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Friday, 12 August 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I do not propose to discuss this question exhaustively as I should have done had the forms of the House permitted me. One of the poets says, " Things are not what they seem." The truth underlying that statement is abundantly exemplified upon the present occasion. Honorable members are invited to debate the question of whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill shall be recommitted with a view to reconsidering clause 48. That is the seeming purport of the amendment which has engaged the attention of this House for the past three days. Although you, sir, have no official knowledge of the fact, we are all aware that that is not the real question which is exercising the minds of honorable members. The real issue .is, " Shall the present Government continue to occupy the Treasury benches, or shall they give place to certain honorable members who now sit upon the Opposition side of the House?" When the present Ministry assumed office, the cry was raised that if they were given a few weeks' trial - in other words, if they were allowed rope enough, they would hang themselves. Evidently that prediction has been falsified, otherwise the Opposition would scarcely adopt the roundabout method of bludgeoning Ministers upon a proposal to recommit clause 48 instead of engaging them in a straight-out fight. A similar attempt to bludgeon them was made in Committee, but honorable members opposite were defeated by a majority of one. Now they hope to accomplish in. the House what they failed to achieve in Committee. It has been urged that the Government ought not to have made this question a vital one. What is the meaning of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella? It means taking the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. I trust that those members of the Opposition -who may soon occupy the Treasury benches, will not be so completely lost to what is right and proper as to retain Ministerial office if they are defeated under similar circumstances. It is not creditable to those who are responsible for the present position that they refused to submit a direct no-confidence motion, under cover of which the merits or demerits of the present Administration could have been discussed. The real question involved in this debate is not one of granting a preference to unionists, but of extending a preference to honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House, who have grown tired of sitting there. I confess that clause 48, in the form which the Government proposed to amend it, does not meet with my approval. I regret very much that in their desire to meet the views of some honorable members, whom they credited with a sincere desire to secure a measure relating to compulsory arbitration, they have already conceded more than they should have done. They have now awakened to the fact that the real issue before the House is not one of preference to unionists, but of preference to certain honorable members.

Mr Fisher - We went to the last extremity to save the Bill.

Mr BROWN - Under the circumstances I shall give my vote on this issue with the Government, although I do not know that the proposal as submitted is one I should like to fight before my constituents.

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