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Thursday, 25 June 1914

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I, too, do not propose to allow this motion to pass without giving expression to my views upon it. I have but recently returned from the heart of the Empire to which Senator Keating has referred, and can say that there are there many hundreds of thousands of people who, I have no doubt, would wish to be able to describe this trouble, as Senator Keating has done, as but a little one. It is by no means a little trouble. It is one the immensity of which very few of us out here can recognise. The moment one is brought into somewhat immediate contact with the strong feelings expressed by people of all classes and denominations in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, with regard to this impending difficulty, one realizes how grave it is. It is because I have just come from the Old Country that I feel that I cannot cast a silent vote to-night. Looking at the motion, I am constrained to ask whether every honorable senator who proposes to vote upon it has read it. The very terms of the motion are sufficient to make one hesitate before supporting it when one knows the real facts. The aspiration expressed by the motion is that something should be done by Parliament to assist in cementing the Empire into one harmonious whole. It goes on to say that the Senate is invited to express the opinion that Home Rule, if granted to Ireland, will bring about this desirable result. I say deliberately, with the full knowledge of what I am saying, that in the mind of no man in Great Britain to-day, strong Home Ruler or anti-Home Ruler, is there any hope at all, much less a confident hope - and I embrace all classes in that statement - that if the Home Rule Bill as now introduced is brought into effect without any amendment there will be anything like harmony in the British Empire. That is the confirmed opinion of all men who think.

Senator Blakey - Is it all harmony in the Empire at the present moment?

Senator CLEMONS - It is not; but it is all dread, and fear, and apprehension, and immense anxiety throughout the whole Empire, and all over Ireland itself, as to what is going to happen to any and every class in Ireland if the Home Rule Bill becomes law.

Senator Keating - What is going to happen if it does not become law?

Senator CLEMONS - We all know that there is trouble, but, between having some impending trouble, which we all hope may still be allayed, and precipitating a crisis, the end of which no man can conceive, there is an enormous difference. I say advisedly that I know the Home Rule Bill will bring no peace or harmony to Ireland. Those who are avowedly and openly pledged to the Bil] may wish it, and I can quite understand their wishing it; but I say deliberately that, keen as they are for it, they are, with others who are in politics, and on this particular question, opposed to them, in a state of indescribable anxiety and dismay at the immediate future of Ireland and Great Britain because of it.

Senator Long - Wherever have you been ?

Senator CLEMONS - I have been in touch with these things, and hold these opinions in common with hundreds and thousands of men of all classes.

Senator Henderson - You are pitting that knowledge of mushroom growth against that of men who have been in it all their lives.

Senator CLEMONS - My words are true, and the honorable senator knows that I thoroughly believe them. I assure him that if I can be confident of anything I am confident of this. By this resolution we who are accustomed to legislate, and who know what an immense difference there may be between two Bills with the same title, are asked to use a bald, loose phrase that not one of us in our capacity as senators would put up with for a moment. We say "Home Rule!" I ask What measure of Home Rule? What kind of Home Rule Bill ? I am not dealing with the one now being submitted for amendment; but, even taking that, does any one of us know its full contents?

Senator de Largie - We do not go into the merits of that.

Senator CLEMONS - That is the whole point. We, as a body of legislators who, if they ought to know anything, ought to know the immense difference there may bc between two Bills of the same title, are asked -

Senatorde Largie. - To approve of a general principle.

Senator CLEMONS - That is not so. We cannot do it, and every one knows it. I am not speaking pro or con on this matter, although, of course, I am going to vote on the motion ; but every one of us must admit that there may be an immensity of difference between Home Rule measures. We might have some sort of Home Rule Bill which would bring- Ireland into what all of us want to see it - one harmonious whole; but surely honorable senators will readily admit that a Bill proposing to give Home Rule may bo introduced which will bring about the disastrous opposite. That is what I fear the present Home Rule Bill will do. I indorse what Senator Millen said. I say, with all respect to the Senate, that I do not believe that our resolution will have any effect, and that I do not think it ought to. I am in accord with what. Senator Millen said on that point.

Senator Long - You have got to be.

Senator CLEMONS - I have not got to be. I am on my own initiative.

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