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Thursday, 10 March 1904

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - I am afraid that my contribution to the debate will appear somewhat tame in comparison with the very interesting performance of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. May I commence by saying, in acknowledgment of the incidental lectures which the Labour Party received from him during his somewhat lengthy speech, that we are always glad to obtain advice from our friends, though of late we have had so much advice from friends and opponents that it has become difficult at times to distinguish one from the other. However mistaken we may consider the views of the honorable and learned member, we are sure that his utterances were sincere, and that, if he understood the position, the aims, and the aspirations of the Labour Party, he would have omitted a great deal of what he has just said. He has assured the House that he has of late been reading in certain directions. May I suggest that he should continue in that course. I believe that there is hope for him if he will take the trouble to read some of the statements which we have written about ourselves, in preference to those which our opponents have written of us. I listened' with extreme interest to the utterances of the leader of the Opposition, especially in regard to the fiscal question, of which so much was heard during last Parliament. We have been assured that that question has been disposed of, and the right honorable gentleman himself told us that he was prepared to enter into an armed truce in regard to it. But no sooner had he done so, and left for his home, than those who are supposed to be his followers broke out into what appears to be open rebellion.

Mr Wilks - That shows the freedom allowed on this side of the chamber. There is no caucus-driving here.

Mr CARPENTER - Then may I offer the members of the Opposition a word of advice ? I am sure that they will agree that no other system of Government is possible in Australia than what is known as the party system, and I suggest that for a party to be successful there must be loyalty among its members to each other, and, above all, to their leader.

Mr Wilks - There is loyalty to principle upon this side of the chamber.

Mr Conroy - That comes first.

Mr CARPENTER - Loyalty to principle is implied. It is understood that when a member joins a political party he does so because he believes in the principles which bind that party together, and the leader of the party must stand for the embodiment of those principles. If the leader of the Opposition spoke on behalf of his party, as I believe he intended to do, I do not wonder that he begins to tire of his position when a day or two afterwards he finds them rebelling.

Mr Johnson - There is no rebellion. He gave us a free hand.

Mr CARPENTER - Then I cannot understand the position. I do not wish to speak in a party spirit, and I hope that what I say to-night will be taken as coming from one who is sincere, and who has no wish to provoke bitterness. I admit that sometimes I say things which I would rather not have taken literally.

Mr Wilks - We all have that weakness.

Mr CARPENTER - I believe that we have, and it is well that it should be understood that sometimes we do not mean quite what we say. The criticism to which the Labour Party has been subjected during this debate is due partly to a misunderstanding of the basis of the party's organization. I do not intend to enter upon a defence of its actions or of its principles, because I do not think it is necessary to do so upon this occasion ; but if those who oppose us would try to understand the foundation upon which the party is built they would learn something which, if applied, would conduce to their own prosperity and success. When the result of the recent elections became known, I, in common with other honorable members, no doubt, anticipated with considerable interest the meeting of a House in which there would be three parties of almost equal strength. I heard the comments of public men of considerable experience in political life, as to the impossibility of legislation being carried on by an assembly so constituted. Indeed, the Prime Minister, at a banquet recently held in Melbourne, referred to the difficulty of carrying on business in a House where a majority could not be obtained for any one party, and stated that responsible government would be impossible unless there were some form of coalition between two of the three parties. But the position in which we find ourselves is only a repetition of what has repeatedly occurred in the Parliaments of the States. The right honorable member for Adelaide, whose political generalship I acknowledged for some years, was in office as Premier of South Australia for more than six' years, during which time he did excellent work for the State and for the cause of democracy. But I think I am correct in stating that he never had a majority of pledged Government supporters. It was always a House of three parties. What, then, was the secret of his success ? It was that, in spite of what might be called the mechanical lines which separated the -three parties, there were live principles which forced members together. It does not matter how many parties there are in an assembly ; everything must depend upon the principles for which those parties stand. I shall not anticipate what may happen in this Chamber, but I am quite sure that a majority of honorable members, whatever their party, will, if they respect, as I believe they do, the general democratic sentiments of the electors, find a way out of any difficulties that may be caused by the existence of three parties here.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government party must be holding a caucus now, judging by the emptiness of the . Ministerial benches.

