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Friday, 12 August 1904

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the. honorable member for Robertson not to interrupt. He will be at liberty to speak, if he pleases, later, but he is not at liberty, to interrupt the Minister of External Affairs.

Mr HENRY WILLIS (ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Produce the signed pledge.

Mr Kelly - I rise to a point of order. Are we discussing clause 48 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, or the question whether certain honorable members have signed a pledge concerning a clause not under discussion at the present time?

Mr SPEAKER - I understand the argument of the Minister of External Affairs to be that the measure under discussion depends upon two principles, its being compulsory and its containing preference to unionists, and that these two principles are inseparable. The honorable and learned gentleman is, therefore,- well within his rights in discussing those principles in connexion with an amendment which deals with one of them.

Mr HUGHES - It is an admirable illustration, if one were needed, of the truth of all I have been saying, and of the anxiety of honorable members opposite not to hear the truth, and not to face the issue, when even though I say something which is within the narrow limits of the motion now before the House, we have an honorable member who desires to further restrict debate. I ask the House to say what is the position of the honorable member for Robertson in connexion with clause 48, he having written his name at the foot of a document like that which I hold in my hand, or having given his solemn and emphatic promise, at a public meeting or elsewhere, to vote for it?

Mr Henry Willis - I did not sign the document to which the honorable and learned member refers, nor did I say at a public meeting that I would sign it. I wrote a letter, which the honorable and learned member cannot produce.

Sir William Lyne - What ' about the caucus pledge now?

Mr HUGHES - I have to deal with a number of honorable members, of whom the honorable member for Robertson is one of the least offenders, and therefore, as time is fleeting, I hope that I may be permitted to continue without interruption. When he was asked if he was in favour of a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which would apply to public servants, and when he said in a letter, or in some other way--

Mr Henry Willis - The honorable and learned member does not know what, I did.

Mr McDonald - We have the letter; so the honorable member cannot deny it.

Mr HUGHES - Did the honorable member make a' promise, either in writing, or in any other way ?

Mr Henry Willis - I voted for the measure.

Mr HUGHES - At the time the honorable member made the promise to support the measure, was there not in it clause 48, as it stood before the proviso of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was added to it? The honorable member therefore committed himself by a definite promise to support that clause. The honorable member's face proves that he has a Conscience, and it is pricking him now, so that he cannot sit quiet any longer. He will not allow his leader to any longer bind his tongue. And when I have finished, he will have his opportunity. Having voted to include the railway servants in the Bill, which provided for giving them preference if they were unionists, he is now about to vote against a motion to allow of the rediscussion of this clause. The party with whom he will vote cannot have a greater majority than two, and to secure that majority, the honorable and learned member for Angas, the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Wilmot, the "honorable member for Grampians, the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable member for Oxley, and other honorable gentlemen, all of whom are opposed to the principles of the Bill, have to be reckoned. After having solemnly promised to include the railway servants in a Bill which gave them preference, under clause 48, the honorable member for Robertson is now about to deliberately prevent them from getting that preference, and to cast a vote to slay the measure which he promised to support.

Mr McLean - If the honorable and learned gentleman says that I am an opponent of compulsory arbitration, his statement is not true; and he knows it.

Mr SPEAKER - Honorable members are again distinctly disregarding the Standing Orders. I have to ask the honorable member for Gippsland to withdraw the remark that something said by the Minister of Home Affairs was untrue.

Mr McLean - I withdraw, in deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker; but every one in this Chamber knows that I have supported the principle of compulsory arbitration, both in this House and before my constituents.

Mr HUGHES - I am very glad to hear it. All I can say is that there are various ways of supporting a measure, and the honorable member has been unfortunate in the method which he has selected. I withdraw his name, and substitute for it the name of the honorable member for New England, and that of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.

Mr Spence - And that of the honorable member for Lang.

