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Wednesday, 16 November 1910


The PRESIDENT - The matter to which the honorable senator is referring does not come within the scope of the Bill under consideration.


Senator DE LARGIE - With all due respect to your opinion, sir, I think I have a right to show, by means of an illustration, that the power of one State to monopolize or to control an industry, dovetails into the general question of State rights. I wish now to say a few words in reply to a statement made by Senator Millen when this measure was introduced. The honorable senator said, in effect, that he refused to carry out the duty of what is commonly called " His Majesty's Opposition." On that occasion, he donned the mantle' of the prophet. Jeremiah. The message which he had to convey to the country was pitched in a very pessimistic key indeed. His tale was one of woe and lamentation. He said that the Senate had ceased to be a deliberative assembly simply because the various proposals which he and other members of the Opposition had made had not been accepted by the Government. Senator Millen ought to have recollected that although the end of the session is within sight, and it is desirable to shorten debate as much as possible, nevertheless he and his colleagues have exercised to the full their privilege of debating measures which have been brought before us. It was surely rather late in the day for him to announce that he no longer intended to exercise the functions of the Leader of an Opposition. As Senator W. Russell reminds me, on no one occasion has the slightest restriction been placed upon the debating instincts of Senator Millen or any other member of the Opposition. Much as we should have liked, on many occasions, to apply some restraint in order to abridge the oratorical propensities of Senator St. Ledger, nevertheless no attempt whatever was made to restrain him, and every question has been threshed out to the fullest degree. We suffered under Senator St. Ledger's inflictions, but we bore our suffering in the spirit of martyrs; and having received martyrdom, it was surely late in the day for Senator Millen to say that he intended no longer to exercise his right of debate. It seemed to me, moreover, that the honorable senator was guilty of a deliberate insult to the Senate when he charged it with being no longer a deliberative assembly. But I wish to prove beyond all question, that the honorable senator was by no means justified in making that statement. I hold that never during any session of. the Senate has greater deliberation been given to the various questions that have come before us than during the present session. Senator Millen cannot seriously blame the Government for not accepting amendments with which they did not agree. It is the duty of a Government to adhere to their own principles and their own Bills rather than accept the ideas and principles of their political opponents. The history of every Parliament in the world, as far as I know, goes to show that every Opposition has had to fight against the majority on the Government benches, and it is surely the duty of an Opposition to continue its work whether it fails in its efforts or not. When the present Ministerial party were on the Opposition benches, vainly fighting against the

Fusion forces, our amendments were rejected time after time. But we did not turn round in a petulant, childish fashion, and say, " Because you have not accepted our proposals, we shall no longer exercise our functions as an Opposition." We did not cry, " We will no longer play in your back- yard." I want to show what has occurred in connexion with divisions in the Senate. Never has there been a greater division of opinion than during the present session. After consulting the Journals of the Senate, I find that there have been ninety-three divisions. In thirty-seven of these, both Opposition and Labour members voted against Government proposals. But there is much more to be said.


Senator Chataway - Can the honorable senator give us the number of Opposition and Labour members voting against the Government in those divisions?


Senator DE LARGIE - I have not had time to go into all those details, but I may say that inthose divisions there was a greater number of Labour members than of Opposition members voting against the Government.


Senator Chataway - The honorable senator should give us the figures.


Senator DE LARGIE - I have told the honorable senator the source from which they have been obtained, and it is for him to refute the figures I am quoting if they are incorrect. I am satisfied he cannot do so, because I have been very careful in working them out.


Senator Chataway - I do not question the honorable senator's general statement, but I wish to know the number of Opposition and Ministerial supporters who voted together.


Senator DE LARGIE - I venture to say that in many of these divisions on the side on which Ministerial supporters and Opposition senators voted together, the latter were in a minority. But this does not disclose the whole of the opposition to the Government during this session. Honorable senators will bear in mind that I make this statement in reply to the statement made by Senator Millen, that Government business, when introduced here, had been cut and dried and arranged by the Caucus, and that it was, therefore, of no use for the Opposition to discuss Government proposals. When the honorable senator made the statement, it was known to every one here that a party caucus of the Opposition had been held only a few days before, and it was under the orders of that caucus meeting that the honorable senator spoke. The cheek of the thing is transparent when we find an honorable senator carrying out the orders of a caucus meeting of his own party in finding fault with honorable senators on this side on the ground that they are only obeying the orders of their own caucus.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I had a good laugh when I read the statement in Hansard.


Senator DE LARGIE - I agree with the honorable senator that it was more appropriate for a comic publication than for the pages of Hansard. I find that there have been only thirty-six party divisions in this Chamber during the whole of the session; that is to say, divisions in which all the members on one side have been supporters of the Government, and all the members on the other side members of the Opposition party. I have already said that there were thirty-seven divisions in which Labour and Opposition senators voted together against Government proposals. I find, also, that there were twenty divisions during this session in which the opposition to the Government proposal was wholly composed of Labour senators. If figures can prove anything at all, these figures show that, instead of the whole of the Government business being cut and dried in the Ministerial Caucus, there are a very great many questions on which there is anything but . unanimity amongst Labour senators.


