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Thursday, 8 September 1904


Mr McLEAN (Minister of Trade and Customs) - I think that honorable members will agree with me that in the tone and manner of the discourse he has just concluded, as well as by the great force and ability displayed by him in its delivery, the leader of the Opposition has well maintained the high reputation that has made him so deservedly popular in this Chamber. The honorable member, however, cannot expect me to concur with the views he has expressed on the different matters with which he has dealt, seeing that they constitute the distinction between the Government and the Opposition. Before proceeding to reply to the honorable member's speech, I should like, with the indulgence of the. House, to refer briefly to some statements which have been made regarding myself and the other protectionist members in the ranks of the Government and of their supporters. It appears to me that if there is one section of the House who need not explain their position - who are acting in strict accordance with their election pledges - it is the protectionists on this side of the Chamber. Honorable members are aware that after we had spent more than a year in wrangling over the Tariff Billand in settling it on the most favorable terms that we could obtain, we went to the country advocating fiscal peace during the life of the present Parliament, and in the advocacy of that policy we were joined by several free-trade members. At that time we heard nothing of our honorable friends the seceding protectionists.


Sir William Lyne - The seceding protectionists are members and supporters of the present Government.


Mr McLEAN - The honorable member is a distinguished member of the seceding protectionists. I can show him a list of the names of both protectionists and freetraders who went to the country as advocates of fiscal peace. If honorable members in the Opposition corner, who are now asking that the Tariff be immediately reopened, held that opinion at the time of the last Federal election they should have been found working under the banner of my right honorable colleague the Prime Minister, who went to the country openly advocating its immediate revision.


Mr Hughes - But what did he do?


Mr McLEAN - What were these honorable members doing ? If they intended to support the re-opening of the Tariff question - as my right honorable colleague said he intended to do as soon as the House met - they were simply masquerading under the banner of those who advocated fiscal peace. The position of the Protectionist Party was at the time well stated in the columns of the Age, and I will quote one or two passages from an article which appeared in that journal on 12th December last, some four or five days before the general election took place. In the issue of that date the following statement appeared in its leading columns : -

The watchword of the Deakin Ministry is fiscal peace, and all Australia should, at the present juncture, cry a truce on the tariff question -

A truce, bear in mind. That is the very word I have been taken to task for using - while the great issue of Imperial Preference is being fought out in England.

There are two points in that paragraph, short as it is,- that bear directly on our present attitude. It describes the position of the Deakin Government at that time. Their policy was to have a fiscal peace, or a fiscal truce, I care not which phrase is used, during the term of the present Parliament, and to wait to deal with the question of preferential trade until some proposal w:is made by the Imperial Government. That position is put as plainly as it can be in the paragraph I have quoted - "While the great issue of Imperial preference is being fought out in England," we were to have a fiscal truce.


Mr Thomas - That is the Age. What has it to do with the members of this Parliament ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is the age in which we live.


Mr McLEAN - That appeared in the Age of 12th December, and I quote it, because that newspaper correctly reported the views of the Deakin Government at the time.


Mr Hughes - Was it not the attitude of tha Deakin Government on preferential trade, to raise duties against the foreigner ?


Mr McLEAN - It was. I was one of those who went to the country, advocating fiscal peace during the life of the present Parliament.

Mir. Higgins. - And preferential trade.


Mr McLEAN - I believe I can say for every protectionist on this side that . we pointed out to our constituents 'that we had got the best Tariff which could have been got, considering the relative strength of parties, and that there was no use in re-opening the Tariff while the relative strength of parties remained unaltered.


Mr Higgins -Does the honorable member think it consistent that those who opposed fiscal peace should ask for fiscal peace when they are beaten ?


Mr McLEAN - I think their position is quite logical. They went to- the country openly advocating an immediate revision of the Tariff.


Mr Higgins - And they were beaten.


