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Friday, 9 September 1904

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) - Like most other honorable members, I listened to the honorable and learned m'ember for Indi with considerable pleasure and interest. My interest was increased by the fact that his speech was of a character such as we are not accustomed to hear from him. It was palpably an address to the gallery, and to his constituents. I welcome the attitude which the honorable and learned member has taken up on this question, because it seems to me that if there is to be organized obstruction the sooner we face the music the better. For my part, I am quite prepared to abide by the consequences, although I know that many honorable members on the other side are not so ready to face the situation. The honorable and learned member for Indi, and the leader of the Opposition, dealt with the methods by which the late Government were defeated, and claimed that they were not ejected from office by fair and reasonable means- that the battle ground was not of their own choosing. I am of opinion that the battle ground was distinctly of their own choosing. The only way in which we could arrive at a fail and definite decision upon an important point was afforded, by the method adopted. What were the broad facts of the case? When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was previously in Committee it was proposed to delete the sub-clause providing for unconditional preference to unionists. That amendment was defeated. A further amendment was moved by the present Minister of Defence, with the object of limiting preference! to the members of organizations which could show that they represented a majority of the persons interested in the award. That amendment was carried. Notice of it had been given some days before the division took place, and more than ten speakers discussed it. After the amendment had been adopted the then Government announced, through the press, their intention to seek a dissolution or resign office if the House did not reverse its decision. The Government chose to regard the question as vital, and I contend that it was far better that the whole matter should be disposed of in the full House, where every vote would count, rather than in Committee. The object of the late Prime Minister in seeking to recommit the Bill was to give that champion bridgebuilder, the honorable and learned member for Indi, a further opportunity to display his powers. The intention undoubtedly was that, in the event of the Government amendment being defeated, the honorable and learned member should prepare some other amendment, or perhaps dozens and dozens of amendments if such should be necessary, with a view to enabling some slippery politicians to act contrary to their convictions. As it was, three honorable members changed their attitude upon the question of preference to unionists. Two of them were wise enough not to give reasons why they went over to the Government. Fortunately, most other honorable members had a sufficient amount of courage to stand by the votes they had given on a former occasion. What was desired by the Government was to revive bridge-building methods, which would enable weak-kneed politicians to evade giving a straight-out vote. The leader of the Opposition told us that the Government had made no effort to retain office. But I hold a very different view. There was a great deal of squealing and manoeuvring by Ministers before they left office. When it was proposed to amend the clause in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill relating to the rules of the unions, which the late Prime Minister declared to be vital, one honorable member who was opposed to the 'registration under the Bill of unions having anything in the nature of political objects, asked the Minister in a very meek tone if he would resign in the event of the Government being defeated upon the clause. A reply was given in the affirmative. That threat had the desired effect, and the honorable and gallant member referred to changed his attitude, save'd the Government, and ran home. The same tactics were employed on the last occasion.

Mr Watson - Is there anything dishonorable or improper in the Government saying that they will make a certain question a vital one?

Mr ROBINSON - Pressure was applied to that honorable and learned member in the most open and flagrant manner. It was a matter of open comment. It was referred to in more than one speech delivered in this Chamber, and was the subject of many private conversations between honorable members. Honorable members on this side of the House take up a courageous attitude. They seek to check such practices, which bring Parliament into disrepute, and would have every man stand by his guns.

Mr Spence - The amendment was sprung on the House.

Mr ROBINSON - That is not so.

Mr Groom - How many honorable members knew that it was to be moved ?

Mr ROBINSON - If the honorable and learned member refers to the amendment against the recommittal of clause 48-

Mr Groom - I do.

