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Thursday, 26 May 1904

Mr WATSON (Bland) (Treasurer) .At this hour it is not my intention to say much on the general tone of the debate on the programme I submitted a week ago. I regret that so much time has been taken up with a discussion on what, after all, is only ah abstract matter, because I would have preferred much, if we had" been able, to have a clear fight on the issue whether this Government is to retain office - if that issue is intended to be raised - or whether 'we are to get on to the work of the country, and, by accomplishing something, justify our existence as a Parliament. I think that the complaint of the honorable member for JB ass - that we have been sitting here' for about three months, and yet have nothing to show for our work - is justified. It is about time that, with the help of one side or the other, we buckled to, and gave some result to the country. With regard to the line of attack 'which has generally, been followed, of course it was quite within' the competence of the speakers to fasten their attack, not on the programme of immediate' work presented by us, but rather on the question of whether our methods of organization are justified ; whether we are acting with propriety in insisting on a man doing in our party as he is required to do in every party - that is, to sink his minor convictions when a crisis arrives, in order that the matters which he holds to be of larger importance should be given effect to. That principle obtains in every party in' a State. The right honorable member for Swan, who talked so much about the great independence that he possesses, had to subdue his intense desire to burst up the Commonwealth because, being in a Cabinet, he had to give way to the pressure of his colleagues and the circumstances that surrounded him. It is only the sheerest hypocrisy on the part of honorable members on the other side to talk about the rules of the Labour Party and their organization, when they know, every one of them, that they must give way to party discipline if they are to accomplish anything under the system . of responsible Government that obtains in every British community. It is an absolute essential that we must give way here and there if we are to acomplish anything ; and, I say that honorable, members, knowing that, were onlyspeaking for party purposes when they complained of the methods of the Labour Party. We have followed their example. It is true that our members exhibit a degree 'of loyalty perhaps greater than that exhibited by members, of some other parties.

Sir John Forrest - It is more cast-iron.

Mr WATSON - That is not so. We show a greater spirit df loyalty to principle in a programme on which we are agreed.

Mr Thomas - The Labour Party is no more cast-iron than was the honorable member's party when he was Emperor of the West.

Mr WATSON - When,' as I am reminded, the right honorable gentleman was running Western Australia there was riot a man, not merely in his party, but out of it, who dared to raise his voice in opposition to any proposal, because he knew that if he did he would be thrown into outer darkness without the semblance of a trial.'

Mr.-THOMAS. - He dismissed one of his Ministers for that offence.

Mr WATSON - The right honorable and learned gentleman who is leading one section of the Oppositional refer to the honorable member for East Sydney - said in regard to the indications given by myself of the anxiety of the' Government to" nationalize the tobacco monopoly, to convert a private into a public monopoly, that that proposal, and all that went with it, would trample out every form of individual liberty in industry. I am quite prepared to admit that to the extent to which such a proposal is operative it does trample out individual liberty ; but in this, as in every other civilized community, it' is being recognised that we must take in hand these monopolies for the safety of the State. Surely no one would think of calling President Roosevelt a Socialist - at any rate, he would not be termed a May Day Socialist. Yet President Roosevelt just a little while ago, when trouble existed in the United States in connexion with the' coal strike, assured the " Coal Barons," as they are termed, that if an agreement under the Commission he appointed was found to be impossible, he would take the extreme step of resuming the coal mines in the interests of the community, in order to insure that the public should have coal, and that they should not be left to die of cold because of the arrogance, greed, and rapacity of the people who controlled the mines.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But President Roosevelt does not recognise the creed of the Socialists who meet in Chicago on Mav Day.

Mr WATSON - Of course not. That is quite another question, and it is only .a man who. is so full of .prejudice' or of party feeling that he would descend to anything base who would assume that we had any sympathy with such a creed. I come now to the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa. I was pained to think that an honorable and learned member, to whom I have always given credit for at least fight- ' ing fairly, if always hitting hard, should have descended to an attack of the description in which he engaged.

Mr Conroy - Was it a personal attack on the Prime Minister ?

