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Thursday, 19 May 1904

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask honorable members not to interject so continually, and particularly not to interject by answering each other across the Chamber. It is quite impossible for the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to proceed under such circumstances.

Mr DEAKIN - Mr. Speaker, though regretting that the decencies of debate should be disturbed, I do not complain of receiving valuable and useful information; because I have realized, as we must all realize, how superior - if I may venture to say so without disrespect - is the personnel of the Labour Party in this House to the Labour Party in any State House with which I have the opportunity of being acquainted. I am quite prepared to learn, therefore, that Federal Labour Party methods will be in advance of those which are followed in the States. But I have before me in my own State, and under my own eyes, at the present time, in the person of two men whom I will not name, because I do not enter into the discussion of State politics, examples of men who have been associated with the Labour Party in Parliament, who were indistinguishable from it in the policy which they supported - except that for some reason unknown to us they have not signed the pledge - who have sat shoulder to shoulder with the Labour Party and have never separated from them on any vital question, so far as my own knowledge goes, but who are yet being opposed to the death in this very State of Victoria.

Mr Tudor - Who are they?

Mr DEAKIN - It is unnecessary to answer that question.

Mr Tudor - I do not know the two men referred to, and I think I know the affairs of the Labour Party in Victoria very well.

Mr DEAKIN - When I give the names to the honorable member in private afterwards he will admit that I have given a fair statement of the facts. In entering into any consideration in respect to the future of parties, does it not rest upon every man of us to have a fair and explicit understanding that the men who unite in this House to support important principles, and to follow the same Ministry, shall not be found flying at each other's throats the instant there is an appeal to the country ?

Mr Watson - We will guarantee that with regard to those who support us. Has the honorable member a similar guarantee for those who support the agreement which was published yesterday?

Mr DEAKIN - None; but there is this that I will say upon that point. The honorable gentleman's party - the party which surrounds him - is, I believe, a party of great power and authority throughout the Commonwealth, and deservedly so. But he is not in a position to be able to say, so far as I know, that even his recommendations can be given effect to, or will be given effect to.

Mr Fisher - We can find a means.

Mr Watson - Just to the same extent as the honorable member can with regard to his supporters.

Mr Hughes - It was just the same in the last elections in New South Wales, and the honorable member for Lang is a living instance of it.

Mr Reid - Of what is that ?

Mr Watson - That the right honorable member for East Sydney could not control the local organizations of his party.

Mr DEAKIN - Mr. Speaker,I am certain that honorable members opposite will not regard these remarks as idle. They seem to me to go to the root of this situation, because the situation cannot be resolved, nor majority rule restored, unless we clearly recognise the need of parliamentary freedom within the bounds of party discipline. I must say that, so far as regards freedom, my own party is the most practical instance on the face of the earth. As regards its unity or discipline I have less to say. I dare say that the right honorable member for East Sydney possesses more coherent organizations, at all events on some questions ; yet I doubt if even his organizations can compare in any particular with those of my honorable friends opposite. In policy, in conduct, and in outward appearance, there is much in the party machinery of my honorable friends opposite that resembles, not the party machinery that we employ, but resembles the party machinery which my right honorable friend employs. One of the chief differences is that ours is inefficient and his is efficient. But another difference is - and this is the important point - that I believe that if our party machinery is inefficient, it is largely so because of the individual freedom whch it conserves.

Mr Watson - Freedom to depart from pledges to the electors ? Because that is all we are pledged not to do.

Mr Maloney - We are able to fight the Age ; the honorable member must know that.

Mr DEAKIN - What I venture to say they have to consider is this - whether their efficiency is not secured at the cost of individual freedom. Of course, honorable members opposite reject that implication. I invite a reconsideration of the point, because it is difficult to determine when party machinery passes into what is termed in America " the machine." What we have to fear here is that the machinery - so useful as long as you are not in a majority, so extremely efficient while you are fighting an uphill fight on the way to power - may, when you become possessed of power, repre- sent almost exactly the machine as it now exists in America, worked in the primaries by interested persons, and afterwards by. organizations and combinations for personal ends until it becomes represented in the Legislatures by men who move just as the strings are pulled outside.

