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Thursday, 4 June 1903

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Did not the opposition do the same ?

Mr WINTER COOKE - The opposition are not in a position of responsibility, but the Ministry is ; and if the Ministry comes down to this House with certain principles in a Bill and presses that they shall be carried, it is not right to accept from any section of the House a principle antagonistic to the wishes of the Government. There was the question of lascar labour on the male steamers. The PostmasterGeneral in the Senate did his very best to point out that that provision was not desirable. He opposed it. The members of the Ministry in this House gave in and " kow-towed " to the leader of the labour party. We had again the question of the tea duty. The Cabinet did their very best to resist the abolition of that duty, but instead of keeping eight of their men in order they allowed them to vote for omitting the duty from the Tariff. With what result ?

Mr Kennedy - What are we here for if we are not to have an individual opinion?

Mr WINTER COOKE - The Government previously said that it was important that the tea duty should be carried for the benefit of certain States of Australia. Then there is the section in the Immigration Restriction Bill about contract labour, which was not in the measure as originally produced. Worse than all, we had the Defence Estimates thrown back to the Government twice. I say, without fear of contradiction, that if a. Ministry of the Commonwealth of Australia goes on doing that kind of thing responsible government will be at an end. Instead of the Swiss system we shall have a hybrid of the Swiss system and responsible government. This first Commonwealth Ministry has done more harm to responsible government than any Ministry has ever done throughout the British Empire. I do not know what the motive could be; whether the Government thought it was not good for the Commonwealth to have a swopping of horses in crossing the stream, or whether - which I should be sorry to attribute to them - they were actuated by the desire for place and power which is innate in most human beings. But there is the fact : that on four separate occasions - and a search of the memory might recall others - this Ministry yielded to a section of' the House. Therefore, that section which may, or may not, represent the feeling of Australia - I do not know but it does not represent the feeling of the majority of this House at all events - has been dictating the policy of Australia. I hope that I shall be able to see my way to vote for the measures of the Government, and that they will be the measures of the Government, and not of only a section. There is one Bill upon which I will touch for a moment, namely the High Court Bill. I have still an open mind on that question. At present I feel pretty strongly against it ; but I am going to keep my mind open until I hear what the Attorney-General says with regard to the economical side of it. One reason why my feeling at present is against it is that we can very' well use the courts of Australia for deciding Commonwealth cases. In using them we should obtain the services of men of judicial experience in deciding very important" questions ; whereas if we establish a new High Court in all probability its members will not be drawn from the benches of Australia, but will be largely, if not altogether, lawyers who have not had judicial experience. I think that it would be better for litigants - whether States or individuals - that their cases should be brought before men of judicial experience rather than before those who have only just left the bar or the political arena. However, I am not going to say how I shall vote. There are other measures which I shall await with interest. There is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I do hope that we shall be able to pass a Bill which will once for all do away with the barbaric method of settling labour disputes by means of strikes or lockouts. I have long thought that things should not remain as they are in that respect. This is not a new idea of mine. I have expressed it on the platform. I think that nothing could be more barbaric than the way in which the people of the civilized world have hitherto settled their industrial disputes. I have spoken longer than Iintended to do, and I now conclude these remarks with the expression of the hope that we shall have a very successful session, and that we shall have a Government leading.

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