Mr WATSON - No ; I did not regard it in that way. I have, however, just as keen- a regard for the reputation of my party' generally as I have for my own, and I felt it deeply that it should be suggested that any of us sympathized with free love, or the breaking down of the marriage institution. It was a most shameful thing, in my view, for the honorable and learned member, who knows us so well, and knows the labour movement so well, to cast an imputation of that character upon us. He knows very well that no such sympathy is entertained by any man in our party.

Mr Conroy - I made two personal explanations to the effect that I did not refer to the Prime Minister, or to the other members of the Labour Party, but to the May Day Socialists, of whose programme the Prime Minister expressed his approval. I said that the Minister did not know their programme.

Mr WATSON - I know that perhaps I should not take as much notice as I am doing of what the honorable and learned member has said,' because, after all, I do not think there is .any man in this House who would pay the" slightest regard to the arguments which he has used. I do know, however, that there is a certain section of the press in Australia which will note any insinuation of this kind, and spread it broadcast through the country, with . a view to injure, not us individually, but the movement with which we are associated. I put it to any fair-minded man whether it is right that those men who waited on me the other day - many of whom T know to . be just as upright and clean living as any honorable member of this House, and who, whether they be right -or wrong, have made sacrifices to carry out their principles - should be branded as being in favour of free love. That is a shameful libel on men whom the honorable and learned member ought to know advocate no> such thing. Sure!'- in these matters of great public importance, we should sufficiently appreciate principles as distinguished from the individuals who may advocate them. Surely that is the first qualification for a man who desires to become a ' legislator. I, for one, say that, although I may believe that a socialistic writer is sound on the economic side of the question, I am not necessarily bound to follow him into every aspect of social life, and to subscribe to his theories thereon. The honorable and learned member studiously refrained from quoting any of the leading Socialists of England.

Mr Conroy - I quoted Bax, Morris,' and ' Hyndman.

Mr WATSON - I never heard Hyndman quoted in connexion with the views which the honorable and learned member has been putting- before us to-night. But what about Blatchford, the most represent tative Socialist in England at the present time ?

Mr McDonald - And John Burns.

Mr WATSON - Yes, I include John Burns. But first I shall refer to Blatchford, who is the most representative Socialist in England to-day, the man who, at this moment, exercises a greater amount of influence than any other on the working classes of England. What is the view of Blatchford? He says -

I would sooner give up the Empire, or give up wealth or fame, rather than the old-time institution of marriage, and the right to marry the woman I love.

Mr Thomas - Why did not the honorable and learned member quote Blatchford ?

Mr Conroy - I quoted the international manifesto of the Socialists. I could noi quote every individual leader of the party.

Mr WATSON - We are not responsible for the opinions expressed by continental economic writers. Does the honorable and learned, member, as an individualist, hold himself responsible for the views expressed by every anarchist who cares to subscribe to his doctrine, and who wants to tear down and burn and destroy and ravage right through the' land?

Mr Conroy - I have never expressed my .sympathy with the anarchists.

Mr WATSON - But the honorable and learned member is a pronounced individualist. He "will not deny that.

Mr Conroy - I do not.

Mr WATSON - The honorable and learned member is an individualist, and so is every anarchist; ergo, the honorable member- is an anarchist, and is responsible for every statement which may be made by those who subscribe to his doctrine of individualism.

Mr Conroy - I do not approve of anarchists, or of their creed.

Mr WATSON - No ; but every anarchist believes, with the honorable and learned member, in the fullest individual liberty, and if the honorable and learned member carried his own doctrine to its logical, conclusion he would, to his own surprise, find that he was an anarchist. I desire to show the ridiculous nature of the honorable and learned member's argument, by quoting from Lecky. I suppose that the honorable and learned member will acknowledge that Lecky is a high authority on the subject of individualism, as against Socialism - that he strongly denounces .Socialism.

Mr Conroy - Yes, and anarchy.

Mr WATSON - And that, therefore, the honorable and learned member agrees with him.

Mr Conroy - With me, Lecky denounces anarchy.

Mr WATSON - Let me quote what Lecky says in connexion with this very question of marriage in his History of European Morals, volume II.

Mr Conroy - I have never expressed my approval of Lecky.

