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Tuesday, 20 September 1904


Mr WATSON (Bland) - I move-

That the present Administration does not possess the confidence of this House.

As is usual in such cases, perhaps, the Opposition has been charged with delaying public business by giving notice of this motion, and I admit that a certain amount of delay must inevitably ensue from its discussion. But on almost every occasion when a new Administration, has ' assumed office, it has been the right and legitimate practice for the Opposition, unless the fact that the Government was supported by a large majority had been clearly made known by some such process as a general election, or as the result of a vote in the House, to ascertain by the readiest means what its position really was. When the Administration of which I was at the head came into power a few months ago, the present Prime Minister, who was then leader of the Opposition, stated in this Chamber, on the night that we first met the House', that he would take the earliest opportunity to test our . position, and he on several occasions repeated that statement in various parts of the country, and especially at Kyneton and at Warragul. On almost every occasion when he spoke in public he breathed fire and defiance against us.


Mr Batchelor - He only breathed it. though.


Mr WATSON - I admit that his threatened motion of want of confidence did not materialize ; but he recognised that it was a proper thing to ask the House whether the then Government did or did not possess the confidence of its members. Curiously' enough, however, the newspapers which are criticising the present Opposition for delaying the discussion . of matters of public importance, then used every, argument that could be brought to bear to force the right honorable gentleman to take similar action against us. The Sydney Daily Telegraph said that it was a disgrace to the right honorable gentleman, and to those associated with him, that they had allowed weeks to elapse without challenging the position of the then Government. Now that newspaper has suddenly become converted to the belief that the pressing need of the country is " settled Government." and that therefore no attempt should be made to interfere with the occupation of the Treasury benches by honorable gentlemen opposite. I contend that we have a right to ascertain what is the position of parties in this Chamber. The programme of the Government has been put before us, and it is a matter for our consideration whether it is to be held sufficient, both in regardto that portion which is to be carried out in the present session, and in regard to the remaining items which are to be carried into effect as part of the future policy of the Government. The Prime Minister, when speaking in Sydney, did not specifically complain of the action of the Opposition in challenging his position, but stated that there was nothing in the Government programme that called for opposition. So far as the Government programme relates to this session, so far as the actual list of Bill's that are to be brought forward and pushed through, are concerned, I admit that there is nothing that calls for opposition on our part. Why? Because the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues have been at every pains to select absolutely non-contentious measures for this session.


Mr Groom - Measures taken from the programmes of previous Governments.


Mr WATSON -Exactly. There is absolutely nothing to which exception can be taken. Of course, if a Government is prepared to do only those things which are. certain to be approved by a large majority of the people, very little exception can. be taken to its immediate programme. It is questionable, however, whether the country will benefit from a mark-time arrangement of that sort.


Mr Reid - The honorable member used to advocate one step at a time.


Mr WATSON - So far as any large measure of public importance is concerned no step is proposed by the present Government


Mr Isaacs - Unless it be a step backwards.


Mr WATSON - I shall deal with that aspect of the question presently. I think that there is a possibility of a considerable step backwards being ta1 en by the present Government in relation to some of the legislation we have passed. At present, however, I am speaking of the immediate programme which the Government have laid before the country, that they have deigned to outline for the consideration of the electors, and I say that it is such as to call for very little remark, and that it certainly will not constitute one step in advance, even if the whole of it be carried out. Take the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. With the exception of the amendment adopted at the instance of the Minister of Defence, the Government have accepted the whole of the amendments proposed by the late Government.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is the Bill of the late Government, with the exception referred to.


Mr WATSON - I admit that with that exception it is our Bill, but, as I have already stated, I regard that amendment as sufficient to vitiate the whole measure, so far as the prospect of its successful working is concerned. The Government have been content to take on trust the proposal that the railway servants of the States shall be included within the scope of the measure. That objectionable feature, from the stand-point of honorable members opposite has been ignored in their anxiety to get the measure out of the road. So far as that specific mattei is concerned I have no objection to urge, but I will pass on to the other proposals. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill is a distinctly nonparty measure - one upon which the leading members of all parties are agreed so far as the survey is concerned. Then, again, the Electoral Bill is a non-party measure, containing, nothing of importance in the way of detail. The Papua Bill, the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, and the Trade Marks Bill proper are all measures of very little importance from the political point of view.


Mr Johnson - They are necessary measures.


