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Friday, 20 May 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) - I think that the arrangement made by the Prime Minister, under which his Ministerial statement is open to the full consideration of honorable members, is a wise one. The course more sanctioned by usage is for a Prime Minister to state his policy, and for some person on the opposite side of the- House to make observations upon it, members generally being deprived of the opportunity to discuss it. That is a usage which, I think, would be more honoured, as a rule, in the breach than in the observance, since Ministerial statements affect every member, and upon an occasion like the present are of a very far-reaching character. One . of the best features of the present most trying situation, out of which political battles must follow throughout the Commonwealth, is that the advent of the present Administration to office has not been taken advantage of by any honorable member sitting on the Opposition side of the House to indulge in unpleasant attacks. There has been no attempt to sneer at this Ministry because it happens to be constituted entirely of inexperienced men - a fact which I suppose is'without precedent in the British Empire. There has been no attempt to make political capital out of that fact.

Mr Fisher - There was a similar Ministry in Queensland.

Mr REID - Did it last very long?

Mr Fisher - It is lasting now.

Mr Watson - My honorable colleague is referring to the Coalition Government.

Mr REID - However that may be, as I said on a former occasion, that sort of imputation against men at the beginning of a responsible career is of the most ungenerous character. It could be levelled against men who afterwards become perhaps the greatest figures in political history, and consequently even on that score, upon which the public might, without any bias or unfriendly feeling towards the Ministry, have some degree of anxiety, there has been no ungenerous word said on this side. Then again, so far as I am concerned, it has been my happy privilege throughout the whole' of my connexion with labour members and Labour Parties to testify, from the knowledge I have gained of them and of their methods behind the scenes, that they have uniformly been honorable and straightforward. My quarrel, which is a serious one, with the present Ministry, in no sense touches questions affecting their straightforwardness as men, or their integrity as politicians. It is one of the distinguishing merits of the Labour Party, viewing them as a parliamentary party, that, possessed as they have been for a number of years of sometimes overwhelming power, and always a serious power, they have not attempted to exert undue pressure upon those in office. I was Prime Minister in New South Wales for five years in alliance, practically, with the Labour Party all the time, " and with perhaps one slight exception towards the close of my Ministerial career, which was repudiated by the party, and which was absolutely a mere individual case, no member of the party even - and that is putting the matter more broadly than if I referred to the Labour Party as a body - ever endeavoured to exercise the -slightest pressure upon me in the performance of my public duties. There is another merit which the Labour Party have always had, and that is that they have never exposed themselves to the slightest suspicion of any desire for personal advantage. Although they have possessed a large amount of political power, no man can truly say that they have ever endeavoured to intrigue themselves into office, or into positions of emolument. Perhaps I might make a slight mental reservation with regard to an incident at the beginning of this session in another place, but I do not blame the party for what then occurred-

Mr Watson - Nearly half of the representatives in the other Chamber are members of the Labour Party.

Mr REID - Of course, that is so, and I do not attach any blame to the party for what was done on that occasion. I am speaking generally. It is also a fact, to the credit of which the Labour Party are entitled, that so far from seizing with avidity an opportunity of going on the Treasury benches, they showed every anxiety to avoid bringing about the crisis which has resulted in their, being placed in office. Of course. I do not know everything, but I believe, as the late Prime Minister said last night, that the Labour Party, so far from endeavouring to take advantage of the division amongst members of other parties in the House, had only one anxiety, and that was to endeavour to prevent the necessity which has arisen for a change of Government. To the eternal credit of the late Prime Minister, he refused to listen to the multitude of suggestions which offered him a continuance in the distinguished position which he occupied, probably for the whole of the life of this Parliament, as an alternative to the surrender of principle. He has, in my opinion, become an infinitely greater man by that defeat than he ever was before, and I do not think that my honorable friends" opposite have ever uttered one word of complaint as to the course which he followed. I have recently had some negotiations with the honorable and learned member, and since he has had to refer to this matter, I suppose the House will pardon me if I do so. I wish, in justice to myself, to say, at once, that I had no knowledge of the commission which the honorable and learned member possessed from his party to open negotiations with more than one other party. If I had been aware that my honorable friend was in a position to negotiate either with myself, or with Mr. Watson, I should never have entered into conference until that question had been settled, and I wish, in justice to myself, to say that I have no sort of sympathy with that attitude in these crises, which makes it a, matter of indifference which party any man joins. I should have absolutely refused to sit at the table with any negotiator whose commission was of the open description to which I have referred.

Mr Deakin - It was publicly stated in the press reports in the course of the meetings of our party, that it was decided that

I should be left free to negotiate with either side.

Mr REID - No doubt, but I live hundreds of miles away from Melbourne, and there are some newspapers published in that city which I never read. My honorable friend had a perfect right, owing to the publicity which I now learn was given to the fact, to believe that I was just as well aware as himself of his position.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Would the right honorable gentleman say that the fact was not brought under his notice?

