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Thursday, 11 August 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) - I trust honorable members will bear with me to-night, as I am suffering from a very severe cold, and can scarcely speak. I do not intend to detain the House at length, but' I cannot refrain from making a few comments on some of the extraordinary phases of the speech made by the honorable member for Moira, who preceded me. He is an honorable member for whom I have the greatest respect;

Mr Batchelor - So we all have.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I admire his consistency, but on this occasion he appears to have allowed his feelings to run away with his judgment. He has accused the Ministry, and those who support them, of inconsistency in objecting to the unprecedented course which has been adopted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, prompted, I have no doubt, by the right honorable member for East Sydney. When an honorable member, whom I have always regarded as a fair-minded man, makes such a charge, I cannot help thinking that on this occasion something has gone wrong with his reasoning faculties. I defy the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and, indeed, any member of the Opposition, to bring forward a precedent for the action now being pursued by them. They cannot refer me to any parallel case. I admit that occasionally, when a Ministry have proposed to recommit an unimportant clause,, they have met with opposition ; but I do not know of any case in which a proposal by a Government to recommit a clause, involving so important a question as this, has- been treated in this manner. I have been in public life almost as long as has any honorable member in this House. I cannot say what is the position of the representatives of Victoria, but I have had a longer unbroken public career than has any other honorable member from New South Wales ; yet I cannot call to mind one case which approaches the technically tricky position with which we are now faced.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No; the honorable member remembers-

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When the honorable member came into office as Premier of New South Wales.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member remembers that when I discovered that a sum of money had been paid as a bribe to an honorable member I made it the subject of an amendment to a substantive motion, as soon as I ascertained what was the reason for the giving of that bribe. Honorable members know that it was the right honorable member for East Sydney who gave that bribe, and that, in . consequence of that action, he went out of office. What' was the his'tory of that bribe of ^356 to which I 'refer? '

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask honorable members not to interject so loudly and so frequently, and I appeal to the honorable member for Hume to confine himself to the question under discussion, which is clause 48.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In justification of my position, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that I was induced to make these observations by the interjection of the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member was discussing the point before I interjected.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No. The honorable member is mistaken if he thinks that I had that point in view when he interjected. I shall not make any further reference to the matter, but I repeat that the amendment now before the House has been trickily submitted. The position is a grave one, and those who are prepared to allow the full light of clay to shine on all their actions during a public career extending over many years feel that it is degrading that honorable members should be afraid to challenge the Government in a proper manner. There are two ways in which to deal with a question of this kind. It is open to the Opposition to challenge the Government - by a direct motion of want of confidence, or to endeavour to defeat them by a side-wind ; but it has always been understood that when the life of a Government is at stake the fullest possible discussion should be allowed. What is the history of this attack on the Ministry? The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced by the Deakin Administration, of which I was a member. The honorable member for Moira has compared my consistency with that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and I therefore feel constrained to deal with a matter which I should not otherwise have mentioned. I venture to think that there are not many men who, like me. have risked their advancement in public life before entering this Federal House, and are prepared to do so again, even if they stand alone, rather than follow the right honorable member for East Sydney. The right honorable member's face is wreathed in smiles.

Mr Reid - Tell us-

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The right honorable member will have an opportunity to speak after I have concluded.

Mr Batchelor - He has not the pluck.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Sometimes he has courage, but on other occasions his heart fails him. Let me deal with the course of events leading up to the present situation. This Bill, as introduced by the Deakin Government, did not apply to the railway servants of the States, and it was because of their defeat on the amendment to extend its provisions to those public officers that that Government went out of office. ' I presume that the honorable member for Kennedy was referring to the attitude which I took up in regard to that question when he compared my consistency with that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. But my late colleagues know that from the very outset I was in favour of the extension of the Bill to all railway servants, and that I told my constituents so. Had it not been for a statement made by the Premier of Victoria, I should not have been compelled, as I was, in loyalty to my colleagues, to vote for the Bill as it stood. When the late Government retired I was free to exercise my individual judgment and to give effect to the view of the question that I had put before my constituents. My colleagues knew that I favoured the extension of the Bill to the railway servants of the States and of the Commonwealth, and surely when I was at liberty to give effect to that view, I had a right to do so, and, therefore, should not now be charged with inconsistency.

Mr Kennedy - I was referring to the vote on the amendment to exclude agricultural and horticultural labourers from the operation of the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think that I voted against the inclusion of agricultural labourers.

Mr McColl - That is so.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Asa matter of fact, when the Bill was being drafted, I was opposed to their inclusion, and therefore was not inconsistent in voting in that way.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Bill, as introduced by the Government of which the honorable member was a member, applied to them.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member knows very well that one member of a Cabinet cannot expect to have his own way in regard to every clause in a Bill. He must vote with the Government, or- else retire from the Ministry. That was my position, and when I found myself at liberty to exercise my individual judgment, I did not see why I should not do so. The right honorable member .for Swan knows that what I say is correct.

