Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 20 May 1904

Mr WATSON -It was tentatively adopted at the Conference prior to its non-adoption by New South Wales.

Mr REID - The New South Wales League did not finally adopt it, but at the same time did not finally declare against it. They did not adopt the proposition in its present shape, but the Prime Minister says that personally he approves of it, so that we have a plain announcement of the adherence to the plank of the leader, of the Labour Party of/ Australia. The paragraph reads as follows : - " Uniform industrial legislation ; . amendment of Constitution to provide for same." Now, that is a form of absolute Socialism that I will fight to the death. That is plain English. I shall explain what I mean. Why not seek uniform legislation by means of an amendment of the Constitution for the benefit of all classes? Why uniform industrial legislation., which means unifying all the Australian States under a. common law ? Why should this design to unify Australia be confined to a class issue? What do our friends mean by industrial legislation ? They mean legislation affecting the class of which they are the champions. Industrial legislation, to them, does, not mean legislation in the interests of employers, or necessarily of the masses of the people of .Australia. They are simply proceeding on their own class lines so as to break down the principle of the Constitution, to destroy States rights and States liberties, and to become masters of Australia. Well, they announce their intentions fairly and honestly, and I stand against them.

An Honorable Member. - It would not include clerks.

Mr REID - That points to the pernicious influence which runs through the whole grain of this pledged organization. They are always viewing the interests, not of the publicI do not mean that they desire to injure the interests of the public - but they are always viewing as their special care the interests, not of a class "even, but of part of a class. Who will say that the great mass of the Workers of Australia are behind these labour leagues?

Mr Poynton - Is it not true that this Parliament has. already affirmed the principle contained in that plank of the Labour platform ?

Mr REID - If it has, my honorable friend will no doubt be delighted, but I have never consciously affirmed it.

Mr Poynton - We have affirmed it by resolution.

Mr REID - But I am not bound by a resolution of this House, and therefore the honorable member's remark is perfectly idle so far as I am concerned. I am not a pledged member of this House. I am not sitting in a caucus. If I were sitting in the Labour caucus, and my honorable friend told me that the caucus had arrived at a decision, I should have' to sit down humbly and consent to be bound hand and foot, and record my vote accordingly. But I am a free member of this House, and all the Parliaments in the world may pass a thousand laws, and I can still stand up and denounce them. I wish to point out the real object of the Labour Party. I do not say that it is wrong. That is a matter for the people to decide. I think it is, but that does not prove it to be wrong. It may be all right, but what I say is-- and I am dealing only with national considerations - if we are to become a united people, do let us try to amend our Constitution in the light of the interests of the whole community and not for the benefit of a particular class.

Mr Watson - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - I am thoroughly prepared to. consider any project for unifying Australia, but it must not proceed from a class, and it must not have any design of a class character. What is the design of this Labour proposal? It is, through the .Parliament of the Commonwealth, to acquire tyrannical power over every one who does not belong to the labour organization. That is plain English. The power exercised by the labour bodies is tyrannical even over themselves. There is no greater tyranny in the world over conscience and judgment than that exhibited at every meeting of the Labour Party. That is, so far as the planks of the labour platform are concerned. I understand that great liberty of action is allowed in regard to other matters. It is only fair that this should be understood, because it has been represented that every member of the Labour Party is bound by the decision of the caucus in regard to all matters. I understand, however, that every member of that party is just as free as I am with regard to all matters outside of the labour platform. It is only fair that that should become known. Let me, however, make a further remark with regard to that matter. Whilst that is the form of the compact, what is the effect of this pledged union ? Because it is a union a parliamentary union consolidated by a written pledge, and if a member broke away from it he would incur the disgrace of a political blackleg. We know that the unwritten bond is the strongest among honorable men. Take the ease of a striker who believes that a strike is wrong. He is made of better stuff than to desert his mates in the hour of trial. Hundreds and thousands of working men have risked the bread required to feed their wives and children in an industrial struggle from which they wished to refrain ; but they were loyal men and honorable comrades, and, just as soldiers who might not believe in the justice of a war would still fight on, they have stood together as honest men. They do not play the part of traitors. We see, in fact, that there is something more than this. A condition is set up which exposes a man to universal hatred amongst his class if he vindicates his personal opinion against the decision of the majority.

Mr Thomas - That is only as regards the pledge in respect to that platform.

Mr REID - I admit that, but I am going beyond it.

Mr Thomas - We stop there.