Mr McLEAN - They were hopelessly beaten on that question, and they are prepared to bow to the decision of the majority. But is it consistent for my honorable friend opposite, or any one who went to the country advocating fiscal peace, and who won on that policy, when the country backed them up, and dealt with their request by sending into this House an overwhelming majority, made up of protectionists and free-traders, in favour of fiscal peace, to turn round now and say, " We were only fooling you at the elections ; we did not believe in fiscal peace. We believe in re-opening the Tariff at the earliest possible moment " ? What are the excuses that are being put forward ? We are told that what we objected to was the re-opening of the Tariff by free-traders, but that it was-quite legitimate for protectionists to re-open the Tariff. Surely, that is a story which will not impose upon the credulity of the inhabitants of a nursery, much less upon intelligent adult people? Does not every one know that if the Tariff is reopened - and it does not matter a rush by whom, whether by protectionists or freetraders - if one item of the Tariff is reopened, every item on it is open to attack by both free-traders and protectionists. We have had over twelve months of a struggle on the Tariff. It has been admitted by both sides that the relative strength of the protectionist and free-trade parties was not disturbed at the last election. That was stated in the columns of the Age newspaper a couple of days after the elections took place. It was explained that the losses in one place were made up by gains in another, and that so far as the relative strength of the parties was concerned it was exactly as before.


Mr Higgins - May I interrupt the honorable gentleman for a moment? We asked for fiscal peace as a compromise. That compromise was refused. Does the honorable gentleman think that we are now bound by the compromise?


Mr McLEAN - It was not refused by the country.


Mr Higgins - It was refused by our opponents.


Mr McLEAN - It was granted by the country. Will honorable members opposite say that the country having given a majority to them, and to those who fought under the same flag, they should turn round immediately, and take up the attitude of the party that was defeated at the elections?


Mr Higgins - The question is : Have those who were defeated when they refused the compromise a right to insist now on the compromise being kept?


Mr McLEAN - There is no insistence. They say openly, "We asked for permission to re-open the Tariff. That permission was refused by the country, and we bow to the verdict."


Mr Higgins - Honorable gentlemen wish to tie our hands, and to keep their own hands free.


Mr McLEAN - We, as protectionists, tied our own hands at the last election. The name of my honorable and learned friend is in the list of those who went to the country asking for fiscal peace.


Mr Higgins - No, I did not.


Mr McLEAN - Then the honorable and learned gentleman allowed his name to be used in that connexion. If we take the protectionists who are ' now asking for a revision of the Tariff away from the the majority who supported fiscal peace, and add them to the members of the party led by the right honorable member for East Sydney, who advocated an immediate revision of the Tariff, it will be found that we shall make a very material difference in the verdict of the country.


Mr King O'malley - There can be no truce where both sides do not agree to it. If one side fires on the flag there is no truce.


Mr McLEAN - The truce was confirmed by the country. The country was the arbiter and the proper arbiter. The electors who were the judges heard both sides, and they said virtually, " We are tired of this Tariff wrangle, and we decree that the Tariff shall not be re-opened during the life of the present Parliament." That is the position which I and other protectionists on this side took up. That is our position to-day, and I therefore say that we have nothing to explain to our constituents, because we are acting in strict accordance with our election pledges.


Sir William Lyne - Then why is the honorable gentleman explaining now?


Mr McLEAN - Because my honorable friend and others acting with him have been making certain statements to the country - statements very much at variance with their utterances of a few months ago. Perhaps the honorable member for Hume will give me his attention for a moment while I quote a paragraph from his own speech in returning thanks for his election to his constituents at Albury.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - These papers ought to bc burnt.


Mr McLEAN - These are the words of the honorable member for Hume, as reported in the Age of 18th December -

The fiscal question should never have been raised in this election. Owing to the stringency of the financial clauses of the Constitution it was impossible to have either protection or freetrade. Whatever party was in power, the only possible Tariff must be very similar to that now in force; and until the expiration of the Braddon clauses, it was vain for either party to dream of radical alterations.

