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Thursday, 15 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER - The remark was merely an expression of opinion, and was not out of order..

Mr MAHONY - It is passing strange that neither the Prime Minister nor any member of the two parties to which I have alluded has thought fit to make a serious reply to the charges brought against the Government concerning matters affecting the well-being of the whole people. Hon-' orable members opposite have adopted a contemptuous attitude towards the motion.

Mr Prowse - We wish to hear you first.

Mr MAHONY - I thought I would draw some of you, as I shall again before I sit down. It is time that the people of Australia saw through the hypocritical guiseof certain members ofthis House, who, whilepretending to dissociate themselves from the Government, and to stand for the. interests of the primary producer, are the very persons who are always ready to save the Government, and to vote against the interests of the primary producers. Is it not always those honorable members who sit on the Corner benches who keep the Government in office? On them the fate of the Ministry depends; without their support the Government could not remain in office for two minutes;

Mr Stewart - Is the censure motion directed at the Corner party?

Mr MAHONY - It is a censure directed at the Government, and at every honorable member who votes to keep the Government in office, whether a Ministerialist or a Corner party member; On Saturday last the peopleof Ballarat in an unmistakable voice, declared that there is no practical difference between the Ministerialist's and the Corner party members: The- latter may call themselves what they choose, and adopt what tactics they choose; but they like the Ministerialists, are anti-Labour: That party, which entered' the House with a great flourish of trumpets, crying for the restoration of responsible government, is keeping iin power a Ministry which has degraded every tradition of parliamentary history. The War Precautions Act is still in operation. Although the war; to all intents and purposes, finished long ago, regulations are still being issued under the War Precautions Act, and the country is being governed by them without a word or act of protest on the part of those who sit on the Corner benches. What have they done to put an endto this pernicious system of governing by regulation?

Mr PROWSE (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - We do not waste as much of the public time as many other honorable members do.

Mr MAHONY - I need not waste much time over the honorable member, or any of those who sit on the Corner benches, because the people of the country can see through their humbug. I wish now to say a word or two about the attitude of the Prime Minister.

Mr Stewart - Have you. finished with the Corner party ?

Mr MAHONY - When I have done so, there will not be much left of you.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Before you speak of the Prime Minister, I should like to know why it was that the Labour party selected the Country party candidate as its second choice in the Ballarat election?

Mr MAHONY - Because, under our electoral system, we are compelled to cast preference votes, and being forced to make a choice, we, like sensible, people, choose the lesser of two evils. Politically speaking, the Corner party candidates and Corner party members, are to us an evil, though a little less so than the direct Ministerial supporters and Ministerial candidates: The great Australian Labour movement is always in the lead, and we know that the second preferences of our candidates are never counted. The electoral system adopted is therefore immaterial to us, because our candidates will win. Let me add in passing that the result of the Ballarat by-election may be regarded as the writing on the wall. It presents a forecast of what is in store for honorable members opposite when they go to the people at the nest general election.

Mr Fleming - Which the honorable member is praying will not take place for the next two years and six months.

Mr MAHONY - Nothing of the sort. What I am praying for isthat, by a double dissolution of this Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity, the people will be placed in a positionto oust the present Government from their position;

I wish to make one or two references to the attempt which the Prime Minister made yesterday to reply to the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). His remarks did not constitute any reply to the charges levelled at the Government. They represented merely the usual vulgar attempt to. side-track the real question before the House and the country to-day. The Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the party on this side, charges the Government, first of all, with their general incapacity.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - What a monstrous thing !

Mr MAHONY - When we make that charge the Prime Minister does not reply to it but says, " Gentlemen, cast your eyes on this bogy I have set up for you." He has thrown a scarlet cloak around the bogy he has set up, and the moment the Government are charged with any offence the Prime Minister points to his bogy and says, "Hush, here is the bogy man." The people of Australia see through these low-down tactics, and their adoption will not avail the Government. I believe that the majority of the rank and file of the party behind the Prime Minister to-day is heartily ashamed of the tactics he adopted yesterday in dragging into our discussions in this Chamber matters of conscience between the individual and his Creator, which should be held sacred, and which no public man has the right to introduce into a debate of this kind. I repeat that I believe the majority of honorable members opposite are heartily ashamed of the attempt made yesterday afternoon by the Prime Minister to side-track the real issue before the country.

The Leader of the Opposition points out that profiteering is going on throughout Australia, that the people are being robbed by the profiteers, and called upon to pay vastly increased prices for the commodities they use. What is the reply of the Prime Minister to the charge that he and his Government have permitted this to go on? It is "Hush, the bogy man."