Mr ROBINSON - The honorable and learned member's parliamentary experience should surely be sufficient to teach him that if a Government announces that it considers that a certain clause or sub-clause of a Bill is vital, and that it will gc out of office if it be' defeated on it, it :s for the Opposition to take the first available means to .test the opinion of the House on that question. That is the course which we adopted, and, to my mind, the result was very satisfactory. The leader of the Opposition has told us that the Government party is composed of a number of incongruous elements. I frankly admit that there are wide divergencies of opinion, on certain questions, among honorable members on this side of the House, but I think that I shall be able to show that there are equally wide divergencies of opinion on the part of honorable members of the Opposition. We, 'at all events, have one principle in common.


Mr ROBINSON - I shall be able to show that some members of the Opposition and more particularly the honorable member for Bourke, have one principle very much in common with that which we favour. We object to caucus or machinebound Governments.

Mr Watson - And yet the Government use the machine.

Mr ROBINSON - I object to a caucusbound Government- - a system under which a Government is a mere detail in the hands of a machine. Such a . system makes a man a mere puppet in the hands of wirepullers outside the House. It destroys an honorable member's liberty and conscience, and reduces him to the position of a mere delegate. In order to show the House, and more particularly the honorable member for Bourke, the infamous nature of caucus or machine politics, I trust that I shall be permitted to quote from a speech made by that honorable member at the last general election. According to a report which appeared in the Age on 14th November, 1903, he took up a very vigorous attitude in opposition to the Labour Party. The report sets forth that he said -

Why was it the Labour Party was opposing him?..... He did object to sign the party's constitution and pledge. Had he signed the pledge he would have put himself in the hands of twenty or thirty men who wanted his billet, and be compelled to support the candidate whom they selected, even if Be were a freetrader. He would also have lo give up 5 per cent, of his salary to the Political Labour Council ; but he did not intend to do that.....

The position was that some twenty or thirty persons - a little- clique at the Trades-hall - were to have the power to say whether they approved of a candidate, and if they did not approve of him he would have to stand down. Such things savoured of Tammany-hall and Russia -

That is the policy to which honorable members on this side of the House are opposed. Then he went on to say -

Any one who signed that pledge {i.e., labour pledge), agreed to support a candidate before they knew who the man was. The caucus did not allow any liberty ; they must vote for the majority. They clamoured for the liberty of minorities, but they did not allow any liberty to their own minority.

That constitutes the basic difference between the Opposition and the Government.

Mr Reid - Did they run the honorable member for Bourke verv closely?

Mr ROBINSON - they did.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - He beat his opponent by over 700 votes.

Mr ROBINSON - But he had to call upon the then Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, to extricate him from his difficult position.

The honorable and learned member went to Essendon in support of the honorable member; and made a rallying speech against ma chine government. According to a report which appeared inthe Age on 25th November last, the honorable member for Bourke, in the course of another election speech, said -

The electors had to consider whether they would be represented by a person who was the nominee of a little clique called the Political Labour League, or whether they would sendback their present member, who represented, not one section, but all sections of the community.

I come now to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, for whom I have the greatest respect. I find that at the last general election he took up a position similar to that adopted by the 'honorable member for Bourke. Under the heading of " Mr. Mauger on the Labour Party," the Age, in its issue of 18th November, 1903, published the following report: -

If he were to be returned to the Federal Parliament it would be as a representative of the whole of the people, and not as a machine, to be worked at the dictation of a small portion. ..... If he did this-

That is, sign the labour pledge - he would be abrogating the fundamental principles of the Constitution by handing over to a few men and a small section of the electors the right to say whether or not he should be a candidate.

Then, again, according to the Age of 24th November, 1903, he said -

He had beea asked to '" nominally " sign the platform of the Political Labour Council. (A Voice : Then the council is a failure).

Mr Mauger - I say it is not only a failure - it is an absolute fraud.

I do not think that any words of mine could put the position more clearly than does the luminous exposition made by the two honorable members, whose utterances I have quoted.

Mr Reid - Did the Labour Party run the honorable member for Melbourne Ports very closely?

Mr ROBINSON - They opposed him, but I am glad to say that his majority was not a small one. His popularity was so great that he was able to hold his own.

Sir John Forrest - Did the then Prime Minister have to go to his assistance?