Sir John Forrest - It is, and it suits my position exactly.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - As soon as the right honorable member was out of office, he went round like a whirlwind, and we have not yet felt the last whirl of that whirlwind. The late Prime Minister recommended the Governor-General to send for the honorable member for Bland, much to the chagrin of the right honorable member for East Sydney, who expressed his disappointment in the public press in the most childish manner.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is not in clause 48.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nor is it likely to be.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am afraid that there is not likely to be an Arbitration Bill at all if honorable members on that side have their way. The present Ministry, before they accepted office, and after they took their seats on the Treasury benches, were promised by the late Prime Minister - and the promise is reported in Hansard - that they and their party would be given fair play.

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

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It bears on the question, as I shall show. I wish to know where is the consistency of honorable members on that side of the House, and of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat? It was through his instrumentality that the present Ministers were placed in office, and he promised to give them fair play.

Mr Tudor - Why is he not present?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I regret that he is not present. Until to-day the right honorable member for East Sydney and his following were absent, too. If there is one thing which I like in public life, it is open, fair play.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member gives us a shock when he talks in that way, because we know him so well.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member for Macquarie is not a judge of fair play.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would not go to the honorable member for it. We know his ' tricky ways.

Mr Reid - What is the use' of making such a fuss about this matter ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I never knew any Premier make such a fuss as did the right honorable gentleman when he was put out of office. He went into a certain room - the Labour room - and on his bended knees begged for a penny.

Mr SPEAKER - I am sure that the honorable member for Hume must be aware that he is wandering from the question. I ask him to set a good example to younger members.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I always do; but when interjections are made I am tempted to reply to them, and you must not blame me, Mr. Speaker, if my retorts are rather caustic.

Mr Reid - Hear, hear. The honorable member has had the gout.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I wish the right honorable member had the gout in his tongue. The present position has been brought about by the intrigues of the right honorable gentleman, supported by 50 per cent, of those who voted to displace the last Government. They wish to destroy theBill, lock, stock, and barrel, and at all costs.

Mr Reid - One would think that the honorable member was himself a Minister. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether he is observing the ordinary Parliamentary rule which requires debate to be confined to the question before the House.

Mr SPEAKER - I have twice, if not thrice, called the attention of the honorable member to the fact that he is travelling beyond the question. I ask him to confine himself strictly to it. If the right honorable member will not interject quite so frequently, it may not be so difficult for the honorable member.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I will endeavour to confine my remarks to the question. The honorable and learned member for Corinella was quite justified, viewing the matter from his stand-point, in moving ths proviso which was added to the clause. The Government, however, consider that it destroyed an important and practically a vital principle of the Bill, and they took what was about the only course they could take, short of actually resigning, in regard to it. They intimated that they would ask the House to recommit the Bill, with a view to reconsidering its decision in regard to the clause. That was the proper and constitutional course to take. The Prime Minister, shortly after making that announcement, said thai: it would take a week or two for the Cabinet to consider the amendments which would probably have to be moved on the recommittal, and I was surprised, therefore, to hear the honorable member for Moira to-night accuse the Government of having deliberately delayed the consideration of the measure.

Mr Kennedy - I did not say that.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Government were being pestered by honorable members, including the leader of the Opposition and his party-

Mr Reid - I did not say a word to them.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The right honorable member and his supporters asked the Government to deal with the Seat of Government Bill in the interim. That measure was considered to be of the gravest importance, and the Ministry, true to their promises, introduced it, and carried it through. Now, however, the honorable member for Moira twits the Government with having delayed the consideration of the Bill at present before the House.

Mr Kennedy - No.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member asked, in effect - "Why did not tha Government submit the recommittal for reconsideration at an earlier date?"

Mr Kennedy - I said that they had had a month for the consideration of the amendment carried by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and could not complain of his present action.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have great belief in the honorable member, and therefore I was surprised at the construction which it seemed to me could be put upon some of the remarks which he made tonight. The Ministry could not have done more than they have done. They have performed marvellous work in passing the Seat of Government Bill, a measure which under other circumstances might have been " hung up " for months or years, but which will now become law within a few days. Although I was unsuccessful in obtaining the adoption of the site which I favoured, I submit without grumbling, and give the Ministry credit for having stuck to the measure. The country will give them credit, too. But during the last two days when it was under discussion, I felt that there was something in the wind, and when I tried to get another vote on the Welaregang site, and the right honorable member who was sitting on the cross-benches asked, " What is the use of talking? I will give you a pair for any one who is away "-

Mr SPEAKER - Order !

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I felt that there was something behind the beautiful smooth tones of the right honorable member's tongue.

Mr SPEAKER - If an honorable member' of the experience pf the honorable member for Hume does not confine himself to the question at issue, I ask him how is it possible for me to require other honorable members to do so?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Although I know that technically our remarks should be confined to clause 48, I have listened attentively to the speeches of many of those who have preceded me, and I have heard many divergencies from strict relevance to the question. I shall, however, try to obey your ruling. I was only incidentally describing the thoughts that entered my mind on the occasion I speak of. Then, next day-

Honorable Members. - What about clause 48 ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have a perfect right to say what I am about to say. Next day I ascertained what was the matter, because the "cat was out of the bag." The antics of the right honorable member for East Sydney are amusing, but he should remember that he is not now in the Tivoli Theatre.