Mr MAHONY - The reply made yesterday by the Prime Minister to the charge levelled against the Government in this connexion amounted to nothing but that. He put up his bogy, and did not attempt to defend himself or his Government against the attack of the Leader of the Opposition. His reply was merely, "Here isthe bogy, beware. Do not charge this Government with anything, because here is the bogy man." The right honorable gentleman should not forget that the people of Australia are not children, and are not frightened by bogy men any longer.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister never said anything about bogs men.

Mr MAHONY - Irepeat that he set up his bogy man. When we charge him with not carrying out his promises to returned soldiers, and with permitting harpies from one end of Australia to the other to make profits by trading in the war gratuity bonds of returned soldiers, his reply again is, "Hush, the bogy man." The people of Australia will give honorable members opposite all the bogy men they are looking for when they get the opportunity at the next election.

There is another important matter upon which the people will demand some explanation of their attitude from honorable members who sit in the Corner. The Government have done away with trial by jury in this country. The people of Australia will demand from them and from honorable members who sit in the Corner an explanation of their attitude in connexion with the abolition in this country of open fair and British trial by jury.

Mr Stewart - Hear, hear!

Mr MAHONY - The people will ask honorable members in the Corner why they approved of the action of the Government in throwing into the wastepaper basket the great charter of liberty which something over 600 years ago was wrung from the trembling King John at Runnymede. That great charter of liberty gave to every British subject the right to a free and open trial by his peers. The Government during the last three or four years have thrown trial by jury into the waste-paper basket, and they are doing the same thing to-day. There is no open trial, no charges are formulated, an accused person is given no opportunity to face his accuser. People are grabbed in the night and taken away from their families and loved ones. They are hustled from one State to another to evade the ordinary operation of the Law Courts of the country. In these circumstances I ask honorable members to say where the great charter of British liberty is to-day. How can the Government continue in office conducting the affairs of the country if honorable members who sit in, the Corner are not prepared to agree to this kind of thing? I ask those honorable members to say whether they stand for it or not. So far as I am personally concerned, I care not whether the crime with which a person is accused be great or small he has a right under our great charter of liberty to demand an open trial, and that he should be faced with his accuser. He has the right to demand an opportunity to defend himself in open Court. Do the Government give people of this country that right? We can refer to a case in connexion with which a supposed inquiry was granted the other day, but when we asked for the production of the evidence taken at thatinquiry the Government refused to produce it. We have a statement publicly made by a gentleman of some standing in this country, that at a certain inquiry held in Sydney recently not one word of evidence was given against the person whom the Government held in custody. The whole of the evidence given at that inquiry was in favour of the accused person. Do honorable members opposite stand for that? I say that it does not matter what crime a man is charged with he has the right to an open and fair trial by his countrymen. I shall be no party to depriving any man of a fair trial. In my opinion the vilest criminal in the land has a right to an open and fair trial. In this case, because it suits the political game that the Prime Minister desires to play, certain men are hustled away, and no public statement in regard to the matter is made .by the Government. Not a word is said as to the charge against them ; no opportunity is given them to defend themselves, and they are deliberately denied the privilege of having counsel to appear for them. This is a negation of one of the basic principles of British liberty. In Australia to-day, even a man charged with the vilest murder is not only given a fair trial in open Court, but if he is without means counsel for his defence is provided by the Crown. In these cases, however, no specific charge is made against the men. No opportunity is given them to state their case, and they are not allowed to retain counsel to conduct their defence. It is about time that a stop was put to this sort of thing in Australia. If any man commits an offence for which he should be gaoled or deported, let, the charge be proved against him, and let him take his punishment. I do not stand here to protect any person from the consequences of his own acts, hut I do stand for the principle of giving every man in a British community the right of an open trial and an opportunity to clear himself, if he can, of the charge or charges made against him. The Government are building up for themselves a day of reckoning, and when that day comes there will be little left of them. They will be overwhelmed by a great avalanche of indignation, which will have had its birth in the action of the Government in depriving men of the great rights which hundreds of years ago were wrung from King John at Runnymede.

I recognise that it is futile to appeal to the Government and their supporters, but to the Corner party we surely can appeal. We are merely asking for the recognition of traditional rights.

Mr Stewart - If the honorable member is after our support, he is adopting a very clumsy way of obtaining it.

Mr Fenton - We do not want your support.