Mr HUGHES - The alteration will salve the honorable member's feelings, and will suit my purpose very well, since 1 exchange one for three. At the same time, if the honorable member for Robertson will read the speeches of the honorable member for Gippsland to the council of the railway men in his electorate, he will know whether they will believe that in trusting the measure to the hands of so stalwart a supporter he was doing what he promised to do.

Mr McWilliams - The railway men do not run Australia.

Mr HUGHES - If they do believe that, the honorable member for Robertson will still have to explain why he voted with men like the honorable member for New England and the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who have openly declared that they are opposed to the measure, root and branch. My honorable friend is voting with others to displace a Government whose members are pledged to carry out this principle, and who could not remain in office for twentyfour hours if they dared to do one of the things which honorable members opposite are doing every day. The honorable member for Robertson could not have got the votes of the railway men in his electorate if he had not pretended that he was in favour of bringing them within the scope of the Bill. I ask him, then, if he is voting as he said he would vote? Is he voting as his constituents, whom he is deceiving and abandoning, whom he is sacrificing on the altar of party and self-seeking, thought he would vote? Self-seeking is a characteristic which marks, with one exception, those who sit on the front Opposition bench; and as it required more than one righteous man to save the cities of old, so I think it will take more than one to leaven such a lump as I now see before me. I come now to the honorable member for South Sydney, who is most appropriately sitting next to the honorable member for Robertson. He is in favour of the measure. He has voted for it, and believes in its principles. He got the support of the railway men, and cast a vote to allow them to be included in the measure. Unless he gets their votes at the next elections, he cannot be returned to this Parliament. No man knows better than he does that what I say is perfectly true; that he must justify his conduct to those whom he promised to include in a measure which provides for preference to unionists. He never. ventured to raise his voice against that principle when before his constituents. He must justify to them the fact that he is voting with a party having only a majority of two, and composed of at least thirteen members who are against the measure, root and branch. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has had the political consistency and pluck to say that he is opposed to it. He did not creep and crawl for the votes of the unionists, and he told the House that he was opposed to the measure, lock, stock, and barrel. There will be thirteen of these amiable individuals' in the majority against the Government, and the honorable member for South Sydney proposes to vote with them, in order to turn the Government out of office, and to prevent the railway men from getting what he promised to secure for them. Yet we do not hear a word from him and other honorable members in explanation of this amazing change of front. In some eastern countries, those who are suspected of crime are required to walk before the detectives, and are given a mouthful of rice. The guilty parties, whose lips are parched with fear, caused by the consciousness of guilt, cannot secrete sufficient saliva to chew the grain, and thereby stand condemned. So honorable members opposite are unable to raise their voices to explain why they have thus changed their plans. They either cannot or dare not speak..

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I could speak for hours in defence of my attitude ; but do the Government wish to be kept here for another week?

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member may be able to speak for hours ; but if he could speak for years he could not explain away his present conduct. He has in another place a colleague who once spoke for several hours at a stretch, and it would probably be difficult for the honorable member to beat him ; but if the honorable member were gifted with ten times that power of speech, he could not explain away the simple fact that he now proposes to vote with thirteen opponents of the measure to secure a majority of two against the Government.

Mr KING O'MALLEY (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - Thirteen is the devil's number.

Mr Mcwilliams - The honorable and learned gentleman is not the absolute judge of other honorable members. There is another tribunal.

Mr HUGHES - I am his accuser, not his judge. His constituents are his judges.

Mr Kelly - Why does not the honorable and learned gentleman speak to his constituents ?

Mr Watson - We shall do so.

Mr HUGHES - Honorable- members need not be afraid that the Government will shirk an appeal to the judges of all. We shall not appeal to men who have first tied our hands, and then, abashed and ashamed of their tactics, keep their own mouths closed. We shall not appeal to them, but to the people outside, who, in spite of everything, have that sense of fair play which always brings home to those who violate its principles the consequences of their wrong-doing.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have violated no principle.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member has broken his pledge; he has abandoned his trust. He proposes to betray those upon whose credulous belief he got into Parliament.


