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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr EWING (Richmond) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - If the deputy leader of the Opposition will band me the memorandum from which he quoted, I will cause inquiries to be made into the matter which he has mentioned. We all entertain the highest opinion of the Secretary of the Postal Department, and we all know that the Public Service Commissioner does his work as well as it can be done. This evening I have been scolded in almost every language and by people of every description. The honorable member for Parramatta has again scolded me. Perhaps it would be just as well if I gave one or two reminiscences, with a view to showing how consistent the honorable member himself has been to every party and to every cause. As to my past utterances respecting Continental Socialism, I still maintain my views with regard to those principles, and have nothing whatever to withdraw. But I still hold that when a number of men, concerning whose character and truthfulness there can exist no doubt, inform us that the end which they have in view is not corruption and infamy and degradation - when they declare time after time that these are not their objective - it ceases to be politics, but becomes a personal affront to make such charges against them. When honorable members affirm that there is a misapprehension in regard to their position, their statement in an assembly of gentlemen. I use the term in its highest sense, should be accepted as a fact, and the accusations levelled against them should not be repeated. I have heard honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber make charges against men concerning whose personal honesty there lias never existed any doubt. The accuracy of these charges has been denied, but, nevertheless, they have beer* repeated. Under these circumstances, I say that their repetition becomes nothing but a personal affront in which I refuse to participate.

Mr Johnson - How the Minister has changed his opinions.

Mr EWING - The honorable member talks about me having changed my opinions. Anybody who believes in electrobiology, who knows the effect of brain upon brain, must know that if, in the past, T erred a little, I did so Because it was not possible for me to remain respectable in the company in which I found myself. If I needed any excuse for what I have done, I should state that I felt then like a lotus in the mud of the Nile. Why, if honorable members socialised me, thev would gee more than could be extracted from the whole front bench of the Opposition. Some persons who talk so wildly about Socialism could afford to regard Australia merely as a boardinghouse. They could walk out of it to-morrow, and leave nothing behind them but a dirty shirt. I was a member of the coalition party and I did the best that I could' for it. I was loyal to it, and did as much for it as any honorable member opposite. But when I found myselfabandoned. I retained my principles and my electoral obligations. I have heard the leader of the Opposition repeatedly ask the question, " How can I have been unfair ? You see that 1 am out of office." Need I remind honorable members that they have seen many a man reach for the bridle and fall off over the horse's crupper. When I was a member of the alliance, two Conservative members of the present Opposition came to me - the honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Grampians will know who they were - and said1, "Look at Mr. Reid and Mr. Cook. They are now aristocrats - they are leading the Conservatives. Cannot you rub the dandy brush over the honorable member for. Parramatta and take a few of the labour burrs off him ?" Both the present leader of the Opposition and his deputy were covered with burr and straw and cobweb from head to heel - burr and cobweb which had been accumulated in passing along the sinuous and sombre passages that form the back-stairs entrance to the Labour room. Everything which they could offer to the members of the Labour Party to secure their support was offered bv them. Failing to secure an alliance with that Party, they approached the Protectionist Party. The honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Grampians will know .who asked me if I could not put the currycomb over the honorable member for Parramatta, and' make him look a bit conservative. I said that I would do my best if thev would deal with the right honorable member for East Sydney. I do not know what happened to the present leader of the Opposition^ but I saw the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Kooyong walking out on to the lawn taking with them a hay rake and a harvester. I do not know what they wanted with those implements, but I saw them a little later on with a chaffcutterI wish to show how consistent, how genuine, and how honorable is the deputyleader of the Opposition in his political views, and how trustworthy he is. I am not speaking personally. These political debates should have no individual aspect. I said that I would do my best with him, but did not take anything with me but a piece of chamois and a corn-cob. I found that he shed bts coat very easily. This occurred upon a Sunday. I saw him upon the following morning. He was looking like a Vermont ram - all wrinkles. I took him down to the basement again, and took a skin off him - a fiscal sinker's skin. On Tuesday morning I saw that he still presented a wrinkled appearance, so I set to work upon him, and took a free-trade skin off him. I could! smell the opium on it. Upon Wednesday he was again wrinkled, and accordingly I set to work and got a labour skin off him. I knew that it was a labour skin, because he said he objected specially to it, and the honorable member asked me to take it away quickly.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My leader has never called me a " rat."

Mr EWING - Honorable members opposite have charged me with every political offence, ' and now they cannot stand an honest, truthful statement. Upon Thursday the honorable member for Parramatta was still wrinkled, and I got a protectionist skin off him.- On Friday he shed a single-tax skin, and on the Saturday, as he was still wrinkled, I took a Socialist's skin off him. Although. I tell this to honorable members in an allegorical way, my statement is theoretically true. I have known the honorable member as a fiscal sinker, as a free-trader, as a labour member, as a protectionist, as a single taxer, and as a, Socialist, all within a few years. After I had finished with him on the Sunday morning he looked about as amiable as a snake does in spring time. All this only proves the honorable member's powers of adaptability, and shows that he is able to feed out of any nose-bag. When honorable members opposite unjustly and unfairly tell the House that members of the

Government have altered their opinion, I want to make it perfectly clear to the country that now and again those who find fault with us are not quite so consistent as they would have others believe.

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