Mr REID - Absolutely and emphatically no. Not only was it not brought before me in an official way, but I had not the slightest suspicion that such was the case.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Every other honorable member knew it.

Honorable Members. - No, no.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The fact was common public property.

Mr REID - We are -in the happy position in this House, and it is a credit to us, that we generally accept personal assurances, even despite newspaper assertions; and honorable members, and my honorable friend, the late Prime Minister, will readily accept my assurance that at the time we began to negotiate, which was long before we met, in order to understand whether there was any prospect of an agreement - because we both felt, as men of experience, that before any formal meeting took place, we should by some preliminary interchange of views, arrive at an opinion as to whether there was any prospect of agreement - 1 was unaware of the fact which is now stated to have been publicly announced before that stage was reached. Our preliminary communications were of such a nature that both the honorable and learned member and myself felt that we could meet together with a reasonable prospect of arriving at an agreement. My knowledge qf any communication with the Labour Government or Labour Party was gained after that conference had far advanced. I learned of it at a time when there was no doubt whatever about our ultimate agreement. I wish to put myself in a plain position before this House, and therefore I repeat that at no time did my course of action depend upon the contingency of a coalition of any kind with the present Government.

Mr Hughes - How long did that ignorance of the situation on the part of the right honorable member continue?

Mr REID - Until the conference had practically arrived at an agreement, and the matter then became to me one. of no importance. I simply desire to clear the ground as to the position I occupied when the conference took place; and wish it to be understood, even in a more public arena than this, that from first to last I never held out the slightest chance, overture, or prospect of a coalition with the Labour Party or the present- Government.

Mr Watson - Quite so.

Mr REID - It might have been a mistake. It might have been because of a conviction that if I did hold out such an overture there would not be the slightest hope of success. The critics are free to adopt any alternative they choose, but the fact remains that I. held out no such prospect.

Mr Watson - The feeling which' prevailed at the elections did not give rise to that idea.

Mr REID - It is a source of the greatest pleasure to me that the Labour Party is in the hands of a leader who in the bitterest fights has given an example of courtesy and fairness which the most matured statesman might well imitate. There has been some talk about the Labour Party consisting of men who" were at. one time manual labourers. I think, and every man who has any feeling of humanity must ngree with me, that if there is one phase of success in life that is grander than another, it is when that success is achieved by men who began under every difficulty, who were confronted at the outset by a bitter wall of prejudice, to say nothing else, and who knew that their unhappy fate was such that if they rose to the highest -altitudes by their merit and ability, there would still be a wide circle o'f persons - people who are unworthy of much admiration, whose feelings belong to a darker time in human history - who would look upon them with contempt. One of the greatest triumphs of the Labour Partyis that; although as a body they sprang suddenly from the humblest walks of life, without generations of training and the influences which that training exerts upon heredity, the members of it have shown, in all the trying situations of public life, a degree of ' fairness and courtesy that is worthy of the highest standards of the public" life of this Empire.

Mr Hughes - Like the Japanese, as a nation we have accomplished all this in one generation.

Mr.REID. - I am anxious that throughout the whole of the great battle of which this is but the first preliminary engagement, the same fairness and courtesy shall prevail. We may meet in conference, we may accept or reject bases for union, but the present situation is 'too large for our ultimate arbitrament. If I thought it were a mere question of administration, I should say that the members of the Government, being in office, are entitled to a fair trial, and that no such trial can be given to them unless they have a fair and legitimate opportunity to show their mettle and demonstrate their administrative capacity. If I viewed the position from any such standpoint, I should refuse to take part in any movement, public or private, to displace the present Administration. Then, again, if it were a mere question of majority rule in this House - a matter relating merely to our own individual ideas and methods of solving the political situation to our advantage, as a majority, irrespective of our political principles - I should say that the Labour Party was just as much entitled to sit on the Government benches as ther late Government were entitled to remain in possession of them during the last threeyears.

Mr Hughes - Then the right honorable member differs from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.

Mr REID - That is one of the advantages of not being pledged.

Mr Watson - Is there to be no coalition then - is there no pledge ?

Mr REID - I am coming to that point- Even the late Prime Minister and I - al-' though I believe we are at the present moment more in accord on all matters of principle bearing on this situation than are any other two honorable members - are free to stand up one against the other in this ' House. One of my grave objections, which I shall elaborate at a later stage, to the principle upon which the Labour Party is founded as a part of this Parliament is this : That whilst pandemonium may rage in their caucus, whilst individual opinionmay fearlessly and strongly assert itself, as it always does, in a healthy atmosphere,, the moment a decision is arrived at a change takes place. The voice which we hear in this Chamber is not the voice of the man" who speaks; it does not necessarily represent his own principles and his own opinions ; it represents the view, not of an individual conscience Or an individual intellect, but of a collective conscience and a collective' intellect..'