Mr MAHONY - If the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) holds so loosely to his principles that some chance remark of mine induces him to depart from them, then he does not understand what principle means. When I believe in a certain principle, it is immaterial to me what may be said; I stand to it in any circumstances, and am prepared to take the consequences. This attempt on the part of the honorable member to hide behind so paltry an excuse will protect neither him nor his party. His excuse is too thin. The Prime Minister yesterday raised the bogy-man which was so effectively knocked down at Ballarat last Saturday, and he raised it against, not only us, but the Country party. The Prime Minister, whom they are supporting with their votes in this House to-day, raised this very same bogy against their candidate for the Ballarat by-election. Such are the tactics of the Prime Minister. The history of the public life of Australia is studded with instances of men who, entering upon the dying days of their political career, have trotted up this old bogy. The history of the failures in the public life of Australia shows that in every case they raised the bogy-man with the scarlet cloak. I wonder what honorable members of the Country party thought of the action of the Prime Minister in raising this bogy-man against their candidate at Ballarat. I hope they enjoyed it.

The right honorable gentleman was pleased yesterday to attack this party on the ground that it comprised only twentyfive members. After the return of the writ for the Ballarat by-election we shall be twenty-six strong; but because of the relative smallness of our numbers he attacked us and sneered at us. Throwing out his chest and pluming himself, he said that when he led Labour it was a gloriously strong party. As a matter of fact, he has never led the Australian Labour party to victory. When he assumed the leadership of the party, he led it to destruction. Hardly had he taken control than the party became divided and broken. The Australian Labour party was built up under the leadership of such men as J. C. Watson and Andrew Fisher. Those are the men, and not men such as the present Prime Minister, who1 led the party to victory. The right honorable gentleman talked of the great victory achieved by Labour in 1914, when our party overwhelmed all its opponents. I wonder what most of his followers who are sitting behind him to-day thought of that statement. The Prime Minister and the country know that the very men who were defeated by us in .those days are tie men with whom the right honorable gentleman sits to-day cheekbyjowl. As the Prime Minister spoke, the face of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was a study. He could not but recall immediately his experiences of 19.14, when from one end of this country to the other the Prime Minister flogged and scarified him and the party which he led. The Prime Minister then crumpled into political dust the present Acting Treasurer and many of the men who sit behind him to-day. He has now the effrontery to hurl at this party the taunt that it consists of only twenty-five members. Victories gained at the expense of principle are paid for too -dearly, and the Labour movement will never buy victory by sacrificing its principles for the sake of place and pay. If we had chosen to sacrifice our principles, to hurl them overboard, and to go over to the traditional enemies .of Labour, the exploiter and the profiteer, we could have been, as the Prime Minister rightly says, sitting on the Treasury bench to-day. We preferred not to do so. To us such a victory would be a barren one. A victory without principle is of no use to the Labour movement. We have our trust deep down in the hearts of the people of this country, the great -working masses, the toilers of Australia. Those are the people to whom we look, and with whom we stand. All the taunts and sneers of the Prime Minister will avail him naught. We stand to principle, regardless of the cost and irrespective of whether we may gain victory or not.

