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Thursday, 26 May 1904

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - As one of those who assisted in displacing the late Government, and rendering it possible for the Labour Party to come into power, I should like to state briefly the reasons which actuate me in declining to sit on the Ministerial benches, or to support the Ministry in any way. I have more than one ground, I think, for taking that attitude, as I shall proceed to show. It is impossible for us not to -sympathize with the aims and objects of the Labour Party, although we have no sympathy with the methods they propose to adopt, because we believe that those methods, so far from increasing the prosperity and contentment of the great bulk of the working classes of Australia, will depress them still more than they have ever been depressed. It is on such grounds that I base my opposition to the party in power and their methods.

Mr Bamford - To which particular method does the honorable and learned member refer?

Mr CONROY - To almost every method that can be employed. You seem to me to be determined to employ wrong methods. Starting out with high aims and high aspirations, vou go the wrong way to work.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The honorable and learned member must address the Chair.

Mr CONROY - The Labour Party go back to the musty-fusty past, arrogate to themselves the name of progressivists, say that they alone have' a knowledge of what is wanted, and lo and behold ! when we come to examine the methods thev propose, we find that they date back to from 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. They are the same as the methods that caused the castes of. India to spring up to-day. If they were carried out to the full, even at the present time, there would be no free men in Australia. When the honorable members at the head of affairs show that they have so little intelligence that they cannot even separate themselves from a common bond or pledge that they must all work together - not because they all have the same ideas, but because a majority of them say that they ought to have the same ideas - then I submit that it is making a laughing stock of this Parliament. We are in this position that we do not know when one of them gets up in the House and delivers himself most forcibly and strongly on a point whether a caucus may not be held the next morning, and he may not enter the House next day and say - "Well, you know what I think about this subject ; but now I am going to speak and vote the other way."

Mr Tudor - That has never occurred yet.

Mr Brown - We have never had that in this House.

Mr CONROY - I shall give an illustration. When the Electoral Bill was going through the House, who insisted so strongly as the Labour Party on enacting the principle of one vote one value, and on altering the very quota of the Constitution Act ?

Mr Mauger - " The end justifies the means."

Mr CONROY - They justified themselves by saying that it was a plank in their platform, and, undoubtedly, it was. Time after time men in the Labour Party rose here and spoke of that very thing, and at the very first opportunity for carrying that idea into effect by providing for the distiibution of the States into, as nearly as possible, electorates of equal value, every one of them went back on his principles, with the single exception of the honorable member for Yarra.

Mr Tudor - What about the honorable members for Canobolas and West Sydney? The honorable and learned member does not know what he is talking about.

Mr CONROY - I beg pardon. With the exception of three members the Labour Party went absolutely against their pledged word in this House.

Mr Tudor - The honorable and learned member is wrong.

Mr CONROY - The effectof that vote was to practically disfranchise hundreds, nay, thousands, of persons in New South Wales. Only yesterday the Minister of Trade and Customs explained that Queensland has not its proper representation. Whv ? Because some men, under a State Act, were allowed to vote in more than one

I electorate; in other words, two per cent, of the people had more votes than they should have had in the various electorates. And yet that Minister, with other members of his party, excepting the three just mentioned, voted to make a difference of over 100 per cent, in some electorates in New South Wales. I am now asked to say that you are a party of consistency, that you stand by your pledged word because it was a plank in the platform which you put specially forward, and which- you absolutely departed from.

Mr SPEAKER -Order ! The honorable member is repeatedly using the second person.

Mr CONROY - If there was one party I sympathized with more than another when I entered this House it was the Labour Party.

Mr Tudor - Sympathized with them?

Mr CONROY - I think that my votes and my attitude on all great questions will show that I did. It is true that I did not always agree with the methods adopted, because they seemed to me to involve a marching back in so many cases) that they ought not to have been brought into a House like this, which laid any claim to advancement. One of the first shocks I received was in connexion with the very vote to which I have referred. When I saw a body of men, with the exception of three, all turn round and vote in quite the other way, it showed me very clearly that they were not keeping to their principles as they should, and I have always regarded them with less favour on that account. At all events, they have come into power. I am not going to question the advisability of selecting a leader from a third party in the House. I have always been of the opinion that there ought to be only two parties here. I am still of opinion that there ought to be a party on the side of the ayes and a party on the side of the noes, and that if the former cannot carry on some person among the latter ought to be askedto lead the House. That, it appears to me, is the simple principle of government. I am not going to argue now how far that principle has been departed from. But I will say that when the Labour Party came into office I was prepared, if their principles were fashioned according to what they really believed, if they showed the same intense earnestness and enthusiasm to carry out their platform that they had displayed in the past, to make some little allowance for their great lapse from virtue, and to wait to see what they would do.