Mr HUGHES - From such a galaxy as is presented by honorable members opposite, one hesitates whom to select. Take the honorable' member for Parramatta, who during the whole of this discussion has said nothing. There is wisdom, the wisdom of the serpent, of Satan himself ; because whatever he had said would have exposed him to the inevitable consequences of his inconsistency. The honorable member is opposed to preference to unionists. He is incidentally in favour of excluding trade unions from the discussion of politics. He deliberately, without any provocation at all, elected to vote against the modification which the Government accepted from the right honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. He is against allowing unions even to register under clause 62. And yet everything that that honorable member has ever achieved in public life,theposition he holds in public rife to-day, he owes to unionism. If there is in this Parliament one who should vote against the attempt of the honorable and learned member for Corinella to prevent the discussion of this measure, it is the honorable member for Parramatta, who, by virtue of his past history,' by virtue of the faithful and unswerving allegiance that has been given him by those whom he now proposes to throw over, should support the principles of the Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister is a good judge of loyalty.

Sir William Lyne - Was not the honorable member for Parramatta once the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales ?

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member was in the New South Wales Parliament at the time when the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under discussion. That Bill contained a clause which gave preference to unionists without qualification of any kind. The honorable member then had an opportunity to express his opinion with regard to that principle. Did he then vote against preference to unionists, or say one word against it ? No, he covered the Bill with' eulogy, and said it was an admirable measure.

Mr Webster - He was then dependent upon the miners of Lithgow.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He depends on them now, and will get their support. The honorable member need make no mistake about that.

Mr HUGHES - No doubt the honorable member will obtain a lot of support from them; but there is one thing he can never do. He can never rid himself of the fact that he proposes now to throw over those very people upon whose shoulders he has climbed up. Why, the honorable member who now has nothing but contempt to pour upon the Labour Party climbed into political life on their shoulders. He was the leader of the first Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament, and stood by the principle of compulsory arbitration thirteen years ago.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister is quite wrong.

Mr HUGHES - I am quite right, and no mere word of the honorable member will make me quite wrong.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then why did the Labour Party rub me out ten years ago? Because I would not sign the party pledge.

Mr HUGHES - If that be an answer to what I have said, the Deity Himself might stand condemned, because He has not destroyed Satan. The honorable member, with his wiles, and his turns, and his tricks, and his subterfuges, and his appeals for votes-

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the Minister to withdraw his last remarks. They are quite unparliamentary as applied to the conduct of an honorable member.

Mr HUGHES - Very well, I withdraw them. The honorable member, by those methods which are known to him and to those like him, has managed to temporarily evade the consequences of his sins. There stands behind him a press, without whose aid he could never for a moment hope to come into Parliament again. What did he say in the New South Wales Parliament in 1899 with regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill? -

The Bill was intended to recognise trade unions - its basis was the recognition of trade unions - therefore, it seemed to him we would not depart from the spirit of the measure by making it penal for an employer to discharge any employ^ simply because he was a trade unionist.

He moved an amendment to clause 26, which was intended to encourage trade unionism', and that was agreed to. He said -

The introduction of the Bill indicates a distinct step away from the regions of prejudice, of irritation, and of bad feeling, and towards those ideals of justice and reason, which we hope will eventually dominate our economical life. May I say, too, that it seems to me that this proposal means for labour (organized labour particularly) a more honorable place and recognition than it has hitherto received. . . . The Bill seems to me to make distinctly in the direction of peace - not of peace at any price- but of peace with honour to both sides. . . . The Bill will lay the foundation of a steady, busy, and prosperous future for all those engaged in our industrial occupations.

The honorable member will wish before very long, that it is merely my finger, and not the ballot-paper, that is being pointed against him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I absolutely do not care about the honorable and learned member, or anything he can do.

