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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) because what he has to say is always inoffensive. Some honorable members can make speeches or interjections without being insulting; but nothing is more objectionable to me than observations and interjections which reflect upon people outside who have no opportunity to reply. I particularly refer to remarks made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), a stupid and foolish old man, who, by casting reflections upon the great body of the working class, accusing it of going slow. As a matter of fact, the honorable member himself is too slow for a hearse.

The honorable member for Gwydir, who has filled his place in this Chamber with credit, referred to marriage, divorce and adultery. Those three features of civil life can be aptly applied to politics. We have in this Parliament witnessed weddings of various descriptions; we have seen political divorce and adultery, open and unblushing, to which various members and sections have been party. We saw the conjunction of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) ; we witnessed their courting, wedding, and divorce. We saw the Country party come into existence. It was formed for a specific object, because the Nationalist party was regarded as inimical to the interests of the great body of primary producers. Yet in the fullness of time it entered into open, unblushing and shameless adultery with the Nationalist party.

I had no intention of speaking upon the budget, because any plea for the workers would bc utterly useless. But in the lobbies this evening I was reminded of an occasion when, as a member of the Victorian State House, I was asked by a Victorian squatter to make a speech in the interests of some of his friends. I did so, and he had to accept the responsibility for what I said. Similarly, those who have thus caused me to speak to-night must be held responsible for what I shall say.

A few weeks ago there were interesting developments from the point of view of the Labour party, and particularly of myself. I had been for a long time disappointed and sad. The clouds were dark, and prospects were gloomy. But suddenly the atmosphere lightened and brightened. Honorable members behind the Government began to raise their heads, and to talk of insurrection. Naturally the Labour party showed great interest in the division between itsenemies. Prospects looked bright for it, not because of any increase of its strength, but because of the promise of trouble among its opponents. Prom what one could hear in the lobbies and elsewhere, they were going to take their courage in their hands and dare to be Daniels. They would no longer be trammelled by party fetters, but would have the courage to express their convictions. One after another they rose and gave voice to their opinions. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) rose like the trumpeter before whose blasts fell the walls of Jericho. Then on Friday last we were to have a marvellous exhibition. The great crash was to come! It was postponed until Tuesday. Still we went home at the week-end expectant and jubilant, and on Tuesday reassembled in the same happy mood. How pleased we were to think that the Government was to suffer discomfiture because of the dissension and insurrection among its followers! A cave had developed ! Its motto-

Dare to be a Daniel,

Dare to stand alone,

Dare to have a purpose firm,

Dare to make it known.

In a spirit of expectation the press reinforced its strength, obtained additional supplies of paper, and arranged relief to enable it to record in full the doings of the gladiator who was to appear on the scene.

Mr Cook - When does the honorable member propose to touch the budget?

Mr ANSTEY - I do not propose to touch it. It has already been shattered, torn and destroyed beyond recognition. I intend to take advantage of this opportunity to say a few words on other subjects of importance of this country.

The audience had gathered from far and near. It was watching for the approach of the bold gladiator, clad in his shining armour - the armour of a righteous cause. He would speak in a clarion voice, his clear eye would rally his followers, and they would unitedly arise in their exceeding great strength and shatter the Government. That was the remarkable spectacle that we had assembled to see in this comic opera house of politics. The curtain was raised, the gladiator came forth. But where was his shining armour, where his clarion voice, where his glittering eye? We saw nothing but a poor little bedraggled figure, with bowed head and hands hanging to his knees, who appeared - somemhow, somewhere between Friday and Tuesday - to have been sandbagged. This was the man who was to champion the public cause, who was to engage in the 20-round fight. What was it that the little cherub above wrote about it? I cannot remember his exact words, but the substance of them was " This poor little man was no longer the brave and valiant warrior." He appeared before us as one overcome by fear; too weak to fight and too afraid to run. The audience was there, but no show was provided for it. There was the suggestion of a fight of course; but what a miserable exhibition it was! The people had paid their money and they must be given some kind of a performance, but what a poor spectacle it was ! Those of us who expected to see the Government rent by its own followers* were sadly disillusioned. The right honorable gentleman's own colleagues and. friends, when they found that their champion had fallen to pieces, slunk out of the chamber or fell asleep. The rest of us listened in disappointed amazement. Such an exhibition of abject submission we had never before seen. The vendetta of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) against the Treasurer, which we were assured he intended to pursue to the bitter end, was over. Had the Standing Orders permitted it, I believe that he would have gone to the extent of publicly kissing his erstwhile enemy. Once again the Government had triumphed, and our hopes were dashed to the ground. We expected so much, but we received so little. I must confess that I was a sadly disappointed man. If I were to say anything else, I should be a liar. It is said that though the world is made up of tears and laughter, we should never despair. But how could I do other than despair? I had expected to see the Government forces disintegrated and the insurrectionists victorious; but it was not to be.