Mr ROBINSON - No. His popularity was so great that 'he did not require such help. We agree with' these honorable members with regard to the position of the Labour Party, but the distinction between us is that we are prepared to give effect to our opinions in a proper and legitimate way, while they, on the other hand, have sunk their views.

Mr Reid - It is the biggest case of " yes-no " of which I have ever heard.

Mr ROBINSON - One reason why some of us object to the Opposition is because of the extreme, militant, aggressive Socialism preached by a very large section of that party. A most unfair attempt was made last night to foist on the Prime Minister the responsibility for the utterances of Mr. R. S. Walpole. I am fairly well acquainted with that gentleman, and think I can say that he would resent such an attempt.

Mr Watson - But he uttered the statement to which reference was 'made.

Mr ROBINSON - I repeat that he would resent the suggestion that he was giving expression, in any shape or form, to the views of the present Prime Minister. I do not wish to defend him, for he is well . able to take care of himself, but on one point he has been grossly misrepresented.

Mr Tudor - No.

Mr ROBINSON - The interjection made by the honorable member for Yarra-

Mr Tudor - The statement in question was made by Mr. Walpole, when speaking at Lilydale, and I have a copy of the report, which has never been denied by him.

Mr ROBINSON - He has shown me a letter from a clergyman, who heard the whole of his speech, and who, without concurring in his remarks, moved a vote of thanks to him for his lecture. That clergyman states that no such statement as that attributed to Mr. Walpole was ever made by him.

Mr Tudor - Will- Mr. Walpole himself deny it?

Mr ROBINSON - I believe that he will.

Mr Reid - What have we to do with Mr. Walpole?

Mr Batchelor - A great deal; the Government exist by his agencv.

Mr ROBINSON - He represents one section of the community, which is entitled to adopt whatever constitutional means it pleases to secure the propagation of the views that it holds, but there is no justification whatever for the suggestion that the views of Mr. Walpole are shared by the present Government. The socialistic party object to Mr. Tom Mann being regarded as their mouthpiece. That is a most extraordinary position for them to take up. When I said last night that the Victorian labour members were partly responsible for the payment of the expenses of Mr. Tom Mann's mission, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney indignantly denied the statement. I do not make such assertions without being able to prove them.

Mr Bamford - The honorable and learned member was' understood to refer to members of the Labour Party in this Parliament.

Mr ROBINSON - I said that some members of the party in this House were responsible, and can prove my assertion. Let me quote from a. report which appeared in the issue of the Tocsin - the authorized political organ of the Trades Hall Council, of 30th June, 1904 -

A meeting of the Trades-hall and the Political Labour Councils, sitting as a combined body, was held in the Trades-hall on Friday night, Mr. Hannah, M.L.A. (President of the Trades-hall Council), presiding.

Mr Salmon - Is that the Mr. Hannah who opposed the honorable member for Bourke ?


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - .Cook. - And he was 'defeated bv over 700 votes.

Mr ROBINSON - The report proceeds -

A number of Federal and State labour members were present. The meeting was unanimously of opinion that Mr. Mann's services should be retained, much of the success which had crowned the party's efforts in the late State election being directly traceable to his splendid capacity for organization, and to his strikingly forcible platform exposition of labour's aims and ideals.

In my opinion, Mr. Tom Mann is one of the best investments that the Labour Party have ever made, but I am surprised that they should have the effrontery to deny their association with him. The next paragraph in the report is as follows: -

The amount required to continue Mr. Mann's services is ^40 per month, which includes salar}', travelling expenses, hire of halls, and all other necessary outgoings.

That seems to me to be a remarkably small sum.

Mr Reid - Thev are sweating him.

Mr ROBINSON - I shall read the next paragraph, because it absolutely bears out the statement which I made last night -

Of this monthly sum £aa is already assured,, four Federal and eighteen State Labour members having agreed to contribute £1 per month each to the. special' organizing fund.. The balance1 of £iS is to be subscribed by the- unions.