Those were the views of almost the whole of the members of the party with which my honorable friend was associated at that time. The only difference at- the present time, so far as I can learn, is that we are still of that opinion, whilst some of our honorable friends have seen fit to change their attitude.


Mr Henry Willis - Who said that?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Sir William Lyne.


Mr McLEAN - A gentleman for whom I have the highest respect, my old and honorable friend the member for Hume.


Sir William Lyne - Hear, hear ; and I shall refer to it myself presently.


Mr McLEAN - It is quite true that I, and I believe all of the protectionists on this side, advocated preferential trade. The attitude of the Government which we supported was to wait until some proposal on the subject emanated from the Imperial Government. That is our attitude to-day. We do not think it is likely that these proposals will come to us during the life of the present Parliament, but if they do, we are prepared to carry out our election pledges, and to deal with them in accordance with those pledges.


Mr Hughes - Is the ot'her head of the Government going to do the same?


Mr McLEAN - The head of the Government is absolutely willing that every member of the Government and their supporters should be true to thefr election pledges on this as well as on every other question.


Mr Hughes - Is there, then, a free hand on preferential trade; is it an open question in the Cabinet?


Mr McLEAN - If is a question on which we shall all vote in accordance with our election pledges.


Mr Hughes - That is to say, that the honorable gentleman will' vote in one way, and the right honorable membei for East Sydney in another?


Mr McLEAN - Probably, if that question should come up. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney is aware that in that respectwe are a coalition Government in just the same way as the Government of which he was himself a member. Will he tell me that he would have voted in the late Government for preferential trade, and in favour of raising the duties against the foreigner?


Mr Hughes - The late Government was not a coalition Government.


Mr McLEAN - My honorable and learned friend should be straight and candid. We know what he would do. He is too honorable to do otherwise than vote in accordance with his honest convictions. The honorable and learned gentleman knows very well that four mem- bers of the Cabinet to which he belonged held one fiscal belief, whilst another four held the opposite view.


Mr Hughes - I do not know that at all.


Mr McLEAN - My honorable and learned friend must know that the Government of which he was a member included four free-traders and four protectionists.


Mr Hughes - I am not aware of that, but it may have been so.


Mr McLEAN - The innocence of the honorable and learned gentleman is charming. Possibly he was not aware of it, but I may tell him that every other member of the House was. In that respect, on the Tariff question alone, and on questions arising under the Tariff, we admit that we are essentially a coalition Government - some of us hold one view and some another.


Mr Hughes - Is that consonant with responsible government ?


Mr McLEAN - It is on all the matters we have in hand. If this matter should come before us by request from the Imperial Government, we shall deal with it in accordance with our election pledges.


Mr Hughes - Who will deal with it? The present Government cannot deal with it.


Mr McLEAN - Every individual mem-: ber of th'e Government.


Mr Hughes - But who will lead? The honorable gentleman or the other half of the head of the Government?


Mr Reid - Wait until it comes along; we shall then soon fell the honorable and learned member.


Mr McLEAN - When the matter comes before us by request from the Imperial Government we shall be prepared to deal with it.


Mr Hughes - I do not know that the Government will then be able to deal with anything.


Mr McLEAN - Dealing with the' speech of the leader of the Opposition, that honorable gentleman, in his opening remarks, complained bitterly of the action of honorable members now on this side of the House in taking the conduct of business out of the hands of the late Government. He argued that, under ordinary circumstances, we should have allowed the House to go into Committee, and to deal with the amendment of the honorable member for Corinella there. I admit that, under ordi-. ra.ry circumstances, that would have been a fair request to make, and I should have been one of the first to agree to it ; but my honorable friends know that the late Government stated openly the alternative which they had to propose.


Mr Hughes - Not on the motion to recommit.


Mr McLEAN - They told us what they intended to do in Committee. If they had asked us to go into Committee to deal with the question on its merits, they would have been allowed to do so ; but they did not ask that. I believe that if we had gone into Committee, the majority against the Government would have been larger.


Mr Higgins - There would not have been a majority against the Government in Committee.