What has become of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) ? He has been full of grievances against the Government. He was expected strongly to support the right honorable member for North Sydney; but how silent and docile he has become! There is no fight in him now. He and other ardent reformers on the Government benches have become quiet.

Mr Cook - Is the honorable member disappointed about it?

Mr ANSTEY - Surely I am. How could it be otherwise? I had expected to see the Government routed by its own followers, but they failed me. I should be guilty of the sorriest duplicity were I to say that I should not be pleased to see the Government defeated. But the insurrectionists have disappeared; the Government is once more supreme; and we, poor devils, are left to lament.

What has become of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). Howbold and courageous he was for a while. But he will never again attack the Government. We shall hear no more from him until the next election. And how cruelly the Prime Minister treated him ! How severe he was upon him for his disloyalty ! How heartlessly he reminded this great economist of to-day that he was indifferent to the most huge expenditures only a few years since. The honorable member has become so docile, pliable, and obliging that he will never again torture the Government - at least not until it is safe to do so. His journalistic career reminds me that lie is well able to suit himself to the circumstances of the moment. Not merely in the world of politics, where corruption and the distortion or absence of the truth are common, but in the world of journalism, where truth is predominant, this honorable gentleman has proved his adaptability. What brilliant articles have flowed from his pen; and with what delight we used to read anything that appeared under his signature! Some years ago he visited Japan, and on his return from that country wrote a series of articles for the Melbourne Herald to prove that all our fears of a yellow menace were groundless! He told us that he had found the Japanese people a peaceable community, with no belligerent designs upon Australia. There was really no menace, he assured us, and it was entirely wrong for us to suppose that there was.

One afternoon I spied the honorable member in the press gallery of the Parliament House in Melbourne, and 1 thought that in the interests of the general public, not, of course, to obtain publicity for myself, I would discuss the subject that he had written on so confidently. So I repeated his arguments on the floor of the House, and made it quite clear that the only inference that could be drawn from his facts was that there was no yellow "peril." I gave full publicity to the arguments of the honorable member. The next day I waited with much eagerness with my three halfpence ready to buy the first copy that I could obtain of the Herald; for I expected that the honorable member would have been glad to know that his arguments had been refuted. But what did I find? He made it clear to his readers that my statements of the previous day, which were really his statements, were a total distortion of the truth, and the utterest stupidity. In these circumstances t\e Prime Minister may reasonably expect the honorable member in the next week or two to write some splendid and convincing articles for the press to demonstrate to the public that all the criticism to which the Government has been subjected in this debate is the merest insane drivel.