Mr REID - I am aware of that; but taking the liberty of expressing an- opinion - for it is now a matter not of platform, but of opinion - I must say that my view of the Labour Party's pledge and platform and association, is that, in a sense, they place it in a situation altogether different from that in which other, parties find themselves if one of their number breaks away.

Mr Thomas - Breaks away in regard to one of the planks of the platform.

Mr REID - In regard to anything.

Mr Thomas - The right honorable member is under a misapprehension as to the Labour Party's pledge. I voted in support of the right honorable member on one occasion.

Mr REID - I hope that I am not misunderstood. I quite admit that a member of the Labour Party is at liberty to break away from his brother members on any question that is not included in the platform, and to attend the next meeting of the caucus. But what I wish to say is that any corporate union - whether it be a union of labour or a union of lawyers, and especially if it be a union for political purposes - must offer a temptation to sink individual conscience and individual judgment rather than that a member of it should incur the disgrace of separating from his fellows.

Mr Thomas - The same remark will apply to the right honorable member's own party.

Mr REID - In a different sense, the position is the same.

Mr Hutchison - Is the right honorable member aware that we do not take votes in caucus on questions outside our platform?

Mr REID - I have never been there.

Mr Watson - There is plenty of time.

Mr REID - I have another remark to make, and I think it is a practical one that will commend itself to the experience of honorable members. I will assume everything to be as my honorable friend opposite has put it. I will assume that in regard to any matter which is not included in their platform, the members of the Labour Party have absolute freedom, and that they do not even go to a vote upon it in caucus. But we know the strong individuality of my honorable friends opposite. They are fighters, every one of them, and I desire the House to contemplate the marvellous influence of this trades union as shown by the fact that with all these reckless, hot-headed democrats who, save in a few respects, are not tied down - and with these exceptions do not even go to a vote in caucus - not one of its members ever breaks out in the House. In the ' party opposite we have a military force that can fire as many volleys as it likes, but never fires a shot.

Mr Watson - It shows a singleness of purpose that other parties do not display.

Mr REID - Quite so. That singleness of purpose is a tacit agreement on the part of the Labour Party to fight out all their differences -in secret caucus, and to stand before this House and the people of Australia as if they were an united party.

Mr Watson - Just as the right honorable member's party is now doing.

Mr REID - If we are doing so I hope that we shall' be exposed to public censure.

Mr Watson - Not at all.

Mr REID - So far as my own party is concerned, I know that I have not yet got them like a lot of performing dogs.

Mr Watson - They are said to be coming to . heel fairly well.

Mr REID - I venture to assert that my honorable friend the Prime Minister has not more weight with his party than I have with mine, and that he probably possesses no greater experience in managing men; but I congratulate him on having tamed a particularly wild number of specimens.

Mr Watson - We see to what extent the right honorable member has succeeded.

Mr REID - If the attitude of the Labour Party represents an absolute uniformity of belief we ought to begin to turn out humanity by machinery.

Mr Watson - The right honorable member may accept my assurance that matters outside the platform are not submitted to a vote in the caucus.

Mr REID - I do accept that assurance.

Mr Watson - But the right honorable member appeared to imply some doubt as to it.

Mr REID - I merely congratulate the honorable gentleman upon the excellence of his trained- performers. The attitude to which I have referred is described as singleness of purpose. I congratulate my honorable friend. Imagine my endeavouring to tame the honorable and learned member for Werriwa !

Mr Watson - He would not break away.

Mr REID - He is still breaking away.

Mr Watson - But he is always with the party.

Mr REID - I have been dealing with a matter which is in the general platform of the Labour Party, and has not yet been universally adopted ; but I propose now to come to the seven planks of the fighting platform with which every one will admit we have now some concern. ' I did not care much what the Labour Party's platform was, and, as a matter of fact, was not accurately acquainted with it until the present Ministry came into office.

Mr Watson - It seems that the right honorable member and his friends ascertained the programme fairly quickly when they had to draw up a programme for themselves.

Mr REID - Perhaps so; but after all I was really not so frightened as the honorable gentleman would suggest.

Mr Watson - The right honorable member obtained a good grip of the programme.

Mr REID - At all events we got on very well. I come now to an item in the fighting platform of the Labour Party which is certainly within the range of practical politics. The Ministry come before us with this item in their platform, "Nationalization of monopolies." ' " Nationalization " is a fairly long- word, and I hope that everyone understands it. If ever there was a plank which would unite our party with the Protectionist Party it is this.