When I heard the Prime Minister taunting us with the fact that we were only twenty-five strong in the House today, and when I saw the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook) sitting alongside him, my mind went , back to some of the early days in New South Wales, particularly in Balmain. In those days I saw the Prime Minister in a very lowly and humble position in the suburb where I was reared. I was m close .contact with him for many years before he entered public life. I saw him there in his days of poverty, and I know how the workers stuck to him. .1 know what they did in Balmain for him, 'and he knows it, too. Now I find the same man hurling taunts at the party which stood by bini, and I .find sitting .alongside him the man whom he fought, and against whom 'he wrote scarifying articles. "The Prime Minister -ventured into the realms of journalism in those early days. He and Mr. Holman, with great struggles and great trials., used to publish a paper called The New Order, and the most powerful articles in it were those from the pen of W. M. Hughes. He was the man who preached real rank red-raw Socialism to us in those days. He was the man who pointed out to the workers the way to go. The articles that the Government object to to-day -are only a .circumstance compared with those written by W. M. Hughes and printed in The New Order. One article in particular came to my mind yesterday afternoon, when I looked at the Prime Minister sitting cheek_ .by jowl with the honorable member for. Parramatta. That was an article written by the Prime Minister and entitled -, " Joephisto Cook." The Prime Minister might tell honorable members what that meant. The sub-heading was, " The Scoot of 'the Rats." In that article the Prime. Minister scarified his present boon-companion (Sir Joseph Cook) for having ratted on the Labour party. Yet to-day he has the impudence and effrontery to jeer at and taunt us. As the same time, he is sitting cheek by jowl with the man whom he scarified and condemned for doing just what he is doing to-day - condemning the party that gave him his political birth. It is unworthy of a man .holding the high position of Prime Minister of this great Commonwealth to descend to those, mean and paltry methods of attack. Surely there are big problems to be dealt with and bigger ways of dealing with them- than this paltry, petty, down.inthe gutter kind of tactics adopted by the Prime Minister. My appeal is for a man of big ideals and big principles to lead this Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite may well ask, concerning the members of their own party, " Where is he?" and echo will answer, '.'Where?" But I believe that there are. men in this House capable of taking a big stand, upon, big Australian matters. I believe there are many men here capable of properly upholding the position of Prime Minister; It is degrading not 1 only to Parliament but to the people of this great Commonwealth that its first citizen, the Prime Minister, should indulge in- this sort of vulgar abuse. The man who descends to such tactics is unfitted for the position of Prime Minister of Australia. It is up to the honorable members sitting in the Ministerial Corner to see if they cannot find somebody more fitted and able to fill with honour the position- of Prime Minister. The members of the Australian Labour movement cannot govern without a majority, because the Labour movement never goes back on principle, and we, as a Government, if we could not put our principles into practice, would not remain in office two minutes. We should decline, if we had to govern by jettisoning our principles. Let a majority of the House- decide that we shall have somebody in that position who is worthy to -govern Australia, and capable of rising to the responsibilities placed upon the shoulders of any man who occupies it. This mere twittering, humbugging, sneering, and trying, by a trick of mental agility, to make an opponent look cheap or small, is unworthy of any person who1 holds the high position of Prime Minister of Australia. The House should endeavour to rise a little above that sort of thing. The House has in this motion an opportunity of deciding upon a Prime Minister who can worthily uphold the best traditions of Australia and of its Parliament.

Mr Jowett - That must mean you. I cannot think of anybody else.

Mr MAHONY - I utterly fail to rise to the exalted idea which the honorable member for Grampians holds about, himself. N!o doubt the honorable member has been preening- himself, and imagining that he himself is the man. It is quite an open secret that he has been expecting appointment as "Leader of the Country party. For myself, I am merely a humble follower of the Leader of the Labour party. My only desire is to help along the party and the movement with which I am associated, for the betterment of the conditions of the men and women who toil to build up the fortunes of the profiteers. The Prime Minister, I repeat, attempted to belittle the Labour party. I look at the spectacle of another honorable member sitting cheek-by-jowl with him. I wonder where the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) will be when the division takes place. A newspaper stated the other afternoon that the Prime Minister had been seen with his arm about the neck of the honorable member, and hig mouth at his ear. No doubt he was telling the honorable member a sweet little tale. Do we not all remember the Prime Minister taunting the honorable member in this Chamber with having " a mind like a toad in a cesspit ?" To-day he is the boon companion of the Prime Minister, and his will be the vote that will continue the_ Government in office. The honorable member for Capricornia was returned to this House as a direct opponent of the present Government. The people of Capricornia sent him here to oust the Government from office, and he has no moral right to keep the Government in" power. He was returned to Parliament as a direct supporter of the Leader of the Opposition, and as a member of the Australian Labour party. What happened subsequently is immaterial so far as the principle at stake is concerned. The honorable member may claim that certain officials of the Labour movement did something that they should not do, but that does not give him any right Lo go back upon his principles, and upon the people who elected him. If the honorable member desires to keep the Government in power by his voice and vote, the only honorable thing for him to do is to resign and go before his electors again. Let him say to them, " I cannot now represent you in the capacity in which you returned me, but I ask you to re-elect me as a direct supporter of the Government." If he does that nobody will" be able to find fault with him. But I find fault with any man who obtains election to this House under one banner, and then inarches beneath the opposite banner. If at any time I find myself in regard to questions of principle out of step with the party with which I am associated to-day, I shall take the course dictated by honour; I shall resign my seat, and tell the people that I desire to be re-elected upon a new pledge, If the people again accept me under those conditions, no fault can be found with me. On this question I am using the mildest language at my command. If the honorable member chooses to adopt a course different from that I have indicated, he must be the arbiter of his own conduct; but to my mind principles are of far greater importance than the retention of a seat in this House. I would sooner go down and out ten thousand times than accept any position in or out of Parliament at the expense of any principle I hold dear. There are some individuals who cannot understand a person holding principles dearer to, him than wealth and position. A man should stand by those things which he believes to be right, no matter what hand or tongue "may be against him.

Mr Higgs - The honorable member's party kicked me out for doing that.

