Hughes - Why did the honorable gentleman, when in power, not go on with it?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Only a man like the honorable member would make an inane interjection of the kind.

Mr Hughes - Chesterfield. I bow to you I

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is the sort of thing the honorable member indulged in at the elections; he ought not to disgrace himself by continuing it here. The honorable member knows that we on this side, when in power, could not do this or anything else - honorable members opposite took good care of that.

Mr Hughes - The honorable gentleman knows that what he is saying is not in accordance with fact.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then I shall now tell the honorable member that the agreement was not signed until a long while after Parliament had been dissolved; is that sufficient reason?

Mr Hughes - It is the, only reason the honorable gentleman has advanced so far.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - This is doubtless one of the ' ' cobwebs ' ' the honorable member would brush aside.

Now we come to the question of the uniform railway gauge; and the Government have suddenly arrived at the opinion that this is a very urgent Australian question.

Mr Fisher - Suddenly?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Well, I may say that the late Government thought that it was urgent.

Mr Tudor - The Prime Minister has done more in this connexion than any one else in the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - What has the Prime Minister done? What did the Labour Government do during their three years of office except put this question in their programme every time?

Mr Riley - The Labour Government fixed this gauge for the transcontinental railway.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Honorable members opposite had better not talk about that railway, which they never built, but for the building of which they nevertheless sought credit. We are now discussing the question of the gauge, which was dealt with by the Labour Government in the same way as they dealt with the debts question. I notice that in the programme there is no mention of the State debts, immigration, the Commonwealth Bank,, or the Agricultural Bureau. Honorable members opposite told the people of the country that they were in favour of the Agricultural Bureau, but they forgot to mention it in their programme. However, that is a matter which can be referred to later. As to the gauge, there is no indication as to what the Government propose to do, and I should be very glad to hear something in this regard. We are informed that it is proposed to take " early steps to initiate this great national work"; and I should like to know what those steps are. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, referred to the question of the railway gauge, and said that the late Government had shelved it. He is thus reported -

Distinguished as are the members of the Inter-State Commission they can add but little to the views of the distinguished and experienced gentlemen who so carefully considered the matter in 1912. The thing has been effectively pigeonholed -

Mr Fisher - Hear, hear !

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Does the honorable member call it " pigeonholing " to send the question to the Inter-State Commission ?

Mr Fisher - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - In view of that criticism, surely the obligation is laid on the Prime Minister to tell the House what he is going to do in order to push the matter on more quickly?

Mr Fisher - I quite agree with the honorable member.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I invite the Prime Minister to tell us explicitly how he is going to effectuate this great and necessary undertaking? My own opinion is that he will find that there are others to be consulted.

Mr Fisher - I am well aware of that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Has the right honorable gentleman done anything up to the present in the direction of consulting the States?

Mr Fisher - Verbally, and I shall do more.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - If the right honorable gentleman can expedite this matter more quickly, he will find us behind him.

Mr Fisher - I have spoken of the matter on the platform until I should think the people are tired of hearing me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I remind the right honorable gentleman that he has no power to deal with this matter in its entirety on his own account. The railway gauge is not his gauge; the railways be long to the States, and he can do nothing whatever regarding them without consulting the owners.

Mr Fisher - I am not so sure of that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then the right honorable gentleman has predatory designs on the State railways? Here we have a new doctrine being laid down, namely, that the Government, without reference to the States, can do something in the important matter of altering the effectiveness and carrying capacity of the whole of their railways. I should be glad to hear what the Prime Minister's doctrine reallyis in regard to this great question. My own opinion is that the Premiers' Conference did the only thing possible to bring about a rapid solution of this pressing and important question. When I first submitted my proposal several of the Premiers turned it down, not liking the idea of an inquiry by the Inter-State Commission, which was regarded as a power or authority on which the States were not represented; but after thinking the matter over the Conference came unanimously to the conclusion that there was no better body to investigate both as to details and the allocation of the expenses involved. The reference to the Inter-State Commission was in the following words -

That the States agree to refer to the InterState Commission the question of a uniform railway gauge for Australia, for report whether it is desirable to adopt a uniform railway gauge; and, if so, when and what gauge should be adopted.

