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Wednesday, 16 March 1904

Mr RONALD - If that was the honor- able member's definition I am glad that he understood so clearly what' socialism is. And if that be socialism I have a very high authority to quote, no less than His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII., who said, on one occasion, " We are all socialists nowadays." Again, if that be a true definition of socialism I have to ask - , why these malicious and malignant misrepresentations of the party which has indorsed that definition of its policy and fought for such principles? Why is there this false view of the third party? Are we so common or unclean that we cannot be associated with? Why should! we be isolated and insulated into a third party? There is no third party. We have all along advocated measures, not men; and when we see the measures of the Government and the alternative proposals of the Opposition we shall be ready to range ourselves on the one side or the other. We indorse everything which appeals in (the Governor-General's Speech, but we do not intend to stop half-way. We are prepared to follow the principles there contained to their logical termini That will bring the Government and the members of the Labour Party to a meeting place. The only question upon which we are likely to split is a difference, not. of principle, but of detail in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Government are to be commended for their attempt to give some solidarity to the conflicting factory legislation of the States, but they are not to be congratulated upon the invidious distinction which they have made between classes .by exempting from the application of their measure the seamen and the public servants. There should be no such exemption. Is it not the whole end and aim of the measure to do justice? That being so, does the . Government expect honorable members to support a distinction such as they have made? Are we to say to these large and important' sections of the community, "You shall have no standing in this final appeal court for disputes between masters and men " ? We can make no such distinction. I could not go before those who sent me here, and say that I am prepared to place a large, important, respectable, and intelligent section of the community outside the scope of the Bill. I think that I was elected largely because I refused to make such an invidious distinction between one class and another. The only plausible reasons given for it are ' that to apply the provision's of the Bill to public servants would be a needless and wanton interference with the rights "of the States, and that it would be impossible for the Treasurers of the States to frame satisfactory Budgets if it were within the power of an outside tribunal to alter the wages of the servants of the States. To use those arguments is merely to raise a dust and complain, that one cannot see. Every one knows that there is no- finality in the action of a State Government. There is always a right of appeal from court to court, until the Privy Council is reached. But the disputes which will be brought before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will rarely have to' do with the question of wages. The late trouble in Victoria between the railway men and the State Government arose about what those who regard money as everything would call a sentimental grievance, the right of the railway- servants to ally themselves with a certain organization. Any decision of a Commonwealth Court in that case would not have interfered with the State Budget. I can understand the action of the Prime Minister in this case. He went to Ballarat and there issued a Ministeral manifesto, in which he said that he was not prepared to apply the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to public servants and seamen. The country indorsed nine- tenths of his programme,- but I think that upon counting noses it will be found that a majority of those whom the electors have returned here are in favour of applying the provisions of the measure to those classes. If the Government are beaten upon the point, as they were during the Committee' consideration of the last Bill, it will be their dutv to still go. on with the measure.

Mr Wilks - What then will become of responsible government ?

Mr RONALD - This is merely a matter of detail.

Mr O'malley - It is a vital issue.

Mr RONALD - No; the general principle of the Bill will have been affirmed, and the Prime Minister will not be doing right in refusing to proceed with its consideration if he is defeated upon a mere matter of detail.

Mr Wilks - He says that the application of the provisions of the measure to public servants would interfere with the rights of the States.

Mr RONALD - The States have surrendered their right to deal with this matter. How, then, can it be said to be an. infringement of States rights to bring the public servants under this Bill. The Constitution, and not the Minister, is my authority. (

Mr Kelly - Have the States surrendered their right to tax themselves for their own services ?

Mr RONALD - Certainly not.

Mr Kelly - That, I think, is the point the Prime Minister made.

Mr RONALD - Commonwealth rights and States rights- here overlap, the States having surrendered their right to deal with any dispute extending beyond the limits of a State. If that surrender involves the servants of a State, that State must bow. Mr. Wilks. - The honorable member desires the Government to bow and go on with the Bill.

Mr RONALD - I do not ; I want, the Government to bow to the will of the people, and, as democrats, the Government ought to do so. The Prime Minister put his manifesto before the country at Ballarat, and that manifesto was indorsed by the people, with the qualification that they differed from the head of the Government on a matter of detail, but not on a matter of principle. The Government have no right to stake their existence on any but a matter of principle. This will be the one Bill which will absorb the attention of the House, and once the measure is before us, I sincerely hope that it will be taken possession of by the majority who are in favour of the inclusion of the public servants.