Mr Fisher - Is it not to America to which we look for examples ?

Mr DEAKIN - For some, but not for the model of a party machine, nor for the use of such machines under all circumstances. My honorable friends will, I hope, take the lesson from America to heart, and realize that it is high time to depart from the strictness of what I may call the protection maintained during their early youth. They should recognise that their party, represented by this Ministry, is now fully developed, and that what I may call their political native industry no longer needs that protection ; but that its machinery is liable to precisely the same dangers as have laid the most democratic country in the world open to such scandals as we have witnessed recently in connexion with the Congress of the United States, and which deprive the Legislature of dignity and of the confidence of the people. That is inevitable when party machinery becomes a party machine. Party machinery is in existence in England, but nowhere in England do we find the "machine." There we find that in times of great stress, or change in the development of public opinion, new organizations arise, while older organizations are modified or pass away; and, consequently, there is that freedom of action preserved by the freedom of the individual representative and the individual elector. But my honorable friends are approaching - and if they become a majority will be tempted perhaps to embrace the methods of - the machine which is fatal alike to the liberty of the individual elector and the liberty of the individual representative. And so it is that I have ventured to occupy this time in criticising the methods of the Labour Party, because they form so important a feature of the situation which we are called on to face. I take it that the ideal of those honorable members which, within my own experience, has broadened very considerably, and which commenced its realization as an organization practically of manual labourers, represented by manual labourers-

Mr Fisher - Never !

Mr Maloney - The honorable and learned member for Ballarat knows that that is not true.

Mr DEAKIN - That is my recollection.

Mr SPEAKER - Perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne will withdraw the statement that something which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has said is not true.

Mr Maloney - The honorable and learned member for Ballarat knows that I am a living instance-

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Melbourne must withdraw his statement without qualification.

Mr Maloney - I withdraw with pleasure; but I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as to whether he does not know that I was the very first labour member returned in Victoria.

Mr DEAKIN - The honorable member was the second or third labour member returned to the Victorian Parliament.

Mr Maloney - I was the first.

Mr DEAKIN - I beg the honorable member's pardon ; but Senator Trenwith was the first labour member, when he was returned as the representative of Richmond in the Victorian Parliament.

Mr Maloney - No; we were returned together, but the poll in my case was declared first.

Mr DEAKIN - The fact is not material, and if my statement is objected to I do not wish to press it. I have spoken according to my recollection. I have heard the statement made from the platform; but whether it represents a general principle of the party does not matter on the present occasion.

Mr Watson - All classes have' been returned in the labour interests from the very first, including journalists, as well as manual labourers.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not dispute that the organization, or its principles, have broadened, and have only to look at the Labour Party in this House to realize how it has outgrown the stage to which I have referred.

An Honorable Member. - It was never in that stage.

Mr DEAKIN - If honorable members opposite consider it a reflection to be asso ciated with manual labour, then I withdraw.

Mr Watson - All I desire to make clear is that the Labour Party was never restricted to manual labour.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not think it was ; but the Prime Minister will admit that there was a strong tendency in its first years - and I am afraid the tendency exists still to some extent - to constitute it a merely class organization. That phase, however, is becoming less - it is passing away, as honorable members will agree it is desirable that ' every tendency of that kind which exists should pass away. Representation, when it was that of the landed class only, was injurious to the country ; that class looking uncommonly well after themselves, and only in a very secondary sort of way after other interests. And in the same manner as the representation of the landed class passed away, so should pass away the representation of class interests of every kind. We have no ground of complaint if honorable members opposite look after the interests of manual labour; on the contrary, they will only be following the example of the class previously in power. But as we have grown out of one domination, we hope to grow out of the other, andsee honorable members in this House derive their representative power from all classes of the community. While my friends are free to term themselves a Labour Party, they, I hope and believe, do not by that claim an exclusive representation of labour.

Mr Watson - What about the squatters, doctors, lawyers, and so on ?