We have here a clear and definite statement that the expenses of Mr. Tom Mann's campaign are borne by the Political Labour Council, the various political unions,- and by' various members of the Victorian Labour Party. It proves up to the hilt that the Victorian section of the Labour Party, at any rate, is responsible for Mr. Tom Mann's utterances, because he is their duly accredited paid agent and representative.

Mr Hughes - What about Mr. Walpole?

Mr ROBINSON - I have already dealt with that gentleman's position.

Mr Batchelor - Does the honorable and learned member belong to the union which that gentleman represents?

Mr ROBINSON - I do not; I belong to only the parliamentary union. From the quotations I have made it will be recognised by the House that the Labour Party are re- sponsible for Mr. Mann's utterances. I do not say, however, that because the Labour Party is supported by some anarchists it should therefore be branded as an anarchist organization. The Opposition have endeavoured to show that every grinding employer of labour is a supporter of the present Government. I do not think that is so, and it is just as improper for the Labour Party to make such a suggestion as it is for them to endeavour to avoid the just consequences of .the utterances of their duly accredited agent, Mr. Tom Mann. Let us hear what the Age newspaper, which is the organ of the new alliance opposite, that is going to attain office, and save the country at a break-neck rate, says about the Political Labour Council and Mr. Tom Mann. I find this in the issue of the Age for the 25th November, 1903 -

It is that a mischievous organization, calling itself a. political labour council, nominated by self -seeking parasites of the labour cause, has captured the control of the machine and foisted itself into the leadership of the scheme. It may be, of course, that some members of this council have indeed become the disciples of anarchism which one or two have' not scrupled to avow. We cannot afford to forget the meeting recently held in the old Trades-hall, at which certain labour leaders gloried in comradeship with the foul assassin of President McKinley. Thev apotheosize the man who sneaked up to the late President and' fired a revolver bullet into his stomach; and. they called upon their deluded followers to " Remember our comrades who died for anarchy." It is revolting to any one who cherishes a. sense of decency and pride in the grand old name of liberalism to think that any. section of that party - which in this State has gloried in the leadership of a Higinbotham, a Berry, and a Grant- can have- left the fair pastures of a clean progressive creed and policy to link itself with political leaders who uphold ' the cowardly doctrine of assassination.

That was a comment on a section of the Labour Party, and I am satisfied that it is so stringent as to be quite unfair. I do not believe that the members of the late Government should be charged with sympathizing with the cowardly attack on President McKinley in any shape or form. I have sufficient confidence in them to believe that they would reprobate it with all their hearts. But I do say that it is as justi-liable to charge the Labour Party with sympathy with these ideas, as it is to endeavour to foist some of the extreme ideas .given utterance to on the other side on the present Prime Minister and his associates. At the last election there was a free interchange of opinion on this question. I have already told honorable members what the honorable 'members for Melbourne Ports and Bourke thought of the labour caucus and the labour pledge, and any honorable member who has a few minute's to spare may turn up the records of the Tocsin newspaper for last November, to find some very interesting reading, and to learn how the' labour organizations denounced the honorable members to whom I have referred as trimmers and traitors who sought to get into Parliament by cadging votes, that they might sell the Labour Party on the first opportunity. That was the opinion then held of those gentlemen bv the labour organizations, but now they come together in a close embrace, as though they were long-Jost brothers, who had met again - while each one is feeling to see that his knife is loose, in case of accidents. We have been told that an alliance has been completed between the Liberal Protectionist Party and the Labour Party, and the terms and conditions of the alliance have been published. The one thing which appears in the1 forefront of the terms of alliance; is the evidence that it is based upon a shameless and open departure from pledge's gwen by honorable members at the last election. If there was one definite question at the last election, it was that there should be a fiscal peace. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister, stood for fiscal peace, and asked that the Tariff should not be disturbed during the currency of the present Parliament. I followed one of the staunchest free-traders who ever sat in this or in any other Parliament, and who voted for every free-trade motion, and T agreed with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat in his claim, dining the election campaign, that the. present was not the time at which to re-open the Tariff question, the people of Australia being sick and tired of it. I therefore took up the position of supporting fiscal peace, and I pledged myself to resist any attempt to reopen the tariff during this Parliament, even though the pledge might force me to vote against my esteemed leader the right honorable member for East Sydney. I propose to adhere to that position now, because I believe that a man who gives a definite pledge of that kind should adhere to it.