Mr CARPENTER - They are represented by the Minister for Trade and Customs. It must have been gratifying to the Prime Minister, who applied to the position of parties in this House the simile of three cricket elevens, to have the assurance of the leader of the Opposition that when the first test match comes to be played his eleven will help the Government. After that declaration from the gentleman who is supposed to be his keenest opponent, the Prime Minister must feel that the situation is not impossible. A good deal has been said during the; debate about the responsibility of honorable members. It has been contended that the members of the third party, as the Labour Party has been called, have no responsibility. I cannot understand what is meant by that statement. I hold that every member of the House, to whatever party he may belong, is responsible for the legislation enacted here, and for the' administration of the Government of the day. Would any member of the Opposition try to shelter himself at election times behind the plea that he was not responsible for something done by the Government? Would not the natural retort of the electors be - " You were sent into Parliament to see that the Government did not do anything outrageously bad, but that they acted in the best interests of the mother country?" What' is true of the members of the Opposition is true of the members of the Labour Party. We are all equally responsible for what may be done in this House, and, to a less degree, for the administration of the Government during the recess. Honorable members who sit behind .the Ministry bear no greater responsibility than those who occupy positions opposite. They may ally themselves with the Government at election time; but as soon as the Ministry do anything of which they do not approve, that alliance comes to an end, and they are free to join with the Opposition in visiting punish-, ment upon the offenders. We have been told that a crisis is approaching. I do not know whether it will be quite so serious as some honorable members would have us believe - particularly after the very kindly overtures which have been made by the leader of the Opposition. I am glad to hear that the crisis, if it does occur, will not involve a principle of vital importance to the democratic and progressive members of this House. I am aware that the Government claim that by their action in reference the proposal that States employes shall be brought within the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, they are upholding States rights. I do not consider that they have very solid ground for adopting that attitude. I am an upholder of States rights; but I do not admit that by adopting the proposal referred to, we should invade States rights in any waywhatever. The Minister for Home Affairs recently told a large meeting at Perth that the extension of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to States servants Would involve an interference with States rights, but he did not favour his audience with ..any proof of his statement.

Sir John Forrest - I issued a manifesto in which I made a plain statement of the matter.

Mr CARPENTER - The Minister said plainly enough that States rights would be interfered with, but he made no attempt to prove his statement. The sam(e remark applies to the speech of the Minister who introduced the measure in the last Parliament. I read that speech with close attention, and all that it contained upon this point was a timid expression of opinion that in including States servants within the scope of the Bill; we might bring ourselves into 'conflict with the doctrine of States rights. ' Upon that statement the press have based the whole of their objections. No arguments have yet been brought forward that would serve to convince even the most moderate objector that the proposal would involve any invasion of States rights, and I believe that the objections raised are to a very large extent due to recent events in Victoria. I desire to say a few words on the subject of immigration. Too much is now being made of what I regard as only a temporary stagnation in our population. During the last five years the events in South Africa have tended to greatly interfere with the stream of immigration into Australia. We have sent away to that country some thousands of the flower of our own people, of whom many have remained away. Since the war, also, hundreds and thousands of other men have flocked to that part of the world. I believe that the reaction is now setting in, and that hundreds of those who left are returning to Australia. We shall be glad to welcome them back.

Mr Deakin - What the honorable member says applies more to Western Australia than to any other State.

Mr CARPENTER - I do not know whether that is so or not. I know that we have gained immigrants from the other States to a greater extent than has any other part of Australia. The question is, what can Australia do, more than at present, in order to induce immigrants to come here from the old land?

Mr Deakin -- If we could all give immigrants the same inducements in connexion with land settlement that Western Australia is offering, the results would be very different.

Mr CARPENTER - I was about to remark that if all the States could do what is now being done in Western Australia, we should have no reason to reproach ourselves with failing to offer every inducement to immigrants to settle here. According to the last official report of the Minister for Lands in that State, it appears that during the last twelve months i,ioo families have been settled upon the land. There is plenty of land available there yet - good virgin soil, capable of producing abundant crops. The average return from the wheat crops, according to last year's statistics, was thirteen bushels per acre. We have a sufficient rainfall, a perfect climate, we are free from land or income taxes, and in addition to that we give assisted passages to certain classes of immigrants. Whilst all this' is being done in any part of Australia, we cannot be charged with neglecting our duty, so far as holding out inducements to immigrants is concerned. All that can be expected of us as a Parliament is to advertise our resources, and then look to the State Parliaments to make available land on which people can settle if they come here. A few days ago I joined my colleagues from Western Australia in forming a deputation to the head of the Government, to request that, owing to her peculiar conditions, Western Australia should receive special consideration when certain proposals in the Navigation Bill are submitted to the House. The honorable member for Grey, when addressing the House recently, spoke rather warmly of our action, and the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide interjected that what we asked for was grossly unfair. Neither I nor my colleagues admit that anything that we asked for deserves to be so characterized. This is not the time at which to enter upon a lengthy discussion of the matter, but I desire honorable members to avoid being prejudiced by any remarks which have fallen from the honorable members referred to. The objections raised by the representatives of South Australia, although ostensibly in the interests of the seamen, have something more behind them. I do not yield to any one in my desire to conserve the interests of our seamen. I am prepared to go as far, and to do as much, as any one to protect the men who are engaged in a precarious and dangerous calling, and to make their conditions as comfortable as possible by legislation. I think, however, that I am now only doing my duty when I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that there is an object behind the proposal which, although it has not been mentioned, is well understood. It is an attempt - and I speak advisedly - on the part of some honorable members to aggrandize the chief port of one State at the expense of the ports of another State.