Mr DEAKIN - If then we meet on the common ground that we each of us appeal to all classes of the community, that we each of us claim to study the interests of all classes of the community, and that we each of us alike enter this House pledged to give due regard to the interests of all classes of the community, we have taken the first step to meet on the common platform which properly belongs to us. But there are other steps which it is necessary to take. Honorable members will require to see that the man who represents all classes of the community does not himself belong to an exclusive class in Parliament, to an organization which imposes shibboleths and restrictions on his action, but leaves him, as between his pledges and his constituents, to the verdict of those constituents, and the criticisms of his fellow members and associates - which does not seek to ostracise those who hold similar opinions, nor to represent one class of the community, nor insist that they should be marked with a particular mark, or branded with a special brand.

Mr Thomas - Would not the honorable and learned member drive every freetrader out of politics if he had the power ?

Mr DEAKIN - I should like to have a good working majority. I am not anxious to drive any section out of politics. In the next place, may I submit that my honorable friends opposite scarcely lay enough stress on more than the first function of a Legislature. The first function of a Legislature is necessarily legislation ; but under our system of government there is indissolubly associated with that the work of administration, which is as fundamental and important, as my honorable friends are rapidly learning.

Mr Fisher - We do it.

Mr DEAKIN - Realizing the burden of Executive power which now rests upon them they feel that the charge of the administration bulks as large in their every-day thoughts as the task of legislation, that without administration legislation can be rendered of little effect. In that democratic country, the United States of America, the Executive, although absolutely without legislative authority, represents even more than the Legislature - its great national ideal. Under these circumstances, it is scarcely sufficient to say that the programme which we suggest is the programme of all parties in the House. They require to give guarantees as to administration.

Mr Watson - We are glad to see that there is such general conversion to Our programme.

Mr Mahon - We are always at our offices, anyhow.

Mr DEAKIN - I believe so.

Mr Reid - That is where they are doing the most harm.

Mr DEAKIN - I hope that the PostmasterGeneral does not think that I insinuated anything to the contrary, because that was the last thing in my thoughts.

Mr Mahon - If we are there we are supposed to attend to our work, anyhow.

Mr DEAKIN - Certainly. Does the honorable gentleman think that I had any suspicion of the contrary in my mind ?

Mr Mahon - The whole tendency of the. honorable and learned member's remarks has been to the effect that we are not taking enough care about administration.

Mr DEAKIN - It is well to learn how one's observations are being received.I can assure the honorable gentleman that if he could see ray thoughts crystal-clear, even clearer than I can see them, he would say. nothing of that kind.

Mr Mahon - I beg pardon. That is what I inferred.

Mr DEAKIN - I can assure the honorable gentleman that he has been quite wrong. I was endeavouring to pursue the train of thought that it is not sufficient to deal with legislation only, because in this country legislation and administration are inseparably associated. . Administration is of the highest importance, as the honorable gentleman perfectly well knows, and is united with legislation by the system of responsible government. It is to that consideration that my remarks are leading. We cannot look on this Chamber as simply ' a parallel to the AmericanHouse of Representatives. We have to recall that its task is not simply legislation, but to control the Executive by means of that responsible government which we believe keeps both administration and legislation in closer touch with public opinion than any other form of government yet devised. Now, responsible government depends on a consistent majority being found behind the Government.' Perhaps honorable members will find after all that the position I have been putting incessantly for the last four months of the necessity for two parties only - of the absolute necessity for majority rule - is bound up with the existence and exercise of the powers of responsible government, with the due control of administration as well as with the passage of proper legislation. Our system of government, unless it be seriously and, to my mind, fatally altered, demands for its preservation and continuation the existence of a majority behind the Government. Considering the uncertain majority we had in the first Parliament, we did wonderfully well. But those were the days of the beginning.

Mr Hutchison - You always had a minority.

Mr DEAKIN - No; we always had a majority on the fiscal question and on the White Australia question - our two chief planks. Responsible government being imperatively necessary, my honorable friends will see the lines I havebeen following when I say that it is a situation with which we have to deal, and not merely a programme of legislation. We have to deal with a situation, which so long as honorable members opposite are in a minority, leaves them in a position of insecurity, and this side in a position of temptation. The difference should be that their side should be sitting in a position of security, and this side should occupy an attitude of watchfulness, for then, and then only, will there be responsible government and sufficient guarantees for administration as well as legislation.