Mr Reid - In common honesty, I should think.

Mr ROBINSON - Common honesty and common decency demand it. In order that there may be no misunderstanding as to the real' question submitted to the electors at the last elections, I refer honorable members to what the Age newspaper had to say on the subject. I find in the issue for November 23, 1903, the following remarks in an article on the Tariff question : -

A reasonable public opinion recognises that this is not a fitting time for reopening the whole question, just after spending some seventeen months in dealing with it. Free-traders need not fear, but that after a few years, during which public opinion will have had time to ripen, protectionists will seek to do for Australia what they have done for America, Germany, France, and Russia. . . . But that time is not now. Public opinion claims a rest, and will have it. It is no more prepared outside Victoria to perfect protection than it is to return to free-trade. Protectionists have the insight to perceive this, free-traders have not, and they are doing to the Commonwealth the disservice of forcing a barren issue. . . . It is as vital to the protectionists to gain the battle for fiscal peace as it would be if their immediate object were further protective advances.

Mr Reid - Hear, hear; and now that they have gained it, they wish to stain the white flag.

Mr Mauger - Having gained it, it is ours to do what we like with.

Mr Reid - To do what honorable members like with their pledges? That is the confidence trick.

Mr ROBINSON - On the 27th November, the Age said -

The issue which will decide the election is that of Australian trade or foreign trade : Is the Federal Tariff to be ripped up or let alone?

On the 30th November this appeared -

The first and foremost necessity of the time is a truce on the fiscal question. As long as that struggle goes on it bars the way to any progressive legislation on other national and social questions The Opposition proposal for a new strife over the Tariff is directly opposed to the Deakin policy of fiscal peace . . There is a time to draw the sword, and a time to sheathe it. All the interests of trade, and industrial development demand for the present a cessation of fiscal hostility.

That was the view held by the Age newspaper.

Mr Mauger - Yes, twelve months ago.

Mr Reid - That accounts for it.

Mr ROBINSON - The issue which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat put before the electors was the issue of fiscal peace, and the 'honorable and learned gentleman bound his party, so far as a leader can bind a party, to that platform. Though I differed from the honorable and learned gentleman on nearly every other point, I agreed with him that it was not desirable that the Tariff should be again ripped up during the currency of this Parliament. That policy was indorsed by all sections of the community. T'he honorable member for Bland, when this House met made the same kind of statement. On 4th March, 1904, I find he is reported on page 147 of Hansard, to have said -

There is another feature of the elections to which I should like to refer, namely, the fiscal question. I share the feeling of gratification which has been expressed by the Prime Minister, that with the last election, the issue, as between freetrade and protection, has disappeared, for some time to come.

That was the definite platform of the Labour Party and of the Deakin party. Honorable members may recollect, as I do clearly, t'he account of an interview between the honorable member for Bland and the press soon after the present Prime Minister made a speech in Melbourne advocating the reopening of the Tariff. When the honorable member for Bland was interviewed on the subject, he said that he- was very much disappointed that the right honorable member for East Sydney should be trying to revive the Tariff question, because he thought it ought to be sunk until the end of the period fixed by the Braddon clause. That was the position which the parties opposite took up then, and it is, therefore, clear that the new alliance is based upon a shameless and open disregard of those pledges. The alliance has been formed, we are told, for the purpose of reviving the Tariff issue, which honorable gentlemen forming the alliance definitely pledged themselves to sink during the life-time of the present Parliament. It will be a matter of interest to us, who gave definite pledges not to re-open the Tariff, to see how those staunch free-traders, like my honorable friend the ex- Postmaster -General, and the honorable members for Maranoa, Perth, Canobolas, Barrier, and others will vote on the question. Is it true that they have sold themselves body and boots to the new alliance?

