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Thursday, 11 August 1904


Mr SPEAKER - I would remind the honorable member that the proposal before the Chair has reference to the recommittal of clause 48.


Mr POYNTON - I was coming to that matter. I unhesitatingly declare that the action of honorable members of the Opposition is prompted by a desire to place certain of their number upon the Treasury benches. It is a piece of utter cant and hypocrisy for them to claim that it is prompted by a desire to study the best interests of the country. One cannot close his eyes to the fact that in politics we see strange bedfellows. We have now presented to us the spectacle of certain honorable members, in their endeavour to gain the Ministerial benches, falling upon the necks of others, whose names, if mentioned in their presence only a month or two ago, would have produced the same effect as would a red rag upon a bull. It has been asserted on a public platform that the Commonwealth ship of State is being " steered from the steerage." Where is the right honorable member who made that statement? Where was he yesterday when this contemptible method was adopted to secure the defeat of the Government ? He was probably in the vaults of the House, or in the sewer. We have had an exhibition of something that is more like sewerage politics-


Mr Kennedy - I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in referring to a course of procedure permissible under the Standing Orders as being contemptible?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member not only said that a certain method of procedure was contemptible, but that we were being treated to an exhibition of sewerage politics.


Sir John Forrest - He said that the right honorable member was probably in the sewer.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a remark that should not be applied to any honorable member.


Mr SPEAKER - I shall ask the honorable member to withdraw the statements to which objection has been taken. At the same time, I would again impress upon him that it is necessary that he should confine his remarks to trie question of whether clause 48 shall or shall not be recommitted. The general question of the position of the Government is not under consideration.


Mr POYNTON - I was not aware, Mr. Speaker, that it was a breach of the rules of this House to-


Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member withdraw the words objected to?


Mr POYNTON - Withdraw the word " contemptible " ?


Mr SPEAKER - The two remarks to which objection has been taken.


Mr POYNTON - I shall withdraw them, Mr. Speaker,' and say that we are being treated to an exhibition, not of sewerage, but of underground, politics. The term "steerage politics" has become famous since its use by the main conspirator in the plot that has-been hatched to defeat the Government.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What has this to do with the question under consideration ? .


Mr SPEAKER - I have on two occasions called the honorable member's attention to the fact that the question under consideration is whether or. not clause 48 shall be recommitted. I must ask him to confine himself to the matter under debate, or I shall have to ask him not to proceed with his remarks.


Mr POYNTON - I shall endeavour, Mr. Speaker, to obey your ruling, but would point out that there is no occasion for anxiety on the part of the honorable member for Macquarie. The .little time that I shall occupy, in placing my. views before the House will not materially delay his leader, securing a seat on the Treasury benches.


Mr Mahon - The honorable member does not mean that.


Mr POYNTON - I do. I am ashamed of the party with which I was associated for several years. I believe in fair play, and certainly do not look with favour upon any exhibition of hypocrisy or cant.


Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member either to debate the matter before the Chair or to discontinue his speech. He is distinctly out of order, and his at,tention has twice been called to that fact..


Mr POYNTON - Do I understand you to rule, sir, that it is out of order to use the words! " hypocrisy ' ' and " cant ' ' in dealing with the matter under considera-tion ?


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member will recognise that the question is not as to any word that he may use, but whether he is dealing with the subject-matter of the motion, to which I have twice called, his attention. He must debate the question as to the recommittal of clause 48, and that only. Any other matter is inadmissible.


Mr POYNTON -- Do you rule, Mr., Speaker, that I cannot discuss the attitude of certain honorable members who are opposed to the recommittal of the clause-


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member may discuss clause 48, and nothing else.'


Mr POYNTON - In dealing with that clause, I am referring incidentally to the tactics of those who do not desire that it shall be recommitted. I wish to deal with some of the reasons which have been advanced for the attempt to defeat the Government proposal. If there is one thing that I admire more than another, it is straight-out, honest fighting. I object to underground methods, and exceedingly regret that those who desire to gain possession, of the Treasury benches have not adopted a more manly course. These unseemly tactics have been adopted in order that the Opposition may secure an additional vote through the question being dealt with in the House instead of in Committee. An attempt has also been made to break a Government pair. I refer to the pairing of the right honorable member for Balaclava with an honorable member who supports the Ministry.