Mr Hutchison - I represent that port, and I have never heard a word about it.

Mr CARPENTER - I am surprised at that. I do not intend to come into conflict with my honorable friend. We have sat together in another place for many years, and in spite of differences we have always been the best of friends. I am sure that that state of affairs will continue. My honorable friend is now representing the chief port of one State, whilst I represent the chief port of Western Australia. I am sure he will admit that I am merely performing my duty by pointing out what I regard as an attempt, under the guise of legislation in the interests of the seamen, to deprive the ports, not only of one, but of several States, of the trade which legitimately belongs to them. When the matter comes before the House, I am convinced that honorable members of all parties will see that no injustice is done to any one State as against another. I was very pleased, indeed, to hear the sympathetic way in which the honorable member for Franklin spoke last night. He realizes, perhaps, as some honorable members cannot realize, the peculiar position of Western Australia. Like Tasmania, that State is practically cut off from rapid communication with the rest of the continent. Indeed, her position is infinitely worse than that of Tasmania. I think it was the Federal Treasurer who stated at St. Kilda during the recent election campaign that up to the present time the people of Western Australia had derived no advantage whatever from federation. He pointed out that they occupy exactly the same position as do the population of New Zealand, inasmuch as they are cut off from the rest of Australia by 1,200 miles of sea. I am sure that the honorable member for Franklin echoed the sentiments of all Tasmanians when he declared that such States ought to receive at least sympathetic consideration when any legislation is submitted which may have the effect of interfering with their present means of communication. I believe that the other members of the House will take that reasonable view of this question, and will see that no obstacle is placed in the way of their development, as the result of legislation, the effect of which, although the object may be a very worthy one, may be to do great mischief in another direction. I cannot resume my seat without saying a few words upon a topic which is ever uppermost in the minds of Western Australian representatives. I refer to the transcontinental railway. I am glad that the Government have included a reference to that project in the Governor-General's Speech, and that they are pledged to seek the sanction of the House in providing a certain sum, which is to be devoted towards a survey of the route. I am perfectly certain that when the time comes to discuss that matter Ave shall be able to convince the reasonable members of this House that Westem Australia has, at least, a right to expect this first step to be taken in that great project upon which her future prosperity so much depends. If I thought that anything which I could say now would assist the project, I should continue my remarks. I feel certain, however, that honorable members will keep an open mind upon the subject, and that when the Bill is introduced they will do that justice to Western Australia which her position demands. Before concluding, I desire to make a few observations in reference to the last Parliament. I watched its opening and its work, particularly during the first session- a session unparalleled in the history of Australian Legislatures - with very keen interest. I confess that I was disposed to Be somewhat critical, because I shared, to some extent, the feeling of hostility which existed then, and which still exists, between members of the States Parliaments and representatives of this Parliament. As time went on, however, I saw the nature of the work which the Federal Parliament had to perform, and the application which was necessary on the part of honorable members to solve the very difficult problems with which they were confronted. When I saw them sitting month after month at the sacrifice of their own comfort, their business, and sometimes their health, I felt convinced that, altogether irrespective of what opinions may have been previously formed, there was no need to feel ashamed of the work of that Parliament. The reaction which set in soon after the accomplishment of Federation, and which is evident to-day, would -have caused any serious mistake which might have been made to be eagerly seized upon by the oppontents of union. The fact that it has received only the- ordinary criticcism to which Parliaments are subjected at the hands of the press and the public, is conclusive evidence that the people of Australia are satisfied with its work. That work, both as to quality and quantity, was such that no legislative body need be ashamed of it. I trust that the labours of this Parliament will be equally productive of good. If they are,. I am sure that we shall commend ourselves to' the people of Australia.

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