Mr Fisher - Is not the administration more likely to be safe with the majority sitting over there?

Mr DEAKIN - I am very grateful to the honorable gentleman for the implied compliment. He implies that he wishes us to protect him against himself.

Mr Fisher - Indeed, not.

Mr DEAKIN - Partly from want of sufficient time in which to arrange and collect my thoughts, and partly owing to the queries with which I have been met, I am afraid that I have been straying from the line of argument that I intended to follow:. I was about to approach more closely the immediate situation, and to leave the general considerations with which, perhaps, I have dallied too long. Good work as we did in the first Parliament - marvellous work, I believe, the people of future times will say - we necessarily were engaged in the preliminary task of clearing the timber, notfor the Federal Capital, but to permit of the necessary organization which has followed. That time has passed away. The fiscal question for the time being is buried. With the fiscal question the cardinal difference that separated honorable members has also disappeared, and, consequently, the situation by which we are faced to-day is one which never occurred during the last Parliament, which is peculiar to the present Parliament, and which must, therefore, naturally, and by the necessity of the case, lead to new groupings of honorable members. Previously the members of the Labour Party were themselves divided - outside their platform - when the fiscal issue was raised.

Mr Watson - We have some freedom then ?

Mr DEAKIN - Outside the platform, and outside certain other requirements. The same division has been removed from between honorable members in other parts of the House. We are face to face, therefore, with a fresh set of circumstances, which must necessitate a fresh determination of members and alliances. Honorable members opposite recognise that. Their programme for this session might be termed colourless, except in regard to the social measures which have been already laid before us, and that of itself points to the removal of that Alpine chain over which previously we used to climb in the endeavour to assail each other's pastures. We find ourselves now in the plain open country. We have passed through Korea and the Manchurian mountains, and have come out into the open, where the forces on each side can be distinctly seen. Under these circumstances, is it not time that whatever course be followed, in this House at all events, as much as possible of the inseparable excrescences of strife should now be laid aside? We have seen the differences of separate States in the Commonwealth unhappily forced upon us by the fact that - at all events in the two most populous - diametrically opposite fiscal policies have found favour. We are now upon a ground which offers a means of avoiding the discord which has been occasioned by that separation. After the sweeping away of the fiscal barrier, if only for a time, there will be the possibility of better relations between the States of New South Wales and Victoria. In the other States the division has been far less acute, but even in them an opportunity is now afforded to thoughtful men to reconsider the new situation without continuous reference to their old ties. May I suggest, with bated breath, that the time has come when the personal bitternesses which have arisen out of prolonged fiscal and other strife may well be laid aside, let us hope for ever? Whenthe fiscal strife revives, if it ever does, it may generate similar warmth of feeling, which will lead to similar exaggerated expressions, but at the present time we surely have no need to resort to those personal weapons, to bring back those unhappy recollections, to re-open those ancient sores. That enables us to face the new situation as we should face it, with open and free minds. I have found, in the course of the informal discussions between some honorable members opposite and myself, a disposition to look more frankly at the future, and more openly upon their difficulties, than I have ever known before. I must confess that, in the course of the discussions which have led to the preparation of this document, notwithstanding the warnings which I have received as to the astuteness of my right honorable friend-

Mr Reid - Oh ! I am only the harmless comic man.

Mr Webster - That is quite true.

