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Thursday, 15 October 1914

Senator LONG (Tasmania) .- I join with almost every other honorable senator who has spoken on the AddressinReply in tendering my personal congratulations to you, sir, on the fact that you have been again elected to the very high office which you filled with such distinction in the previous Parliament. May I also tender my congratulations to the members of the Ministry representing the Government in this Chamber. I feel that I shall be doing no injustice to other members of the Senate if I say that, in my humble opinion, the three best senators who could possibly have been chosen have been selected by the Labour party for those positions. I am confident that Australia as a whole welcomes again the control of the Defence Department by Senator Pearce, the Leader of the Labour party in this Chamber. It is no exaggeration to say that none of the honorable senator's predecessors in the office have ever had the grasp of that tremendously important Department that Senator Pearce exhibited during the three years it was under his control. I do not hesitate to say that the great success which the Labour party achieved at the recent elections was in a large measure due to the very mean and paltry attempts of the other side, led by the ex-Minister of Defence, to deprive the Labour party, and more particularly Senator Pearce, of the credit rightly due to them and to him for bringing the defence of. Australia up to its present state of perfection. It was because .of these unfair tactics that the Opposition number has been so reduced that they are now no longer entitled to be dignified by that term and might with more justice be referred to as " the spectators on the other side of the chamber." It is characteristic of members of the so-called Liberal party _ that, whilst they are extravagant in their statements on the public platform, where they know that those statements cannot be" answered, they sneak out of the chamber when members of the Labour party are afforded an opportunity of replying to them. They ignore their obligation either to justify their statements or to do the manly thing by withdrawing them, by making it convenient to be in some other part of the parliamentary buildings while the debate is proceeding. During the recent election campaign the ex-Minister of Defence, Senator Millen, affirmed that the Labour party could not take to itself credit for our defence system, naval or military, because prominent members of that party had opposed the expenditure which Parliament was asked to sanction last year. In support of his statement that the Labour party did not desire anything in the nature of increased expenditure on defence, he quoted paragraphs from . the speeches of members of that party. If Senator Millen were present, I would charge him with having deliberately faked a statement of mine for his own. particular purpose. I further tell him that if he can find in Hansard the paragraph which he attributed to me, and which was published in the Argus and all other Tory papers of 28th August, I will resign my seat in this Chamber. The honorable senator exceeded the ordinary and legitimate bounds of criticism, and for party purposes descended to methods which certainly did him no credit. It was not surprising, therefore, to find that lesser lightsof the Opposition echoed his cry in other parts of Australia, and particularly in the State from which I come. On 28th August, according to an Argus report,. Senator Millen credits me with the statein ent -

I wish to say that, although I voted willingly for this expenditure last year, 1 am questioning- it this year, because I believe that if we made a mistake yesterday we ought to be preparer! to admit it to-day.

Senator Millendeliberately omitted the first portion of my utterance in that connexion, and also the central part of it,, and then presented the remainder to the. people of Australia as something which I said in opposition to the present defence expenditure.

Senator Shannon - If he took away tha body and the head of it, he left only the sting.

Senator LONG - But in such circumstances the statement created quite a wrong impression in the minds of the people, lt is passing strange that the statement attributed to me was published simultaneously in all the Tory newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. Let me give honorable senators the words which I actually used on the 'occasion in question. Senator Stewart had been speaking on the question of defence, and dealing with the effectiveness of the military arm as compared with the naval arm. He affirmed that it was to the military arm that he looked for the safety of Australia, in the future. I followed him, and said that, however unpopular it might be, I wished to associate myself with the sentiments which he had uttered, because I believed that "in the future the security of Australia would have to depend almost entirely upon her military defence. I then proceeded to point out that, in my opinion, the expenditure we were incurring in connexion with the development of our Navy was unwise, seeing that in fifteen or twenty years' time we- could not hope, at our present annual rate of expenditure, to possess, a Navy equal to that of even one of the smaller Powers of the Old World. I said, therefore, that we ought to spare no expense in the development of our Citizen Forces, because it was to that arm of defence that I looked for the protection of Australia. My exact words were -

Without cavilling in. any sense at the naval expenditure to which Australia has been con*mitted. I wish to say that, although I voted quite willingly for this expenditure last year, I am questioning it this year, not because I have ceased to bc patriotic as regards defence, but because I believe that; if wo made a mistake yesterday, we ought to be prepared to admit it to-duy.

That is to say that if we had made a mistake yesterday in connexion with naval expenditure by neglecting to pay due attention to our Citizen Forces, we ought to be prepared to admit it to-day. I repeat that, if Senator Millen can produce from Mansard the paragraph which he attributed to me, and which was published broadcast in the Tory newspaper? throughout Australia, I shall resign my seat in this Senate. I throw out that challenge in order to emphasize the mean, low-down tactics resorted to by such a prominent member of the Opposition in an endeavour to boost up the claim of his party to the credit attaching to the defence scheme of Australia to-day. Again, I want to say that the cause of righteousness will always prevail, no matter what factors may be arrayed against it. The Labour party has succeeded because it has always been frank, and because it has always taken the people of Australia into its confidence. Neither its leaders nor its members ever present a programme for the purpose of tickling the ears of the electors. As honest, straightforward representatives, they advocate what they regard as the best solution of the many problems which are so closely associated with our social and industrial lives. Our opponents marvel that their numbers in this Parliament are so small. Each blames the other, and all of them are walloping their particular joss, because the Labour party has achieved the greatest victory in its history. It has achieved that victory because the electors have at last recognised that there is only one political party in Australia which has a true conception of the rights and duties of a nation. During the recent election campaign, the newspapers in Tasmania - and probably in most of the other States - contained criticisms of the meanest and most contemptible kind under the heading of " Points to the Elec tors." The Launceston Examiner went so far as to say that the Labour party in the Senate threw out the Agricultural Bureau Bill, which the Cook Government were anxious to put through, because it meant so much to the farming interests of Australia.