Mr Watson - Unite them to form monopolies ?

Mr REID - Certainly not. The honorable gentleman must not put words into my mouth.

Mr Watson - I merely asked the question.

Mr REID - And I shall answer it. This is a euphemistic way of declaring a principle which is deserving of serious consideration, but which ought to be more plainly stated. This item in the programme does not mean a greater advancement in political freedom ; it doesnot mean a greater development of the principle of equality ; it does not mean non-interference with liberty. As expressed in the programme, it means the trampling down of every form of human individual liberty in the Commonwealth. I know that my honorable friends opposite have never dreamt of such a thing ; but really the tobacco monopoly is the most attractive form of appealing to the lower appetites of the greater number of the electors of Australia.

Mr Fisher - Does the right honorable member really believe that is so?

Mr REID - This platform begins by promising a cheap smoke to the hundreds and thousands of people in Australia who use tobacco.

Mr Watson - Oh no !

Mr REID - Does it mean dear tobacco ?

Mr Watson - No. It means that the profits realized from the sale of tobacco at the same rates as previously existed will be conserved to the State.

Mr REID - Now we- know where we are. There is to be no relief to the taxridden consumers of tobacco and cigars. All the profits are to go into the coffers of the Treasury. This, then, is the national policy ; but do not let my honorable friends opposite go into the back country and say that their proposal means tobacco .for nothing.

Mr Hughes - We give nothing for nothing.

Mr REID - This " nationalization of monopolies " is another term for the destruction of individual liberty in industry. What does the use of the word "nationalization" in this item of the platform mean? It means that the moment the dominant labour power can say that an industry is a monopoly they will be able to absolutely take it out of the hands of every individual, whether employer or worker, in the Commonwealth, and to constitute it a State or a national industry. Why stop at monopolies? If it is a good thing to nationalize one industry is it not a good thing to nationalize every industry?

Mr Batchelor - Certainly not.

Mr REID - My honorable friend is now "Yes-No."

Mr Watkins - - Following the right honorable member's bad example.

Mr REID - Now that my honorable friend the Minister for Home Affairs has come to see ' that great matters have to .be considered from both sides, he is developing a capacity for looking upon both sides, which is faithfully represented by the words T have used. Extremists always look upon a man who can see something on the other side as a man of that character. My honorable friend's mental horizon has been widely enlarged by the responsibilities of office.

Mr Watson - It is not a recent development. The honorable gentleman held office for nearly as long as the right honorable member.

Mr REID - I beg the honorable gentleman's pardon. Living a thousand miles away from the scene of his i about s, I was not aware that my honorable friend was so distinguished a Minister. I may remark that what I have heard has not at all diminished the regard which I entertain for the honorable gentleman. In the fighting platform, and in the general platform,' there is put before us the opportunity to extend the hand of the law over the whole sphere of liberty in industry. I stand against that policy. There are some aspects ©f Socialism which are as true, in my humble judgment, as are the truths of Christianity.' I have never used the term "Socialism" as necessarily a term of offensiveness. The man who takes :np that term, and denounces it as repre senting everything that is bad, has not thought deeply of what is really meant by it. Are not our systems of railways and telegraphs an aspect of Socialism ? And yet they are, I think, the wisest development of Governmental' power that could be suggested. I say. that, because, in mv opinion, the railways are intimately associated with the powers of Government and the position of the country districts in a thousand ways, quite apart from the mere carrying industry. But what I say is that my policy will always be that of leaving to the individual the utmost liberty, political and industrial - to the point . at which it is not demanded as a sacrifice to some great public interest. For instance, take the Arbitration Bill, and although, to my view, it is absolutely alien to the true principles upon which a civil compact should be based, we must view the danger which threatened to overwhelm the community with .discord and strife as something for which" it is worth while to make a sacrifice.

Mr Watson - That is precisely our view with respect to" monopolies.