Mr WATSON - Yes, but they have no important bearing from the point of view of controversial politics. Then, again, the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is to be treated as an open question. I am quite prepared to admit that it would have been altogether unreasonable to expect the Government to come down with a programme for this session as long as your arm. In such a case they might have been challenged upon the real hope of carrying out their programme. I do contend, however, that in view of the fact that we are nearing the end of the session, this House and the country - and more particularly the country - had a right to expect a declaration from the Government with regard to the course they intended to follow next ses- . sion.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Oh, no. That is quite a new idea.


Mr WATSON - Is the country not to be taken into the confidence of the Government? Are the electors to be regarded as having no interest in the legislation that is to engage our attention ? Is the country to be satisfied when the Ministry says, Micawber like, "Wait until something turns up, and then we shall be prepared to place our programme before you."


Mr Wilks - The honorable member is prepared to mark time until the next Parliament, according to the alliance programme.


Mr WATSON - The honorable member will find that some very large questions are dealt with in the alliance programme.


Mr McCay - They are treated as open questions.


Mr WATSON - There are many important questions that are not left- open. Our programme is not characterized by that mean spiritedness that displays itself in a readiness to defer in everything to the interests of those who are not specially charged with the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. So far as any -allusion is made to large measures by the Government, it is indicated that they are prepared to defer to the wishes of the States Governments. . That seems to be the keynote of the whole policy that the Government are putting forward. They are not standing on the constitutional powers handed over to the Federal Government. They are not declaring, " We are prepared to carry these things through if we can obtain the 00- operation of the States Governments. If we can so adjust the proposals as to work harmoniously with the States authorities we are prepared to do so ; but in any case we intend to push them through." They make no such statement, but in regard to the High Commissioner Bill, the old-age pensions question, and even in regard to that pet idea of the Minister of Trade and Customs - the encouragement of agriculture - they are doing nothing and are proposing nothing except to consult the States Governments. I say that that is not the position for Ministers in charge of the affairs of Australia to take up. As I have indicated, I have every desire that harmonious relations should exist between the States and the Federal authorities ; but there should be a straightout declaration of policy from the gentleman in charge of the Government as responsible Ministers as to their own ideas, and how far they are going to ask Parliament to give effect to them at the earliest opportunity. Take, for instance, the High Commissioner Bill. From my point of view there is very grave objection indeed to the continued postponement of that particular measure. When speaking on Thursday week, I alluded to the difficulties through which Australia had had to pass because of the absence from London of some person who could speak with authority as to the meaning, intention, and scope of the legislation passed by this Parliament.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing spoiling on that account.


Mr WATSON - With all due respect to the honorable member, I think that a good deal is spoiling. The Commonwealth is being misunderstood, and is being misrepresented, and I think that this is doing a great deal of harm indeed to the people of Australia, and that it will later on materially affect their interests. The Prime Minister a little while ago stated that in the estimation of people in the United Kingdom Australia was practically barred to immigrants because of the laws we had passed, and I say that such a view could not obtain if the people of England thoroughly understood the legislation which we have adopted.


Mr Johnson - Perhaps they understand it only too well.


Mr WATSON - If Ohe honorable member appeals to the honorable and learned member for .Ballarat upon that point he will find that he is mistaken. He will discover that there is no possibility, except by twisting the absolute intention of Parliament! out of its proper channel, of preventing any person free from shackles who desires to settle here from coming to Australia. There is every desire on the part of all parties to encourage those people to come here, and to assist them after their' arrival. However, altogether apart from the question of diplomatic representations in the heart of the Empire, we have merely to look at what has been accomplished in Canada - even during the last year or so - by its High Commissioner to realize how far our producers could be assisted by having resident in London, with adequate staff, an officer charged with a proper sense of his responsibilities. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he is satisfied to sanction another year or so of delay in regard to the High Commissionership when he reflects upon the manner in which the Canadian High Commissoner has increased the demand for Canadian products in London, by reason of the steps which he has taken to place them before the people and to familiarize everybody with their quality and price?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have they any State Agents-General there ?


Mr WATSON - No.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the programme of the present Minister of Trade and Customs.