Mr Spence - The honorable and learned member discovered it pretty quickly.

Mr CONROY - I did. ~May Day came, and everybody who has even an elementary knowledge of what the May Day Socialists throughout the world are, and what they profess, would not have dreamed that the Prime Minister of Australia would express his sympathy with them.

Mr O'malley - Did .not the late Prime Minister do it last year?

Mr CONROY - I am not concerned with that question. I do not believe that he did. But if he did, it was clearly in ignorance of the Socialist programme. At all events, it is strange that the head of the Labour Party should not know what the May Day Socialists of the Continent and England propose. The words of the Prime Minister are perfectly clear, and express every sympathy with those men.

Mr Spence - The honorable and learned member for Werriwa says that he has sympathy with the Labour Party.

Mr CONROY - But I did not think the Labour Party would carry their ideas to such extremes. I have sympathy with the Labour Party when they are willing to follow on the lines of sound legislation, but not when they join with a body which proposes the abolition of wagedom, and, therefore, a possible return to slavery ; because, in slave countries, in the absence of wages, the workers are in the position of serfs.

Mr Mahon - Had the honorable and learned member not better prove the connexion first?

Mr CONROY - I shall prove the connexion. The Prime Minister expressed his sympathy with the May Day Socialists.

Mr Mahon - In Australia.

Mr CONROY - Does the PostmasterGeneral mean to' say that there is no connexion between the Socialists here, who hold their celebration on the ist May, and the International Socialists ?

Mr Mahon - I say that the honorable and learned member has not proved the connexion.

Mr CONROY - Does the PostmasterGeneral mean to say that there is no connexion between men who have selected a common celebration day ?

Mr Mahon - Does the common celebration day prove the connexion?

Mr CONROY - Does the PostmasterGeneral mean to say that there is no connexion ?

Mr Mahon - I say that it is the business of the honorable and learned member to prove the connexion.

Mr CONROY - Do I understand that the Postmaster-General disapproves of the action of the Prime Minister in expressing his sympathy with the Socialists?

Mr Mahon - Nothing of the kind; but let the honorable and learned member show the connexion of which he speaks.

Mr CONROY - I shall show that the May Day Socialists are a body with whom decent men ought to have nothing to do - whom decent men ought not to recognise, and against whom our voices ought to be raised loudly.

Mr McDonald - I am a Socialist, and I am just as decent as the honorable and learned member is ever likely to be.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member must be one of those milk-and-water Socialists, who would be condemned by the May Day body, and who does not understand what the latter are. From my personal knowledge of the honorable member I am confident that he has no sympathy with the aims and objects of the men whose opinions I am about to read.

Mr McDonald - I have no sympathy with lunatics of any kind.

Mr CONROY - I shall read the doctrines of the May Day Socialists, so that honorable members may know with what body the Prime Minister has expressed sympathy. For the first organization of the Socialist class, or the great body of that class, we may go back to the time of Karl Marx, and, perhaps, Marx's chief disciple, Engels.

Mr McDonald - The honorable and learned member knows very little of the subject, if he goes only as for back as Karl Marx.

Mr CONROY - I am speaking of the May Day Socialists, of whom the honorable member approves, and not of any other body of men.

Mr Mauger - Why not give us Charles Kingsley's Socialism?

Mr SPEAKER - I must point out that it is quite impossible for the honorable and learned member to proceed, with interjections coming from two or three honorable members at a time, and being constantly repeated. I ask honorable members to give the honorable and learned member for Werriwa an opportunity to express, not the opinions of other honorable members, but his own.