Mr MAHONY - The Labour party did nothing of the sort. Nobody knows better than the honorable member the kindly feelings entertained towards him by the. members of this party. But having been returned to the House by the men and women of Capricornia to shift the present Government from office, he is now' about to vote to keep them in power. That is the principle at stake; the actions and attitude of honorable members on this side are beside the. question. As a matter of fact, we took no action, and the honorable member knows it. But, whether we did or not does not affect the principle.

Mr Higgs - Not one honorable member of the Opposition has expressed a word of public regret at the action of the Brisbane Executive, although professing this friendship for me.

Mr MAHONY - I felt sorrow, deep and lasting, in my heart when I witnessed the spectacle of the honorable member for Capricornia voting with his life-long political opponents; voting to keep in power a Government which he was sent here to turn out. He, like the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), has dabbled in journalism in his early days. Do I not remember the inspiring articles which the honorable member wrote many years ago? Do we not recall with a thrill that great slogan which emanated from the honorable member for Capricornia and was blazed from one end of the country to the other - " Bread or blood"? To-day, I wonder what the honorable member has to say.

Mr Brennan - He got the bread - his daily bread.

Mr MAHONY - The .workers . who put the honorable member for Capricornia into this House, when they ask of him bread receive only a stone.

I wish to refer now to the assumption of the Prime Minister that he controls a great majority in this House. Such an 'assumption can only be based on his belief in the statements which he made yesterday; and we can only assume that, if the Prime Minister truly believes he has something to go on, there must be some secret understanding between the Government and the members of the Country party.

Sir Granville RYRIE - The Prime Minister referred to the members of both Houses of this Legislature.

Mr MAHONY - While there may be no arrangement with the Country party, as a party, how do we know that there may not be some working agreement among certain of the individual members in the Corner? If such be not the case, however, how can the Prime Minister assume and assert that he controls the great majority in this House? The fact is that he does not hold a majority. The Prime Minister has indicated that he is of opinion that he has the Country party " in a bag." Last week he was speaking of the numbers on both sides of this House, and his attention was drawn to the members of the Country party, sitting in the Corner. What did he say? How did he indicate his feelings towards them? He referred to them in the language of a sheep, probably thinking that they would understand that. His reference to them consisted of a wave of an arm and a contemptuous "Bah!" Probably the Prime Minister looks upon them as so many sheep, and has them well coralled in the home paddock, ready to be shorn when the time comes to take the pending vote. Here is the actual position of parties and individuals in this House, and the members of the Corner party must accept full responsibility for the situation as it stands. It is just as well to be candid. I do not run about from corner to corner, afraid to speak. So far as the members of the Government and its direct supporters are concerned, we know where they stand. I honour any man who is a straight-out opponent, and am prepared to give him credit for his opinions. I will always meet him as man to man, on fair ground. But as for those who desire to sail beneath a stolen flag, it is about time their craft was sunk and its crew forced to step aboard' some ship which is flying their true flag and indicating their real identity. As a matter of fact, the people of -this country do not want -the gentlemen to whom I refer' to sail on any ship, but would prefer to see them walk the plank. And they will have t% do so when it comes to the acceptance of responsibility for their votes. These country representatives go out into the country and condemn the actions of the Government in the matter of handling Australia's wool. Yet, at the same time, every vote they cast here is a vote to retain the Government in office. Such conduct will very soon be seen through, and the people will know what to do.

The Labour party in this House has twenty-six direct followers. The Corner party, we understand, has eleven direct followers. The straight-out anti-Labour party, whose members masquerade as Nationalists, numbers thirty-six in the House of Representatives. Then there is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I do not know where he stands. Surely, however, he will consult his conscience to-day and decide to be somewhere else when the vote is taken. Then there is also Mr. Speaker.

Mr Fenton - There is supposed to be another independent member, namely, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis). Where is he?

Mr MAHONY - I wonder ! The position is that the followers of the Prime Minister total no more than thirty-six.

Mr Ryan - And that total is doubtful.

Mr MAHONY - Very doubtful! But, conceding the Prime Minister the support of all those who stood as direct Nationalist candidates at the last elections, it is obvious that he can command only thirtysix actual followers in this Chamber. Against him and his followers, elected by the people of Australia, elected directly in opposition to candidates of the Government party, there are thirty-eight members of this Chamber. Where is the great majority behind the Prime Minister? Never a truer word was spoken than that uttered by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), when he said the Prime Minister and the Government were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. The skin of their teeth consists of the votes of the members of the Country party. The Government would npt be permitted to stay in office for another two minutes unless that party were prepared to keep it there. And, for such a state of affairs the Corner party must take full responsibility. What is more, it will not be allowed to shirk its responsibility.

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