Mr WATSON - The honorable and learned member will not wait for his own medicine to be dispensed to him.

Mr Conroy - If the Prime Minister will show me a letter of sympathy, which I have written to Lecky, then I shall say no more.

Mr WATSON - I shall show that Lecky gives utterance to views which I should not think of ascribing to the honorable and learned member ; although it would be quite fair for me to do so, because I should only be following the course adopted by him this evening. Lecky says, at page 269 -

Connexions which were confessedly only for a few years have always subsisted side by side with permanent marriages; and in periods when public opinion, acquiescing in their propriety, inflicts no excommunication on one or both of the partners, when these partners are not living the demoralizing and degrading life which accompanies the consciousness of guilt, and when proper provision is made for the children who are born, it would be; I believe, impossible to prove by the light of simple and unassisted reason that such connexions should be invariably condemned.

He goes on to say that -

There are always multitudes who in the period of their lives when their passions are most strong are incapable of supporting children in their own social rank, and who would therefore injure society by marrying in it, but are nevertheless practically capable of securing an honorable career for their illegitimate children in the lower social sphere to which they would naturally belong. Under the conditions I have mentioned these connexions are not injurious, but beneficial, to the weaker partner.

No concern is there expressed for the poor woman.

They soften the differences of rank, they stimulate social habits -

A fine stimulation for social habits 1 - and they do not produce upon character the degrading effect of promiscuous intercourse, or upon society the injurious effects of imprudent marriages, one or other of which will multiply in their absence.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He praises the prostitute as offering a vicarious atonement for her virtuous sister.

Mr WATSON - Quite so. I make that quotation from the writings of an individualist, in order- to show the unfairness of applying to us the doctrines of those amongst Socialist writers of the Continent who may advocate these lax and, in my view, most pernicious opinions in regard to the marriage tie.

Mr Conroy - -If one Minister is ito be held responsible for another, one Socialist should be held responsible for another.

Mr WATSON - I should not be so contemptibly unfair as the honorable and learned member was when he sought to make us responsible- for the opinions he quoted.

Mr Conroy - I pointed out that the honorable gentleman would not have done what he did if he had known.

Mr WATSON - This assumption by the honorable and learned member, that he alone is acquainted with the fact that these views have . been expressed is most amusing. I daresay that' there are honorable members on this side, of the House, who, on that aspect of economics, have read as widely as has any honorable and learned member.

Mr Conroy - Probably. I have found more knowledge of these things amongst honorable members opposite, than amongst Other honorable members of the House.

Mr WATSON - In any case, I can assure the honorable and learned member that there was no question of our being ignorant of that aspect. But what did I say to those who waited upon me? I ask the attention of the honorable and learned member. This is what I said -

I have to thank you for the kindly expressions conveyed to my colleagues and myself upon our assumption of office, and to say that so far as the general spirit behind the May Day movement is concerned, we are heartily in sympathy with it. What is that spirit?

Mr Mauger - The spirit of brotherhood.

Mr WATSON - It is the spirit of humanity ; the spirit of those who care for the poor and lowly ; of those who are prepared to make an effort to interfere with the iron law of wages, and with the coldblooded calculation of the ordinary political economist. That is the spirit which I recognise as being behind the May Day movement. It is not in anv way circumscribed by any mere declaration of this or that plank of a platform, but is the motive of those who will leave no stone unturned, and no experiment untried, in their efforts to benefit humanity.. That is the spirit with which we are heartily in sympathy, and I can challenge any honorable member to say that he is against it.. At this late hour I shall not say any more. As one who has always had a personal regard for the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, I am sorry indeed that he should have so far forgotten himself as to follow the course which he has pursued this evening.

Mr Conroy - The honorable gentleman should not take it personally ; I pointed that out.

Mr WATSON - I am not taking it personally. I know that the honorable and learned member would not be guilty of such an aspersion. But I do take it as an aspersion upon the movement with which I have been connected, and on the tens of thousands of people who are behind the Labour Party, and who are just as strong as the honorable and learned member for Werriwa can possibly b.e in their determination to uphold all that makes for purity in our social life.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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