Mr DEAKIN - Notwithstanding the caution that, under his gay exterior, he veils the most dangerous and subtle designs, he and I, though he has been by no means easy to move, and possesses sufficient Scotch blood to prevent him from giving anything away, have met in a perfectly fair spirit, and I am, therefore, prepared to find that the attitude which members generally have adopted towards each other may need to be reconsidered. It is the situation which forces this reconsideration upon us. It needed a good deal of pressure to bring together my right honorable friend, and myself to consider these documents; and it needed a good deal of pressure to induce my honorable friends opposite to enlarge their boundaries. But we must realize that, in this House, circumstances will be. too strong for the wishes of many of us. The pressure must become responsible. For my own part - and I should have said it in its proper place had not a diversion led me astray - with responsible government as we know it, the party system, speaking of it in a parliamentary way, requires to be carefully preserved. With the existence of a majority and a minority comes the condition that the members of the majority shall be united on all their main principles,' and shall govern, while the minority act in opposition to them. I hold so strongly to the party system that I contend for it that we must always be prepared to make reasonable sacrifices, representing that fair consideration for the difficulties of others which we expect for our own. I hope to be loyal, so long as may be possible, to all the members with whom I have been associated in past years. Nothing but circumstances of the extremest urgency shall lead me to consent to a severance of our relations. What we have to face in this House is the possibility, arising from beyond and outside ourselves, of circumstances that require us definitely to take one sideor the other. It was not under a perfectly clear sky and without any pressure of necessity that my right honorable friend and myself met together to endeavour to. consider a common platform, and that my party threw open its doors in the endeavour to obtain a majority favorable to our political principles. It was because any one who considers the state of this Parliament must realize its utter instability, the constant temptation which its present condition affords, both to those in Opposition who lead and to those who usually follow, so that we may at any moment, and without warning, be confronted by crises which would not be possible if a firm and consistent majority sat behind the Government of the day. We did not create this unstable condition of things; the country created it when it returned three equal parties. Those parties were re-elected after a triangular duel. If the electors had been confronted by two parties only, they would have given a decisive verdict, and "in order to obtain a decisive verdict from the country in the future, it will be necessary to divide this House into two parties. It is only in that way that we shall be able to obtain the verdict of the majority, and secure the proper working of responsible government.

Mr Webster - Why was it not done at the last elections?

Mr DEAKIN - Because three parties persisted in fighting each other, instead of two of them combining, as circumstances are now compelling us to do.

Mr Tudor - There were very few triangular fights.

Mr DEAKIN - There were a great many. A number of seats, equal at least to the number of supporters lost by the late Government, were lost in consequence of triangular duels. The situation is partly an inheritance from the last Parliament, and partly from the fierce fiscal contest at the last election, coupled with the effective organization of my honorable friends opposite. Under our system of government the situation is one of peril, uncertainty, and instability, and cannot be maintained. That is why it deserves the consideration of the House. It is for my honorable friend to make such proposals as will enable him to acquire a majority which can keep him in office in spite of the criticisms of the minority on this side of the Chamber. Otherwise it is inevitable that, so soon as a fair opportunity offers, a majority on this side will displace him, and cast upon him the responsibilities of leader of an Opposition. If honorable members have followed my long and rambling speech, they will see that from first to last it has sprung . from one root. I have endeavoured to faithfull v and consistently follow one course since the last election. I realized that we needed not so much a new programme as a new distribution of parties, and the restoration of responsible government, with majority rule, covering all the powers of administration and control that such a majority would give. I am sure that all honorable members must agree upon' this point, and trust that in loyalty to the country which sent us here, and to our constituents, we shall with the least possible delay recon sider our position, so as to group ourselves into two parties in accordance with the principles upon which we are returned. If the principles of my honorable friend the Prime Minister meet with most general acceptance, let him have his majority sitting with him, and let those who cannot support him sit on this side in opposition. Legislation must be more or less perilous, and our administration ineffective, because uncertain, until this condition of affairs is brought about. It therefore lies with honorable members to consider the situation as well as the programme submitted by the Government. We can no longer shut our eyes to the dangers by which the present position is surrounded, and the assaults which may be sprung upon us as surprises. It was in order that there might be timely consideration beforehand that the proposals to which I have referred were laid before the two parties. It was in order to guard honorable members against being called upon in the haste and urgency of some vote which would affect the life of the Ministry to consider their position suddenly and unexpectedly. We have partly met the necessities of the case by suggesting a basis for our union, and ought to be prepared to deal with it further. It was-' solely on account of the serious nature of the situation, especially to my own party, that I have thought it necessary to offer these remarks in justification of our attitude, and of the course we have followed.

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