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Thursday, 21 April 1904

Mr CONROY - If he did not say that, it was so clearly understood that he stood here for a few minutes bristling with indignation.

Mr Mauger - It is a gross misrepresentation of what he said.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member will have a chance of expressing his view of the occurrence, and I have no doubt but that he will approve of everything that the Ministry has done. I cannot understand why he is parting from the Ministry on this occasion, unless it be for the very strong reason, given by the honorable member for Capricornia, that neither he nor the Ministry knew that this amendment was loaded, and that when they made this bold resolve on their part, they did not anticipate that any result disastrous to themselves would follow. A great deal of time has been taken up in discussing the amendment, on the ground of constitutionality, and on the ground of expediency. It has resolved itself into a motion of want of confidence in the Government.

Mr Mauger - Nothing of the kind.

Mr O'malley - T - They have made it so themselves.

Mr CONROY - It was made for them, and they could not help themselves. The occasions on which a Ministry can be turned out are really very few. In the last Parliament, it was almost impossible to turn out the Ministry, because it had only to be shown that there was a majority against any principle which they advocated, when, lo, and behold, their belief in the principle immediately disappeared, and it was found that they had taken to heart the well-known lines -

A merciful Providence fashioned us holler,

On purpose that we might our principles swaller.

We had a hundred instances of their belief in that doctrine. In my opinion the amendment ought to be treated as a motion of want of confidence in the Government, as it is. At the present time they are not able to frame a measure which will command the approval of the House. Surely the Labour Party will not say that this Bill meets with their approval ? If it does, whydo they intend to vote for the amendment? The reason why other members intend to vote in the same direction is because the Government are not able to frame a measure which will meet with their approval. Other honorable members are very glad indeed to seize an opportunity of ousting the Government, because it does not possess their confidence. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - whatever he may say to the contrary - really feels that the Government has -not his confidence.

Mr mauger -°-That is is not correct.

Mr CONROY - There is no doubt that the honorable member feels that the Government are not able to frame a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which will satisfy him.

Mr Mauger - Let the honorable member speak for himself.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member has declared the direction in which he intends to vote. Of course he intends to vote against a Government in whom he cannot have any confidence, otherwise he would not have stated his reasons for voting for the amendment. I presume that half-a-dozen honorable members who have formerly followed the Government are animated by the same reasons. They are all treating the amendment in exactly the same spirit. Some objection was taken to the statement of the honorable member for New England that he intended to vote for the amendment, not with the idea of supporting the Bill, but with the intention of destroying it. From his point of view he was on fairly sound ground when he made that observation. The immediate result will be - whatever a few short weeks may bring forth - to delay the further consideration of the measure. But I cannot understand the position of Ministers and others who last session told the people that this Bill would bring peace and prosperity upon the land, and that righteousness would flow from it. If they really believed that, why have they excluded from its operation a very large section of the community ? The Prime Minister should remember the words of Isaiah -

The way of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and assurance all our days.

Mr Mauger - The honorable and learned member is inaccurate in his quotation.

Mr Deakin - He has assurance, but not quietness.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has, on two previous occasions, challenged my quotations ; but I have had the pleasure of showing him that there were marginal Headings with which he was not acquainted. If the Prime Minister had thought that there was a possibility of quietness and assurance for his Government, he would probably have taken a different attitude. The Ministry, howover, find the situation intolerable, and consider that there should be a re-shuffling of the cards. No doubt it is time that this legislation by three parties, with Ministerial control divorced from responsibility, came to an end. We have had too much of it. The members of the third party number only twenty-three out of a House of seventy-five, though possibly a few other honorable members may be in sympathy with them in regard to certain lines of their policy. They certainly deserve credit for having a platform and sticking to it. Personally, I believe that the carrying into effect of their views would, to a great extent, injure the class which they profess to represent more thoroughly than' do members like myself.

Mr Poynton - Ought not the electors to be the best judges on that point?

