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Thursday, 11 November 1920

Mr HUGHES (Prime Minister) (Bendigo) . - I move -

That, in the opinion of this House, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the Hon. Hugh Mahon, having, by seditious and disloyal utterances at a public meeting on Sunday last, been guilty of conduct unfittinghim to remain a member of this House, and inconsistent with the oath of allegiance which he has taken as a member of this House, be expelled this House.

The honorable member fov Kalgoorlie, who I bad hoped would have been in his place this afternoon, has written to me stating that he does not intend to be present. I have only this moment re ceived the letter, although he was at an. early hour this morning served with the notice that this motion was to be moved. The honorable member does not allege in the letter he writes to me that he is unable to attend through sickness. As he would possibly allege that his case had been prejudiced if I did not read his letter, I shall read it. It makes no reference whatever to the letter sent to him to-day, but deals with the letter sent yesterday. There is no answer to the letter I sent the honorable member to-day; but we must assume, as I think he intends us to do, that his letter is an answer to both the letters I sent him. However, that will be for him to say. His letter is dated " Ringwood, 10th November, " and is as follows : -

Right Hon. W. M. Hughes, M.P.,

Prime Minister.


I received at 1.20 p.m. to-day, at my home, in a remote part of this district, your summons to attend in Parliament at 2.30 p.m.

I regret that the accident which prevented me from comnlying will also deprive me of the pleasure of hearing your speech in support of the proposal to expel mefrom Parliament.

In giving notice of this proposal, I observe that you have been generous enough to imply that my absence from the House was due to lack of courage. May I say that recollection of some incidents in your own career should have saved you from impugning any man's courage. I shall recall one only.

Early in 1916, when the enemy submarine menace became alarming, you ostentatiously announced your projected departure for Europe bv an Orient steamer. You pretended to leave for Melbourne, but you secretly left the train at a suburban station and skedaddled from Sydney by an American ship. You cared nothing for the unfortunate crew and passengers by the Orient steamer, whose risks were increased by your supposed presence on board. You added to their dangers by the precautions taken for your own safety. So much for your courage - and humanity.

Now, as to the speech which has given you offence. You based your interrogatory yesterday on an incomplete report in an enemy newspaper of passages garbled and divorced from what preceded and followed them. Noone knows better than you do that' to fairly judge a speech or an article you must read it in its entirety. If so read, no impartial person will pronounce my speech to be either " seditious " or " disloyal."

In every civilized community a man who kills another without lawful excuse or recourse to the process of law is regarded as a murderer. The epithet, therefore, rightly applies to a lawless force which slays innocent people whenever they fail to find the guilty.

My criticism, which was confined to the acts of British Ministers and their agents in Ireland, made no reference whatever to the

Sovereign. I am not aware that the oath of an Australian parliamentarian binds him in allegiance to Mr. Lloyd George and his associates. If it did I think a considerable body of honorable members would refuse to take such an oath. In my case it would be specially repugnant, for some six years ago two members of the present British Cabinet advocated an organized armed resistance to the forces of the Crown. One of these potential rebels -is leader of the House of Commons, the other Lord Chancellor of England.

I submit, therefore, that the terms " seditious " and " disloyal " are not properly applicable to my speech.

The newspaper from which you yesterday quoted omitted some points in my speech which did not serve its partisan purpose. I pointed out (1) that the best friends of the Empire were those working for peaceful' recognition of Ireland's rights; its worst friends those who relied on the rule of force in Ireland; and (2) that England's future is best assured by such a settlement as will obliterate the bitter memories of the past, and enable the two nations to develop a kindly relationship which time might cement into a firm and happy alliance.

I regret that I am unable to accommodate you with a statement in person; but really do you seriously think it would make any difference? If, as reported, your Caucus hak already decreed my expulsion, then if one spoke with the tongue of an angel he would not alter in one iota their clandestine decree.

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