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Thursday, 26 May 1904

The SPEAKER - Order. . The honorable and learned member is again transgressing.

Mr CONROY - I know, from the lives and conduct of honorable members opposite, that this sort of thing does not meet with their approval.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable members will find references to concubines in the Bible.

Mr CONROY - Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh mean to say that he is one who cannot be classed as amongst the decent members of the Labour Party.

Mr O'Malley - Would the honorable and learned member condemn the Bible because Solomon had 300 wives or concubines ?

Mr CONROY - I am dealing with what is happening in the world to-day, and I am complaining that the publication of the approval of the opinions of the. May Day Socialists by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in all the countries of the world, will do harm which cannot be overestimated. I can quote something from Mr. Bax, who describes Socialism as an - " Atheistic humanism," which utterly despises the other world, with all its stage properties - "that is the object of religion."

The desire is to put down all churches, priests, and clergy, and he goes on to say that -

Existing theology is so closely identical with the current mode of production, that the two things must stand or fall together.

I am aware of no one amongst the class of May Day Socialists Who has not expressed those opinions.

Mr Thomas - I am a May Day Socialist, and I go to church every Sunday.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member ought to be ashamed to admit it.

Mr Thomas - On the contrary, I am proud of it.

The SPEAKER - Unless the honorable member for Barrier has become a Minister he is not entitled to speak from the Treasurybench.

Mr CONROY - I could quote another May Day Socialist, Herr Bebel, who is at present a member of the German Parliament. The teachings of all the Continental Socialists are subversive of morality: In one of Bebel's works, Woman and Socialism, he puts forward a plea for extreme latitude in love.

Mr Mauger - I would ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable and learned member's remarks are in order - whether they relate to the question which we are at present discussing?

Mr SPEAKER - I have sought to follow the argument of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. I understand that he objects to the present Government, because on a certain occasion the Prime Minister used some expression which the honorable and learned member deems to be an approval of some Socialist programme. If the honorable member so believes, I think that he is quite entitled to indicate what the nature of that programme is.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member is in order, and is indecent, too. I consider the honorable and learned member's conduct positively indecent.

Mr CONROY - I should expect you to say that.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I should be very sorry to proceed to extremes,- but I must point out that repeated disobedience of the calls to order by the Chair merits, and must receive, only one form qf treatment. I must, therefore, ask the honorable and learned member for Werriwa not to transgress any further by addressing honorable members directly, instead of through the Chair.

Mr CONROY - I was led to digress from my subject by the remark of the Prime Minister regarding indecency. It was verv indecent on the part of the Prime Minister to express his approval of sentiments-

Mr SPEAKER - Do I understand the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to object to the phrase used by the Prime Minister? If so, I shall ask him to withdraw it.

Mr CONROY - I do not object.

Mr Watson - I certainly withdraw the expression, if the honorable and learned member objects to it.

Mr CONROY - Guesden, another May Day Socialist, in his Catechism Socialistic, pages 72 - 79, says that the family was useful and indispensable in the past, but it is now only an odious form of property, which must either be transformed or totally abolished, and he conjectures that the time will come when the -

Family relationship will be reduced to that which exists between the mother and child during the period of lactation. He also expresses the opinion that the sexual relations between men, and women will be founded solely upon mutual love and sympathy, and will be as varied, as frequent, and free as intellectual conversation is at the present time.

This is the sort of stuff that is written by the men with whom the Prime Minister expresses his sympathy. Perhaps that is going a little too far ; but I shall be perfectly correct in saying that the Prime Minister has expressed his sympathy with a body, the whole of whose leaders express views of that kind.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable and learned gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself.

Mr CONROY - I am quite prepared to accept the explanation that the Prime Minister did not know what he was doing. I honestly believe that he did not know ; but he has allowed it to go forth to the world that he really indorses the creed of men who hold views such as I have indicated. We know, as a matter of fact, that he does not do so, but before he expressed his approval of such a creed, he should have made himself acquainted with the aims and objects of those who preach it. The announcement that has gone forth to the world constitutes a blot upon the fair name of Australia. Mr. Hyndman, one of the English Socialists, has expressed very much the same views as those I have quoted. He does not see why people should make such a fuss over the proposals of the Socialists. He tells us that -

The family, in the German Christian sense of marriage for life, and responsibility of the parents for the children born in wedlock, is almost at an end even now ;

And he predicts - a complete change in all family relations which must issue in a widely-extended communism.

Mr O'malley - He is another Brigham Young.

Mr CONROY - I am glad . that the honorable member condemns men of that type. When the Prime Minister discovered the grave error he had committed, he should have admitted that he had no idea of the aims and objects of the Socialists, and have utterly disclaimed all sympathy with them. The people of England and Europe know perfectly well what has been advocated by the leaders of the Socialists, and they recognise that some of their writings are so disgraceful that they will not allow Socialist literature to be introduced to their homes. One would have thought that, after the "Prime Minister had started off by making a mistake such as I have referred to, his party would have been prepared to fight for their platform. The Prime Minister has made the statement that the people who governed Australia in the past paid too much attention to the interests of a certain class. We may accept that. He then went on to say that, because of that the people would have to stand up for their rights, and undo much that had previously been done. If it had been the aim of the Government to undo much that had previously been done, they would have brought forward some measures to repeal the iniquitous laws which are now pressing upon the masses of the people. I admit that some of our laws do press very heavily upon the working classes, and if I had been in office, I should have brought forward proposals with a view to relieving them.

Mr Spence - This Parliament might not be able to deal with such laws.

Mr CONROY - At present I have only Federal matters in my mind. The Government do not propose to repeal one of these oppressive laws.

Mr Spence - Neither does the honorable and learned member's party.

