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Friday, 12 August 1904

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - I deprecate exceedingly the very personal tone adopted by the Minister of External Affairs. His attack upon the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was absolutely undeserved. If honorable members were asked by their vote to show the respect and honour in which they hold the honorable and learned member for his sincerity and consistency in this matter, I am sure they would heartily respond, and that the Minister of External Affairs would stand alone. We should do everything Ave can to preserve the dignity and honour of Parliament, and all' personal bitterness should be avoided in discussions of this kind. After careful consideration, I have decided to maintain the attitude which I assumed on a previous occasion. In the first instance, I voted against preference to unionists altogether. I then said that I would support preference to unionists, only so long 'as the organizations had no political objects, and refrained from devoting their funds to political purposes. I consequently voted against the original clause, and I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because I Avas only too glad, at that time, to defeat the object of the clause. I thoroughly agree Avith the attitude taken up by the Government in assuming that the clause, in its present shape, would entirely fail to achieve its original object, and that the provision as to the granting of preference would become a mere farce. According to Hansard, I spoke on 29th June as follows : -

I am in favour of the principle of the amendment, however, because, while I do not think it necessary that the organizations registered under the Bill should have been formed solely to carry out its purposes, I think that they should exist solely for that object. If existing organizations purge themselves of their political and philanthropic characteristics, and become organizations existing solely to carry out the purposes of the Bill, I would have no objection to men being compelled to join them, and my objection to the principle of preference to unionists would at once be removed..... If the unions turn their attention to industrial matters, apart from any political objects, there will be no desire to prevent unionists from securing preferential treatment.

My statement was cheered by a number of honorable members, and I remember distinctly that the honorable member for New England stated that he perfectly agreed with me, and that he was prepared to accept the principle of preference to unionists if the unions were purged of their political features. Since then the conditions have been entirely changed, because the Government have accepted amendments which will prevent a preference being given to the members of an organization with political objects, or whose funds are devoted to political purposes. Therefore, my objection to the granting of preference has been removed. I should prefer to see the present Government carry the Bill through, because I believe that they honestly intend to give effect to it. I could have no sympathy with a Government whose supporters embraced from eleven to thirteen honorable members who desired to destroy the Bill. Such honorable members would wield an influence which would be sufficiently strong to paralyze the arm of the leader of any new Government, and I think that all those honorable members who advocate conciliation and arbitration should support the motion for the recommittal of the Bill. We should remember what was done at the caucus meeting of the party to which I belong. The following resolution was adopted: -

That this party is not prepared to consider proposals for a coalition, except on condition that the Prime Ministership of any coalition be accorded to the present leader of this party.

That decision was arrived at at a meeting of the Liberal Party, and yet we find the honorable and learned member for Ballarat no longer occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition, and refusing to take office. The right honorable member for East Sydney would probably be at the head of the new Government".

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is not in order in discussing that question.

Mr CROUCH - It is just as well that this matter should be settled. If I am not to be permitted to discuss it, it will be useless for me to proceed any further. The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is not an attack upon clause 48, but an attempt to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. It is equivalent to a vote of want of confiddence, and I contend that I should be permitted to discuss" the whole of the policy of the present Ministry, and also to refer to the probable consequences of the vote about to be given.

Mr SPEAKER - I have' already ruled more than once that the question before the Chair is, so far as I know, not one of confidence, or want of confidence, in the Government, but whether certain words shall or shall not be omitted from the motion which has been moved by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has moved the recommittal of certain clauses, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella has moved that the figures " 48 " should be struck out of the motion. The effect of adopting his amendment would be to prevent the recommittal of clause 48. I know nothing more than that, and I must, as far as practicable, confine the debate to the question which I have stated.

Mr CROUCH - You say, sir, that you know nothing more than that which you have stated, and I therefore propose to place some further information before you. It would be most unfortunate if you were to remain in ignorance of the statement made by the Prime Minister in this House, and in your presence, that if the amendment were carried the Government would resign.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable and learned member will recognise that no such information as that can alter the facts before me. The facts set out in the noticepaper, and which have just been read by me, are the only ones on which I may proceed. Throughout the. debate I have heard frequent complaints as to the discussion being confined within narrow limits, but that would not be the case if the honorable and learned member's contention were correct. The fact that the fate of the Government depends on this issue is not one which can be debated, except incidentally. That it can be incidentally referred to is evident, because the honorable and learned member has dealt with it in that way, and while he so treated it, I did not stop him. When, however, he proceeded to debate the general question, and to discuss the relative merits of the present Government and its possible successors, I was bound to prevent him from proceeding further in that direction, because that is entirely beyond the question before the Chair.