Mr Watson - The right honorable member's party holds caucuses.

Mr REID - We have a caucus, and, as in the case of the Labour' Party's caucus, it is a secret one. I wish to deal with this matter fairly, for I desire, in justice to my opponents, to frankly and fully state the whole of my objections to the present Administration. I am happy to say that there is not one of them which will bear the tinge of a personal imputation. But when we come to deal with a situation which seems to me, although I may be wrong, to place the destinies of this Commonwealth in the balance for all time, it is useless to talk to me of a programme put forward by the Government. A statement by the Prime Minister as to what is to be done this session is put before me, but I laugh at the programme; I repudiate it. Why? Because I know their platform. Who is authorized in Australia to put forward a policy for the Labour Party ? The present Ministry ?No ! I am going to give utterance to many opinions from which my honorable friends opposite will differ, but' I trust in fairness to me and to the Labour Party, some member of the Ministry will follow me and clearly put the other side of the position before the House.

Mr Hughes - The right honorable member need be under no misapprehension.

Mr REID - I think that we have in the Cabinet a Minister who, when other matters do not intervene, is one of the most affectionate gentlemen of whom I know - a man with whom I have alwayshad, happily, the most pleasant relations, and I trust the accession to dignity which he has experienced will not break the cordiality of our political intercourse. It is my misfortune that my action threatens his political' position. My stand is taken, not on personal, but on public grounds. I was saying that when this Ministry puts forward a policy for next session they do not put before the House and the country the policy to which they are pledged as forcibly as one link of an anchor chain is pledged to another. The platform set forth in the document which I hold in my hand is not a policy for a session ; it is not a policy for a period ; it is not a policy to disarm opposition and to allay fears.

Mr Watson - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - I am alluding to the labour platform, and not to the . honorable member's policy.

Mr Watson - Nor is ours such a- policy as the right honorable member has described.

Mr REID - We shall see by-and-by.

Mr Watson - We propose to do what is practicable to-dav.

Mr REID - My' honorable friend will allow me to analyze it. He will, I am sure, permit me to go behind the programme he has submitted here, to the platform of the party.

Mr Watson - Hear, hear; we do not depart from it.

Mr REID - My honorable friend will admit that I have not indulged in any language that is not straightforward.

Mr Hughes - Is the right honorable member referring to a platform adopted in Victoria? Is he responsible for the' State politics of Victoria and for Mr. Bent?

Mr REID - I must ask my honorable and learned friend, before he makes an interjection, to wait until he has heard what I have to say about it. I do not propose to refer to the State politics of Victpria.or to Mr. Bent, but to the Federal fighting platform and the general Federal platform of the Labour Party. I do not know what distinction honorable members opposite make between them.

Mr Watson - Our programme is what we put first.

Mr REID - That is right; and mayI say that one of the misfortunes of a minority Government in a House of Parliament is that the weakest thing is always put first. The thing that will disarm opposition is always put . first. The Prime Minister, in the difficult position in which he is placed, keeps one eye on us with a milk and water programme for six months, or twelve months, until he can get real strength, whilst he keeps his other eye open upon the power outside, to whom he says - " Wait until I get strong with these milk and water men, and then I will come on with the true national issues afterwards." '

Mr Hughes - What is the right- honorable member going to. do?

Mr REID - My honorable and learned friend will have his opportunity, later. I do hope that the honorable and learned gentleman, who is nothing if not enthusiastic, will just quietly take a note, which he -is sure to forget after he has taken it, . and allow me to go on. I am. happy to. think that -in all. these remarks I receive - no expressions . of resentment from honorable members opposite. The moment they cease to be a fighting, straightforward party their existence will be destroyed.

Mr Watson - And properly so, too.

Mr REID - One thing I always admire about labour and labour unions. You may differ from them, but they are thorough. They never sacrifice one another; they act loyally together. That is a tribute of admiration which cannot be applied everywhere.

Mr Hughes - The right honorable member realizes that?

Mr REID - I do not desire that my speech should be broken up.

Mr Hughes - I was only giving my right honorable friend a hand along ; I desired to help him.

Mr REID - I do not want my honorable and learned friend's help on this occasion ; he always gives it to me when I do not want it. What I desire to emphasize now in the strongest manner of which I am capable, is this: If I differ from the open declared policy of the party set forward in black and white, and which is binding on every member of that party to the last generation - an everlasting bond-

Mr Watson - I hope so.