Mr Reid - No fear, they are too staunch on that subject.

Mr Mahon - Do not indulge any hope in that quarter.

Mr ROBINSON - If the honorable member for Coolgardie were to go over on a question of that kind, I do not know anybody in the world whose steadfastness I could trust on this or any other question. But the honorable member for Melbourne Ports also took up the same attitude. He was also a fiscal peace man at the last election. He is reported in the Age newspaper of 24th November, 1903, to have said -

The Tariff was by no means satisfactory to protectionists. He had no intention, however, of reopening the fiscal question.

Mr Chapman - Who said that?

Mr ROBINSON - Mr. SamuelMauger, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.

Mr Reid - No, a brother ; not " 66 Bourke-street," surely?

Mr ROBINSON - The honorable member went on to say -

More was to be gained at present by fiscal rest than by resurrecting the Tariff.

Mr Mauger - Quite right, that was twelve months ago.

Mr Reid - The honorable member is a regular body snatcher now.

Mr ROBINSON - The honorable member for Bourke, who, I am sorry to say, has flinched from my castigation and run out of the chambe'r, said much the same thing. He is reported by the Age of 12th November, 1903, to have said -

He would support the Government as regards the maintenance of the present fiscal protection and fiscal peace.

So that those two honorable members, who are now battling to resurrect the Tariff issue were definitely pledged, so far as words can be definite, to prevent any reopening of the Tariff question during the present Parliament.

Mr Mauger - No, I did not say a word about the present Parliament.

Mr ROBINSON - It is extraordinary that honorable members who gave a pledge of that kind should have the effrontery now to advocate the reopening of the Tariff question. I have shown that the alliance existing between the extraordinary elements of the present Opposition is based upon a shameless disregard of pledges, and an open breach of faith with the public of Australia. We should look at the agreement which has been come to to see what are the conditions of the alliance. They are very amusing, and to those honorable members who are asked to contribute 5 per cent, of their salaries, they should be very interesting also. Article 3 of the conditions reads in this way -

Each party to use its influence individually and collectively with its organizations, and supporters to secure support for and- immunity from opposition to members of the other party during the currency of the alliance.

The honorable and learned members for Melbourne Ports and Bourke will not be assailed from the Labour side. They will not be asked to sign a pledge, or to hand over 5 per cent, of their salaries to assist the x Labour cause. For this Parliament and' the next their positions will be safe from Labour attacks, and no levy will be made upon their purses so long as the alliance continues.

Mr Mahon - Does the honorable and learned member say that any section of the Labour Party pays 5 per cent, of its salary to support the Labour cause?

Mr ROBINSON - I quoted the remarks made by the honorable member for Bourke at the last election, when, I believe, the honorable member was absent from the chamber. At any rate, the proposition was made that every member of the party in the Federal Parliament should contribute 5 per cent, of his salary to assist the Labour cause.

Mr Reid - I guarantee that it was not approved of.

Mr ROBINSON - I am informed that it was.

Mr Wilson - It was at the time; but it has since been withdrawn.

Mr ROBINSON - It is stated in the articles of alliance that the Arbitration Bill is to be put through as nearly as possible as originally introduced; but that members are at liberty to adhere to votes already given. What does that mean? Honorable members will recollect that on the very first division after the Watson Government took office an amendment was carried, on my motion, excepting farming and rural industries generally from the operation of the Bill. The present leader of the Opposition then stated that he would use all his efforts and influence to defeat that amendment, and that he and his party would do their best to bring those industries under the Bill. Is it the intention of the alliance to go back on that vote, or are honorable members opposite to have freedom of action on so important a question? If the combination is successful, and the honorable and learned member for Indi is able to oust the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, how will he vote on the question ? He was one of those who originally vote'd to exclude the farming industries from the operation of the Bill. The honorable member for Hume voted in the same way. The first vote which- he gave after the Watson Government came into power was against the application of the Bill to the farming industries. What does he propose to do in the future?