Mr McLEAN - The honorable member for Barker, for one, would have voted against the Government in Committee.


Mr Higgins - What about the honorable member for Dalley? How would he have voted, if we had moved to strike out the whole proviso?


Mr McLEAN - The amendment of the honorable member for Corinella was carried on its merits by five votes, whereas the Government were defeated on the proposal to recommit by a majority of two votes.


Mr Hughes - On the one occasion there was not a full attendance, but on the other there was.


Mr McLEAN - For my own part, I was not aware that the amendment was to be moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nor was I.


Mr McLEAN - I do not think 'that many of us knew of it until it was proposed. I voted in accordance with the views which I expressed during the second reading debate on the Bill introduced by the Barton Government, and I think that most honorable , members did likewise. On that occasion I stated what were the provisions to which I objected, and I voted all through in strict accordance with that statement. It was not our fault that the late Government chose to make clause 48 a vital question. That was a matter for themselves. But they could hardly expect us. who were not supporting them, to reverse the vote we had recorded a few days previously, simply because they were making the question a vital one.


Mr Frazer - We expected fair play, and we were deceived.


Mr Reid - Poor little babies ! But honorable members were not deceived. They are too clever for that.


Mr Frazer - The right honorable gentleman's turn is coming.


Mr McLEAN - If we get the same amount of fair play as we extended to the late Government, we shall 'not ask for anything more.


Mr Page - The honorable member will get it.


Mr McLEAN - We do not wish for anything more. My honorable friend cannot point to a single instance in which the late Opposition attempted to obstruct business, or to thwart progress in any way. We dealt with each matter as it came up, purely and simply on its merits.


Mr Hughes - Hear, hear ! There is no question about that.


Mr McLEAN - The ejection of the late Government from office was a matter for which they alone were responsible, since the situation was one of their own creation. Honorable members who voted against them did so in accordance with their previously expressed convictions. The leader of the Opposition referred in a sneeringtone this afternoon to the remark of the Prime Minister, that in one respect there is a strong resemblance between the members of the Opposition and the supporters of the Government, in thai both are democrats and liberals; and he proceeded to ridicule the assertion by referring to two or. three honorable members whom he regarded as conservatives. It is well known that I have never had any sympathy with conservatism, and that I have supported advanced liberalism throughout the whole of my political career. But in the matter- of exclusiveness, there is a very strong resemblance between the ultra-conservat'ive and the labour member. They are equally exclusive. Your ultra-conservative is in favour of class rule, and your labour member is also in favour of class rule. The only difference between them is this: Your ultra-conservative believes in entrusting political power to that class which, having acquired a stake in the country, has shown some capacity to manage its own affairs.


Mr Hutchison - Cannot the labour members do that?


Mr McLEAN - They nave not done it. Honorable members must remember that I do not sympathize with the conservatives, and have never sympathized with them. They contend that those who have shown their capacity to manage their own business by acquiring a stake' in the country, in the shape of property-


Mr Page - What does the honorable member call a stake in the country ?


Mr McLEAN - I am stating the argument from the conservative, not from my own point of view. Their contention is that the class for which they ask for what I consider an undue share of political power has given evidence of being able to manage its affairs intelligently.


Mr King' O'Malley - Is it not the man with a wife and family and no money who has the real stake in the country ?


Mr McLEAN - My honorable friend's tent, if he had one, would be a good instance of what is meant by a stake in the country. Honorable members opposite also believe that the Government of the country should be in the hands of one class, the labour class.


Mr Higgins - That is the honorable member's mistake.


Mr McLEAN - I do not say that it is not just as capable as any other, but they desire to give exclusive power to a section of the community which has not yet given the same evidence of capacity to manage its own affairs.


Mr Hutchison - Does the honorable member mean that the labour members have not shown that they can manage their own business ?


Mr McLEAN - The labouring class has not shown that capacity to the same extent as other classes have done. If they had done so, (hey would not be under the necessity of working for wages.


