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Tuesday, 24 May 1904

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - I do not wish to unduly prolong this extraordinary debate on the unique spectacle presented by both the followers of the late Government and the Opposition, but many statements have been made that call for some reply. We have the honorable and learned member for Ballarat telling us that he resigned because of the position of parties, as if we had been faced for the first time with the existence of three parties, all of them in a minority, in this House. I venture to say that that was precisely the position of the last Parliament, and that no section of this House could have held office save for the support of a second party. That, indeed, has been the position of the Parliaments in most of the States of the Commonwealth, and it is one with which we are likely to be faced for some time to come.

Mr Robinson - Not in the Victorian Parliament.

Mr HUTCHISON - It will be the position unless the Labour Party in this and some of the States Parliaments continue to make the rapid advances which have lately marked their progress. I would ask the honorable and learned member, for Ballarat why is it wrong for a Labour Government to be dependent on the support of another party, and yet right for the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, or the right honorable member for East

Sydney - whb occupied that position for quite a number of years in the State Parliament of New South Wales - to hold office in such circumstances? The right honorable member for Adelaide occupied a similar position in South Australia, and yet nothing went wrong ; but, as soon as the Labour Party come into power, we have a thousand and one reasons advanced in support of the contention that their position is unconstitutional. If it is unconstitutional to hold office in such circumstances, it has always been so, and it is surprising that the unconstitutionality of the position was never discovered before. No reason has been advanced for the contention.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Labour Party form an alliance that will make I the position of the Government constitutional.

Mr HUTCHISON - I venture to think that when a vote is taken it will be found that the Ministry have a majority, unless some honorable members go back on the pledges they have given during the last few days. Has it not been demonstrated that all sections of the House are in accord with the Government programme?


Mr HUTCHISON - I contend that it has, and that being the case, the _ Government must have a majority behind it. _ The intention of honorable members opposite is, we are told, to establish majority rule. But we have always had, and always will have, majority rule in Australia. We cannot place any measure on the statute-book unless it be agreed to by the majority, and that being so, it must be seen that we have had, from first to last, majority rule in the Parliaments of Australia. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat tells us also that his Ministry resigned Because the amendment made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, on the motion of a member of the Labour Party, meant an interference with States rights. I wish only to point out that it is impossible for this House to usurp any of the rights of the States, and that, therefore, there can be nothing in the contention put forward by the honorable and learned member. We cannot usurp any right that is not given to us by the Constitution. The States themselves will take care that we do not, and they have the protection of the High Court, to which they may appeal whenever they desire to do so. When the honorable and learned member was giving some of his reasons for seeking to bring about a coalition, he made certain statements in regard to the Labour Party, which I heard with astonishment. I know that he has always spoken well of the party, and I think he will admit that they are deserving of commendation for the support ' they extended to him. The honorable and learned member asserts, however, that the Labour Party have invariably opposed with the greatest fierceness those candidates whose views most nearly approximated to their platform. That, at all events, cannot be said of the Labour Party in South Australia.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It can be said of South Sydney.

Mr HUTCHISON - Mr. Speakerwas never opposed by the Labour Party in South Australia, nor was the right honorable member for Adelaide. On the contrary, we have always worked to secure their return.

Mr Kelly - Would it be of any avail to oppose them?

Mr Tudor - We may oppose the honorable and learned member for Ballarat next.

Mr Deakin - There is no objection.

Mr HUTCHISON - The point is not whether it would be of any use to oppose the honorable members I have mentioned. Our position is that as soon as we discover an opponent of our principles, we fight against him. We have, further, been told that in the attempt to bring about the coalition, there was no sinking of principles. I fail to see how free-traders and protectionists, Radicals, Liberals, and Conservatives, can unite unless they are going to sink some principle.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such a combination is seen in the Government which the honorable member supports.

Mr HUTCHISON - The members of the Labour Party may sink their identity; but it cannot be said that any member of the party- in this or in any other Parliament has ever attempted to make an alliance on the lines attempted during the last few days by certain honorable members.

Mr Johnson - Are there no free-traders and protectionists in the Labour Party?