Sir William Lyne - I shall do as I did before.

Mr ROBINSON - I am very pleased to hear it, and to notice that my honorable friends are not unanimous on this important point. We are told, however, that in another place there are fourteen pledged labour members. If they insist on applying the Bill to the farming industries, will the members of the Opposition in this chamber accept this amendment? That is a point upon which the people in the country desire enlightenment. When the honorable member for Bland made his Ministerial statement some four or five months ago, he told us that his policy included the Government manufacture of tobacco. The making of provision for such a step was part of his programme for the session of next year; but, on looking at the platform of the alliance, I find that paragraph 10 reads as follows: -

Tobacco monopoly. Appointment of the present Select Committee as a Royal Commission, with addition of members from both Houses of Parliament.

I wish to know if the united Opposition is in favour of the manufacture and sale of tobacco by the Government.

Mr Mauger - That will depend upon the report of the" Royal Commission.

Mr ROBINSON - The Labour Party are definitely pledged in the matter. What then will become of the joints in the Labour tail ? Are they going to wag the dog, or will the dog wag the tail? I should like to know how the honorable and learned member for Indi is going to vote on the question, and a great many others would also like a definite pronouncement from him on the subject. In the last Parliament the honorable and learned member for Corio would work himself up into paroxysms of indignation whenever mention was made of the Government taking over a manufacture, and the proposal to establish a Government clothing factory nearly drove him out of his senses. I should like to know therefore whether he will vote for the Government manufacture of tobacco. This question is a very vital one, because the attitude of the alliance in regard to it will show to what extent the Socialism of the Labour Party is to be adopted by it. Are the members of the alliance ready to vote for the manufacture of articles in every case where a monopoly might be created under private enterprise ?

Mr Mahon - Will not the honorable and learned member give us his views on the single tax question?

Mr ROBINSON - I am at present giving my views on the Ministerial statement, and the programme of the Opposition. If my honorable friend wishes to hear me on another matter, I shall be prepared to give him my opinions in regard to it at some other time. I wish to know what is to be the attitude of the alliance in regard to the Iron Bonus Bill. Their platform in regard to it is as follows: -

Iron Bonus Bill. - Every member to have freedom of action as to method of control.

Does that mean that the whole party is pledged to the granting of bonuses for the manufacture of iron? If so, a number of the members of the Opposition are going back upon their written opinions. I have before me the report of the Iron Bonus Commission, which was presented to His Excellency the Governor-General in March last, and was signed by, amongst others, the ex-Prime Minister, and the exMinister of External Affairs. Both of those gentlemen signed a report which pronounces in the most vigorous terms against the granting of a bonus for the manufacture of iron. Are they going back on their opinions? Are they to have a free hand only in determining who is to get the spoil, or are they going to adhere to their pledges in the matter? The decision of the alliance on this question will throw further light upon their attitude in regard to State Socialism. Caustic reference was made last night bv the honorable and learned member for Indi to the question of preferential trade. He asked what was the attitude of the Government in regard to it, and stated that he would oppose any proposal which was not based on protectionist lines. But on looking at the programme, all I can find is, that preferential trade is to be discussed by the two parties at an early date. Prior to the last general elections, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat took up' a definite attitude on this question, and I supported him in regard to it. He stated that we must wait for a request from the British Government before taking action, and the Age in a leading article published on the 30th October last, after the speech of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, outlining the policy of his Government, said -

If the time for negotiations ever arrives in consequence of Great Britain accepting the new policy, then will be the occasion for saying in what particulars our Tariff shall be modified in favour of England..... Mr. Deakin's preferential policy is crystallized in a sentence. " Great Britain must make the first move."