Mr Reid - Worse luck.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That is where they would like to have him. If he is not careful, I will tell the House a little story about Harry Rickards' views on the matter. Under present circumstances the Government will not have an opportunity to defend its policy and its administration.

Sir John Forrest - What opportunity did our Government get?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think that the right honorable member has had a pretty good show since.

Sir John Forrest - What show did we get when we were being put out?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That was the right honorable member's fault. The case was altogether different then. There was no catch-penny business about what then occurred. The great fault was with the late Prime Minister. The present Government, however, are not, in my opinion, getting the fair play which should be extended to them. I am not with them on many of their principles.

Mr Conroy - The honorable member only votes with them.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I vote according to my conscience, which is what the honorable and learned member does not do. Although I may be opposed to the present Government in regard to many matters, I think that they are entitled to fair play before they are displaced from office. Although what is being done now is technically correct, and according to the rules of the House, the country will know that they have never had fair play since they have been sitting on the Treasury benches.

Mr Reid - The honorable member is worse than a Minister.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - They have not had fair play from those who were attending to the work of Parliament. The right honorable member has not been here until recently. If I am any judge of the opinions of the country, however-

Mr Reid - Are we discussing the opinions of the country or clause 48 ?

Mr SPEAKER - I think that honorable members may safely leave questions of order to me. If anything takes place which is contrary to the Standing Orders I will myself, as I have done many times already, call the honorable member who offends io order.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would ask whether it is not competent, sir, for any honorable member to raise a point of order when he thinks that the honorable member addressing the Chair is straying from the point at issue? If honorable members have not the right 1o do that, they may be placed in a very awkward position. For example, you may not hear some unparliamentary language; but surely honorable members who do hear it should be allowed to draw your attention to it.

Mr SPEAKER - I should be very far from stating that any honorable member was not free to raise a point of order whenever he pleased. Every honorable member has that right, and if, at any time, I miss a remark honorable members may properly call my attention to it. I suggest, however, that they should abstain, as far as may be practicable, from taking points of order again and again, and relv upon my watchfulness.

SirWILLIAM LYNE.- The action taken by the Opposition will have the effect of preventing the Government from placing before the country anything more than their policy with regard to clause 48. They cannot discuss such matters as preferential trade,, or the offering of the iron and other bonuses. If the result of the vote on the present occasion is, as expected, to displace the Government, and to hand over to a new Ministry the administration of all such matters as those relating to the maintenance of a White Australia-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Hume is entirely out of order.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall do everything I can to keep the honorable member to the point.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have no doubt that the honorable member will decline to extend to me the courtesy that he would exhibit to any other member of this House; but I can put up with' that.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member for Macquarie will get his thirty pieces.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the Government are defeated, and ejected from office, the new Ministry will take charge of a number of important matters, with regard to which we are unfortunately unable to enlighten the country at the present time. With regard to the statement that a threat has been made that if the Bill were lost a great strike would occur, I may say that I listened attentively to the statements of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and he certainly did not make any threat. What he said was that those who destroy the Bill must bear the responsibility if a strike unfortunately took place. It is not fair to endeavour to fasten upon the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, or upon any other honorable member, a statement which he did not make. I think that honorable members generally would regard with sorrow anything in the shape of a great industrial conflict. The object of this Bill is to prevent the possibility of anything of that kind. I support the proposal of the Government, first, in the interests of fair play, and, secondly, because it is based upon the practice followed by the Arbitration Court in New South Wales. The Arbitration Act in that State goes a great deal further than is proposed under the Bill now before us. For instance, farm labourers are brought within the jurisdiction of the Court, and there is practically no limitation to the scope of the measure in that regard.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. I would direct the honorable member's attention to the fact that he is referring to agricultural labourers, who are not in any way dealt with in clause 48.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I was certainly making an incidental reference to them, but not with the object of acting contrary to your ruling. I simply wished to point out that, notwithstanding the dreadful consequences which some Honorable members appear to apprehend from the passing of this measure, it is not nearly so drastic ns is the New South Wales Act. All I desire to do is to make my position absolutely, clear. I feel that I cannot, under any circumstances, support the Opposition, composed as it is, and led by the individual who is at its head. Whatever may be the result, even though I stand alone. I shall be consistent - 1 shall not be consistent in my inconsistency. I am not going to sacrifice my principles for the sake of office, and I do not intend to form one of a protectionist tail under a discredited free-trade leader.

Mr Kennedy - As a matter of personal explanation, I desire to say that the honorable member for Hume stated that I had accused him of inconsistency in connexion with the vote which he gave with reference to the extension of the operation of the Bill to public servants. What I did say was that the honorable member voted for the exclusion of agricultural labourers from the operation of the Bill, although, as a member of the Deakin Government, he was one of those who introduced the Bill, which originally embraced the agricultural industry. The honorable member also stated that I had accused the Government of undue delay in dealing with this Bill. I made no such statement. I commended the Government for the despatch with which they had dealt with the measure, but I did say that since clause 48 had previously been before the Committee, the Government had had something like a month for reflection, and that their suggested amendment represented their mature judgment.

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