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Wednesday, 14 July 1915

Senator TURLEY (QUEENSLAND) - It was the same in regard to the Tariff.

Senator MILLEN - If my friend says that the attitude of the Labour party towards these measures is the same as its attitude towards the Tariff, I may point out that Ministers are now treating the Tariff differently.

Senator Gardiner - - How arĀ© they treating the two matters differently?

Senator MILLEN - -Because they are leaving one in abeyance while they are proceeding with the other.

Senator Gardiner - The Tariff is in operation.

Senator MILLEN - But the Government will not go on with it.

Senator Watson - No question upon which the people are called upon to decide can be called a party question.

Senator MILLEN - As the people have to decide everything, the honorable senator might as well say that there is no such thing as a party question. When the people of the different States had to decide -whether they would join the Federation or not, was not that a party question ?

Senator Turley - No. Senator MILLEN.- It was a party question.

Senator Watson - Sir Edmund Barton and your party were responsible for Federation.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator has shown exactly the justification for my statement. Just now there was an interjection that there was no party. The honorable senator, however, says " Sir Edmund Barton and your party," but at that time I was strongly opposing the Constitution which Sir Edmund Barton wanted the people to accept. I stood on the platform with Mr. Hughes and others, and opposed it. I do not say that

Federation was a matter taken up by the then existing parties in the States, but I say that any matter on which public attention ranges itself in hostile camps is a party matter.

Senator Maughan - What is wrong with "party" anyhow?

Senator MILLEN - I have not a word to say about "party." I believe that the party system in Australia has been responsible for the purity of Australian public life, but when we are called upon to leave matters of party alone and to deal with a much more serious national matter, it shows, not- merely a want of a sense of proportion, but also great dereliction of duty for Ministers to seek to divide the electors upon any question.

Senator Watson - Is it not a fact that if your party had remained in power they would have submitted certain amendments to the Constitution ?

Senator MILLEN - It is not a fact that, had my party been in power, they would have submitted anything to the electors that would have divided them at a time such as this.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would not they abolish preference to unionists ?

Senator MILLEN - The party now in power is abolishing preference to unionists in the highest calling a citizen of a State can fulfil! There is no question of preference to unionists when we ask men to join the ranks of the fighting army.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Every man goes into the Army under the same conditions.

Senator Gardiner - And every man goes into the Public Service under the same conditions, although unionists get preference for temporary employment.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - But Ministers take precious good care to see that none but unionists get employment.

Senator MILLEN - Though my friends may be deceived by the hope that this is not a party matter, a few quotations which I shall read will make abundantly clear the fact that it is. Speaking on 13th April, 1911, on the referenda proposals which were submitted to the people shortly afterwards, Mr. Hughes, after having dwelt upon what his party had done, said -

Here we fail. Who are the "we"? It was not the nation, or the united Parliament, but the party with which he is associated, and for which he claimed to be speaking then.

Wehave passed a certain portion of our pro gramme into law-

Whose programme ? The party programme of the Government with which Mr, Hughes was associated.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And do not forget that the people indorsed it.

Senator MILLEN - They did indorse it, but they did not indorse the referenda proposals on that occasion.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They will this time.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friends are shifting from pillar to post. The point now is, not whether the people indorsed the programme, but whether it was of a party character ? It does not cease to be of a party character because a small majority of the people of the country may approve of it. It is still a party matter so long as there is any substantial majority opposing it. but we arc prevented from passing the rust .until you amend the Constitution.

There is a clear indication that these constitutional amendments are regarded by Mr. Hughes as being necessary in order to permit of the fulfilment of the party programme to which they are pledged. He went on to say -

It was resolved, in order to give effect to the programme there decided upon - That is, the programme, decided on at a Labour Conference. that it was necessary to make amendments in the Constitution, which were recently laid before the people.

Senator Pearce, dealing with this matter, said -

It is an incontrovertible fact that every plank of the platform upon which that party went to the elections in 1903 to which effect can be given without an amendment of the Constitution has already been given effect to.

Those two statements make it clear that these proposals are being pressed as part of the Labour party's programme in order that a door may be opened by which a further instalment of the programme can be brought in.

Senator Senior - Which of them would you recommend?

Senator MILLEN - I am not now dealing with any of them. What I wish to bring home to my honorable friends is that this is a matter to which the Labour party stands solemnly pledged, and which they have put in the fore-front of their programme. Believing in it sincerely as I think they do, I wish them to recognise that there is a very large section of the people who, not being in accord with them, will be compelled to oppose them when these proposals are put forward again. Let me take the Labour manifesto of 1913. It contained this statement -

Having set forth that part of the policy of the party for which amendment of the Constitution is necessary, we now come to the general policy of the party under the existing powers of the Constitution.

That is a clear, plain statement that the proposals were part of the policy of my honorable friends opposite. Then we come down to the Labour manifesto of 1914, which is not a year old yet. The programme of the Labour party has already been declared. To that programme, which sets forth, in clear and unambiguous terms the policy of Labour, including its attitude towards trusts and combines, amendment of the Constitution, &c, Labour stands pledged for the next Parliament.

That we know was Labour's attitude in regard to these proposals. What has been the attitude of those who are opposed to them ? We have not to refer to the records of what has transpired outside Parliament, but only to take tho records of the Senate and the other House to find conclusive evidence that if ever there was a party matter introduced within these walls it was the proposed alterations in the Constitution. How can you judge a party matter by any better evidence than that the members of one party support and the members of another party oppose? Let me remind my honorable friends of what took place in those bodies which control their political destinies. We remember that there was a carpeting of Mr. Holman a little while ago because he ventured to express an opinion not quite in keeping with the official utterances of the Labour party. If this was not a party matter, surely he might have been allowed to go his own road .

Senator Watson - It is a national matter.

Senator MILLEN - I am the most peaceful man in the world, but if my honorable friend were to insist upon coming over here and threatening me with personal violence he would not be surprised if I took steps to protect myself.

Senator Watson - There is no political violence in this matter.

Senator MILLEN - I wish to remind my honorable friend of what took place in the case of Mr. Holman. If this is not a matter in which the electors should be left free to follow their own judgment, why was that extraordinary action taken in regard to Mr. Holman ? Why was he haled before the Conference, and called upon to answer for his audacity in venturing to express any other opinion than that which had been approved by the Conference which had accepted these proposals as vital to the party's interests?

Senator GARDINER - Was he ?

Senator MILLEN - He was, and no one knows that better than does Senator Gardiner. Again, why was it that Mr. Page ceased to be a member of the Labour party? It was because he, too, declared that he was unable to support the referenda proposals. If it was not a party matter, why was Mr. Page compelled to leave the ranks of the Labour party ? We are merely attempting to deceive ourselves if we assume for a moment that it is not a party matter. It undoubtedly is of great national concern, but every matter which has been of great national concern has invariably been a subject of party controversy, and the only question for us to consider is whether the circumstances of to-day justify us in inviting the electors to give a decision now or not.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'Loghlin. - Why did not the late Government allow them to be submitted to the electors . when the Senate passed them before the war?

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator now raises another matter.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'Loghlin. - It is a very important matter.

Senator MILLEN - If I were to ask the honorable senator if that action were not taken from a purely party point of view he would say that it was - another proof that these are party proposals.

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