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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) .- I am sorry that the constituencies have not had an opportunity of really viewing what has taken place in the House this afternoon. It would be a splendid objectlesson to them of the engineering that goes on in the House in order to save the face of the Government, and of the insincerity that actuates some of our honorable friends opposite. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has moved as an amendment, " That the Postmaster-General be requested to provide increased postal and telephonic facilities to country districts, and to grant a drought allowance to mail contractors for the year 1920." That is a perfectly plain and specific amendment. It is worded in the form of a request. The honorable member has been supported by speeches coming from our honorable friends opposite, some of them belonging to the Country party. An amendment has now been movedby the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who belongs to the Country party, to omit all the words after " That " in the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hume, with a view to inserting the words, " This House approves of the proposals of the Postmaster-General to further liberalize the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts." He, therefore, proposes to substitute for the words moved by the honorable member for Hume, words which, so far from requesting the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to do anything, are actually an approval by members of the House of the Postmaster-General's proposals. I could quite understand that somehonorable members, if they were so inclined, might vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Hume, if they thought that the Government was doing its duty, but I cannot understand upon what reasoning or logic a member of the Country party, above all other parties, should move an amendment actually to give the stamp of approval of the House to the proposals of the Government. I congratulate the Government, and I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) on the success of the engineering that has taken place in the House this afternoon. I offer these congratulations in all sincerity, because he has succeeded in placing some of those who will support the honorable member for Dampier's amendment in an absolutely ridiculous position, and he will have demonstrated to the electors of Australia that those who support it and do not belong to the direct Minis terial party are dragged at the heels of the Government in the manner depicted by a cartoon published in a certain Sydney newspaper not so long ago. At an earlier hour of the day the honorable member for Dampier complained of the discourtesy of an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question which he had directed to that honorable gentleman, and I then suggested to him that he could give practical effect to his protest by moving a motion. He said he did not think that could be done. The fact was that he did not intend to do it. He did not want to do it; but now we find that he is ready to move an amendment that will do the work of the Government better than it could be done by any honorable member sitting behind the Government.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hear, hear! A convenient tool of the Government.

Mr RYAN - A convenient tool of the Government.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - If those words are applied to a member of the House they are disorderly.

Mr RYAN - What words are those?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - " A convenient tool ofthe Government."

Mr RYAN - I do not think I said that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member did say so, and I ask him to withdraw the words.

Mr RYAN - Well, I withdraw the suggestion that the honorable member is " a convenient tool of the Government," and say that he is a convenient instrumentality of the Government, which expresses my meaning just as well.

What are the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral that we are asked to approve? The whole phase of the proceedings in this House to-night has been completely changed; there is not now even a passive attitude on the part of some members of the Country party, but a complete change to a vote of confidence, and we are asked to approve of everything the Government has done, and propose to do, in the Postal Department. I wish to know specifically what the proposals are we are asked to approve. So far as I understood the Postmaster-General, he referred to a decrease in the amount of the guarantee in connexion with certain country telephones, and intimated that such a change had alreadybeen made; but he specifically adhered, so far as I understand him, to the resolution of the Government on the question of a drought allowance. He does not intend to grant anything in the nature of a drought allowance.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) -Who says he does not?

Mr RYAN - I say that the PostmasterGeneral has not given any intimation that he is going to make any allowance for 1920.

Mr.Wise. - It is being made now.

Mr RYAN - In any case, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier says nothing about a drought allowance, but specifically leaves it out.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - You have been so obsessed with party trickery to-night that you cannot understand.


Mr RYAN - I do not wish that interjection withdrawn, because I take no notice of it or of the gentleman who made it. If it comes to a question of party trickery, we have had in the House to-night the best example I have seen since I came here, not only, on the one hand, of party trickery, but, on the other hand, of absolute simplicity and servility.We have witnessed the party Whips running to and fro, sitting beside this and that member whose votes were considered doubtful; then there were long conferences with the Treasurer, and when the numbers were found to be against the Government, the Country party supporting the Government withdrew from the chamber to consider the position.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Allow me to say that there is not a tittle of truth in that statement.

Mr RYAN - We can all believe our eyes, and everything took place, not only in the presence of honorable members, but in the presence of the press. We all heard the suggestion of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), who was "stone-walling" - I hope that is a parliamentary term - in order to keep the debate going until the honorable member for Dampier had put his amendment in order. It is a beautiful amendment for the Government, and I can quite understand how the right honorable the Trea surer chuckled. I admire the success of his move, because he has certainly succeeded in getting the Government instrumentality in that corner, who is the honorable member for Dampier, to do the work of the Government.

Mr Riley - We can see that the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) has nothing to do with it.

Mr RYAN - I should imagine the Leader of the Country party would have nothing to do with it. With hie experience as a member, whatever he might have to say with regard to voting against the amendment of the honorable member for Hume, he would certainly advise his party not to be trapped into their present unfortunate position of having to vote for or against the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier. I do not care how those honorable members vote, it is a matter of indifference to me; but I wish to see the members of this House use the power that is undoubtedly theirs, and compel the Government to do the right thing in regard to the postal matters discussed.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - We will do the right thing without compulsion.

Mr RYAN - That power can be exercised only by casting their votes in this House. The Treasurer has said that it does not matter how the vote goes - that it will not affect the Government or the position - but he only made that statement at a late stage of the proceedings when, no doubt, the reports of the Whips were somewhat favorable to the plan of the Government.

I intend to oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier. I know it is moved without any sincerity, in order to convey a wrong impression to the public, and no one knows that better than does the Treasurer. Why are we not prepared to let the people see what isgoing on? Why all this trickery ? Why these moves in order to throw dust in the eyes of the public? I am satisfied that we on this side have done good work in exposing the methods to which the Government descend in order to obtain the support of some of our honorable friends in the Government corner, who, through their inexperience, no doubt, will be induced to vote for this amendment. I hope, however, that the majority of honorable members will stand by country interests, and cast a vote in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Hume. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has not yet expressed himself on the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier, and we may not know where he stands until the vote is taken; but he stated plainly and unmistakedly that he was in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume. It will be a remarkable thing, although not more remarkable than some things I have seen happen in this House, if the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) are found ready to support an amendment which is the very negation of the views they expressed a few hours ago.

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