Mr SPEAKER - I am sure that the honorable member's parliamentary experience teaches him that he must confine his attention to the clause under consideration, and that the discussion of the conduct of certain honorable members, whether it be dishonourable or otherwise, is out of order. The honorable member can deal only with clause 48, and with the reasons for and against its recommittal. I. am reluctant to interrupt him so often, but he must obey the Standing Orders.


Mr POYNTON - I regret, sir, that you will not allow me to give the reasons-


Mr Henry Willis - The honorable member must discuss the clause.


Mr POYNTON - It is hardly likely that I am going to accept my instructions from honorable members of the Opposition. I wish to show that the Opposition are manipulating a vote.


Mr SPEAKER - That is not before the Chair.


Mr POYNTON - I am not making any statement that I am not prepared to repeat anywhere else. I was told of the incident to which I refer' at the entrance to the chamber. What have trades unionists done that they should be treated in the way that honorable members of the Opposition propose ? We are told' by the Opposition that they sympathize with trades unionists, but their sympathy is always wanting when a proposal is made. to give them some practical support. At one time in the Parliaments of the States, one heard nothing but the cry of " property, property, property." That was the "gag" that was commonly used when .efforts were made to extend the franchise to those who were termed " the lower classes." We are told to-day that we are seeking to interfere with the liberty of the subject. That is an old cry. It was raised when Lord Shaftesbury first took steps to improve the conditions of pauper children who were being worked in the factories of England to such an extent that many of them became cripples. It was then asserted that if the existing factory system were interfered with, commerce would be ruined ; and we are told again to-day that if we grant preference 'to unionists we shall interfere with the liberty of the subject, and damage commercial interests. Some honorable members have no regard for anything but commerce. What have trades organizations done that they should be treated as the Opposition propose? Why should they be penalized? Have they not been in the forefront of every reform? Have they not had the courage to take up questions with which weakkneed politicians were afraid to deal, and to boldly fight for reform? In England, America, and Australia, and indeed in all parts of the civilized world, we find members of trades unions bearing the brunt of the fight for reform.


Mr Henry Willis - There is no compulsory arbitration in the United States of America.


Mr POYNTON - That might have been said a few years ago of New Zealand. Trades unionists were at the bottom of the agitation for the non-employment of women and children in the mines of England, and they were behind the great movement against the employment of children for unduly long hours in the factories of England. In every country they have fought for the improvement of the working conditions of the people. Have not many of them suffered for their efforts? Some honorable members would have us return to the days when certain miners in England were transported to Australia because they stood up for the interests of their associations. History tells us of case after case in which trades unionists sacrificed their liberty, suffered exile, and in some cases lost their lives in their efforts to secure thf advancement of mankind. They have fought not only for themselves, not only for the workers with whom they have been immediately associated, but for the industrial classes generally. Yet some honorable members speak of trades unionists as if they were criminals. They have no consideration for any one but non-unionists.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have not nonunionists a right to be considered?


Mr POYNTON - Have trades unionists never done anything for non-unionists? Has not every reform which they have secured - the better ventilation of mines, the improvement in the sanitary conditions of factories, and a thousand and one other things - benefited non-unionists as well as unionists ?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We agree that they have done good work.


Mr POYNTON - Some honorable members speak as if the Governiment desired to subject non-unionists to an injustice.


Mr Henry Willis - No. Have we not made trades unionists Ministers of the Crown ?


Mr Batchelor - The honorable member did not give much assistance in that direction.


Mr POYNTON - In the fact that some of the members of the Ministry are trades unionists is to be found the root of the trouble. In the early stages of the present political unrest, the Government was referred to as a trades union Ministry. That is the only fault that can be found with them. It is because the present Administration comprises trades unionists that the Opposition are prepared to sacrifice not only them but trades unionists generally. They desire to make the Bill so useless that it will be a reproach to the Ministry.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was the Bill designed in the interests of unionists, or of labour?


Mr Batchelor -In the interests of the public.


Mr POYNTON - The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was designed in the interests of organizations. Can any honorable member point to an organization of non-unionists? That is why in New Zealand, in scores of cases, when other things have been equal, preference has been given to unionists. The New Zealand Court has recognised that the whole basis of this kind of legislation is the recognition of organizations.


