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Friday, 25 November 1910


Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - Parliament is not to re-assemble until late next year, and, therefore, we are asked to vote two months' Supply on account of the next financial year in order that the Government and the Public Service shall not be inconvenienced. One purpose of this measure is to enable the Government to be represented at the Imperial Conference. I regret extremely that neither House of this Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing the questions which will be submitted there. It will be recollected that on 9th July, 1908, the Brisbane Labour Conference came to an important decision affecting the position of a Labour Prime Minister at an Imperial Conference. This is the last opportunity we have of asking the Ministry what position the Prime Minister will occupy in view of this resolution which, I take it, is binding upon him -

That all Australian delegates to future Imperial .or Colonial Conferences be given definite instructions on specific subjects by the Federal Parliament, and that they (the delegates) shall not deal with nor pledge the Commonwealth upon any subject not previously dealt with by the Federal Government.

I wish to ask - What is to be the Prime Minister's position at the Imperial Conference? Is he to go there as the representative of the Government of Australia or as a delegate bound by a resolution of the Brisbane Labour Conference? I shall not apologize for pointing out that the Imperial Conference is as important to us as, a part of the Empire as the Prime Minister's position is important to the Commonwealth. What, then, will be his position there ? Will he represent the Federal Government as Prime Minister of Australia, or will he merely represent the Brisbane Conference?


Senator Fraser - He will ignore it.


Senator ST LEDGER - I wish the expression of Senator Fraser could find indorsement from the mouth of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I assume that if the resolution I have quoted is worth the paper it is written upon, the members of the Labour Conference will expect the Prime Minister to act upon it. Of course, I admit that a resolution of such a Conference is generally worth more than paper. Presumably there was a bullet in front of the powder. If so, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth will go to the Imperial Conference not as . the representative of the Commonwealth Parliament, but of a Labour Conference. Moreover, the Federal Parliament has not had . the slightest opportunity of discussing a single question which will be discussed at the Imperial Conference. If the jurisdiction of the Caucus or Labour Conference is going to act as a shackle upon our Prime Minister when he goes into conference with representatives of other portions of the Empire, let us know it. Let the whole Empire know it. If the Brisbane resolution is binding, it amounts to this : When the Prime Minister of Great Britain meets Mr. Fisher in conference and a question is brought up for discussion, Mr. Fisher will be bound to say, " I can talk over anything you like with you, but in face of a resolution which binds me I cannot pledge myself to anything."


Senator Lynch - Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister of Canada, said the same thing at the last Imperial Conference.


Senator ST LEDGER - So much the worse for Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It is, as I said before, very important that we should know whether Mr. Fisher will attend the Conference as a peer among his peers, or as the servant of the Labour Conference which passed the resolution that I have read.







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