Mr WATSON - Is it? If so, the honorable member is deeper in the secret than is the country, because I do not take it that the Minister of Trade and Customs has professed himself at all satisfied with the work which the State Agents-General are performing. I do not believe that any one will contend that it is possible for a number of gentlemen, however energetic and able they may be, to render exactly the same service as could be rendered by one well -equipped central office working upon a detailed plan for the benefit of all Australia. I do not think the Minister will urge that for a moment. . To my mind it is a serious thing, from thestandpoint of our producers, that weshould continue to neglect the magnificent market offered by the mother country, which imports annually ^236,000,000 worth of' foodstuffs, of which Australia contributes: only a little more than ^3, 000,000 worth, by indefinitely delaying the appointment of a High Commissioner, because, forsooth, " it is necessary to consult the States Governments." While the last Administrationwas in office, I took steps, I admit, to consuit the States Governments as to how far they would be willing - if a High Commissioner were appointed - to take advantage of the facilities 'which his office would" offer in conjunction with the various State

Agencies, and further, I inquired whether they were prepared to allow the High Commissioner to take charge of the various operations connected with the States debts. But whilst asking for an expression of their views, and intimating an anxiety to meet them in every possible way, I was not unwise enough to contemplate delaying for a moment the introduction of the High Commissioner Bill, or the appointment of the gentleman who should fill that position. Therefore, I feel that the Government have taken a wrong step in deferring the consideration of this most important question. Then, there is another matter to which I desire to direct attention - I refer to old-age pensions. Here, again, the Government are apparently prepared to allow the whole possibility of obtaining Federal old-age pensions to rest with the States Governments.


Mr McCay - What does the alliance programme mean upon that point?


Mr WATSON - It means exactly what it; states, namely, that we should get an oldage pension scheme, which will be fair alike to the States and individuals - but we shall get it. It doe's not mean that we intend to consult the States about it, and then defer to their decision, as to whether or not we are to have such a scheme. It means that we shall attempt to arrive at an understanding with them, but that ' failing that we shall still go for an old-age pension scheme. Are we to confess that the Commonwealth is so financially decrepit that it cannot undertake to provide for its aged' poor, or that the provisions of the Constitution are not sufficiently elastic to allow of the whole of the old people of Australia being taken under the care of the Commonwealth? I, for one, say that, even in those States where old-age pensions are granted to-day - in Victoria and New South Wales - the existing administration, while it is, perhaps, all' that is possible under a State Act, is not satisfactory from the stand-point of those who believe in the principle of old-age pensions. We know that many of the most deserving Australian pioneers, by reason of the very fact that they went from one State to another, helping to develop their resources - as the gold miners in the old days .followed the rush from Bendigo to Lambing Flat, and from Lambing' Flat perhaps went to Queensland - are largely debarred from participating in the advantages which old-age pensions should offer to them. Yet, according to the dictum of the Government, we are to be content, in the case of New South Wales, and Victoria, to allow that condition of things to continue, whilst, so far as the other States are concerned, we have no indication thai the Government will make any sustained effort to secure pensions for the aged poor, if the States Governments cannot see their way to agree to the proposal.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Government almost entirely forgot to mention the matter.


Mr WATSON - Yes. It is peculiar that, in regard to this matter, we received the Ministerial statement of policy by instalments. The Prime Minister outlined a portion of his programme in this House. That was supplemented on the same day, so far as the question of old-age pensions was concerned, by the statement of the AttorneyGeneral in another place, and on the following day it was still further supplemented by the other responsible gentleman in the Ministry, the Minister of Trade and Customs. It is rather unusual that we should receive a statement of policy by instalments in that fashion. Of course, if it were a good policy, it would not matter. I merely comment upon it as being an unusual proceeding. I contend, therefore, that it is not sufficient 'for those who favour the payment of old-age pensions to be told that if the States are agreeable, effect will be given to such a scheme. What is the alternative? That we should wait, I am given to understand, until the expiration of the Braddon section of the Constitution. That is rather longer than I hope to wait before seeing such a scheme in existence. If we are to judge by the attitude taken up by the States Treasurers when in conference with the present Treasurer a little while ago, there is no prospect whatever of the States Governments agreeing to become responsible for an old-age pension scheme. I hope it is not so; but if we are to accept as a criterion the statements which they made a few months ago, there is very little prospect indeed of obtaining from that source any adequate scheme of old-age pensions. Having taken a brief glance at what the Government' propose to do, we have to. consider what they have omitted from their, programme. I repeat that we look in vain, for any indication of policy which offers hope to the community. Whilst those measures of which I have spoken are. of ' importance in themselves, still they are only details. They do not largely affect the welfare of the people of Australia. The matters which the Government intend to press through during the current session are, comparatively speaking, of little importance, and we have the most eloquent silence as to their intentions in other respects. Take, for instance, the pressing question of irrigation and water conservation. The Prime Minister has made no reference to the intentions of the Government in that regard. He gave no indication of how far the Ministry are prepared to assist the States to come to an agreement, or to take action in the event of the States being willing to allow the Federal authorities to assume control of that question. There is no indication whatever as to the intentions of the Government in that connexion. I do not think that anybody to-day can overrate the importance of water conservation and efficient irrigation so far as the people of of Australia are concerned. I am not here to put forward anything in the nature of a policy, but I did expect-