After the honorable member for Henty and the right honorable member for North Sydney had shown us how divided the Government party was, the Prime Minister entered the lists. How august was his presence! With what grandeur he appeared on the scene! He did not deign to discuss the charges that had been brought against the Government. It is true that he uttered a few words of admonition to the honorable member for Henty for daring to be disloyal to his party, and took care to see that it should be recorded in Hansard, if not in the daily press, that the honorable member had thought nothing of the expenditure of £100,000,000 or so. And as for the right honorable member for North Sydney, well, what could a gentleman do to him? Poor, insignificant little man, he deserved nothing more than a glance, and that was about all be received. He was, as it were, a pricked bubble, a toad in a cesspool, to use his own phrase. The Prime Minister went on to say that it was quite wrong for honorable members to attack the Treasurer for having produced such an unsatisfactory budget. The Treasurer, he informed us, was only one of ten little nigger boys, and was blameworthy for only a tenth part of the iniquity of the Government. Said the right honorable gentleman, "I shall stand by my Treasurer. I am as responsible as he is for what has been done, and I am quite "willing to bear the blame." What a noble attitude to adopt! What a Christian spirit! What a demonstration of how we should bear one another's burdens! The right honorable member for North Sydney was unkind enough to say something about the bank recantation, but the Prime Minister said, "I am quite willing to bear the blame for that. If the Treasurer has done wrong, we have all done wrong." He said in effect, that if the Treasurer had walked backward when he thought he was walking forward, the responsibility belonged to the Government, and that all the members of the Government were the participants in any virtue, as they were the shareholders in any vice that flowed from its administration.

He then turned to the budget1 - a clever action on his part. Turning over thi pages ho glanced at one item after another. Explaining the reason for proposed expenditure amounting to many millions of pounds, he said that the Government needed the money, and therefore had to get it One -item of many millions, representing interest on borrowed money. That he explained away lightly. He said that other millions represented interest on debts caused by the war, for which his Government was not responsible There were vast sums for war pensions, oldage pensions, and repatriation - expenditure which must necessarily be met. When he came to a sum proposed to be paid to the States, be turned to one honorable member belonging to the Labour party and said "Included in this amount is a sum for the construction of the railway from Red Hill to Port Augusta. That is in your electorate. Have, you any objection to that expenditure?" Receiving no answer he continued, " Then you are silenced." Turning to another portion of the chamber he addressed a member of the Country party in similar terms, concluding, as before, with the satisfying remark, " You also are silenced." And so he proceeded, pointing first to one honorable member, and then to another, but always concluding with the same remark, " You are silenced.'-' He appealed to the prejudices of honorable members, with a view to subordinating their interest in national affairs to matters of purely local concern. He endeavoured to make us all participants in a common villany. He said in effect, "If there is any virtue in the Government's proposals, we are all shareholders in that virtue; if the Government's proposals are evil, we are all participants in the vice." The whole procedure was so easy; he endeavoured to place each honorable member in a position in which he could not answer.

There are, however, a few things that might still be mentioned. If I were asked what I would speak of, if I dared, I should reply by referring to the commissions and boards which the Government has appointed. These wonderful commissions pile up the expenditure with incredible rapidity. The Prime Minister approaches a man who has dared to criticize his Government, and says " You have been described as a critic of the Government, but I shall not call you that. ' I regard you as a gentleman whose intelligence and brains are necessary to grapple with the problems of this country. I offer you a position on a commission at £5,000 per annum." In that way commission after commission, board after board, is constituted, until at last these bodies which are outside the arena of politics, are not responsible to the people. In their selection the public have no say. Their operations will continue for long periods; they will gather round them an army of functionaries and officials greater than that connected with Parliament itself. The Development and Migration Commission is one of these. Already it has incurred enormous expense. I know what the Prime Minister will answer, because if our positions were reversed I should give the same answer myself. He might reply thai no party is above accepting a bribe when offered in the shape of a remunerative post. I care not whether the men appointed to such posi tions are prominent members of the Nationalist party, or industrial leaders standing behind the Labour party; if they accept gifts of that kind they sell their principles. It is not a question of the cupidity or greed pf individuals, or whether these things are right from the standpoint of the well-being of the nation. No difficult problem is solved merely by passing the responsibility on to some one else. We in this Parliament are subject to the will - of the people; we are affected by the public conscience. It is better that the control of public offices should remain with us than that it should be delegated to boards or commissions, which are responsible to no one. We have an example of such a commission here in Canberra.