Mr REID - I am glad that my honorable friend expresses that view, but he has already expressed the opinion that we should have uniform industrial legislation in a form which involves an amendment of the Constitution of Australia. Tha'. is one of the planks of his policy. I desire to thank my honorable friends opposite for the perfectly fair way in which they have allowed me to express these opinions. At the opening of a great political fight, I desire to speak with the utmost frankness, so that, whatever reproaches may be cast upon me, my honorable friends will know precisely what my attitude is. From my point of view, therefore, the situation is a very serious one. I admit that it would not be a serious one if it were a mere question of majority rule. Because majority rule has no virtue in it at all, except as associated with the existence of common principles of action. If there is an honorable member in this House who believes in the policy of the Labour Party - not the first glimpse of it as shown in the Ministerial programme, but in the whole policy of the party - I say that, wherever he sits, he ought to support it, whether he is in the party or out of" it. But I could not, perhaps, mention a stronger illustration of the cast-iron nature of the compact which divides our honorable friends of the Labour Party from other public men than the position of the learned Attorney-General, than whom, I suppose, there is no greater democrat in Australia. I am told that doctors are not excluded ; I know that lawyers are admitted, or are allowed to remain, and what is there that prevents the AttorneyGeneral, a true democrat, and a member of a Labour Ministry from becoming a member of the labour caucus?

Mr Watson - Nothing at all, so far as I can ' see.

Mr REID - That is a very fortunate position when the Prime Minister holds the key of the door, and has the absolute power of saying that nothing prevents him from letting any man in. My honorable friend has got the key of the. door to the labour caucus, and he is, no doubt, perfectly right in saying that nothing prevents his own colleague, the learned Attorney-General, or the honorable member for Hume, Sir William Lyne, entering that door if they will sign the pledge. Since there is no obstacle on the part of the Prime Minister and his friends of the labour caucus, there must be some obstacle in the mind . of the Attorney-General.

Mr Watson - May we not have an alliance similar to that which the honorable gentleman has now with other honorable members?

Mr REID - Certainly. But I desire to point my observations as to the inconvenience of this cast-iron organization of the party opposite by a statement of the fact that even a dear friend and a colleague in the Ministry cannot enter the' caucus.

Mr Fisher - Oh, yes he can.

Mr REID - He cannot, and as a rnatter of fact he has not done so.

Mr Watson - Give him time.

Mr REID - That is it. The Ministry have been all along saying to us, " Give us time. ' Just let us get strong enough to deal with you." If there are honorable members who are prepared to do that, all right. Now I mention another name, thai of one of the supposed democrats of Australia. I allude to Sir William Lyne. My honorable friends opposite look surprised. Here is another situation. After I had, by our alliance, been able to do something, my honorable friends of the Labour Party came to the conclusion that since I had got all I wanted, I was not as useful to them as I had been before. They seemed to think they could do more with some one else. I have never accused them of being too virtuous over that , £350, because I have admitted that most men ri their position would be entitled to exercise their judgment for the benefit of the principles in which they believe. I admit that the Labour Party in ejecting me from office were acting perfectly honorably and consistently with their principles. At the time there were elements of difference between us. I was not prepared to go so far as my honorable friends wished me to go, notably on the question of the Compulsory Arbitration Bill. I thought at the time that it was better that the existing Act, which had just been passed, should be given a chance, and I said that if it proved ineffective I should be quite prepared to go further. On that occasion I had the idea that I should be given time, but my honorable friends did not appear to think it worth while to give me time.

Mr Watson - We gave the right honorable member five years.

Mr Hughes - We introduced an earlyclosing measure which settled the right honorable gentleman.

Mr REID - There were some features connected with that matter of which I might make use by way of reflecting upon certain inconveniences to be found even in the labour caucus, but those inconveniences exist in connexion with other parties, and it would not be fair to make a special use of them. I have never done so, and I have let that go. I am one of' the strongest political opponents of the honorable member for Hume, as every one knows. We have always been very strong in our differences, particularly on the fiscal question. But it is only fair to say about him that no Minister in Australia ever carried a larger number of measures which the Labour Party had at heart in the same space of time than he did.

Mr Watson - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - Of course, my honorable friend must not forget that our preliminary fighting had cleared the way a greatdeal for what followed. But, after making all fair allowance, it is only fair to thehonorable member for Hume to say that the action of the Labour Party in turningout the Reid Government was thoroughly, justified by the legislation which they got.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He floated in onthe flood-tide.

Mr REID - Still I do not wish to seethe honorable gentleman stranded now.

Mr Watson - We appreciate the right honorable gentleman's concern for the honorable member.

Mr REID - Surely he is an eligible public man for admission to the Labour Party ? I do not know what would become of the party if he were admitted. This is a matter which it has to consider, because it has some of the attributes of a crockery shop after all. Have you not some method by which that old and venerable politician who has done so much for you-

Suggest corrections