Senator McKissock - The ex-Prime Minister made the same statement.

Senator LONG - Exactly. They made that statement knowing very well that the Bill was not introduced into the Senate last session. As a matter of fact it was introduced into this Chamber in 1913, only on the very day upon which Parliament went into recess. But I venture to say that honorable senators will not find anything in Australia which, for vulgarity, excels a paragraph which was published in the Launceston Examiner of 28th August, and which reads -

Australia's pressing need is to clear the dogs out of its parliamentary manger. This will be accomplished. Tasmania will do its share of the work if only on September 5 its Liberals will vote solidly and straight for the Liberal six.

Senator Guy - And the same newspaper stated that the paragraph was written after consultation.

Senator LONG - As I am pertinently reminded by Senator Guy, the paragraph was not one which crept into that newspaper quite unknown to its editor or to its proprietors, because immediately under the paragraph appeared the announcement that it was written " after consultation to express the views of the Launceston Examiner." They were not successful in clearing what they termed the " dogs " out of the parliamentary manger, and I thank the saints that we were successful in clearing- a few mongrels out of it. I would much prefer to be a dog than to be an individual who would hire himself out to write a criticism of that character of honest and straightforward public representatives. Several honorable senators to-day have referred to the Commonwealth Bank, and the part it is likely to play in the future development of Australian finance. Our opponents ought to be fair-minded enough to admit that the existence of the bank means our financial salvation. If it had not been established Australia would have been faced with a panic equal to that of the early nineties.

No thanks are due to Mr. Joseph Cook, when he was Prime Minister, for the fact that there was not a panic in spite of the existence of the bank. If there was one man whose duty it was at that juncture to inspire the public with confidence regarding Australian finance, surely it was he; yet the manifesto which he issued on 31st August contained the most damaging statement that any public man could make against the financial stability of Australia. That man, who ought to have taken every step in his power to allay anything in the nature of a panic, and to assure the people that, whatever trouble might befall the private banks, the Commonwealth Bank was big enough and' sound enough to come to their rescue. So far from discharging that duty, in order to have a " dig " at his opponents and to follow his old policy of denying to our party the credit that rightly belonged to them, he made a big hit at the financial stability of Australia, in trying to decry the Commonwealth Bank, by saying that " If a panic broke loose, and financial stress came suddenly upon us, we would look in vain for substantial help from the Commonwealth Bank." The bank was established in opposition to the protests of the representatives of financial institutions in the Federal Parliament, and in spite of the sneers and jeers of the financial magnates outside, who predicted its early failure. They said it could not possibly be a success, because there were so many institutions already engaged in the business of finance in this country; but when financial stress came they had to admit, like our friends on the Opposition benches, that the fortress and buttress of our finance is the Commonwealth Bank, established by the Labour Government. Mr. David Barclay, who occupies a very prominent position in the financial world of Tasmania, and who is looked upon, I believe rightly, as the leading financial authority in that State, on being interviewed after the war had broken out, and the first financial strain was beginning to be felt, was asked what the financial position would be if the war continued for five or six months. He then gave the assurance that there was not the slightest occasion for apprehension, that the banks were perfectly sound, and that everything would bc quite all right for many months to come. "But," he said, "even if the worst comes to the worst, we shall be able to fall back upon the Commonwealth Bank." There is a tribute from a man very high in the financial world and well qualified to utter it. I hope and believe that the Government will devote themselves earnestly, honestly, and energetically to carry out the programme which they presented to the people for their acceptance on the 5th September,' and subsequently embodied in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General to Parliament. I indorse Senator Senior's view that we have nothing to fear so far as the stability of Australia is concerned, and I agree with him that we have not yet touched th'e outskirts of this country's resources. The position is, no doubt, serious, and will possibly become much more so before the awful crisis in Europe has been brought to a successful conclusion, and, from our point of view, there is only one conclusion that can be successful. Whatever the upshot may be, we have our part to play, and I am sure that Australia is not going to shirk its responsibilities. It certainly will not be permitted to do so by the present Administration. In spite of the mean attempts made during the last campaign to fasten disloyalty on to the Labour party, we have the opportunity during the next three years of demonstrating to our opponents and other paris of the Empire that Australia will do its utmost to assist the Old Country in this its greatest time of need. The Government will also show the people that they realize how serious the position is to the industrial classes. Having discharged their responsibilities to the Old Land. I am sure they will not neglect their responsibilities to their own people, but will apply themselves to the task of keeping the wheels of industry going, and finding employment for the thousands who have been thrown out of work by the industrial dislocation that has taken place. I again tender to you, sir, my hearty and cordial congratulations on your being called upon to preside over the deliberations of this- Chamber for the next three years.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to~-

That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such senators as may desire to- accompany him.

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