Mr REID - Well, I am putting it, I think, fairly. The bond is one which honorable members opposite have solemnly signed, not for an election, not for three years, not for ten years, but for all the period, it may be of a life-time, during which they can honestly remain attached to it. So that when my honorable friend talks about a mild programme for this session, I, as a public man, before I give this Ministry an opportunity to develop strength, want to know what' their ultimate and real policy is. If von addressed the political labour leagues, who hold this Labour Party in the hollow of their hands, with the Ministerial programme which we are asked to accept for this ses- . sion, they would rise in revolt. They would say to. this Government, " Why our sacrifices ? Why our unions ? Why have we put you forward into the high places of the earth whilst we have worked loyally and honestly in the common walks of life ? Was it not because you impressed us with the view that if you got political power you would come out with a fearless policy which would bring universal happiness and equality to the homes of the masses of Australia?" Was not that the inspiration of the great labour movement which honorable gentlemen opposite represent to-day ? They might have followed a more politic course. They might have done what older parties have often done. They might have shrouded their real principles in a convenient mist, as the present Ministry is doing now, but these labour bodies never stooped to that. Even when they were a mere struggling minority without unions, and without power, the few men they had were men of fearlessness and men of principle, whether right or wrong. They were not ashamed to put their names to and to stake their lives upon a definite programme which, when we examine it presently, we shall find does not aim at reform, but amounts to revolution.

Mr O'Malley - Evolution.

Mr REID - Evolution, according to my honorable friend's view, I -admit. I am satisfied that every honorable member opposite believes that is an evolution, and if 1 believed it represented an evolution it would be my duty to stop talking about what the majority is in this House, where it sits, and of whom it is constituted. My duty would be to stand loyally behind the Labour Party. That would be my place.

Mr Fisher - Not a bit of it.

Mr REID - Some people do not put such a low value upon my personality in Australia, and my honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs will perhaps find that his estimate is a mistaken one. The honorable gentleman should not allow himself to be carried away by sudden accession to power. My honorable friend, who has always appeared as a fair, candid, and courteous man, as a Minister ought not to lose those virtues. I am not belittling the labour leaders of Australia. I say that the men who made this "party, and who made this labour movement, with a degree, perhaps, of political recklessness and want of experience, but with absolute fairness, put a policy in black and white, so that every man, woman, and child in Australia could read it. Do we hear any echo of that national policy in which they believe, in the speech of the Prime Minister? For once this dense mass who have been kept out of the ruling powers of civilization, who for centuries have been under the heel of this tyranny or that tyranny - for once labour stands before the world triumphant, in a position not only of political advantage, but of national power. And the labour of Australia is looking on. What is the millennium which this new Labour Government now offers to the people of Australia ? A tobacco monopoly !

Even in this matter they have not the courage of their convictions, because they will not sell by retail. Surely the glamour of ministerial surroundings has not so suddenly infected my honorable friends that they see anything undignified in the nation assuming the position of a retailer? The theory of a national monopoly in tobacco is an absurdity, if any benefit to the consumers is involved, unless the State itself sells every ounce of tobacco to them.

Mr Watson - One step at a time !

Mr REID - I am very glad indeed that my honorable friend, again perfectly straightforward, says " One step at a time " ; but I ask honorable members who see this ominous advance step by step at a time, which is to lead up to a revolution of all our industrial conditions, to decide - and they will have to decide - whether the first steps in the march of this destructive policy are to carry their sanction with them. People outside do not understand political strategy, possibly they do not understand the attitude of a member of Parliament who suspends his action on a matter of national policy, from a feeling of personal hatred. Are these announcements true which represent me as an object of hatred to the Labour Party ?

Mr O'malley - No.

Mr REID - Has there been anything in our intercourse, has there been anything in their statements to me which has indicated that?

Mr Watson - We have a political objection.

Mr REID - Exactly, as I have to my honorable friend; but I hope that my intercourse with the men of labour, not only here but in New South Wales, has been such as not to earn their hatred, at any rate.

Mr Watson - The right ' honorable gentleman may be with us to-morrow.

Mr REID - I only wish to clear the atmosphere from these personal and sinister reports which are aimed at driving me out of the public life of Australia. Let us know before the public whether I am hated by the Labour Party. If they think so, let them say so. Let me know whether there is a man here who hates me so strongly that he makes that an excuse for performing, or not performing, a great national duty. If I am a stumbling block, let me go. If I am a sort of outcast whose presence in this Parliament impedes some great national development, let me go. I am prepared to make the sacrifice; but I shall not be driven from my duty by my enemies. I am not made of that stuff that the men who wish me ill will cause me to betray my trust. Let those who are not my enemies say that I can do anything to bring men who think alike into one party, and I shall do it. Let the honorable and learned member for Ballarat be Prime Minister, let any man here have that or any other distinction. They can have them all. I submit that the time is coming when these personal issues, if they are to prevail over national interests, must be brought out in the light of day. I am prepared to meet them. Not looking at the members of my own party, but addressing all those honorable members on this side whom I have opposed so long, I am prepared if they wish it to retire from any position in this Parliament, or in any possible combination; but I am not conscious of anything in my public life which makes me an object of hatred. I have pursued from my boyhood, on a line of perfect truth and consistency, the subject which has dominated the politics of Australia for thirty years. During the whole of my manhood, have I ever changed on it, or betrayed it? In my hour of power, when it came, did I put forward some milk and water programme to attract support? ' I immediately came forward with the radical policy of my life ; I immediately staked my Ministerial life on a system of free trade and land taxation, and when the House of Privilege stood across my, path and threw out my first measure .with contempt, did I pursue the orthodox course of talking at large and swallowing the insult? No; I immediately used the power I had, and dissolved the Parliament.