Mr Hutchison - Many of the honorable members of the Labour Party do' not work for wages, but manage businesses of their own.


Mr McLEAN - I have been opposed to both parties always. Both the Prime Minister and myself believe in making every section of the community equal in the eyes of the law, and in giving every section of the community the same voice in framing the laws of the country.


Mr Hutchison - That is the policy of the Labour Party.


Mr McLEAN - It is in that respect that we differ from our friends opposite. The honorable member for Hindmarsh cannot deny that he came into this Parliament bound by a very stringent pledge.


Mr Hutchison - What was the pledge ?


Mr Page - Read it. We are proud of it.


Mr McLEAN - It is this-

I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognised political organi- nation, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Federal Labour Platform, and on all questions affecting the platform, to vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted caucus meeting.

My honorable friends claim to represent the whole people ; but had the employers any voice in framing the programme, to which they have bound themselves body and soul ?


Mr King O'malley - Certainly. They can come into the unions if they like. We welcome them.


Mr McLEAN - My honorable friends know that they come into Parliament as the pledged advocates of one class.


Mr Hughes - Not at all.


Mr McLEAN - I accept the correction to this extent. In using the word class, I was rather too comprehensive. I should have said section of a class. The recent action of imy honorable friends shows that they have come here as the pledged advocates of those who are enrolled in the trades unions, and not of the whole of the workers.


Mr Hutchison - Employers, lawyers, squatters, doctors, and other sections of the community belong to the Labour Party.


Mr McLEAN - That is a revelation to me. I am not surprised at lawyers belonging to the party, though I believe that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbournehas not yet signed its platform.


Mr Higgins - I think that the honorable member will admit that men of all classes and occupations are free to join the party.


Mr McLEAN - Just as any person is free to commit suicide. If they are willing to enter upon a career of confiscation, they can join the Labour Party.


Mr King O'malley - No one is free to commit suicide. The honorable member would be arrested if he attempted to do so.


Mr McLEAN - Perhaps I should nol have used that illustration.


Mr Page - Have not the labour candidates to face the electors?


Mr McLEAN - Yes.


Mr Page - Then whose fault is it that we are here?


Mr McLEAN - I am not blaming the honorable member for anything. He should not be ashamed of his position.


Mr Page - I am not ashamed of it; I am proud of it.


Mr McLEAN - If I have misrepresented the platform of the Labour Party in any way, I am open to correction.


Mr Hutchison - Do not the electors accept our platform in choosing us to represent them?


Mr McLEAN - My honorable friends come here as the pledged advocates of the trade unions.


Mr Hutchison - That is not so.


Mr McLEAN - The trades unions are excellent electioneering organizations; there is no denying that. Every man in a trades union is a canvasser for a labour candidate, and they certainly select excellent representatives. I have never said anything against the labour members in this Chamber. They are a most reputable body of men, who are attentive to their duties, and conscientiously carry out their election pledges. But I object to the whole machine which creates class rule. My honorable friends know that I have always been opposed to that. I object to any man binding himself body and soul to an organization outside Parliament. I think that it is right for every man to place his own views before the electors. If those views are acceptable, he should be sent into Parliament. I do not believe in any man so moulding his views as to comply with a platform framed by a body of men outside of Parliament.


Mr Page - Those views must be entertained by the majority of the electors, or they would not send us here.


Mr McLEAN - The honorable member must, of course, represent a majority of those who vote in his constituency.


Mr Reid - Yes, of those who vote.


Mr Page -i secured a majority of 4,780 over the candidate who would have been supported by the right honorable gentleman.


Mr SPEAKER - I am sorry to again have to call attention to the fact that interjections across the chamber - practically conversations carried on between honorable members - are highly disorderly, and render it almost impossible for the honorable member who is addressing the Chair to pursue a consistent line of argument. I must again ask honorable members to refrain from engaging in conversations across the chamber.