Mr Reid - Give the people some hope.


Mr WATSON - So far as I am concerned, when the late Government was in office, we submitted a policy, I admit, of comparatively small importance for the present session. We included in our statement of policy for the present session a very definite pronouncement on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and in regard to some contentious clauses in that, measure, while in our policy for next session we included proposals of such vast importance that they brought down upon us the anathemas of all - those who were opposed to the legislation that we' had been putting forward.


Mr McCay - But those planks are not to be found in the alliance programme.


Mr WATSON - Some of them are. Oldage pensions were certainly included in our programme for next session. The alliance programme does not necessarily cover all the proposals that will be put before the country if an opportunity offers ; there may be further agreement with respect to other matters. It deal's merely with the preliminary proposals to which we have agreed, and the responsibility does not rest upon our shoulders at the present moment to take steps to inform the people as to the course 'we propose to take. My complaint to-day is against the Government, and I assert that we look in vain for any expression of their intentions, once the, present session has closed, wit'h regard to any important or far-reaching proposal.


Mr Kennedy - The Opposition have not given the Government an opportunity to express their intentions in regard to next session.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - They will have an opportunity to-day.


Mr WATSON - They had ample opportunity to do so a fortnight ago ; and in view of the complaint that has been made against them, they will probably be willing to take advantage of the further opportunity which this motion offers. The question arises whether the Government have any . policy, or whether the settlement of a policy awaits the long-deferred caucus meeting' of the members of the Ministerial Party.


Mr Johnson - We do not hold caucusmeetings.


Mr WATSON - I understand that there is a difficulty in regard to certain matters, and that the only chance of their adjustment rests in the party coming to an arrangement in. caucus. It rs certainly rather interesting to speculate as to the results of that meeting, and as to whether, as the outcome of it, we shall be able to look forward to anything in the nature of a declaration of policy upon the larger and more important questions to which I have referred.


Mr Wilson - -Some of us would like to know what those Questions are.


Mr WATSON - I refer to the matters which have been omitted from the Government programme. The Prime Minister stated at Warragul, a little while ago. that it was his intention to challenge the positionof the Watson Government, and to compel every man to define his position. The necessity to compel every honorable member todefine his position still exists. We have" had from the Prime Minister a declaration of open war against, not only the Opposition, comprising members of the Labour Party, but every honorable member whodares to sympathize with the objects which animate that party, and the general principles which underlie their programme.


Mr Kennedy - That is not so.


Mr WATSON - Only a few weeks agothe Prime Minister said that the war into which he and his party had thatnight entered against the Labour Party must be carried to a conclusion. Is it to be expected, therefore, that the right honorablegentleman and his colleagues, having proclaimed that warfare had commenced, weshall stand aside and allow them to use- the machinery of Government to defeat, whether by legislation or by administration, the very objects which we had in view in entering this Parliament? I for one cannot, conceive how any unprejudiced person could expect us to take up such a position. The Prime Minister states that the Labour Party represent a class ; but the, Minister of Trade and Customs goes a good deal further, and asserts that we represent only the section of a class. I am prepared to admit that the first revolt against the domination of those who were peculiarly class representatives - those who had looked to the interests of only a class, and -that one the moneyed class - the first note of rebellion against the domination of that class of politicians certainly came from only the section of a class. At its inception it came from the manual labourer and the artisan.


Mr Webster - From those who suffered.