Mr HUTCHISON - Undoubtedly there are; but we consider that the fiscal issue is only of secondary importance. We were invited, of course, by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to join his party organization; but where is it now, and what are the principles which it holds? Our principles, as has been stated by the right honorable member for East Sydney, are in black and white. Honorable members who support the Labour Party know precisely what they are expected to approve, and how far they are asked to go. But when we are invited to form a coalition with some other party, we have to take them on trust, and it appears to me that there has been a good deal of distrust shown in regard to the two parties which have been trying to make an alliance during the past few days - an alliance which, as has been rightly pointed out by the honorable member for Grey, was attempted to be formed in spite of the statement of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that nothing would be done until the policy of the Ministry had been outlined. It has been said that the Labour Party is a narrow and exclusive body. I have never known of a bar against any elector in the Commonwealth joining the Labour Party ; there is none. I have been a member of the Labour Party of South Australia from its inception. At the time it was established I was an employer of labour, not connected with a union, and yet I was eligible to hold the highest position in it.

Mr Fowler - We always insist on respectability.

Mr HUTCHISON - It depends on how that term is to be denned; but one thing on which we always did insist was that there should be loyalty to our principles,, and I am glad to say that that loyalty has always been exhibited. But there has been nu bar against the admission of any citizen Age to-day. I have the greatest respect for the honorable member> and I am unwilling to believe that he. would wilfully misrepresent the party of which I am a member. In justice to himself, as well as to the Labour Party, he ought to have asked one of us to state the lines on which our party is constituted. But, instead of doing so,' he says to the Age interviewer : -

My objection to the Labour Party is that its members are not free agents. They are bound by organizations outside Parliament. These organizations are drawn exclusively from one section of the community, and they cannot be expected to frame a programme in the interests of the whole people.

In the first place, I desire to say that the members of the Labour Party are drawn from every section of the community. It includes squatters, farmers, shopkeepers, all kinds of employers of labour, and when our principles are better known, we shall have a good many more of the employing classes in our ranks than we have now. The honorable member will see that he was under an entire misapprehension in saving that the members' of the Labour "Party are drawn from only one section of the community. The measures on the statutebooks of the States will show that the Labour Party have always legislated for the whole community, more particularly for the producers. In South Australia, the Labour Party have gained very little industrially, but they have done a great deal for the producers. They have given the producers legislation more liberal than obtains in any other State. They have given them a State Export ^Department and a State Bank. They have passed legislation that has been the means of settling 10,000 persons on small blocks of land. I think that, in the face of these facts, it cannot be said that we have legislated for only one section of the community. No doubt the honorable member for Gippsland thoroughly believed that what he was saying to the Age was quite correct, but it is regrettable that he did not consult some members of our party before he made these statements. In the interview he goes on to say -

The ultimate end of the Party - the nationalization of all industry, capital, and land, and the equal distribution of profits among the whole people - is in my opinion utterly impossible of attainment, and most undesirable, too.

I wonder where he discovered that it was any part of the policy of the Labour Party that we should nationalize all industries and divide the profits equally among the people. In the first place, under a co-operative Commonwealth, there can be no profits, and consequently there is no intention of dividing them equally that I have heard of. On the contrary, we should do just precisely what we are doing with our socialistic institutions at the present time. I have never heard a suggestion by any member of the Labour Party or any Socialist that we should pay a Deputy Postmaster-General precisely the same salary as a postman, or a Commissioner of Railways the same salary as a porter. To say that we should is absurd and ridiculous. We intend to give every member of the community with brains and ability an opportunity of rising which he does not possess under the system of private enterprise. The honorable member for Gippsland goes still further when he says -

The Labour Party's methods of stifling the voice of the minority in the caucus and making that minority vote in the House against its convictions in order to secure a victory, is destructive of the principle of majority rule.