Mr Maloney - They do not do that in Victoria.

Mr REID - Well, I have the honour of having done it, and to the eternal credit of every man, whether in the Labour Party or out of it, I have never been met with trie slightest reproach on the subject. So that I do not think I am quite the man to be made a target for malicious attack. An attack which' comes from men who fear my influence, who wish to destroy the weight of my career, is one that does not move me ; but to be put before the people of Australia, after my career, whatever it has been as a man whom this party hates and that party shuns is a treatment of a public man which I think is not fair. There is another matter which I should like to mention, and I think that my honorable and learned friend the late Prime Minister will allow me to do so. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention that the attitude which he has taken up with reference to himself has been in no sense brought about by any desire or anxiety of mine to supplant bim. I do not wish to raise the veil from private confidences ; but my honorable and learned friend, I am sure, will pardon me if I say that those who represent me as striving to make any condition for this union of parties, who represent me as pressing my claims on him, as forcing him to take any course which he had not previously resolved on taking, put me in an unfair light.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear !

Mr REID - I pass away from these personal matters to come to what is the real point at which I must join issue with the Government. Whenwe were in alliance the alliance was not to destroy, principles in which I believed, but to carry them into Jaw. Is there any dishonour in accepting assistance from the Labour Party to pass a free trade Tariff or a land tax ? There is no dishonour in support of that sort. They and I believed in a land tax, and many of them put the land tax above the fiscal question by . their votes. But it was an honorable alliance on honorable lines. And I think that my honorable friends' will admit that there never was any talk amongst us of what we would do to one another when an election came round. We never made any secret compact of any kind. When the election took place, as a matter of fairness to these gentlemen who were fighting this great battle with me, side by side, I told my party - I do not mean the parliamentary party, but the election party - that if any man-

Mr Watson - The outside organizations.

Mr REID - Yes, the organizations of the free-trade party; I told them that if any man wanted to come out against a labour man who had been fighting my battles, I would not have! it. It was a fair alliance.

Mr Hughes - Did we not treat the right honorable member in . the same way?

Mr REID - Absolutely. Have I not said over and over again - and I say it once more - that a more generous body of men in their treatment of a Prime Minister whom they often held in the hollow of their hand I. never knew. A more generous treatment of a Prime Minister no unpledged party ever gave. I

Mr Thomas - And this is the return for it.

Mr Hutchison - Then there was minority rule?

Mr REID - It was carrying out a majority programme.

Mr Watson - That is. the case to-day.

Mr REID - All these objections about minority rule are mere personal considerations. The main point is the principles that are carried out.

Mr Watson - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - That is a fair challenge, and I am going to test it. But before I test it, I want to clear the ground in the, view df honorable members who are not so familiar as some of us are with events in which I have been concerned. All through that friendly alliance with the Labour Party I was fighting for great principles in which I believed, and they were helping me to carry them out. That is an honorable position.' Well, now, I should like to come to the most important point of all. The position of honorable members sitting -on this side of the House, whether they form a party or do not, is an absolutely different situation. All the observations, all the analogies, that might be made or constructed from the past, as if they would throw any light upon the present, would be waste of time. We are not dealing now with a party which, conscientiously believing as they did in most of the measures of the late Government, honestly supported them. We are dealing with an entirely different situation. And I say this : that if there are any members sitting on this side of the House who honestly believe in the national policy of the Labour Party, the proper course' is open to them. They have no right to sit in opposition at all. They need not join the Labours Party. That 'is another matter. But how can a man sit here as a man opposed to a Government whose policv he believes in ? I do not put such a strain upon any friends of mine. If there is any man in the party which I have the honour to lead, who in his heart believes in this - Labour policy, let him honestly, like a man, go over and take his place on that side of the House. It is not necessary, surely, to ask whether a member can be admitted to the party.

Mr Watson - There is the open door.

Mr REID - Surely he can be admitted if he will accept the programme. If he can pass the tyler, the open door is always there. Any one of us, if we believe in their policy, can decide for ourselves whether he will join their party or not. But we have no right to oppose them if we believe in them. We have no right to intrigue against them. I do not want any intrigue against this Government.

Mr Hughes - What, never?

Mr REID - I do not call an honest conference an intrigue. Surely, when honorable members opposite say that the door is always open, they cannot object to a conference. Surely those who send frenzied telegraph messages to their masters, to ask them to relieve them from some disabilities which will enable them to get men to give them support, must not talk about negotiations. There is one advantage about the conduct of my honorable and learned friend, the exPrime Minister, and myself. The first condition of our understanding when we met was this : - Everything we agreed upon must be put before the public of Australia in black and white.