I know of no greater crime than that of making serious charges which implicate men who, however, are not definitely mentioned. An honest man will not act in that manner. If he is satisfied that an individual is guilty of wrong practices he will say, " Thou art the man." As I go about this city I see things which call for immediate investigation. Any man who has visited Yarralumla cannot fail to see there things which call loudly for inquiry. In other places in this city other matters invite investigation. In ho other city of Australia, even where labour is most expensive, the "go-slow" policy most developed and the cost of materials highest, can one find what can be found in Canberra. Go even into Northern Australia, where organized labour is said to be most militant and to demand the highest wages for the least return, and we shall not find the cost of building so high as it is in connexion with the three-roomed " cribs " at Canberra.

Mr Lacey - The high cost of building in Canberra is not the result of high wages.

Mr ANSTEY - No. Nor is it due to the high cost of material, nor yet because the workers are dominated by extremists, or are themselves communists or members of the I.W.W. Whether we go to Yarralumla, to Eastlake, or to Telopea Park ; whether it is the residence of the Governor-General or that of the humblest citizen, we are forced to the conclusion that things are as they are, not because of the high cost of labour and material, but for more reprehensible causes. Having said that there was nothing in the budget which could not be justified, the Prime Minister summed up the position in a few cogent phrases. He said that in framing its Estimates the Government had had proper regard for the interests of economy. With that statement I entirely disagree. I do not say that the Government's estimates of expenditure can be cut down by millions of pounds without there being first an alteration of our economic system. No one, whether Nationalist or Labour, who accepts the existing social and economic conditions can show how the budget expenditure can be reduced to any great extent

But the Prime Minister said that there were no problems for the Government to solve. He urged that there should be a greatly increased production which would, in turn, enable higher wages to be paid and reduce taxation. He also said that better markets for our produce were required. He added, however, that those things were not to be done by the Government, but by private enterprise. He claimed that all the Government had. to do was to administer things as they were; that that was the end of its responsibility. The Prime Minister disposed of the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) regarding the adverse trade balance by saying that no one knew anything about it. He said, " I know nothing about it, and, therefore, no one else can know anything about it." Then, turning to a member of the Opposition, he asked, "What would you do ? If you believe there is a problem, what is your remedy?" If a person believes there is no problem, as is the case with the Prime Minister, what is the good of asking for a remedy? If there is no problem, there can be no remedy. But let us suppose that there is a problem. If not tackled, that problem will become greater until ultimately the Government will be forced to realize that it exists. Then, instead of dealing with the problem, it will go to a member of the Opposition and say " What would you do ?" If he refuses to answer, the Prime Minister will proclaim that he has no remedy. , I agree with the late Honorable Alfred Deakin that it is not the duty of the Opposition to furnish the Government with a policy. Mr. Deakin went further, and said that it would be useless for the Opposition to do so. He said that unless there were no more difference between the policy of a Government and that of an Opposition than that between tweedledum and tweedledee, that if the contest between them were more than a struggle between the " ins " and the " outs " ; if they differed as to the ends to be achieved or as to the methods by which those ends were to be attained, no government would accept a remedy suggested by the Opposition. Otherwise there would be no need for members to divide themselves into government and opposition factions." That should be the answer to any opposition. Do I believe that there are problems to be solved. I do ; they are vital, and will become more pressing every day. It is a disastrous state of affairs that in this young country some industries should be stagnating, and others reducing their production; that the streets should be paraded by an increasing army,of unemployed, while foreign goods are pouring into the country. There are questions to be answered and problems to be solved, not alone by the National party, but by any party that takes up the reins of government. Still, I shall not occupy the time of this committee by delivering a lecturette and expressing my own opinion. It would be futile to do so. Time will create circumstances which will compel the answers to be given and the remedies to be found,

I return now to the indictment of the Treasurer by the right honorable member for North Sydney on account, of his recantation in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank Bill. The Prime Minister said that the responsibility for the Government's original policy and change of policy attached, not alone to the Treasurer, but to the whole Ministry. I regard the Commonwealth Bank as a very important institution, and capable of invaluable service in the financial and economic reconstruction of this country. As it proved a useful instrumentality in the dark hours of financial crisis during the four years of war, so, properly handled, it can become a medium of great benefit to the community in time of peace. But in regard to the bank, the policies of the Government and the Labour party are as wide apart as the poles. The policy of the Government is to destroy this portion of " The Temple of Labour," of which the right honorable member for North Sydney said that " not one stone shall be touched."