That was the policy of the Deakin Government, and I understand that it is the policy of the present Government. When Great Britain makes a move, the House will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter, and honorable members can then express their views on the question. The attitude taken up by the honorable member for Bland, when speaking on the motion for the Address-in-Reply, was that the Tariff should not be re-opened under any circumstances, " unless proposals first come from the mother country." There are three or four points- upon which we require information. We want to know to what extent the Socialism of the Labour Party is adopted by those allied with it. Have the stragglers from the Protectionist Party, who are allying themselves with the Labour Party, swallowed its socialistic principles, or have honorable members of the Labour Party abandoned their principles to please the stragglers from the Protectionist Party ? Although the platform of the alliance contains about seventeen paragraphs, and deals with nearly .every phase of legislation likely to be discussed during the next ten years, no reference is made to the proposal put forward by the honorable member foi: Bland to take .£8,000,000 of the gold in the reserves of the banks, and substitute for it the I.O.U. of the Commonwealth Government. . No reference is made to the banking policy of the Labour 'Party, a policy of deliberate theft from the banks. Have the liberal malcontents succeeded in getting the Labour Party to drop that proposal, or is it to roe brought forward again later? It would be a matter of interest to us, and to the whole country, to know whether the Labour Party and members of the Opposition generally intend to institute a system of spoliation of the banks the moment that they have a sufficient majority at their back. Whatever incongruity there may be about the coalition of honorable members upon this side of the House - and I do not deny that differences of opinion exist upon vital questions - there is still more incongruity to be found in the combination upon the Opposition benches. Many honorable members, who previously stated that the Political Labour Council is a perfect fraud, and who refused to surrender their liberties by allying themselves with the Labour Party, are now prepared to work with, them. I do not think that any sacrifice of principles has been made by honorable members on this side, to compare with the abandonment of policy of which some honorable members opposite have been guilty. It will be interesting to watch how the present combination upon the Opposition benches works, and what strength the respective parties will be able to exert. When the leader of the Opposition approached the Protectionist Party with a view to effect a coalition, he offered to distribute portfolios in the Ministry in accordance with the number of members who allied themselves with the Labour Party. I should like to know if the same principle is to be followed in connexion with the present combination. Is one portfolio or more to be given to members outside the caucus, or are they to be equal in all things ? Not the least amusing development to which we shall look forward is the Homeric struggle which is bound to take place between the honorable any learned member for Indi and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, as to who is to occupy the position of legal adviser to the Government. Is it to be the honorable and learned member who has drafted amendments in the Ministerial room, or the bridge-builder who has drafted amendments to save the Government in this Chamber ? The struggle between these two honorable and learned members will be watched with the greatest amusement and the greatest zest. An honorable member has just placed in my hands an extract from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Hume upon the 15th March, 1904.

He is reported at page 535 of Hansard as having said -

The Government do not propose to raise the fiscal issue, but I intend to maintain my principles. At the same time, I shall adhere to the statement of the Prime Minister that fiscal peace is to be preserved.

Sir William Lyne - Hear, hear.

Mr ROBINSON - I am very glad to have an opportunity of disinterring that statement of an honorable member who, until a few days ago, was the leader of the malcontent Liberals, and who has now given place to the honorable and learned member for Indi. I am glad that an alliance has been formed between the two parties sitting in Opposition, because their combination will tend to clear the political atmosphere. It will show ' the country that there are a number of honorable members who are quite prepared to play the part of the tail of the Labour Party - the tail of the caucus and socialistic party. We know now that we are fighting a party wedded to the system of machine politics, and to the methods of militant Socialism. If the threats that the Opposition will obstruct the business of the House to the best of their ability are carried out, I hope the Prime Minister will adopt a courageous attitude, and place a distinct, issue before the electors at once, so that the responsibility for the present political upset may be laid upon the right shoulders, namely, upon the shoulders of those who are wantonly obstructing public business. We do not fear to face the electors upon the issue of free versus machine politics, but I know that many honorable members opposite are praying night and day that a dissolution may be a long way off.

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