Mr Watson - Rest assured that the same course will be adopted by the present Ministry.

Mr.REID.- There is a stage in all negotiations which must be private. But what the public want to know is not what members talk about, but what they have agreed about. Because very few . will agree with the whole of a speech that a man will make, whilst they mav perfectly agree with the things he is going to do. And that was our position. Whatever we did our party and ultimately the public must know. Everything we agreed upon was drawn up in written form. There is only one matter that was left to the ex-Prime Minister and myself. A condition of these negotiations before we met in conference was that all personal questions between him and myself should stand aside, and not even be discussed - that our only discussion in the conference should concern itself with a basis of public policy. My right honorable friend, the member for Balaclava, who was there, and my honorable friend, the member for Macquarie, who was there, will confirm what I have said - that all conversations between the ex-Prime Minister and myself as to the personal matter, did not form any part of the proceedings of the conference. Well, now I have come, as' I have said, to this question of the programme of the Labour Party. In the first place, it is only right 'to ask - because any inaccuracy just now will be unfortunate - whether I am right in this assumption : that the Federal platform of the Labour Party is faithfully published in a book circulated in Melbourne, and issued by Mr. Prendergast, who, I suppose, is an authority on the subject? I hold the book- in my hand. It is " compiled and published by G. M. Prendergast, M.L.A., under the auspices of the Political Labour Council of Victoria."

Mr Fisher - Any one can get a copy.

Mr REID - I am not asking about that. Is this copy correct? Will the Prime Minister kindly look at it and tell, me?

Mr McDonald - I will get the right honorable member an official copy, if he likes.

Mr REID - I wish the honorable member would, because we do not want to have any misunderstanding at: this or any other, stage. The Prime Minister very fairly. is going to compare the publication of which I am speaking with the published platform, and willtell me presently whether there are any inaccuracies.

Mr Fisher - Why not take the official platform ?

Mr REID - I am quite agreeable to do so. except that I want the two compared. Of course, this platform is issued only by the Political Labour Council of Victoria ; but the Federal platform is common to all the States.

Mr Watson - Yes; with slight exceptions.

Mr REID - I am not now speaking of pledges, because I know there are some differences in that respect; I am merely referring to the platform.

Mr Watson - The last plank in the platform, No. 10, has not been adopted federally, but the others have.

Mr REID - I am much obliged to the Prime Minister, who, very fairly, enables me to speak with the first essential to an understanding, in order that there may be no dispute about the matter which we are discussing. Some honorable members have made reckless statements about what the Labour Party are pledged to do, and what their platform is. But that is absolutely unfair, because the Labour Party, by publishing this platform in black and white, give no excuse for such a course. I am sure that: my honorable friends will admit that I am? acting fairly in taking their own platform instead of listening to what people sayMy opinion of that platform, put in a fewwords, is this : The Labour Party, as a party; are pledged to acquire all the political power and prestige they can, whether by sitting in office or out of office, but especially when in office. People may talk of platforms and programmes to all eternity so long as they are not in office - so long as they represent propaganda and not statesmanship. But when men come into power - when men take up the reins of Government, and the executive functions of the whole nation are placed in their hands - we approach a time when diplomacy ought to cease, and when we have to consider our position. Taking this platform without the plank which has already been mentioned, and to which I shall make special reference presently, I say that every man who takes the responsibility of continuing this Government in office practically indorses that platform. The man who proposes to fight another mail some other day - who proposes to challenge that man some other day and in the meantime allows him to- develop his muscle and power for victory when the struggle comes, is the sort of man whom the people will suspect of " having his money on the other horse." In all honest, straightforward life, if Ave ha\'e to fight a man Ave do not train him in order that he may beat us. That sort of business may suit some veteran politicians, but it does not suit me, and I do not think it suits the commonsense of ths people of Australia. The people of Australia ought to know from us now that this platform is represented by a Government of which the GovernorGeneral, who represents the people of Australia, is, constitutionally, a mere figurehead, and is in their hands. That is the constitutional position. Some people outside talk about the Governor-General as if he were some marvellous method devised by human wisdom to protect the Constitution. With the utmost respect to His Excellency the Governor-General, Ave all know and admit that whilst he has a high prerogative which may lead to the calling of a Labour Government to his counsels, the moment that is done his supremacy is gone and theirs begins.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Is the GovernorGeneral not bound to respect the people's wishes ?