Mr CONROY - My party does not happen to be in existence at the present time. When the Prime Minister declared that they would undo much of what had previously been done, he ought to have given some indication of the measures which he proposed to repeal. We all remember the Minister of External Affairs when he was consumed by a burning ardour in defence of principle. Now, however, he is merelyconsumed by an ardour to defend his Ministerial position. The Prime Minister told the May Day deputation which waited upon him, that the Labour Party would continue to work in the direction of freeing the people from industrial shackles. Where I may ask, is there any indication of that intention in the Government programme?

Mr Spence - What about the question of old-age pensions?

Mr CONROY - That subject is to be relegated to a future session, notwithstanding that the people who need old-age pensions are dying to-day. I hold that if it is within the power of the Government to bring that question forward next year, it is within their power to deal with it today.

Mr O'Malley - We must have time to think about how to raise the "boodle."

Mr CONROY - Of course, I admit that if the Labour Party believe that the question is so intimately bound up with measures of taxation as to prevent the possibility of its being dealt with even next year, the position is somewhat different. I say unhesitatingly, that their proposals in this connexion should be submitted in the immediate future. The only proposal for which they seem to be earnestly fighting, is one in favour of the printing of a despatch which will permit of members of the first Commonwealth Parliament being designated "Honorable."

Mr Spence - That motion was submitted to give us a chance to hear the honorable and learned member.

Mr CONROY - It is not even proposed to extend that title beyond Australia, although, under a despatch which was issued in July, 1893, Legislative Councillors in the different States are permitted to enjoy that distinction beyond His Majesty's dominions. It does seem to me ridiculous that the first undertaking of this Labour Government should be to submit a motion asking the House to allow the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament to term themselves "Honorable." It is a sad commentary upon the brave professions with which they set out.

Mr Culpin - It is a terrible commentary on the speech of the honorable and learned member.

Mr CONROY - Honorable members opposite arrogate to themselves the title of " Labour." I confess that I do not appreciate what is meant by that title, but I should be very much surprised if, man for man, honorable members upon this side of the House could not work them blind. I will undertake to say that either at pickandshovel or axe labour I could work any member of the Labour Party blind in a month.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member can be accommodated.

Mr CONROY - Honorable members opposite seek to represent trades unions only, utterly oblivious of the fact that out of 900,000 men in Australia, not more than too, 000 belong to those unions.

Mr Webster - The legal union is the strongest on earth.

Mr CONROY - I deny that any man who represents organized labour only can truthfully be termed a labour representative. The masses of men for whom honorable members opposite ought to fight are not those who can already make their voices heard, but those who are not in a position to do so. I say, therefore, that honorable members on this side of the House can be more truly called labour men than any of those sitting opposite; because we represent not union labour only, but non-union labour also. At the present time, the nonunionists exceed the unionists in Australia by the proportion of over eight to one. What would become of the unionists of this country if the non-unionists treated them as those men are now being treated. If the non-unionists took up arms, and said, " As you have passed a law under which you will not allow non-unionists to work for a living, we will pass a law which will not allow unionists to work" - what would be the result? Only recently in Sydney we had a trades union closing up its books and saying .that no man outside the ranks of that society should be allowed to get a living at the calling affected. It is a perversion of terms to say that justice can be obtained in this country while a union can close up against all non-union men in that fashion. It is a return to the Indian system of caste, where a man was shut out from association with his fellows if he ventured to concern himself in any occupation that was not permitted to him by the regulations of his caste. Yet the men on this side of the House, who fight against that sort of thing, are to be termed Liberals or Conservatives* but are not to be allowed to style themselves representatives of labour. Honorable members opposite ought, if they were properly described, to be termed representatives of union men only. ,

Mr Hutchison - But the honorable and learned member's statement is not true.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr Hutchison - I do not mean to say that the honorable and learned member is deliberately telling an untruth.

Mr SPEAKER - I called the honorable member to order because to say that a statement is not true is unparliamentary.

Mr Hutchison - I withdraw it, of course ; but why does the honorable and learned member say that we represent unionists only ?

Mr CONROY - For the reason that the Arbitration Bill passed in New South Wales, and the Bill introduced into this House, gives a preference to unionists, although, as a matter of fact non-unionists exceed them in numbers. If the unionists of this country are represented by twentytwo or twenty-three men in Parliament, it would only be right that the non-unionists, who number over 900,000 men, should have at least fifty representatives.

Mr Spence - How can the honorable and learned member say what their opinions are?

Mr CONROY - It stands to common sense that the great body of non-unionists do not wish any laws to be passed which would exclude them from participation in the work there is to do. If force is to be used on one side, as it is being used, it may just as reasonably be used on the other. Because force is used when the police and military are, in cases of emergency, put into operation to support such laws as I have indicated. It is true that it is called legal force, but it is none the less force against which the great body of unorganized workers cannot fight. It is because I object to this perpetual legislation on behalf of a section, whom I call. the aristocracy of labour, that I take up this stand. I do not care from what party legislation of that kind comes. I shall raise my voice in objection to it as long as it shuts out from consideration eight men . out of nine- in this Commonwealth.

Mr Tudor - The honorable and learned member's own party have agreed to support an Arbitration Bill.

Mr CONROY - I have nothing to do with what my party, or any other party, has agreed to. From whatever party measures come, which are, in my opinion, inimical to the interests of the people of this country, they will receive steady and persistent opposition from me. I am not going to support them for any party that can be formed. It is, it seems to me, one of the most awful things that can be contemplated that a large body of men, who ought to be the very men to fight for the unorganized workers, should be found supporting legislation which will render, those workers absolutely more helpless, and will push them still lower down in the scale. I have no hesitation in saying in regard to the proposal before the Chair to print a despatch in reference to conferring on members of the first Parliament the title of " Honorable," that I intend to vote against it.

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