Mr McLEAN - The leader of the Opposition took exception to a remark made by the Prime Minister in a recent speech at Warragul, to the effect that the programme of the Labour Government was framed in the vaults. He contended that there was no truth in that statement, and, of course, I accept his denial. But what does that denial involve? It involves the abandonment of the election pledges of the members of the Labour Party, by which they engage to abide by the views of the caucus in every matter affecting their programme. Therefore, it is a poor compliment to pay to a Labour Government to say that they could act independently only by a violation of the pledge under which they entered Parliament.


Mr Hughes - If the whole of the members of the Labour Party are of one opinion, how can their views be influenced by persons outside?


Mr McLEAN - I will answer that in the true Scotch fashion bv asking another question. If my honorable friends are of the one opinion before they go into the caucus, where is the necessity for the rule that has been laid down ?


Mr Page - Because we have been tricked too often by people giving us pledges and promises.


Mr McLEAN - Then what the honor- . able and learned member for West Sydney says cannot be true. All the members of the Labour Party cannot be of the one mind before they go into the caucus.


Mr Hughes - The honorable member stated that we had violated our pledge in regard to the Arbitration Bill ; I say that we were of one opinion, so far as that was concerned.


Mr McLEAN - How did the honorable and learned member know that ?


Mr Hughes - We found it out first of all.


Mr McLEAN - That is what the leader of the Opposition denied. He said that the Government had framed their own programme in absolute independence of the party. Honorable members must have entered the caucus, either in order to make the minority bow to the will of the majority, and come in here as if they believed in it, or merely to perpetrate a farce. If they were all' of the one opinion before they went into the caucus it would be absurd for them to enter into any conclave upon the matter. The leader of the Opposition told us that the policy of the late Government was known to the whole world. I would ask the honorable member whose policy it was. Was it the policy of the Government or of the labour organizations outside of Parliament?


Mr Hughes - It was the policy of the Government.


Mr McLEAN - It was a policy framed by the organizations outside of Parliament, which the labour members were sent in here to carry out in obedience to their masters.


Mr Hughes - It was the policy of the electors at the last general elections, which was confirmed by an overwhelming majority. It is so good a policy that the honorable member is not game to knock out one plank of' it.


Mr McLEAN - The leader of the Opposition referred to the Free-trade League and compared it to the labour organizations outside of Parliament. Now, is there a single member of this House who comes in here with the brand of the Free-trade League upon him, and bound body and soul to carry out its behests? The' Freetrade League will, no doubt, pledge itself outside of Parliament to vote for those candidates whose views are in consonance with its own, but it does not make its representatives its servile instruments.


Mr Hughes - They have to sign a pledge in New South Wales.


Mr Reid - They can do without it just the same.


Mr McLEAN - The Free-trade League of New South Wales did not put their brand upon the Prime Minister. The leader of the Opposition referred also to the tobacco monopoly, and pointed out the injury that was being done to the community by that combination. I am not prepared to say that his assertions are not absolutely true, but I submit that there are other means of dealing with such a matter, besides nationalizing an industry and making it a State monopoly. Surely these monopolies can be prevented by legislation from doing any harm to the public. The present Government are just as much opposed as are my honorable friends opposite to any monopoly that imposes disabilities upon the general public. We may have a different method of dealing with it, but we have the same object in view, and honorable members will find that we are quite as earnest as they are in that respect.


Mr Hughes - What is the honorable member's method ?


Mr McLEAN - 7The honorable member is questioning me rather too soon. We have not yet had time to consider the whole of the details of the legislation by which we could deal with such matters.


Mr Hughes - What has the honorable member been doing during the last three weeks ?


Mr McLEAN - What was the honorable and learned member doing for three months ?


Mr Hughes - Combating the stratagems and tricks of honorable members opposite.


Mr McLEAN - The late Government during the three months they were in office passed only one Bill, namely, the Seat of Government Bill.


Mr Hughes - That was something which the former Government did not succeed in achieving during the three years that it occupied office.