And, further, that the Commonwealth and the States agree to refer to the said Commission the following questions : -

1.   What benefits will result - (a) to the Commonwealth? (b) to each of the States ?

2.   What will be the cost of the conversion ?

3.   In what manner and to whom shall such cost be apportioned?

But for the Tariff interposing, the InterState Commission would have dealt with the matter before to-day, and we should, I believe, have had a concrete proposal put before the House. The Commission, however, was busy with the Tariff, and, therefore, could not immediately take the gauge under consideration.

Mr Fisher - That is no reflection on them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - No; but the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues reflected on the Inter-State Commission quite a number of times during the elections. I should like to know what other body is going to deal with the question, and how the States are to be brought to the final settlement necessary to a determination at the earliest possible moment.

Mr Fisher - Engineers on one side, and finance on the other.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is a general statement which means nothing. I suppose the States will have to find the "engineers" and the "finance," too. At any rate, the right honorable gentleman can do nothing at all in the matter without reference to the owners of the railways.

Mr West - They will never agree.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That settles it !

Mr West - The Commonwealth will have to take control.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am afraid that is the trouble with all these matters) and that is why the Conference thought it necessary to refer the question to an independent judicial body to apportion all the factors of the case, and make them bear equitably on all who will benefit by the great operation. I hope the right honorable gentleman will tell the country very plainly what the Government are going to do; and if he can suggest a working basis which will be fair alike to the Commonwealth and the States, and lead to greater despatch than did the proposal that we on this side agreed to, I tell him candidly that we shall stand behind him and give him the best support we can.

Mr Fisher - I can quite believe it, for it is a national work.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - There is another matter to which I may refer for a moment, and it is one which did my honorable friends opposite some service during the elections. Paragraph 12 of the Governor-General's Speech is as follows : -

To promote the establishment of new Australian Industries, and further develop those already established, it is intended to amend the Tariff.

I call the attention of honorable members to the mild language in which that proposition is couched. Paragraph 14, which refers to the Murray waters, informs us that the scheme " will receive early consideration " ; we are told that in regard to the uniform gauge " early steps " will be taken to initiate this work; the proposals to amend the Constitution are to be placed before us "at an early date"; and the Navigation Act is to be proclaimed " at the earliest possible moment." All these measures, it would appear, are supremely urgent, whereas an amendment of the Tariff is neither important nor urgent. What does this mean, I wonder ? When is it intended to amend the Tariff? During the first session?

Mr Archibald - Is that a fair question to ask 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK - This is a question which honorable members opposite declared on the public platform to be the most pressing of all, and yet we are told that it is unfair to ask when it will be dealt with.

Mr Archibald - I am speaking in the interests of the revenue.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - On this question the Labour party got thousands of votes ; but now that the party are in office it is suggested that it is unfair to ask when they are going to honour their promises.

Mr Fenton - The honorable member will get his " full of it " before we have done !

Mr JOSEPH COOK - If so, honorable members opposite will also get enough.

Mr Fisher - Does the Leader of the Opposition ask me to advertise the date?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am not asking any such foolish thing, but merely whether the question is to be dealt with at the end of the three years, in the second year, or in the first year. That is very far from advertising the date.

Mr Fisher - It will be in the first session.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then the session is going to last some time?

Mr Fisher - I do not know.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It looks like it, at any rate. However, on the public platform the Prime Minister said -

We intend to introduce during the first session of the new Parliament a Tariff which will give effective protection to Australian industries. We do not propose to ignore the reports of the Inter-State Commission. We shall hear their reports, read them and examine them, but we are not going to assume that three gentlemen - perfectly respectable in their private life - are competent to recommend a Tariff.