Mr HUGHES - In the honorable member's district a union recently appealed to ihe New South Wales Arbitration Court, and obtained preference. That preference was secured undercircumstances which the honorable member is now proposing to render impossible under this Bill. The honorable member assented to this measure during the last Parliament, and to the principles underlying it in the 1899 Parliament of New South Wales, and yet he now proposes to vote against the Bill, and even against giving honorable members an opportunity to discuss it, because his leader has decided that he must do so. Some honorable members speak about the tyranny of the caucus. What caucus? The honorable member for Parramatta, when he was in our caucus, at any rate-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I never was in the Minister's caucus.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member was in a caucus.


Mr Thomas - It is quite true. If the honorable member had not been offered the position of Postmaster-General in New South Wales he would have been a member of the Labour Party to-day.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that a remark made by the Minister is untrue, and I must ask him to withdraw the expression. At the same time, I admit that there was some provocation offered, and I think the Minister will do well to avoid any reference to caucuses.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I absolutely withdraw my remark, Mr. Speaker, and simply wish to say that no one knows better than the Minister that what he is saying is absolutely incorrect.

Mr HUGHES - All I know is that the honorable member was the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales in the 1890 Parliament, and that the party was then governed by caucus, as it ever has been.

Mr Thomas - The honorable ' member was offered, the position of PostmasterGeneral in the New South Wales Government

Mr King O'Malley - Did he get the billet ?

Mr Thomas - Yes ; and he- would have been with us to-day but for that.

Mr HUGHES - It is very extraordinary that the honorable member for Parramatta, who has always been recognised by his fellow unionists as a man to be relied on in matters of trade unionism, and from whose speeches in the New South .Wales Parliament when the measure upon which this Bill is founded was under discussion, I have read extracts, should now propose to vote against the very principles of the measure, and to vote against .even affording- honorable members an Opportunity to discuss it, and should, at the same time, not think it worth while to get up here and explain why he has changed his opinion, why he has abandoned his principles. Very likely honorable members opposite will yet see that it is advisable to say a few words, in order to explain, or to excuse, if they cannot explain, their very extraordinary attitude. They have set us an admirable example of silence, and they would have been very glad if we had closed our mouths as well as they have closed their own. -But we are not to be denied some opportunity of pointing out to the people of this country exactly the position occupied by those honorable members. I accuse die honorable member for Parramatta, who, as I say, has been a trade union official - if I have done him wrong, I apologize-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not want the Minister's apologies.

Mr HUGHES - He has been a mem ber of the Labour Party - if I 'have done him an injustice I apologize. He has led the Labour Party of New South Wales, and has always been in favour of the principle of compulsory arbitration.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was connected with a Labour Party in which the Minister did not believe at all.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member is wrong. I did believe in the Labour Party, but I did not believe in the honorable member. I stood upon the sam= platform as the Labour Party, and the difference between myself and the honorable member is that I have adhered to it, whilst he has abandoned it. If the honorable member will consider where he stood in 1890, and where he stands to-day, he will see that between the two positions there is a . chasm as wide as hell, a chasm that cannot be bridged by the paltry excuses he now seeks to make. Let him justify to the deluded men in his district his vote in support of a party which embraces thirteen honorable members who are opposed tooth and nail to the whole principle of the Bill. Let him explain that if he can.


Mr Mahon - It is terrible for the honorable member.

Mr HUGHES - I believe that the honorable member for Lang is against the principle of the Bill. I include him as an addendum, and that brings the number of the opponents of the measure up to fourteen. The number is none the less unlucky because it is fourteen instead of thirteen. There are fourteen men who are opposed to this measure, lock, stock, and barrel, and yet the honorable member for Parramatta proposes to bring them into power. Al the same time, he will try to persuade those credulous and unhappy men in his district that he is still in favour of compulsory arbitration, and that he would give them preference. If he succeeds, he will achieve a great victory. If he stood alone and had not the advantages of a ticket and the press behind him, he would never do it. The right honorable gentleman at the head of one of the sections cf the Opposition says that, if he comes into power, he will take up the Bill where it was dropped, and will go on with it. I think