Mr REID - That is just the question with which Ave are dealing. Are Ave not bound to respect the people's wishes? Is there an obligation on any member of this Government which does not rest on us? We are humble individuals now, but I Avant to emphasize the point that there is one wish of the people which it is our duty to gratify - the wish that they may know what Ave are going to do. It may suit this or that man to hold back and temporize, but, while the people may be accustomed to such a position, they do not like that sort of treatment. I say again that the entrance of this party into power, as the Government of Australia, makes their platform a national policy, unless Ministers are defeated. The test of every man's sitting in the Chamber to-day is this : the

Ministry are men-

Mr Ronald - Oh !

Mr REID - I have never said anything inconsistent Avith such a statement. Some- how it is always clergymen who say illiberal things; I do not, of course, mean clergymen of the right kind - no one has a greater veneration for them than I have - but clergymen of the wrong kind. If there be such a clergyman in a meeting he is sure to be more illiberal and ungenerous than any other man in it ; but there Avas nothing to jeer at in my remarks.

Mr Ronald - I am glad to hear that.

Mr REID - That is unless the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, in hi own case, doubts the accuracy of the application. I wish to put it plainly to my fellow members that this platform has become the policy of the Government of Australia. Are Ave going to support the Government, or are Ave going to oppose them? It is perfectly immaterial to me or any one els'; what honorable members do, but they have to do something; they cannot hesitate, and say, "Well, this requires a good deal of consideration ; there is a good deal that is harmless in the platform, and I approve of planks Nos. 1 to 6, but when Ave come to plank No. 7, I shall make a stand." But by that time they are inside the tiger. If honorable members believe that instead of a tiger it is, after all, only a tame cat, let them go and nestle alongside it ; but if they believe that it is a tiger, Avith tigerous proclivities, and a tigerous policy, do not give it even milk and water. I now come to deal Avith this platform. My first objection to it is this : I do not believe that such a platform ever before existed in connexion with a constitutional party in the Empire. We are told in reply, " Oh, well, all parties work together, and all parties have their caucus meetings - all parties feel the pressure of Government influence, and all parties make concessions in order to attain greater objects; and to support the Government in whom they generally believe." But the Government represents the one party that ever existed in the Parliaments of

Australia or of the Empire, which is in the position that one cannot be a member of it without indorsing every plank in the platform. In that platform there are seventeen planks, and if a man is prepared to solemnly swear to loyally advocate and support sixteen, he cannot become a member of the Labour Party. He must adopt the whole seventeen, " lock, stock, and barrel."

Mr Watson - There are only nine planks.

Mr REID - But seven or eight others are set out.

Mr Watson - Nine are picked out as a fighting platform, and thus there is some repetition in the document before the honorable and learned member.

Mr REID - The planks are repeated categorically, and I thought there were seventeen. However, the principle is the same whatever the number, and I shall take it that there are nine planks You can swear to eight honestly, and vo 1 say to the Labour Party, " I am heart and soul with you about these eight, but here is a ninth which is not of much importance, will you allow me fo waive that? Will you allow me to exercise my own judgment in regard to it ?" Their answer is, " Sir, you cannot belong to our party until you solemnly pledge yourself in writing to support every one of bur planks." I appeal to all of political experience in Australia if there has ever yet been a Government in power on this continent which has drawn up a platform of seven planks, and compelled its supporters to subscribe to every one of . them. I have never had a following of that sort.

Mr Watson - The right honorable member has had supporters who have voted for proposals in which they did not believe; who have in minor matters voted against their belief, at all events.

Mr REID - That was a matter for their own consciences. I did not go to any publicspirited useful man who wished to join our party and say to him, "You can vote for us as often as you like " - I suppose every one would say that - " but before you become a part of this machine, before you have an atom of force or energy in working out this policy, you must subscribe to every shred of our platform." That is the radical difference between a free party and a bond party, between a spirit of Democracy and a spirit of exclusivehess. Honorable members opposite use the term " labour " as if they had invented it and obtained a patent for it; they use the term " Democracy " as though they enjoy protected rights in connexion with it for fifteen years to come. I say to them, as I say to all outside this House, that that is establishing the odious principle of aristocracy in another and more dangerous form. The aristocracy can always be trusted to work together. In the days of their power they had no written platforms, but they worked together just as our friends do. In the darker davs, when real freedom and liberty were unknown, compacts were' unnecessary, because a dense aristocratic class stood between the people and power. But we have now come to, I hope, a brighter stale of affairs. We have at last obtained a Constitution the theory of which is that every man and every woman under it is equal. But no elector and no n'.;:nher of electors has . the right to assume the name of Democrat. In the term " Democracy " there is a soul which represents the grandest principle, that of the equality of mankind. It breathes a noble spirit,' although public men of one party or another may use it in one sense or another to meet the exigencies of political life. My charge against the members of the Labour Party - and upon it I am prepared to go anywhere in Australia to fight, not them, but their' platform - is that,, although they claim to represent labour, I represent it in a broader and a higher sense than they do. I regard the term " labour " as equivalent in extension to the term " Democracy." I look across the serried ranks of humanity upon this continent, from the city to the bush, from the man at his desk to the man in the railway cutting, and I say to all - " If you are working honestly, not sponging on the community, or cheating or defrauding your fellow-men, the flag of labour flies over you, as the flag of Democracy flies over all." To talk of Conservatives under our Constitution is the trick of an enemy; it is not fair fighting. The word " Conservative," thank God, has been wiped out of our political vocabulary.