Mr McLEAN - That Bill was passed in a day or two, and the other portion of the term during which the late Government held office was fruitless. The leader of the Opposition also took exception to the proposal of the present Government to postpone the appointment of the High Commissioner. He said that we ought to make the appointment at once, and trust to public opinion to compel the States Governments to come into line. Is that the proper way to approach independent States Governments, who have just as clear rights as we have under the Constitution? We believe that it would be much more conducive to the best interests of the people whom we both represent if we met the States Governments in friendly conference, and came to some amicable agreement. We know that the members of the States Governments are as anxious as we are to promote the greatest good for the people at the least possible cost, and we believe that economy can best be served by entering into' friendly conference with them. I would point out that the High Commissioner will have very important functions to discharge, and that, if he does his duty ably and conscientiously, he can accomplish a great deal. He will be in a position to promote the interests of our producers, by advertising our products, and resources in the old world, by opening up markets, by,1 making the best possible freight arrangements for the cheap transport of our exports to those markets, and by the collection and dissemination of useful information. In this connexion, perhaps, I may be permitted to digress a little from the speech of the leader of the Opposition, by saying that the Government are looking forward to accomplishing very useful work, in conjunction with the States Governments, during the recess. In the first place, the States have public debts, amounting to £2 22:000,000 One of the strongest arguments -in favour of the Federal Union was that increased facilities* would be given for borrowing money for public purposes on favourable terms, because the credit of the Commonwealth would stand very much higher thai* that of individual States; I think that that was a fair and reasonable view "to" take. If the credit of the Commonwealth stand's higher than that of individual States to the extent of even a half per cent. - and I think that is a very modest assumption - we might by taking over the States' debts, effect a saving upon bur annual interest bill of £1,110,000. That would surely be an advantage well worth gaining.


Mr Hughes - Why delay the matter?


Mr McLEAN - There will be no delay in dealing with the matter, unless honorable members opposite unduly prolong the session. If we can go into recess within a reasonable time, we shall be able to deal with the matter promptly. If we do not succeed in reaching recess, the honorable member will not find us whining for office. We can leave office in as good a spirit as we came into it. Reverting to the subject of the appointment of a High Commissioner, I would point out that there are many directions in which that official may render great service. I would remind my honorable friends that the Federal Parliament has al-, ready devoted more than a year to the consideration of one question, the fiscal issue, and it seems to me, that by the time that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has been finally dealt with, we shall have devoted something like a similar period to the consideration of that measure. Surely it is fair that the great producing interests of Australia should receive some attention. The Federal Constitution has left the control of those interests in a somewhat divided state. The Governments of the States have charge of the various Departments of Agriculture; but the Government of the Commonwealth have the sole power to give direct encouragement to production or export. It is absolutely necessary, if we are to evolve a wise and intelligent policy in this direction, that we shall do so in conference with the States Governments, and that is a matter to which the Government intend to devote special attention. I believe that the Parliament and the Government of the Commonwealth may do more good for Australia by developing and expanding her natural resources than they can in any other direction. I would draw attention to the proposal which was submitted last session, as well' as early this session, by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in regard to the creation of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture. It is the intention of the Government to take that proposal into their serious consideration. We are all in sympathy with the object which the honorable and learned member has in view, and it is the intention of the Government to do all that we can to come to such arrangements with the States as will enable us to give every reasonable encouragement to the expansion of the natural resources of the country.


Mr Isaacs - Have the Government any concrete suggestion to make?


Mr McLEAN - If we have a concrete proposal, there is good reason why it should not be made public. The matter is one that must be dealt with, as the honorable and learned member will admit, in conference with the States Governments. What position should we occupy if we first announced exactly what we proposed to do, and then proceeded to negotiate with the States Governments? My honorable and learned friend will surely see that it is only reasonable that we should not make any definite proposal until we have conferred with the States Governments. It is indeed due to the States Governments that that position should be taken up by us. But I am at liberty to point out the direction which these negotiations will take. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has been long and honorably associated with such progressive movements as water conservation, immigration, and other important questions of public concern, and I may tell the House that in these respects the Government are in entire sympathy, and accord with him. These also are matters that will have to be dealt with in the first instance in conference with the States Governments.