Mr CONROY - Not always. The electors have not always time to study political questions, and so many of them, like sensible persons, try to get the advice of the wisest man available. No doubt the honorable member thinks he has wisdom, but if he were involved in a law suit, he would engage a member of the legal profession, and take his opinion rather than rely upon .himself; or, if he were ill. he would consult a doctor, and take his advice rather than follow his own inclinations. Thus many electors leave these questions to those whom they choose for their wisdom and capacity.

Mr Fowler - That is evidently what the electors of Werriwa did.

Mr CONROY - At all events, the opinion of the electors of Werriwa, as expressed by the very large majority of votes cast on my behalf, was extremely satisfactory to me.

Mr McDonald - The honorable and learned member is sound on one policy, at all events.

Mr CONROY - I will stand by my policy throughout. I do not think members of Parliament should meddle and interfere in everything. A parliament is not the epitome of human wisdom, and the more we leave men to manage their own affairs. the better. We cannot by any legislative act add to the wealth of the country, although we are continually passing laws to dispose of it.

Mr Mauger - Why are we here, if not to pass laws?

Mr CONROY - Not to pass laws for plundering those who are engaged in creating wealth. It is pur business rather to sweep away the barriers which prevent men from having equal opportunities. Not even the honorable member would say that all men are equal. I could test that by asking him if he knows any one more stupid, shall I say, than himself. If he answered " No," his opinion would be worth nothing^ while if he answered " Yes," that would dispose of his boast of equality. The honorable member for Gwydir appeared greatly grieved because certain members of the Opposition intend to vote for the amendment. He spoke of the degradation of those members doing - what? Voting with the Labour Party.

Mr Spence - But actuated by very different motives.

Mr CONROY - Then I presume that when a thief takes something to benefit himself - but I shall not pursue the analogy further. The honorable member for Gwydir said that he believes that the Prime Minister is right in saying that the amendment is unconstitutional and inexpedient. What then is the honorable member's motive for voting for it? Has there been any influence at work with him? Has a caucus been held? Is his vote controlled by the decision of the majority, so that he cannot give effect to his opinions? If so, he should not question the motives of other honorable members.

Mr Lonsdale - We of the Opposition Party are all free to take our own courses.

Mr O'malley - S - So is the honorable member for Gwydir on this very question.

Mr CONROY - Let me remind the honorable member for Gwydir that a very large number of the members of the Opposition differ from the other members of the party upon this subject. Many of us treat the measure as one brought forward by a Government in which we have no confidence, and which we do not intend to support. It is not competent for Parliament to determine whether the amendment is or is not constitutional, and the arguments which we have heard upon that subject are beside the question. It seems to me to be perfectly plain that those honorable members who have been in opposition to the Government for so long must vote in such a way as to bring about a re-shuffling of the cards. We must vote with the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ; because just as the Government has lost their confidence, so also has it lost ours. We are uniting on one common ground in expressing our want of confidence in the Ministry.

Mr Mauger - If this is a no-confidence motion, why is the leader of the Opposition voting with the Government?

Mr CONROY - If the honorable member refers to the right honorable member for East Sydney, I reply that he is quite competent to take care of himself, and to explain any votes which he may give. I am only showing that as far as some of us are concerned we look at the matter in the way I have explained. There are other members of the Opposition who do not regard the matter in the same light, although they regard the amendment as tending in the direction of a want of confidence motion. But before the situation reached its present acute stage they had pledged themselves to vote with the Government, and they consider that they must remain where they are. I trust that the result of the vote will be that whatever party may come into power they will have a firm determination to announce their policy and to stand by it.

Mr Page - How does the honorable and learned member know that the Government are going to be ousted?

Mr CONROY - Well, if the present Ministry remain in office I shall not expect to see another exhibition of courage from them. It has taken them three and a half years to get up this spurt of courage, and goodness knows how long it would take them to get up another. They have had such a fright that they certainly do not desire to see any repetition of the present state of things. If the third party is to come into office, let them exercise their opportunity as well as they can. They will receive a great deal of consideration from many honorable members, and if they stick to their platform in office as firmly and decidedly as they have stuck to it out of office, so much the better for constitutional government in the Parliament and for Australia.

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