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Tuesday, 24 May 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Will the Minister proceed ?

Mr HUGHES - An interjection which lasts during the whole course of a speech is unduly prolonged. I say that none of these things can now help the right honorable gentleman. In spite of all, he is where he is ; and the difference, although only some four or five feet as represented by this table, involves a measure of climate and temperature more extreme than that of the day before yesterday, compared with that of to-day ' in Victoria. Even the right honorable gentleman's ruddy countenance becomes bluer as the days pass on. The arctic winds that rustle under his legs and waft around his luxuriant proportions bring home to him that he has made a great mistake, and that not only the people of Australia, but, particularly, members of this Chamber, recognise the position, and intend to act accordingly. The right honorable gentleman said that the Labour Party is a party whose . platform tends towards Socialism. He was not here when I read an extract from the report of a Victorian Select Committee in reference to tobacco monopoly ; but, so far as our platform is concerned, what if it does tend towards Socialism? I ask any man or any woman in the country whether he or she can show that that is not the trend of all governmental action in this country, and governmental action almost the world over. The world moves towards Socialism, not by choice, but by compulsion ; and if I am to express in a few words my attitude on the matter, I can place the position before honorable members. The right honorable gentleman said that we would take away liberty from men - that we would deprive them of individual freedom of action. I say that every time there is restriction put on my freedom and my liberty I detest it ; per se, all restriction is alike undesirable; freedom unrestricted, pure and unadulterated, is the desire of every man. But every man also knows that civilization makes demands which are incompatible with unrestricted freedom. It is, then, only a question of degree - a question ' of directing our attention to the concrete fact in front of us. We are not a party of dreamers ; we dream no dreams. The right honorable gentleman says that we halt on the wayside now ; that we do not go far enough. That has never been his accusation in the past. For years the Labour Party stood by him and were regarded as practical men - admirable men. We dealt with each concrete proposal as it came up. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat never had occasion to say that we dealt with anything more than the programme in front of us. The occasion calls forth the remedy ; and there is our programme, showing to the world the direction in which we are going. But we take, as the world takes, and as sensible men know they must take, one step at a time. The position of parties in this Parliament is an absolute guarantee that we shall not take a step of which the House disapproves, or the country does not sanction. Under these circumstances, why say, because our movement tends towards Socialism; that that is sufficient reason for our not being where we are? To say that the Labour Party goes towards Socialism is only to say that it goes where all parties are compelled to go ; and it is now a question, not between- unrestricted freedom and Socialism, but a question whether the plutocratic monopolist, who restricts the freedom of all other men, is not more undesirable than restriction by the State itself, which, by restricting his freedom, extends the freedom of all other men. That is the whole question - whether the few shall be restricted that the many may have greater freedom, or whether the few may be unrestricted in order, that the many may be hampered. I ask the honorable member for Lang, who is a pledged land nationalist - who, if he could, and had the courage of his opinion, would nationalize all land to-morrow -

Mr Johnson - Nothing of the kind; I believe in the single-tax principle.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member for Lang would impose, and is pledged to impose, by reason of the organization to which he belongs, a land tax of 4d. in the £1 at the very least.

Mr Johnson - Nothing of the kind !

Mr HUGHES - What a falling off! I understand that while the honorable member holds these opinions in regard to land nationalization he does not intend to put them into force.

Mr Johnson - Does the Minister intend to out his opinions into force ?

Mr HUGHES - I do.

Mr Johnson - Has the Minister , ever done anything in that direction?

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask honorable members not to interject so constantly ; otherwise it will be impossible for the Minister to proceed.

Mr HUGHES - One word in regard to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and I have done. That honorable and learned member objects to minority rule. But it has been pointed out by the AttorneyGeneral that minority rule has always been in force in the Commonwealth, and has been general in the States. I would remind the honorable and learned - member for Ballarat that he was prepared to go into a coalition, of which he was not to be a component part, but to be as one hovering on its flanks, ready at any moment, if -it halted in its stride, or turned from the path which he had hewn out for it. to fall on it with horse, foot, and artillery, and oust it from its position. I ask, in what essential particular does he. and those gentlemen who were to act with him^ differ from a third party? It would be a different third party, it is true, but a very real third party, nevertheless. We do not deny that formerly the Labour Party held the balance of power. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat proposed to substitute for the Labour Party a party, himsslf , a party numerically smaller, but nevertheless holding complete the balance of power, and if the coalition did not do what he desired, the honorable and learned gentleman would withdraw his phalanx, and, fighting with us, the coalition must go out. How can he urge against us that we represent only a minority, and a third party abomination, when in ' the interview with him, reported only in to-day's Age, he claims, as an additional guarantee, that the coalition would do what he said it would, that he was there, unhampered by office, ready to take the action which he thought necessary. He is reported to have said -

My own freedom from Cabinet ties would have,

I hope, afforded another guarantee to my parti - for what it was worth- against it being taken by surprise or caught at a disadvantage.

There is the position.

Mr O'Malley - Read the Age leader.

Mr HUGHES - It is urged against us, by my honorable and learned friend, that there ought to be no third party, that both parties should have a clear run, if there is to be a coalition at all, with members on this side. I think I have sufficiently explained that, and I hope I have given a satisfactory explanation. With my right honorable friend, the member for East Sydney, who has urged many things against us, I have already dealt. All I have to say, in addition, is that the right honorable gentleman does not complain of the Ministerial' programme. The honorable and learned'member for Ballarat says that we only profess to do somethng in each of two sessions, and we say nothing of a possible third session. He says that the proposed Coalition Government did propose to do something for three years; for the whole of this Parliament. Yet I say there are not two ' programmes> but one programme, and how, then, can we put forward less than honorable gentlemen opposite. Our programmes are identical ; the Age notices it, the Daily Telegraph emphasizes it, and the whole of the people of Australia have noted it, and have dwelt upon it with a certain amount of amusement as well as- of satisfaction.

Sir John Forrest - How can they be the same?

Mr HUGHES - The programmes being the same, it ought to take the same time to give effect to them. But perhaps the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is aware of the methods of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and knows that that right honorable gentleman can take as long to get one measure through as the leader- of any other Government would take to put half-a-dozen through. ' I remember the Tight honorable gentleman's expression in 1894, in the New South Wales Parliament, " Turn the fossils out." There is no man who has been . a member of the Parliament of New South Wales who does not remember the dramatic gesture with which the right honorable gentleman turned to the serried ranks of the Legislative Councillors, who were behind the bar in the Legislative Assembly with the expression, "Turn' the fossils out." The fossils are still there. The right honorable gentleman went to the country with a policy of exemptions, and he came back with a majority, with our aid. But he had to endure what' the fossils insisted upon, and the fossils still reign supreme; and they now fall upon his neck and call him their saviour and their champion.

Mr Reid - I have never had one of the old gentlemen on my neck yet.

Mr HUGHES - We do not appeal for fair play. We do not appeal for consideration. We demand them because of our programme, because of our principles, because of our record, and because of our action. We demand to be tried upon these . things, and upon no subtlydrawn distinctions intended to bewilder people and disguise the issue now before us. This party comes constitutionally into office ; this party is. here by the will of the House and the will of the people ; and it is for this party, like all other parties, to be tried upon its measures, its actions, and its administration. I believe there is a majority of the members of this House, as I believe there is a majority of the people outside this House, who hold that this Government, like other Governments that have gone before it, ought to have a fair show.

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