Mr Hughes - Does the honorable gentleman speak of irrigation?


Mr McLEAN - I am referring to water conservation and irrigation generally.


Mr Hughes - We are entirely in accord with the Government programme, but what we wish to know is when it is to be proceeded with.


Mr McLEAN - We shall go on with it as rapidly as possible.


Mr Hughes - Then why not go on with all these matters without any recess?


Mr McLEAN -r- Such a suggestion may impose on the occupants of .the galleries, but it can have no 'such effect on old politicians like the honorable and learned mem ber himself. Did the Government, of which he was a member, attempt to do anything in the direction to which I am referring?


Mr Hughes - We undoubtedly did; but we were throttled by the attacks of honorable members like the' Minister of Trade and Customs.


Mr McLEAN - Then the Government kept the matter a very close secret.


Mr Hughes - We had to do so. Mr. Isaacs. - The Minister does not mean to say that the Government will not do anything for the producers, except that which the States Governments agree to do?


Mr McLEAN - Certainly not. This is not the time to make such a declaration. If we desired to flout the States Governments, to defy them, and to have them arraigned in opposition to us, that is the course which we should follow. We commence by saying that we shall endeavour by friendly negotiations and conference with the States Governments to come to amicable arrangements that will be conducive to the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth. We surely should not, on the other hand, hold out a threat to the States Governments, and say to them, " If you do not agree with what we propose, we shall carry it out in spite of your opposition."


Mr Isaacs - It is surely our duty to help the producers.


Mr McLEAN - We shall not be found shirking our duty in regard to the producers. I trust that my honorable and learned friend is doing his duty to his constituents.


Mr Isaacs - I hope so. Mr. McLEAN. - I trust that my honorable and learned friend feels that he is discharging his duty to his constituents, the producers, by doing all that he can to bring into power an organization which would proceed to tax them off their holdings. Is that the way in which he desires to do his duty to them ? I have fought with the honorable and learned member in the past, and I hope to fight with him again, and the remark which I made a moment ago was drawn from me only by his interjection. It relates to a matter which his constituents will have to determine.


Mr Isaacs - I do not object to the remark; but T say that the policy of taxing the people off the land is the policy of the free-trade democratic association, with which the honorable gentleman is now allied.


Mr McLEAN - The honorable and learned member knows that that is the ultimate goal of the party which he is now supporting. He knows that it supports the nationalization of Land, Capital and industry. How are they to be nationalized ?


Mr Hughes - By the method which is favoured by the honorable member for Lang, who is a Government supporter.


Mr McLEAN - By means of taxation imposed not for the legitimate purposes of revenue, but to reduce the value of holdings, in order that they may be ultimately acquired by the money wrung in this way from the holders.


Mr Isaacs - Who imposed the Land Values Taxation in New South Wales?


Mr McLEAN - My honorable and learned friend knows that the doctrine to which I have referred is preached by the paid agitators of the Labour Party, and is advocated by their press. I presume that they will not repudiate their utterances on these questions? The leader of the Opposition was very candid in his statement that it was the intention of his party to turn the Government out of office at the first opportunity. The Government do not complain of that attitude. If the Opposition proceed fairly the Government will be quite prepared to meet any legitimate attack as soon as it may be desired to launch it. I give the leader of the Opposition every credit for his statement, and do not feel less friendly towards him, or to any member of his party, because of the attitude which he and they have taken up towards the Ministry. I recognise that they differ from our views just as we honestly differ from those which they hold. We can fight fairly, and if we are members of the defeated party we shall be able to take our defeat like men. I can only say in conclusion that I trust that the Government during their term of office, whether it be long or short - and I am not particularly concerned about the duration of its life - will acquit themselves in a manner that will be creditable to the Commonwealth, and conducive to the best interests of its people.







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