I am calling attention to the way in which the head of the Government waves aside the Inter-State Commission in connexion with the Tariff. Who created the Inter-State Commission? The members of the present Government. Who gave the Commission the Tariff to inquire into ? Again, the members of the present Government. And now we have the Prime Minister distinctly saying that those three gentlemen are not competent to recommend a Tariff. Was the right honorable gentleman playing a farce when he gave the Commission power to make recommendations, and when he enacted special legislation appointing these three gentlemen as specially competent to recommend a Tariff?

Mr Fisher - I did not say what the honorable member says I did say.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am quoting the speech of the right honorable gentleman in the Melbourne Town Hall, and he said -

We shall hear their reports, read them and examine them, but we are not going to assume that three gentlemen - perfectly respectable in their private life - are competent to recommend a Tariff. What a marvellous amount of power these three gentlemen have acquired lately.

But the Attorney-General, who introduced the Inter-State Commission Act, which gave that Commission the power to inquire into the Tariff, went even further. Speaking at Dandenong on the 21st of July, the Attorney-General said -

The Tariff had been referred by the Government to the Inter-State Commission, and a report would be brought in when the grass grew green on the graves of the present generation.

That is nothing but a sneer at the members of the Inter-State Commission.

Mr Hughes - Do you call a statement of fact a sneer?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Is it a fact?

Mr Hughes - I do not know; I know they have not reported.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member told the electors of the country that the Commission will report when the grass grows green on the graves of the present generation. But inside Parliament and in office he says, " I know nothing about it." Continuing, the honorable member said -

The Labour Party pledged itself to amend the Tariff in the first session without waiting for the report of any Commission.

Mr Hughes - That is perfectly plain and unambiguous.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Perfectly plain ! The honorable member is there ridiculing our reference of the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission - a Commission which he appointed and set up.

Mr Hughes - I did not appoint it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member's party passed the Act. Does the Attorney-General object to the appointments ?

Mr Hughes - I am not saying anything at all about that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then what point is there in the criticism ? The Government of which the honorable member is a Minister passed the Act, and yet the honorable member says that he is going to ignore and flout the Commission.

Mr Hughes - I did not say anything of the sort.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member said that the Labour party would not wait for the report of the Commission, but would amend the Tariff in the first session of this Parliament, without waiting for the report of any Commission.

Mr Hughes - What paper is that you are quoting from?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am quoting from the daily papers.

Mr Hughes - Which one ? There are papers and papers. I would like to know which particular one you are quoting from.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Will the Age do for the honorable member in these days?

Mr Hughes - For this purpose, it will.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then the Prime Minister, speaking at Ballarat on the 27th July, said -

The Tariff would be dealt with in the first session. The other side had sent this matter on to the Inter-State Commission, which they had madea kind of hold-all to take charge of difficult problems.

Mr Fisher - Fair criticism.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Criticism of the honorable member's own Act, which was passed for this special purpose. The honorable member's Government created the hold-all character of this Commission; the Liberal party did not. We faithfully followed the explicit directions and terms of the honorable member's Act. Yet the honorable member went abroad and flouted that Act on all the public platforms in Australia, and stated that we were taking advantage of it for purposes not honest and not fair.

I desire to express the hope that the Tariff, when it does come before the House, will be accompanied by a report from the Inter-State Commission, I shall attach the greatest possible importance to the statement of that Commission, knowing it to be composed of men of judicial mind, of great power of penetration, of great research, and great labour and industry; men who have no axe to grind but who will do their best for all sections of the Australian public, under the direction of the Act passed by the right honorable gentleman. I admit that the war has made a change in many respects, and I shall be glad to hear from the right honorable gentleman what partiocular portion of the enemy's trade he proposes to capture. I think he might at least consult the Inter-State Commission on that matter. I fancy that after their exhaustive inquiries they should be able to give him a great deal of information which would be useful in dealing with that subject. The Prime Minister will find before he is finished that this hold-all capacity of the Commission, at which he sneered on the public platform, will prove most useful in framing the Tariff so as to meet the new emergent conditions arising out of the war. There are many things arising under present circumstances which are necessary to be dealt with, and dealt with urgently, and I do not know anybody, outside the Inter-State Commission, possessing the requisite knowledge to enable us to deal with them. I have some statements here respecting German trade with Australia, but I have no time to deal with them just now. I shall be able to refer to this matter when the Tariff comes before us.