Mr Johnson - According to the honorable member's showing, there is no need for the clause at all.


Mr POYNTON - I have not said so, though that may be the opinion of the honorable member. I think that if the clause is not inserted, great numbers of men will have black marks placed against their names. I have known men to be black-marked for miles and miles around. Employers may not have gone to the length of sending their photographs ahead of men whom they deemed objectionable, but they have taken every other precaution to prevent them from getting employment. Unless the giving of preference is provided for, that state of things would exist under this measure. . The honorable member himself knows that what I have described is done. The honorable member for Dalley has repeatedly admitted that it is done, and the honorable member for Parramatta knows that men have been blackmarked throughout a whole district, because they had been chosen as delegates to ask for some concession, not for the unionists alone, but for non-unionists as well. I ask honorable members why do they not make an example of these terrible trades unionists? What have they done for society that they deserve consideration? Honorable members appear to prefer to go back to the old methods. Why are they not honest? Why do they not say that they do not wish to have an Arbitration Bill, and prefer to allow disputes to be settled by strikes? Let us make that the issue. Although they profess to desire arbitration, they are not ready to assist the Government in passing a workable measure. Has any one of them been behind the scenes during a strike, and known the hardship,- suffering, and loss -which such occurrences bring in their train? Yet they wish to pass into law a measure under which, as it stands, not one organization in Australia would register. One Ministry has been placed in difficulties, and another has been sacrificed already, in connexion with this Bill, and the better part of two sessions has been spent in discussing it. The last five months have been occupied in the miserable pretence of doing something in the public interest, but the whole desire of honorable members opposite is to secure possession of the Treasury benches. They are ready to neglect the interests of the industrial organizations, and to forego the opportunity to secure industrial peace, in order to obtain possession of the Treasury benches. I do not care who occupies those benches.


Mr Kennedy - Then why all this worry ?


Mr POYNTON - Have we not a right to worry when we think that an important measure should be amended? It is astonishing on what a small pretence some persons will fall from grace. The honorable member has surprised me. I remember the time when he would not have treated the matter so lightly. No one knows better than he does the need for establishing some tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes. He has been in the thick of these troubles. He is not like honorable members who have had no experience. It is therefore his duty, as it is the duty of the whole House, to try to place upon the statute-book a workable measure to secure industrial peace - not a mere rotten, hollow pretence such as this is.


Mr Kennedy - I am not going to assist a minority to coerce a majority.


Mr POYNTON - The honorable member supported a Ministry which, during its whole existence, was in a minority.


Mr Kennedy - That Ministry retired with dignity when the fact was proved.


Mr POYNTON - I admit that they retired with dignity ; but the members pf the present Government did nothing unworthy to secure possession of the Treasury benches. Indeed, they tried to avoid taking office. An attempt has been made to show that, the present position, is similar to that which resulted when the Deakin Government was defeated ; but on that occasion there was no underground engineering. The Government were twitted a short time ago with having tried to persuade men to change their votes on this subject, and yet the right honorable member for East Sydney, who made the charge, had sitting alongside him an honorable member who intends to change his vote, and who was no doubt influenced to do so by his leader. It will be a disgrace to this Parliament if it places on the statute-book an unworkable measure.


Mr Kennedy - But the Government are objecting to the insertion of a provision of which the majority has approved.


Mr POYNTON - We object to the methods which are being adopted. There has not been an opportunity to consider in Committee the advisability of amending the clause. Almost any amendment would make the provision better than it is now. Honorable members are not prepared, however, to give an opportunity for reconsideration. They will not allow even a comma to be added to or taken from the clause. They have got their numbers.


Mr Kennedy - The Ministry have, ever since they took office, been asking us to take action against them.


Mr POYNTON - The two leaders of the Opposition have, day after day, and week after week, threatened the Ministry with no-confidence motions.


Mr Batchelor - They were always to be moved next week.


Mr POYNTON - Yes. Now, however, they are trying to defeat the Government by a miserable subterf uge. They have not had the courage to fight them on a straightout issue.


Mr Tudor - Neither of the leaders of the Opposition has yet spoken on this question.


Mr POYNTON - No. They are not game to take the risk of challenging the Government. Therefore they have put up a novice like the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Age says that the amendment was fixed up at an interview between the honorable and learned member and the two leaders of the Opposition; but they were ashamed to be present yesterday when he was moving it.


Mr Webster - As well they might be.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was not the motion moved by the honorable member for Gwydir this afternoon fixed up after consultation with the Government?


Mr Batchelor - It was not a motion to gag honorable members.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the Ministry not me(an their statement that they would retire if defeated on tliis clause?


Mr Batchelor - Yes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then why do they complain?


Mr Batchelor - We complain of the methods by which it is sought to defeat us.


Mr POYNTON - If we go to the country we shall be asked, "What is all this fuss about? Why are certain honorable members so anxious to get on to the Treasury benches? In what way does their policy differ from that of the Labour Party?" ' The Age, on the 18th May, published the two policies side by side, to show their striking similarity. The Government are not being criticised for either their policy or their administration. What reason have the Opposition for their attitude other than the desire to obtain possession of the Treasury benches?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member expects other honorable members to reverse their votes in order to save the Ministry.


Mr POYNTON - What about the honorable member for Dalley ? We desire an opportunity for reconsideration and second thought on a very important provision.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have not nv 0 of the honorable members who intend to vote for the Government changed their views ?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; two rr three.


Mr POYNTON - There is always some change on occasions of this kind. No man is so perfect that he has never reason to change his mind. Does the honorable member for Macquarie dare to say that he never changed his mind, or tried to get other honorable members to do so, when he was a Minister?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the honorable member complains that the honorable member for Dalley has changed his mind.


Mr POYNTON - I regret the fact.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have a right, therefore, to ask, what about those on the Government side who have changed their mind ?


Mr POYNTON - It was the right honorable member for East Sydney who complained in effect of the bad taste of the Government in trying to secure the recommittal of the clause, in order to get members who had voted in a certain direction to change their votes. There is nothing disgraceful about that, nothing more than has been done on a number of occasions.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member would not consent to a recommittal of the salt duty.


Mr POYNTON - The honorable member knows the reason. An honorable agreement had been entered into for the imposition of a 12s. 6d. duty, instead of either a 15s. or a ros. duty.


Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member not to enter into a discussion (upon that point.


Mr POYNTON - Those honorable members who vote against the Government on this question will have a very hard row to hoe. The people of Australia have demanded a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and honorable members are pledged to give them one. Such a measure must be passed, whether it be by a Reid Go vernment, a Reid-Deakin-McCay Ministry, or a Watson Administration, and until that is done there will be no rest for this Parliament. I complain qf the attitude taken up by honorable members, not only in this case, but on previous occasions. They are now absolutely refusing to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the Bill in Committee, and ascertain if it can be made workable. This conduct is on a par with the tactics which have been used by some honorable members ever since we have been here. I would ask how many times the right honorable member for Swan has voted in favour of the Bill which was introduced by the Ministry of which he was a member ; also, how many times it has had the support of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, or of the honorable member for Denison.


Sir John Forrest - A number of clauses had been passed without division.


Mr POYNTON - The attitude assumed by some members of the late Ministry has introduced a new feature into political life. They have made it appear that a man's convictions will depend upon the side of the House on which he sits. The position which some honorable members occupy is a contemptible one, and is entirely new in my experience. In other Parliaments, honorable members have always had the courage and manliness to give their support to the measures to which they had committed themselves. Are we to assume that the measure has become objectionable merely because it is being handled by a Labour Administration? We have been told that it is desirable, in the interests of some persons, that there should be a change of Ministry. It has been pointed out that, if a new Ministry came into power, there would be no necessity to introduce a Bill to amend the Immigration Restriction Act, because all that was desired could be effected by a change in the administration.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is proceeding beyond the scope of the motion.


Mr POYNTON - I am endeavouring to indicate the nature of the tactics adopted by honorable members towards the present Government. No Ministry has ever received such wretched treatment. A month ago I expressed the 'opinion, which has since become a conviction, that the Bill as . it stands is unworkable. I should have been prepared to accept it in a modified form as a basis upon which we could work-; but if it is passed in its present shape the whole of our work will be rendered nugatory, because npt one organization will register under it.







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