It has pursued the same policy in regard to the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and, apparently, is justified in the eyes of honorable members opposite. Every one of them has referred to what the seamen and waterside workers have done to embarrass the Government ships. It may be that those workers furnished the Government with a very fine excuse for disposing of the fleet. We have been told that the seamen have no appreciation of their obligation to render to the community social service. A few days ago I heard in the train one wool buyer referring to the demands of the Australian workmen for increased wages and reduced hours. Those demands, he said, were utterly impossible, and would be ruinous to the country. "But," said another English buyer, " is not that true of others besides the workers of Australia? Is it not true of us? We come here to buy Australian wool at the cheapest possible price, and we shall take it to Europe and sell it at the best price offering. Unmindful of the Empire, we shall sell it on the continent if we can get there a fraction of a farthing per pound more than we can get in England. Before we speak of the social service due from the workmen to the nation, we who profess to belong to a superior social class, should set an example by our own sacrifice and service to the community." It is true that social service and sacrifice can be demanded from all classes. But the Government's policy in regard to the Commonwealth steamers was riot provoked by the antisocial attitude of the seamen; it has adopted the same policy in connexion with other state instrumentalities.

In the woollen mills at Geelong the difficulties caused by the seamen on the Commonwealth ships did not arise: faithful service was rendered by the employees, and profits were made, and that mill might have been exhibited as a shining example of what good workmen and state ownership could do for the people, who owned the enterprise; but the Government pursued its policy definitely and unwaveringly. Unhappily for us it did so, more clearly and definitely than the Labour party does when it is in power. Whatever charge may be brought against the Government, no one will deny that it has guts enough to carry out its policy, however inimical it may be to Labour. I only hope that when next Labour gets into office in this Parliament it will have sufficient guts to enforce its policy as ruthlessly and fearlessly as this Government is doing.

Mr Coleman - What has the honorable member to say of the silence of the right honorable member for Balaclava?

Mr ANSTEY - He is pursuing his own policy; he is going out of Parliament; he is retiring from the battle. So why should he worry? In any case I cannot be expected to expose the iniquities of every honorable member, and certainly not of an honorable member between whom and myself a personal friendship exists. Somebody else may have a " go " at him.

I was saying that the policy which the Government applied to the woollen mills has been carried clearly and definitely into the banking arena. The Commonwealth Bank was established by the Labour party in the belief that it would render good service to the people of thi? country. I believe in the bank. I would sooner see the energies of the Commonwealth devoted to the establishment and extension of a bank than to trading with cattle runs or butchers' shops, or bakers' shops. I would like to see the Bank grow, because it is not trammelled by those labour difficulties that affect industrial enterprises; therefore, it is capable of demonstrating to the best possible advantage the virtues of government ownership. But as this Government disposed of the woollen mills and the harness factory, and is about to dispose of the Shipping Line, so it is now setting out to emasculate the bank - not utterly destroying it, but reducing its virility and its capacity for growth and usefulness. It is apparent from the facts and figures that the Bank is to-day where it was years ago. In no respect has it grown. It is. stationary, if not stagnant. That is in accordance with the policy of this Government. The next step in the process of destroying this national institution was the introduction of a bill to divide it into two parts. The Treasurer said that the division would be in the interests of the institution, and of that he had proof. We questioned his policy, and asked if the bank directors supported it. He replied that they did. We asked if he had stated his proposition properly to them ; he said that he had. We asked if he had any evidence that he had done so, and he produced letters and documents which purported to prove that what he said was true. Well, I decline to do anything that is unparliamentary, nor do I wish to be discourteous; but in some walks of life and in similar circumstances a man would be called an unmitigated liar. I would not say that of the Treasurer, because the expression would be unparliamentary.

