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Tuesday, 8 March 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member think that that question has anything to do with the Address in Reply?

Mr WILKS - It applies to this extent : the honorable member for Bland stated that the Labour Party had not touched sectarianism, and my object is to show that sectarianism has touched the Labour Party.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member cannot follow up an irrelevant interjection by making it a matter of debate.

Mr WILKS - The remark of the honorable member for Bland did not take the form of an interjection ; I am replying to statements made in the course of the honorable member's speech in this debate.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is not entitled, on any ground, to travel beyond the question under debate.

Mr WILKS - The point is that it was stated that the free-trade majority in New South Wales was secured by the introduction of the sectarian issue.

Mr Watson - I did not say that, but. quite the contrary. .

Mr WILKS - The honorable member suggested that the sectarian issue was a dirty issue, and had been introduced by the free-trade party.

Mr Watson - I did not say that the free-trade majority had been secured by its means.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member said that the sectarian issue had been introduced by the party, and I now wish to show that the Labour Party are not so free from the taint of sectarianism as they wish people to believe.

Mr McDonald - Will the honorable member give us some instances in which the Labour Party have been associated with the sectarian issue. I do not know of any.

Mr WILKS - That is what I am now endeavouring to do. I wish to show that the Labour Party are not so free from sectarian influences as they represent. The honorable member has the right to exercise his private judgment in regard to sectarian matters, and If I exercise a similar privilege no one is entitled to tell me that I am a traitor and an enemy to my country, or that I am making undue use of the " serpent of sectarianism, which is like a hydra-headed monster worming its way through a morass of prejudice and hatred."

Mr McDonald - Why does not . the honorable member adopt the definition of sectarianism given by the leader of the Opposition ?

Mr WILKS - I shall refer to that. The report to which I have just referred has not been contradicted, and it is clear from that statement that sectarianism has touched the Labour Party, who have not reprobated the sectarian influence exercised on their behalf. If the LabourParty had expressed their disapproval of the sectarianism shown on the other side as well as of that shown by the Protestant organization. I could have understood them. I could have fully entered into their position if they had said " a plague on both sides," but I cannot understand their regarding everything done by one side as vile and despicable whilst looking upon the actions of others as fair and legitimate. The Catholic Press, the official organ of the Labour Party-

Mr Fowler - What?

Mr WILKS - I mean the official organ of the Catholic party. That was a slip of the tongue. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Press is the official organ of the Labour Party; and although my first statement was a lapsus linguoe, it was substantially correct. Two and a-half years ago the conductors of the Catholic Press advised their co-religionists to swarm the labour leagues, and as they swarmed in, the other side swarmed out. The honorable member for Bland contradicted my statement that the victories of the Labour Party at former elections had been due to the Protestant . vote, but I would point out that in 1891 and1 894 the main support received by the Labour Party came from the ultra-Protestants.

Mr thomas -Whom does the honorable member describe as ultra- Protestants?

Mr WILKS - I mean the Orangemen.

Mr Thomas - Does the honorable member mean to say that he and Mr. Sydney Law secured victory for the Labour Party ?

Mr WILKS -No, but I claim that the victory of the Labour Party in those years was due to the exertions of the Orangemen of New South Wales, to which body I happen to belong. The Roman Catholics were, at that time, opposed to the Labour Party, but they were afterwards recommended to swarm the labour leagues, and, as they did so, the other party swarmed out. Ido not wish to gloat over the probable consequences of mistakes made by others, but I venture to think that' the remarks made by the leader of the Labour Party during this debate will do his party incalculable harm at the next elections in New South Wales. With regard to the candidates who were selected by the Protestant organization, I find that out of twenty-two Protestants who were chosen, seventeen were returned.

Mr SPEAKER - I do no think that the honorable member ought to refer to that matter.

Mr WILKS - I shall be very pleased to refrain from any further remarks upon that point. I do not wish to labour the mat- ' ter, but simply to defend myself and others against the aspersions of the honorable member for Bland. It is just as well, when matters of this kind are introduced, to grapple with them as strongly as one is able. The right of people to organize for the purpose of securing the adoption of that which they regard as a vital principle must be conceded, and, further, every one must grant that they have a right to make such principle an issue at an election. If the honorable member for Bland has such lofty ideas and such exalted notions, that he can refuse to. indorse the platform of an organization like that referred to, he is at perfect liberty to take his own course. But I would point out that, at least, one member of the Labour Party carried the banner of the much-abused Protestant organization in New South Wales.

Mr Watson - Who was that?

Mr WILKS - The honorable member knows that it was the representative of one of the Sydney electorates, who is not present to-night.