Senator St Ledger - Why protest so much now ?


Senator DE LARGIE - I am not protesting. I am riddling the old wheeze about the " Caucus-bound party." I am bursting up and exposing a hollow political fraud. I have proved. I think, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only party the members of which cannot act for themselves is the party now in Opposition in the Senate. The figures I have quoted show that members of the Labour party are the freest members of the Senate. In twenty divisions in this Chamber the opposition to the Government has been wholly composed of Labour senators.


Senator Givens - And in those divisions the members of the Opposition crossed the chamber to save the Government.


Senator DE LARGIE - Yes, that is so.


Senator Story - They " stone- walled " for the Government on one occasion.


Senator DE LARGIE - The only conclusion we can come to is that the statement made by Senator Millen was made for party purposes, and in the interests of the Opposition party outside, because- honorable senators are well aware that there was nothing in it.


Senator St Ledger - -It was made for the people.


Senator DE LARGIE - It was made for people who do not think. But, unfortunately for the St. Ledgers, the Chataways, and the Millens, the people do think. They showed that when, on the 13th April last, they returned the Labour party to power to do certain things. A Labour Government is now doing those things, and the slurs which, in this connexion, have been cast upon the Senate serve only to remind us of the old adage, "It is a dirty bird that fouls its own nest."


Senator Chataway - -Why make this speech, then?


Senator DE LARGIE - I make it because the honorable senator does not like it, and I intend to give him some more of it. I have shown that there was no justification .for Senator Millen' s statement, and that in declining to carry out his duty as a public nian, he was really 'finding fault with the electors.


Senator St Ledger - No; he said he would go to the people.


Senator DE LARGIE - He went to the people on the 13th April last, and if, when he learned, from the result of the elections, that they were so decidedly against his party, and knew of the sweeping victory gained by the Labour party, he had said that there would be very little use in members of the Fusion party going to the Senate, and had declared that he declined to take up his public duties in the circum- stances, and resigned his seat, there would have been something reasonable in his attitude.


Senator St Ledger - Why do not the present Government resign? They have suffered a defeat.


Senator DE LARGIE - If the honorable senator is referring to something which has occurred in another place, let me tell him that it is only an additional illustration of the independence of the members of the Labour party, and shows again that the. cry about the "pledgebound Caucus party," for whom everything is cut and dried outside Parliament, has nothing in it. The bottom has fallen out of that story, and even the stupid Fusion party must recognise it by this time. The people declared on the 13th April last that a certain policy should be carried out, and the present Government, in giving effect to that policy, are carrying out the will of the people. With respect to the kind of legislation, we are now asked to pass an opinion upon, I have only to say that much of this legislation introduced in the past has been a failure. I have always supported legislation proposed for the control of trusts, with the object of educating public opinion in the belief that there is only one means of settling the matter. This must be brought very vividly before the people before they can appreciate it.


Senator St Ledger - What is the settlement the honorable senator wants?


Senator DE LARGIE - A settlement which I am quite sure the people are prepared for to-day. I desire that this Parliament should possess the power for which we are asking in this proposed alteration of the Constitution. In view of the futility of our past legislation to secure for us control of these trusts, it is idle to propose that we should continue the timorous policy of Conservatism. To do so would be to go on dropping the bucket into the well, and drawing no water out of it. That is a policy with which the people will not be satisfied.


Senator Chataway - There is a hole in Tour blooming bucket, anyway.


Senator DE LARGIE - There is a hole in your blooming mouth, too.


The PRESIDENT - All interjections are disorderly at any time, but personal reflections across the chamber do not add to the dignity of the Senate.


Senator DE LARGIE - I do not know that I have anything more to say. I recognise that this legislation is absolutely necessary if this Parliament is to carry out the will of the people. The only way in which we can ascertain whether the people desire that this power shall be given to the Federal Parliament is by submitting the question to them at a referendum. One of the most important things for which we can strive is industrial peace, and every assumed dignity of the State Parliaments must take second place when it is a question of conserving the peace and prosperity of the Commonwealth.


Senator St Ledger - Honorable senators on this side are not trying to stop the Government in this matter.


Senator DE LARGIE - Then we shall welcome the assistance of honorable senators opposite in securing this power for the Federal Parliament. If we are all found pulling at the same end of the rope the taking of this referendum should be a simple task. Whether we are or not, I am satisfied that there will be a sufficient pull on my side to drag the St. Ledgers and the Chataways over the mark, and that what the Government desire in this matter will be brought about.







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