Mr CROUCH - Let me put before you, sir, some of the facts which have been mentioned during the debate. The Prime

Minister has stated that if the amendment be carried, he will resign, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella has also informed the House that he is aware from certain statements made outside by the honorable gentleman that he will take the course indicated. I have likewise heard the matter discussed by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, but, unfortunately, the right honorable member for East Sydney, although leader of the Opposition, does not desire to take part in the debate. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat said that, he knew he was discussing a motion on which the fate of the Government depended, and every member of the Ministry, save the PostmasterGeneral, has said that that is so. I propose to show why those statements, deliberately made, are incorrect. I think that the House will have too much good sense to allow them to be fulfilled.

Mr SPEAKER - I am sure that the honorable and learned member desires to keep within the limits of debate, and having stated those facts, I ask him now to proceed to discuss clause 48.

Mr CROUCH - If the closure be once applied in this way it will give rise to a state of affairs similar to that following the application of the closure in the House of Commons. There it afterwards applied most severely towards those who caused its adoption. If the leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned mem-' ber for Ballarat allow your ruling, Mr. Speaker, to pass without criticism, a dangerous precedent will be created. I appeal to the leaders of parties to see that the rights of honorable members are not unduly restricted ; but if I do not receive the support which I expect from them, I must proceed with the consideration of the clause. I propose to discuss the fiscal side of this question. I have to recognise in the first place that the amendment is being supported by a majority of the members of the free-trade party, and that it is also receiving the silent support of a large number of protectionists, who are apparently going to allow themselves to be absorbed by the free-trade Opposition. I desire to show .what will happen to the industries of Australia if we permit the leader of the f ree-trade Opposition to take possession of the Treasury benches. I fail to see why the protectionists who are fighting with the free-traders-

Mr SPEAKER - During the debate I have repeatedly prevented honorable members from discussing the fiscal issue, and if I were now to permit the honorable and learned member to deal with it I should be guilty of a distinct injustice to those honorable members. I must therefore apply to the honorable and learned member the same rule that I have done to others.

Mr CROUCH - That would be the position, sir, unless a new view were presented to your mind. Unlike the right honorable member for East Sydney, I shall not deal with the general question, and then find in the end that I am unable to connect it with the matter immediately before the Chair. It is admitted that we cannot have protection for the manufacturer without protection for the worker, and that we cannot have preference for unionists unless we have preference for manufacturers. I have alreadypointed out, Mr. Speaker, that you allowed the Minister of External Affairs to diverge from the ordinary channel of debate, and I desire to present a new View of the position to you. I wish to show that the fiscal issue and the question of preference are cognate subjects. I find it absolutely impossible to deal with unionism and preference without showing that the manufacturer and the capitalist are entitled to a similar preference when opposed to outside competitors.

Mr SPEAKER - I cannot adopt the honorable and learned member's view of the position. It seems to me that, while casual reference to these matters has undoubtedly been permitted, I cannot, in pursuance of my duties, allow the honorable and learned member to discuss the fiscal issue in any form whatever. There is a certain course open to the honorable and learned member, and I must ask him to observe the rule I have already laid down, or move that the House disagree with my ruling; in which case he will be able to take the sense of honorable members on the point.

Mr CROUCH - As a junior member of the House, Mr. Speaker, I am too indebted to you for your courtesy and guidance to attempt to contest your ruling; but I desire to say, with all respect, that I think my contention is correct. I shall not, however, take any such step as I think I might justifiably take, but shall accept your ruling. I wish to refer to the position of the present Treasurer leaving office and being succeeded by an extravagant Treasurer, in the person of the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has the most economical record of any Treasurer of New South Wales.

Mr CROUCH - I desire to show that if the leader of the Opposition becomes Prime Minister a large amount of loan money will almost certainly be expended. When he was Treasurer of New South Wales he spent very considerable sums of Savings Bank money.

Mr SPEAKER - I have already asked the honorable and learned member to do one of two things - either to take the proper course of moving dissent from my ruling, or to discuss clause 48. I must ask him not to continue in his endeavour to introduce distinctly irrelevant matter.

Mr CROUCH - I should like to be permitted to show that unionists deposit their money chiefly with the Savings Banks, and that consequently the honorable and learned member for East Sydney showed preference for unionists' money.

Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable and learned member will . not take one of the two courses I have indicated, I shall have to ask him to conclude his speech, and to call upon some other honorable member.

Mr CROUCH - I am exceedingly sorry that the area covered by this debate is of such a limited character. If I am able to show that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella has had the effect of absolutely "gagging" this House, the Ministry, and its supporters-

Mr Kennedy - I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable and learned member is in order in attributing to another honorable member the " gagging " of the House, seeing that the procedure which has been adopted is in accordance with the Standing Orders?

Mr SPEAKER - I would ask the honorable and learned member to withdraw the statement to which objection has been taken.

Mr CROUCH - I withdraw it. I repeat that the House is prevented from clearly expressing its' opinion upon this question. ' I am satisfied with being stopped from speaking, as it will show that owing to the unprecedented procedure which has been adopted, the Ministry and their supporters are denied an opportunity of justifying themselves before the country. I am not a member of the Labour Party, but I am strongly opposed to the Free-trade part/ in every direction, and I therefore intend to vote with the Government.

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