Mr Watson -No; he disowned the Protestant Defence League.

Mr WILKS - He did not disown it publicly.

Mr Watson - Yes he did; he had his name withdrawn from their lists. '

Mr WILKS - His name was published and circulated. '. However, I do not wish to deal any further with this matter. I have no desire to introduce a discussion upon religious matters. 1 do not pretend to have any spiritual fervour. I have no wish to enter into a. disquisition upon the old politics of. the skies. We are told -

The Cherubim know most,

The Seraphim love most; - The gods shall settle their own quarrels.

I do not desire to appear as the champion of any religious belief. On the other hand, I do not disown the organization to which I belong. It is a political organization, and has had work to perform in New South Wales of which the story is unknown to others. I see no reason why a politican should not stand upon the issue put to the country by such an organization, or why, upon subscribing to its platform' and receiving its support, he should be accused of. doing something inimical to the best interests of the country and contrary to one of the foremost of democratic principles. Personally, I shall not allow any man to so accuse me without trying to refute the charge. It is not true that sectarianism, so far as it manifested itself at the recent elections in New South Wales, was " a hydra-headed monster worming its way through a -morass of prejudice and hatred." I admit that the freetraders in that State worked more in harmony than those of any other State ; but the fact is that the free-trade cause is strong, not only because of the soundness of the principles underlying it, but also because a large number of its adherents are associated with the radical thought of the community. It appears to be impossible for Victorians to understand that a free-trader can also be radical, and that is the main cause of the difference that exists between us. Whether the political marriage, which has been the subject of so much suggestion, is consummated or not - whether the Prime Minister in his amorous mood pays his addresses to the slim Miss Watson or to some other lady - I am prepared to await events. If the fiscal issue is not raised, we cannot vote upon it ; but there are proposals for bounties and other things which hinge upon protectionist principles, and upon these I shall vote in strict accordance with my fiscal professions. I should like to say that the experience of protection in New South Wales has not been such as to render its population anxious for fiscal peace. There the workers to-day receive less employment than they ever did. The honorable member for Bland attacked the leader of the Opposition for not having sunk the so-called sectarian issue. But even had the right honorable member attempted to sink it, he would have failed to achieve his object.

Mr Crouch - He would have sunk.

Mr WILKS - Whether that be so or not, the leader of the Opposition is quite capable of defending himself. So far, he has not declared himself from the public platforms of New South Wales upon the sectarian question. I regret that he has not done so. He must hold opinions upon it in common with every other man. I had hoped that he would have expressed those opinions freely. He should either say "Yea" or "Nay-" To abstain from doing so does not evidence much moral courage. To my mind there ave responsibilities attaching to politicians of to-day from which they cannot escape so readily as they could . in the past. I trust that honorable members who may fancy that I have a "bee in my bonnet" upon this particular matter, will not imagine that it is like Macaulay's broth, and that I wish to introduce it upon every conceivable occasion. That is not so. At the same time I deemed it my duty to reply to the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Bland. I do not think that this Parliament ought to be an Orange Lodge in full blast, or a Hibernian Society in full session. But there are times when men are compelled, to speak their innermost thoughts. I trust that the ill-advised remarks which have been made about the Protestants will not be repeated in this House. Passing from that question, I desire to say that to my mind the Governor-General's Speech, like Bleak House, starts in a fog and ends in a fog. Indeed, it is in a perpetual state of fog. The phrase " awaiting developments " occurs throughout very frequently, as if the Ministry are awaiting a turn in the political tide. If the Prime Minister can wait, I can wait. If the leader of the Opposition sees his way to sink the fiscal issue and to combine with the Prime Minister, then my feeble support shall go in the other direction. If it goes in the other direction, I suppose I shall have to live in the suburbs, but if my yellowgreen friends will allow me, I shall be found sitting not far away from them. We know very well that the people of Australia desire to obtain radical measures such as the Con.ciliation and Arbitration Bill. The electors in my division require that measure, and in an endeavour to interpret their wishes aright my vote shall be cast in support of it. But how any coalition of opposing political forces such as that which has been suggested is to be brought about, I utterly fail to understand. I trust that the Prime Minister will adhere to the radical side, and allow the railway servants to be brought within the scope of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I thank honorable members for having permitted me to refer at such length to the sectarian cry which has been raised in this House. The desire of those Protestants in New South Wales who organized during the recent campaign was not to breed sectarianism, but to scotch it, in order that people for ever afterwards might live in harmony, and that, in the words of King John, they might "tell this tale" - That the dominance of the. priest shall not continue.

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