Mr Watson - Not quite.

Mr REID - There may be some survivals. There are always vestiges of a former order of things. But I am as loyally proud- of the destruction of that former svstem as are my honorable friends opposite. As they know, when I was in power, they had not a stronger helper in making the men of landed' estates and the men of wealth bear their fair share of the burdens of the people. It was not a mere profession with me. I incurred the undying animosity of the well-to-do classes by the faithful performance of my duty, and I had the loyal assistance of my honorable friends in that great task.

Mr Hughes - The right honorable member cannot call it "undying animosity," because it is dead now.

Mr REID - It is dead only because those who felt it think me now not so bad as the "other fellow." No one who represents a privileged or wealthy class imposes upon me by any profession of anxiety abou, my political welfare. I know that there are noble men in those classes as in the humblest class, but, I say deliberately, in the presence of all, that they have never exercised a patriotic influence on the political fortunes of Australia. There have been noble men amongst them who have stood out from their fellows as men have stood out from their fellows among the class to which my honorable friends belong. But the genius of the well-to-do class is that which has destroyed their just influence. I think that men of high culture and great possessions have a legitimate influence if they can obtain the confidence of the people by the unselfishness of their conduct. But men who go into politics, or hold political meetings, only because they think their pockets are imperilled, have my perfect contempt. Do not let any one who may happen to be of that class think that I stand here for him. It may be a wrong idea of my -career, but, to my mind, it would be a deformed one if I finished it by becoming an advocate for any class. The instinct which led me to stand against them leads me, in the true spirit of democracy, to stand year by year against the proposals of other classes. Whilst men were combining to evade then public duties, to cast the burden of taxation almost wholly upon the poorest classes, I fought - and 'what is a rare experience in Australia - I conquered them, thanks greatly to the assistance of my honorable friends opposite. I do not forget that assistance. My honorable friends stood by me from first to last, but it was an honest alliance.

Mr Thomas - If it had not been for the members of the Labour Party, the Freetrade Party in New South Wales could not have brought' about that reform.

Mr REID - That mav be so, but, personally, I was all the time fighting for the establishment of my own principles. I am now called upon to take a stand against this

Government and the Labour Party, because the situation has absolutely changed.

Mr Hughes - There can be no doubt about that.

Mr REID - May I suggest to my honorable and learned friend that in many of the changes in his situation I have beer* behind him, and have helped him.

Mr Hughes - Have I not been behind the right honorable member?

Mr REID - Yes; and since the honorable and learned gentleman is now in front of me, I hope he will still respect me.

Mr Hughes - I will not forget what the right honorable member has done for me, and I hope that he will not forget what I have done for him.

Mr REID - Anything that I may have done for my honorable and learned friend is trivial. His own abilities, his own intellect, and his own force of character have done everything for him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is mutual admiration. .

Mr REID - I hope my honorable friend will occasionally have a little feeling of humanity.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no humanity about it.

Mr REID - I honestly say what I mean. Surely I can say what I think. Personal matters are quite different. I am talking now in a public sense. The time has come now, when the platform representing the policy of the national Government is before us, to strongly oppose them; and when my honorable and learned friend says that the situation has changed, may T remind him that while there has been a lightning change in his case, there has been none in mine- I am still here, where I have worked for three or four years.

Mr Thomas - Long may the honorable gentleman remain there.

Mr REID - I think my honorable friends will find that, whatever our battles may be, they will always know from me when I mean mischief against them. There will be no shooting in the dark against my honorable friends. They have the right to expect straightforward treatment, and not to have men skulking .behind them with the intention to trip them up at a convenient time by-and-bye. They do not want that kind of support. If the political situation clears itself owing to the Labour Party securing a majority, they will be absolutely entitled by every constitutional right to sit where they are. It is time, however, that every public man made his position clear before

Australia, and I am doing that so -far as I am concerned, to-day. Now I come to the labour platform. The Prime Minister informs me that one of these paragraphs, whilst it forms a part of the policy of the Political Labour League of Victoria, has not been generally adopted.

Mr Watson - It was adopted tentatively at the Labour Conference in. Sydney, but was not finally adopted by the New South Wales League, and is not a plank in the Federal Labour Platform. . Personally 1 approve of certain developments, of it,

Mr REID - In the case of this programme, as in that announced by the new Administration, the sting is in the tail. The last paragraph represents exactly the point which I shall fight to the very death. This principle has been adopted by every State but New South Wales, and it was tentatively adopted by a Conference representing the labour bodies of all the States.

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