Mr JACKSON (BASS, TASMANIA) - It was used to-day very freely.

Mr ANSTEY - My training will not allow me to descend to such rudeness. But if somebody were so rude as to say of the Treasurer, "You stated that you had placed your proposal for the division of the Bank frankly and fully before the directors. Because you deceived Parliament and secured votes on false pretences, you are an unparalleled and unmitigated liar," I would say that such a statement should not be made of the Treasurer, because even if it were true, he would still be justified, by the precedents and conduct of Parliamentarians, in being a liar.

In every walk of life, in every profession and avocation, there are traditions which hind men to honorable dealings. The medical profession has its traditions, perhaps unwritten, but regarded by doctors as sacred and more obligatory than something printed in statutes and properly policed. The traditions of the legal profession date back for many centuries, and demand that a practitioner to be worthy of his profession, must practice it with decency, and deal honorably with those who become his clients. So it is even with the " bookie," and almost with the spieler on the race-course; there is honour among thieves. The profession of politics also should stand high and honoured. It should be a calling of which all of us, irrespective of party, should be proud. Whatever our faults and errors we should honour it, resolve never to besmirch it by word or deed. But, unfortunately, it has become through the long years a byword, a reproach, and a subject of contempt, so that between the prostitute who sells herself on the streets, and the politician who lies deliberately on behalf of his party and the Empire, there is in the public estimation very little distinction. I do not blame the Treasurer if he found it necessary to tell an untruth in order to win the votes of his supporters. Parallels to such action can be found in the history of this Parliament, and the lives of his associates. Who does not remember a former Prime Minister, who said to the people, " Dare to do this thing and I shall resign," and who when, the people dared to do it, violated his oath, and justified his doing so on the ground that he was serving his country and his Empire, never mentioning that he was merely indulging his private ambition. Who does not remember that other man, who having sworn fidelity to that Prime Minister, and declared him to be the only fit man to navigate the ship, yet, when an illegal and adulterous conspiracy led to him being thrown overboard, did not dare to throw him a life buoy, but, excusing himself, took the wheel. That is honour I That is what dignifies the profession to which we belong!

Who does not remember that occasion and many other things that have taken place in this Parliament? Who does not remember the case of the honorable gentleman who said "Mr. Jolly? I have never met him. I have had no association with him," and, when a document was produced showing that he had met Mr. Jolly, he said "A mere meeting of. that description was not meeting him in the ordinary sense." It was asserted that he had written to Mr. Jolly, but he said " I have never written to him," and when his letter was produced he said, " That letter is not an item of correspondence in the official sense; it is not a communication." And so that honorable gentleman justified this duplicity, and it is upon such lines that public business is conducted. How can we blame him? I would not be one to pour the vials of my wrath on one individual or on one section of the Ministry. How can we blame the Treasurer, if he should seek to emulate and excel the examples around him? I do not. claim that the examples are all quite modern. Some of them are very old. But the world is improving year by year, and disgraceful and discreditable practices like this cannot fail to bring the profession of the politician into disrepute. These things are not done merely for money. Very often those who do them have an abundance of the world's goods. They are done more for the sake of social standing, ambition, personal gratification, place and power. But whatever may be the reason for them, that they are done at all is discreditable to the position we occupy, bad for the people and bad for Australia generally. I do not admit that the Treasurer condemned this practice of deceiving the people, but poor devil, he was the victim of his environment. Like the chameleon, he took on the colour of his environment, instead of escaping from it, and he then proceeded to excel the examples set him. The days of the impeachment of the individual are past. In the old days the Treasurer would have been impeached as one who had abused his position, violated his oath, deceived Parliament, and told untruths.

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