I desire to tell the House that the only questions on which labour members are bound to act together are those which appear on their platform. On these questions they are pledged to their electors just as every other honorable member is pledged to his electors on some question or other. Are not other members of the House, equally with the members of our party, bound to respect their pledges? But outside those pledges we are entirely free. In our caucus we come to no conclusion in regard to any question outside our platform ; we take no vote. We come here not bound to vote in a certain way, but as free as the honorable member for Gippsland is himself in regard to any question on which we are not pledged to our constituents. I feel that I am in duty bound to call the attention of the House to misrepresentations which I will admit are not wilful, and T trust that before other honorable members attempt to criticise the Labour Party in the press they will make themselves a little more sure of their information than he has done. I do not mind being fairly criticised to the fullest extent by an opponent whom I will always respect, so long as I think he is conscientiously advocating what he believes in. In the same issue of - the Age I find a statement by another honorable member, who does not come out in the open like the honorable member for Gippsland and give us a chance to reply to his remarks. It reads as follows : -

Long before he listened to the overtures Mr. Reid made to him through Mr. Sydney Smith, Mr. Deakin had privately and publicly let the Labour Party know that he must very soon be compelled to favorably consider a coalition of some kind, in'order to prevent a split amongst the liberal protectionists. Instead of letting Mr. Deakin know that they had, before giving a definite response to the invitation, to consult their organizations - a long process, as all Australia had to be covered- in order to pave the way to a Liberal-Labour coalition, the Labour leaders gave no sign.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is only a dummy that they keep in the Age office.

Mr HUTCHISON - If it is only a-, dummy I think that honorable membersought to protest against any newspaper publishing statements like these as emanating; from a member of the House.

Mr Johnson - The fact that it emanates, from the Age office is its refutation.

Mr HUTCHISON - Neither the PrimeMinister nor the Labour Party had. any need to consult any organization in. regard to a Liberal-Labour coalition. If it: had been thought that it would be in thebest interests of the country to have a LiberalLabour coalition we were quite at liberty to form one. I listened with some surpriseto a few statements by the honorable member for New England. He practically said that if wages were reduced through the operation of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act the men would not accept the decision. What has been our experience of the Arbitration Act placed upon the statute-book in South Australia at the instance of the right honorable member for Adelaide? That Act contains no compulsory sections; yet we have had a number of disputes settled by the President of the Conciliation Court established under it. Not so very long ago the tobacco trade submitted a dispute to the President of the Court, and it was ruled that there ought to be a reduction of wages. The men bowed to the decision, and have been acting under it for years. There was no compulsion whatever upon the unionists to accept the decision ; it was simply permissive. If the men are willing to accept a decision which lowers wages under a voluntary Con dilation Act, is it not more likely that they will accept a decision under a compulsory Act, even though they may not be satisled with it? I believe that, even if they are not satisfied, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they will loyally abide by the result. We make laws for the protection of life and property. In spiteof those laws, offences are committed every day. But how much more often would they be committed if ' there were no laws on the subject ? I am quite satisfied that, whatever the defects of an arbitration law may be, it will be a great blessing to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, just as- it has proved to be to the workers: of New Zealand. The honorable member for New England told us. that the object of the Bill is merely to give an advantage to an aristocracy of labour. I think he ought to have stated to the House exactly what parts of the Bill he referred to. No one is excluded who chooses to take advantage of the measure, and its provisions are designed to confer benefits on the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for North Sydney made the remark that it was proposed to abandon some of the public servants. I am quite satisfied that the Labour Party will never abandon any principle which they have advocated. They have not done so in this case. The Prime Minister stated clearly last session that he was not satisfied that the whole of the public servants could be included under the Arbitration Bill. I myself, in speaking on the question, stated that I had a doubt, on account of the word "industrial" being used in the Constitution, whether every public servant could be included. I was quite prepared to include the whole of them, but I had a doubt. Our legal authorities were entirely at variance, and I expressed the opinion that we should have the point settled by the High Court. ' ' \ 4

Mr Robinson - Why does not the Government carry out that course ?

Mr HUTCHISON - It will be quite time enough for the honorable and learned member to ask that question when an amendment which I find has been placed on our files is dealt with. He will find that every member of the Labour Party who has pledged himself to the inclusion of the State servants will vote for it. We were indebted to the right honorable member for East Sydney for an opinion in regard to this very provision. He told us that the whole of the public servants are included under the Arbitration Bill as brought down by the Government. If that be so it settles the whole matter. It is quite in order for

Any private member to do precisely what the honorable member for Kennedy and the Minister for Customs did - to stand up in his place and move an amendment, if he is so minded. The members of our party are free agents. They are not bound by the caucus in regard to such details. We are quite at liberty to move in regard to such matters, just as any other honorable member can do. The honorable member for North Sydney told us that the Labour Party only sunk the fiscal issue when they sought office. I do not think that that statement can be supported. The fiscal issue was sunk in the only way it could be - by a conf erence of representatives of the whole of the Labour Party throughout the Commonwealth. That was held at. a time when there was no prospect of office whatever.