Mr WATSON - From those who had suffered most from the injustice of legislation which preceded the advent of the Labour Party into Parliament. But the Labour movement had scarcely taken shape - it had not been promulgated for more than a month or two - before there flocked to its standard men representing every section of the community, save those which had something to lose by the disturbance of the existing system. We are told that we have no right to arrogate to ourselves the term " Labour P.arty." It is because there is no broader term than the words " Labour Party " that we seek to describe ourselves in that way. It is because our platform shows a regard for the interests of all' sections of the community that we are justified in calling ourselves the Labour Party. - I challenge those- who contend that we are representatives of only a class or the section of a class to point to one proposal in the platform of the Federal Labour Party, or in that of any of the Labour Parties off the States Parliaments, which is in the interest only of a class or of a section of a class.


Mr Johnson - Preference for unionists.


Mr WATSON - The honorable member suggests that preference for unionists is a proposal to which he objects. The granting of preference to unionists, however, would not have infringed, in the slightest degree, the rights of any person employed in any industry. - It would certainly have allowed the organization upon which the whole superstructure of compulsory arbitration is built to fulfil the mission set out for them by those who first conceived the principle. Beyond that, it would have dom nothing. I am convinced that many of those who object to preference to unionists do not understand the theory upon which compulsory arbitration is based. If the) did they would not be found in opposition to it.


Mr Poynton - It is provided for in the Bill as it stands.


Mr WATSON - Of course it is in the Bill.


Mr Batchelor - It was meekly accepted.


Mr WATSON - Let me deal with the programme of the Federal Labour Party. The first plank in the platform is the maintenance of a white Australia. What is there in that proposal that is peculiarly helpful to a class? Surely it is the concern of the whole community that Australia should be kept free from the contamination which follows in the train of an influx of coloured peoples. Surely it is not a matter in which the workmen of Australia are alone interested. I submit that the whole of the people of Australia have a vital and direct interest in legislation dealing with that question.


Mr Salmon - But the question is not one of which the Labour Party has a monopoly.


Mr WATSON - I am free to admit that that is so; but the honorable member must recollect that that which I am seeking to do at the present moment is to disprove the assertion that the members of the Labour Party are here as the representatives of a class, and I am dealing with the items in our programme in support of my contention. Another plank in our platform is that of compulsory arbitration. Would any honorable member contend that compulsory arbitration is in the interests of manual labourers alone?


Mr Webster - No one who understands it would do so.


Mr WATSON - Certainly not. Any one who has the faintest recollection of that which has frequently occurred in Australia - of the immense loss which has followed from strikes - will at least admit that the whole community has the keenest interest in the settlement of industrial troubles. Then we also make provision for old-age pensions. It may be said that here at last is something in our programme in which the workers are peculiarly interested. I admit that in the main such a proposal is likely to affect those who have to rely on manual labour for their daily bread. The manual labourer and the artisan, as conditions are throughout the world, have but little opportunity indeed to provide against old age. But there are many in this competitive world of ours who imagine themselves to be free from all possibility of want in the evening of their lives, but who, because of some untoward event, find to their surprise, that even they have to ask for an old-age pension. We find in New South Wales to-day that a very large percentage - all things considered - of those who are receiving pensions, are people who never did a stroke of manual labour in their lives, who were never artisans, but who occupied positions which one would have imagined would have preserved them against the possibility of having to come on the State in their old age. I say again that there is nothing peculiar to labouring people in this old-age pensions proposal. Then we have the nationalization of monopolies. I cannot see that the workers have any more to gain in that respect than have the rest of the community. That is to say, those who are ordinarily looked upon as the labouring class .have no greater interest than the rest of the community have in nationalizing monopolies.


Mr Higgins - Than those who retail tobacco, for instance.


Mr WATSON - Those who retail tobacco to-day are suffering from the operations of a monopolistic combine. They are suffering worse than the ordinary man in the street, because so far the combination has confined its kind attentions to the retailer. It has got rid of a number of commercial travellers, and it has raised the price of tobacco to the retailer, who has to be content with a smaller profit ; and in some cases the combination has cut him down to such an extent that there is not anything approaching a livelihood in the distribution of the product.


Mr Kelly - If the honorable member is so certain of these facts, why refer the question of establishing a Government tobacco monopoly to a Royal Commission?


Mr WATSON - The fact that I am certain, and require no further convincing, does not preclude an element of doubt in the minds of some other people. I am so certain of the strength of my position that I am prepared- to allow it -to rest on the investigations of such a body as the honorable member has mentioned.


Mr Salmon - