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Thursday, 11 August 1904

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - It is quite refreshing to hear . the comments of Ministerial supporters upon the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is desirous of preventing a waste of time by the reconsideration of a. question which has already been finally settled by a majority. For the past three months the Ministry and their supporters have, by means of press interviews and speeches from the public platforms, been inviting the Opposition to a trial of strength. They have taunted their opponents with continually deferring this trial. But now that they are actually put on. their defence, it is they who cry, " Give us until to-morrow." A great deal has been said from the other side of the Chamber about the underground engineering, and the going back upon electoral pledges which has taken place on this side of the Chamber; but if honorable members refresh their memories by referring to Hansard, they will see that some of those who were once ardent supporters of the Deakin Administration, and are now sitting on this side of the House, have before this said clearly and distinctly that, when the opportunity offered, they would attempt to tone down several of the extreme proposals in the Bill. Reference has been made to the attitude of the members of the late Government in reference to this Bill. There are one or two of them against whom the charge of inconsistency cannot be made, but certainly the honorable member for Hume, for whom the present Ministerial supporters claim such wonderful consistency, is not one of them.

Mr Maloney - He has been a true protectionist all his life.

Mr KENNEDY - I am dealing with the attitude of the members of the late Government towards this Bill. The right honorable member for Balaclava has been consistent all his political life, and I believe would have shown his consistency in this matter had he been able to attend the sittings of the House. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has also been notably consistent.

Sir William Lyne - Inconsistent.

Mr KENNEDY - No; consistent. On the occasion when the honorable member for Hume refused to support the Bill, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat stood loyally by its provisions, and I think he has proved, even to the satisfaction of the Ministry, and their supporters, that he has been consistent throughout. Whose fault is it if the fate of the Government hangs on the question now before the House? Their present position is due to their own voluntary act. I have no cognisance of any attempts to form combinations on this side to secure a majority against the Government, nor do I think that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has moved the amendment which is said to place the life of the Government in jeopardy, acted after consultation with either of the leaders on this side.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member will admit that the original proviso was not fully discussed.

Mr Kelly - It might have been discussed. It was printed and circulated a day before it was moved.

Mr KENNEDY - Reference to Hansard will show that a number of honorable members referred to it before the division was taken. In any case, the Government had control of the business, and are responsible if they allowed a division to be taken on a matter of vital importance before honorable members were thoroughly seized of the importance of the question. Moreover, why have they slept in regard to the matter for a month? Why have they not taken an earlier opportunity to try to convert a minority into a majority?

And why are they squealing now, like so many trapped rats?

Mr Maloney - The honorable member is a protectionist rat.

Mr KENNEDY - I take no exception to such a statement emanating from such a source. I am responsible for my utterances to the electors of Moira only, and if the honorable member has any fault to find with them, let him, when the dissolution occurs, oppose me at Moira.

Mr Maloney - The honorable mem ber will not have a walk-over.

Mr KENNEDY - I have enjoyed that privilege.

Mr Maloney - Not so often as I have clone.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not claim to be so notorious as is the honorable member, nor to possess his political virtues. Although the Ministry and their enthusiastic supporters have been looking for trouble, and asking for a fight, they are now, after a month of underground engineering and bridge-building, howling about the tactics of the Opposition, which is strictly parliamentary. Are we to believe that they did not know that the honorable and ' learned member for Corinella would stand staunchly in support of his provision? Was it likely that he would allow another fortnight of underground engineering to go on before acting in its defence? Surely we cannot attribute such guilelessness to honorable members opposite. We have been told that they obtained possession of the Treasury benches in an honorable way. T do not deny that. To some extent I admire the attitude which they have taken up. But now, although the numbers are against them, it looks as though dynamite would not remove their tentacles from the Treasury benches. Has any Ministry cried out more loudly than they have done to be challenged at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Tudor - We have not had an opportunity to discuss the position.

Mr KENNEDY - Honorable members opposite have had a full and free opportunity to discuss the situation, and to put the position from their stand-point.

Mr Tudor - Why do not some of the leaders of the Opposition speak? Why are they putting up "squibs"?

Mr KENNEDY - I am not responsible for the actions of either the right honorable member for East Sydney or the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has always taken direct courses, and those who stood loyally behind him have no reason to regret their allegiance to him. It has been suggested that if there is a dissolution, our seats will be in jeopardy, but that is a question for our constituents to determine. What is the use of honorable members saying, " We will send you to the country ?" We have also been told that if we refuse to amend the clause so as to give absolute, and complete preference to unionists, industrial warfare will (spread over Australia. Why are these threats made when an important matter of this kind is being discussed? I was amongst those who, with the late Prime Minister, voted for the insertion of subclause b, to give preference to unionists. The only qualification I desired to see attached was the proviso that the unions should be wholly industrial organizations, and not political machines. So long as they were unions, whose funds were not to be used for purposes other than the purposes of the Bill, I was ready to give them a preference. I cannot be charged with being opposed to the granting of preferences.

Mr Tudor - The members of the Opposition tried to undo what had been done in regard to the giving of preferences by adding a proviso.

Mr KENNEDY - We were told by the honorable member for Barrier that he would' be ready to reject the Bill if unions were not given the right to act as political party machines. Under those circumstances I felt justified in the action I took, with a view to preventing the minority comprising a political party machine from dominating the majority under the provisions of a measure to secure industrial peace. That was why I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The members of the Ministry and their supporters accuse the honorable and learned member and those on this side of the House with having acted dishonorably; but has not the Prime Minister been continually telling the country during the last three months that he wishes for a trial of strength - simply that he wanted a test of strength? The opportunity which he has desired is now presented to him. Ministers took possession of the Treasury benches upon a question of policy in connexion with this Bill. Did any Ministers ever retire with more dignity - with one notable exception - than did the Deakin Government. The present Ministers took office in an honorable and straightforward way, and I regret to say that they are not continuing in that path, now that their existence is being threatened upon a matter of policy. Why should they complain ? They must admit that the question on which they are being challenged is purely a matter of policy, and yet they appear to want more time for the purpose of playing to the gallery. A great, deal of time has been wasted already by the honorable member for Gwydir in dealing with the whole range of politics of the last three or four years. The sole object was evidently to gain time.

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