Mr Wilks - Take possession of the Ministry ? '

Mr RONALD - We shall be prepared to even do that ; but in the meantime, if the Bill is read a second time, we intend to insist on the inclusion of the Public Service. I trust that the good sense and kindly feeling which marks the personnel of the Government will not allow them to persist in passing the measure with a blemish upon it, but that they will bow to the decision of the country, and thus prove themselves democrats, not only in word, but in deed. There ought to be a parting of the ways somewhere, but, unfortunately, classes and schools have overlapped so much that we find good democrats who are free-traders, and equally good democrats who are protectionists.

Mr Wilks - -1he latter by accident.

Mr RONALD - No, by design. We want a line of cleavage, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill marks the parting of the ways and will determine on which side honorable members stand. We cannot have any invidious distinctions, and we are not going to stultify our Conciliation and. Arbitration Bill by excluding a highly respect able and numerous section of the community. I have a word or two to say about preferential tirade. I need hardly tell honorable members that I rejoice exceedingly that a proposal of the kind has come before us. I am heart and soul in favour of the principles laid down or suggested by Mr. Chamberlain, not only recently, but as far back as 1896. It is always painful to. find one's self in a minority, but when the great war fever or furore was on, I was one who look what was regarded as an unpatriotic view, and expressed opinions which could be, and were, misconstrued into disloyalty. I took that view because I had no faith in Mr. Chamberlain, who forsook the party for whom I fought loyally as a member of the rank and file in the old country for twenty years. I felt that I ought 'to speak out, and I did speak out, and taking an unpopular view, I had to bear opprobrium as a . pro-Boer. I am heartily glad, however, to be able to indorse Mr. Chamberlain's proposal in the direction of free-trade, because I feel sure that, if we are to bind the distant membra disjecta of this 'Empire into solidarity, there must be a union of interest. as well as a. union of sentiment. It must be made worth the people's while to be loyal. It is humiliating to confess that men are loyal mostly in the direction in which their interests lie; but I am perfectly sure that a sentimental, visionary loyalty would be very transient unless supported by tangible, profitable, substantial advantages .in the form of preferential trade. Does it not seem absurd that while we in Australia are a great emporium for breadstuff's, Great Britain gives' us no preference, but throws her doors open alike to foreigner and friend.

Mr Lonsdale - Are those the teachings of the Great Master?

Mr RONALD - I fancy I know the teachings of the Great Mas'ter as well as does the honorable member, but those teachings have nothing whatever to do with preferential trade. I quoted, or I intended to quote, the Great Master this evening in the words - " Whatsoever ve would that men should do to you do ve even so to them."

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then why not free the Australian ports to Britain ?

Mr RONALD - The honorable member for North Sydney would be very glad if our ports were free to all men; he certainly would not be content with freeing the ports to Britain. We are making a bargain, and are certainly not going to throw away a tangible advantage. We are not proposing to open our ports, to Great Britain merely for the sake of doing so, or for the sake of loyalty to Great Britain.

Mr Lonsdale - Loyalty to right is better than loyalty to Great Britain.

Mr RONALD - I have already said that we must make it worth people's while to be loyal, and there is now an opportunity.

Mr Lonsdale - The doctrine of unselfishness is the doctrine of the Great Master.

Mr RONALD - "Brevity is the soul of wit," and I want to present my views in as few words as possible. I congratulate the Government on their very interesting programme, and I wish they may live to see it carried through. If the Government are true to their principles, they will get loyal support from the party with which I am associated. That I can promise them; but there need be no fear of a third party. Let me tell honorable members that there are not three parties. There are but two parties. The moment principles and measures, not men, are before us, we range ourselves upon one side or the other. We shall find that there are good democrats in the ranks of our honorable friends opposite, also democratic followers of the Government supporting us when we come to deal with the vital issue of including or excluding a large, respectable, and, I may say, a very much illused section of the community', namely, the public servants. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, and we should make no invidious distinction as to the persons to whom we shall give the right of appeal to the highest tribunal in the land for settlement of all vexed questions. I hope we shall be able to challenge the verdict of the civilized world when Ave claim that we have done what we could to prevent industrial disputes between men and masters. There should be no class in our community without the right of appeal to justice, or refused a hearing for its grievance. I hope we shall provide all' the necessary machinery to put into execution such a law that we may be able to say that Australia is a land without strikes, and without internal disputes. If anything will attract capital, and if anything will attract desirable immigrants to this country, it surely will be a knowledge of the fact that an industrial dispute is an absolute impossibility within the confines of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Motion (by Mr. McDonald) proposed -

That the debate be now adjourned.

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