Mr CONROY - Charles Kingsley knew nothing of the May Day Socialists, because their movement had not started in his day. I am now speaking of a particular body of men, with whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ought to have no sympathy. The honorable member has taught in the Sunday schools of the community, and tried to uphold religion; and I should like him to hear a part of the programme of the May Day Socialists, whose principles are published in two newspapers, and issued in no fewer than twelve manifestoes. It is remarkable how, running through all these declarations of doctrines, there is what, if honorable members like, may be called a revolting idea. The only excuse for the expression of sympathy by the Prime Minister must be his ignorance of the Socialist programme, and I expect from him a complete renunciation of the Socialist doctrines as soon as I have explained what thev are. I shall begin with the collective ownership of land and the collective ownership of all means of production. I have nothing to say against those proposals if they can be carried out ; but if a man places his hand on my throat in order to get my share of the world's goods I shall take care to have my two hands on his throat, and my foot on his stomach at the same time. It is just as well to1 let it be understood that there are those amongst us who are prepared to fight for their rights ; and before anything like the programme of the Socialist is possible there must be the bloodiest of wars, in which one side or the other will be completely wiped out. I now draw the attention of honorable members to the second proposal of the Socialists, because there is no doubt that the expression of sympathy by the Prime Minister has been cabled to all the countries of Europe.

Mr Watson - My utterances are not so important.

Mr CONROY - There is no doubt that the Prime Minister's expression of sympathy will be printed in all the Socialist journals. Mark how this proposal in the Socialist programme is disguised : -

Substitution of a free and equal family for the moral and oppressive family in which the wife and children are the slaves of the husband and father.

Mr O'malley - What is meant by that ?

Mr CONROY - The honorable member knows perfectly well what is meant - a subversion of all family ties. Lest there should be any doubt on that point, I shall read a still more open declaration made on behalf of those gentlemen. That declaration is not made in what I can call a mild manner, but in such a fashion that everybody may not, perhaps, be able to fully grasp its meaning. The inner manifesto of the party, however, will fully explain the position. Deville and his party declare that marriage is a regulation of property, and strongly advocate the suppression of all marriage, and the substitution of what is gloriously termed " free love."

Mr O'malley - What kind of business is that?

Mr CONROY - What kind of business is it for the Prime Minister to even seem to approve of ?

Mr Watson - How long is it since these proposals were written, and who approves of them now?

Mr CONROY - I shall show that they are approved of by the very men whom the Prime Minister has mentioned - Karl Marx and Engels. Deville and his party declare -

It is marriage which gives to the possessing class its hereditary character, and thus develops its conservative instinct. Marriage is a regulation of property, a business contract before being a union of persons, and its utility grows out of the economic structure of a society which is based upon individual appropriation. By giving guarantees to the legitimate children, and insuring to them the paternal capital, it perpetuates the domination of the caste which monopolises the productive forces. . . . When property is transformed, and only after that transformation, marriage will lose its reason for existence, and boys and girls may then freely and without fear of censure listen -to the wants and promptings of their nature .... the support of the children will no longer depend upon the chance by birth. Like their instruction, it will become a charge of society.

The reason given is that the support of the children will no longer depend on the " chance of birth." I object to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth publicly sympathizing with people who hold such views as these.

Mr Watson - This is a most ungenerous and unfair attack. The honorable and learned member ought to be ashamed of himself.

Mr CONROY - If the Prime Minister wishes me to say that I do not believe he really does approve---

Mr Watson - It is a most disgusting party move.

Mr CONROY - If the honorable gentleman desires that I should say that I personally believe that he absolutely disapproves of this kind of thing, well and good; but my complaint is that he should never have taken advantage of his position as Prime Minister of this great Commonwealth to allow it to go forth to the world that this is the sort of thing he does approve of. Are not the people of Australia to be considered when it is published abroad that this kind of thing is approved of by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth?

Mr Watson - No one will be so foolish, as to think so.

Mr CONROY - Let me give one statement published in one of the manifestos by these people, and then let honorable members say whether they are right in approving of what is proposed -

Deliver us at last from the phantom called God, who is good only for frightening little child! en. Religions are only trades intended to enable those mountebanks of priests, as Dupis calls them, to grow fat at the people's expense. That is our programme. Moreover, before putting it into execution there will be needed a good blood-letting, brief but copious.

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