I have no desire to prolong the discussion. I wish to give the Government every consideration and fair play, but these things, which arose out of the incidents on the hustings during the last few months, required to be said. Now, having cleared them out of the way, 1 tell the right honorable gentleman candidly that I believe all members on this side of the House, for whom I have the honour to speak at the present time, desire to give the Government every fair and reasonable consideration in the course they propose to take. We are here, feeling that the country has spoken in their favour, and we are democratic enough to heed the voice of the country, and do it without upbraiding the victors. They won out, Parliament is restored to a working condition, and I hope that it will do useful work in the interests of the country. Meanwhile, let me remark that these are the things to which the Ministry have pledged themselves, and it is well to put them on record. These are the arts and the devices employed in seeking the suffrages of the Australian people, and by the use of them the Labour party have been returned to office, with the power we know them to possess.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. .45 p.m.-

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The members of the present Government promised the electors, among other things, the initiative and referendum, the re-submission of the referenda proposals - the Prime Minister said that we are to have these things at an early date - the amendment nf the Tariff and the provision of effective Protection, the provision of pensions to widows and orphans, the increasing of the old-age pensions rate, the establishment of a Commonwealth General Insurance Department, the institution of a uniform railway gauge, the purchase or construction of an Atlantic cable to be operated by the Commonwealth, and the establishment of Commonwealth lines of steam-ships between the mainland and Tasmania, and from Australia to places oversea. The Prime Minister has also undertaken to set up a huge export Department, which will deal with the produce of the farmers of the country, make financial advances upon it, and find markets for it in other parts of the world. There is also to be an amendment of the Arbitration Act, to afford all workers and employes the opportunity to approach the Arbitration Court.

I ask whether paragraph 26 of the GovernorGeneral's Speech refers to an intention to bring the public servants under the Arbitration Act? Prior to the election, the employes of the PostmasterGeneral stated * certain grievances, by reason of which, and, I presume, also because of certain representations made privately, the Attorney-General sent to them this letter. It has as its address, " Macdonnell House, Sydney," and is dated 2nd September, three days before polling day. It was one of those fine bits of electioneering art for which the honorable gentleman is so famous, and, no doubt, was intended to swing the postal vote in the right direction. It reads -

Dear Sir,

I understand that very considerable dissatisfaction exists in the ranks of your association owing to the vexations delays in getting your case heard by the Commonwealth Court, and I understand, further, that the suggestion of the Postmaster-General for settlement by Conference, as I anticipated, proved abortive.

Codlin is your friend, not Short.

I am writing to point out that, as set forth in Mr. Fisher's Bundaberg speech, the Labour Party will, if returned with a majority, make such amendments of the law as will enable all claims to be speedily heard.

The Labour Party is in favour of sweeping

Away all legal technicalities and making access to the Court easy and settlement of just claims economical. And we shall do everything to effect a speedy hearing of the Post and Telegraph Associations' case.

My honorable friends opposite cheer those statements; but may I remind them that the uneconomical character of the Court and its congested condition are due to their own clumsy manoeuvring over a long period of years? It is they who -set up this Court that will not work, and there was good reason for the AttorneyGeneral to say that he would correct his handiwork, and establish a Court which would do better in the future. He gave the people a Court whose operations he the other day described as a public scandal. It is congested with two years' business. I hope that the next effort of honorable members opposite will be less of a bungle, and I shall watch with interest how far they propose to go in providing for appeals from the Public Service Commissioner.

The Prime Minister has asseverated from every platform in the land that defence expenditure would be provided for from revenue; that there would be no borrowing for defence.

Mr Fisher - The statement was qualified in every instance.

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