I think the honorable member for North Sydney did the Labour Party an injustice when he said that they sought office at any time.


Mr HUTCHISON - They have not sought office on this occasion, though they are not going to shirk responsibility when it is practically thrust upon them. I am sorry that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat should have seen fit to resign on such a question. There was not a member of the Labour Party - certainly not a member of the present Ministry - who thought that it was one which should have been made vital to the existence of the Government.

Mr Johnson - He got tired of labour domination.

Mr HUTCHISON - If the honorable and learned member for Ballarat got tired of labour domination, I pity him if he gets into the camp of the honorable member for Lang. He will have a far worse domination there. The honorable member for North Sydney further stated that a bribe was offered by the Labour Party to those who support it. What was the bribe offered to bring the two parties opposite together? Were they going to be at each others throats when the next election takes place? Does the honorable member believe that if those two parties entered into a coalition, he would be opposed by an ex-Ministerialist? Let me tell the honorable member that the position is simply this : that whatever the members of the- Ministry or the Labour Party in this House may propose, we have organizations that will dispose. It has been clearly stated that, when the time comes to seek the suffrages of the electors once more, it will be made clear that no bribe whatever has been offered. Quite a number of honorable members came over to this side of the House before they knew what the Labour Party intended to propose. They took us on trust. They knew perfectly well that we were not likely to give a bribe. And none has been given. I was astonished that the honorable member for North Sydney should have put the matter in that form. Then he went on to say, as has been said over and over again since I came into this House, that Socialism means equal distribution.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, excuse me, I never said that.

Mr HUTCHISON - The honorable member read an opinion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of Mr. Bradlaugh ; and I said that that was Communistic Socialism.

Mr HUTCHISON - Why should the honorable member raise the question of Communistic Socialism at this particular juncture, when no member of the Labour Party advocates it?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member misunderstands me. He did not hear me afterwards say that State Socialists desire unequal distribution, and that I understood the Labour Party were State Socialists.

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes, I heard that remark; but we ought to be very careful in dealing with statements of that kind, because newspapers have a habit of reporting, probably, only one part of a speech, and it is necessary to make it clearly understood that we do not advocate Communistic Socialism. The honorable member for North Sydney also said that because he supported nationalized railways or post-offices, he might be called a Socialist. I say that certainly the honorable member may be called a Socialist, if he is not prepared to hand over those services to private enterprise.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not admit that I am a Socialist.

Mr HUTCHISON - Then the honorable member does not deny that he is a Socialist.


Mr HUTCHISON - While the honorable member supports these nationalized services it is fair to put him down as a State Socialist, to the extent, at any rate, of not interfering with existing nationalized works. The honorable member for New England has told us that public works undertaken by Governments did not pay - that they cannot be carried out as cheaply as by private enterprise. I tell the honorable member that in South Australia a great many public works have been carried out departmentally, and the Engineer-in-Chief gave evidence before a Royal Commission only' the other day, stating that he had never superintended any work that was not done more cheaply than it could have been done by private enterprise. We are also told by him that many of these works were tendered for, and that in every instance the Departments did the work more cheaply; and. further, that there has been no exception to this rule. Of course, I can understand that there have been failures in some directions. But it must be remembered that our socialistic works have been conducted by individualists who have no sympathy with the principle, and who were not concerned in making the works a success, but concerned rather in making them a failure. I contend that, if some of our nationalized- works were undertaken by Socialists, a better balancesheet would be shown at the end of the following year. I shall conclude my few remarks by stating that so far as I have been able to gather from' all sections of the House during this debate, the present Ministry have a right to demand a fair trial. Members of every section of the House have admitted that they are entirely in sympathy with the programme; and, that being so, the Government ought to have extended to them the same fair play that the Labour Party have extended in the past, and, I trust, will extend in the future, to any Ministry which maj' be in office.

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