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we may well accept that statement without qualification. The right honorable gentleman, would go on with anything. I want to put a question to the honorable member for Dalley, the only representative of New South Wales in the Opposition who had sufficient courage to emancipate himself even temporarily from the shackles of that caucus, of that party discipline, which is iron in its nature, rigid and unyielding, and which seems to deaden and paralyze even the brightest and most virile of the members of that party. The honorable member has told us that he intends to vote against the Government, because we are not prepared to restore the clause to its original form, but propose rather to insert an amendment, which we consider will have the effect that we desire. Although he candidly admits that the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable member for Corinella really destroys the Bill, he intends to vote against the motion for the recommittal of the clause. In these circumstances I wish to know whether, if the right honorable member for East Sydney comes into power, and, takes up this measure, and we move the recommittal of the clause, the honorable member will vote for us or against us? Will he vote to recommit the clause or not ? That is a conundrum. I leave him to think over the question. The honorable member who believes in compulsory arbitration, who hat, given us a generous support, and .has been the only member of the Opposition to give us that fair play which we were promised',, is now pledged to support a party comprising fourteen persons, who are opposed to this principle, and would not have it at any price. Incidentally, I may add that that party is opposed to every plank in the platform on which he stood at the last election, and on which, indeed, he has stood during the whole of his parliamentary career. How is he to explain his inconsistency to .his electors? I have nothing more to say to the honorable member. Up to the present he has given us good support ; but now, at the eleventh hour, he finds himself, I suppose, like the one solitary animal upon whom the clanging doors of the ark were about to close, anxious to get inside with the indescribables. He proposes to go with them, and to abandon that line of consistent conduct which he has hitherto courageously pursued. I shall now deal with the other members of the Opposition, but shall except from my criticism the honorable member for Moira, who is the only one in the party in favour of the principle of compulsory arbitration, whose attitude on this clause I can understand. He has explained it, and I am perfectly satisfied with his explanation.

Mr Maloney - He was man enough to speak.

Mr HUGHES - He is, apparently, the only man who has the courage to say anything on the point. Others who are in favour of the principle, but are going -to kill it, have not had the courage to utter one solitary word on this motion. The honorable member for Moira, however, has never professed to regard this measure from our stand-point. Compared with the tumultuous eloquence of the honorable member for South Sydney, the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Robertson, his speeches have never suggested that he is so enthusiastic a supporter of the principle as we are ; yet, he has mustered up enough courage to explain why he proposes to take a certain course. The explanation is this : that he is the only man who is not dragged at the chariot wheels of the party. He has taken up his present attitude because of principle, and of principle alone. I, of course, exclude from my criticism of the Opposition those who are opposed to the principle of the Bill. I can understand their attitude, and have no objection to the course which they propose to take. My objection is to those who are in favour of the principle, but yet propose to kill it, although they have not the courage to openly do so. Let us consider the Government proposition. We propose that before preference shall be granted to the members of an organization, it shall be shown that the organization substantially represents the industry affected. The honorable member for Dalley said that he could not regard such a provision as satisfactory, and that the introduction of the words " substantially represents," would have the effect of limiting, if not of destroying altogether the usefulness of the Bill. I wish to emphasize the point that the proviso which we seek to insert in place of that carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella embodies the practice which has been adopted in the New South Wales Arbitration Court, and which has been found there to work admirably. Further, it has secured the indorsement of the late Attorney-General of New South Wales,

Mr. B.R. Wise, in whom the honorable and learned member for Ballarat professed a little while ago to fully believe. Mr. Wise, who framed the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and in whose judgment and knowledge of this matter the late Prime Minister professed to have the greatest confidence, is in favour of the proviso which we seek to insert. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, in moving the second reading of the Bill, on 22nd March last, said -

I am perfectly certain .that the quotation of the right honorable member for Adelaide from the Acting Premier of New- South Wales was accurate, and I venture to take the latter as the best authority in New South Wales. . . -.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We do not think that he is the best authority in New South Wales.

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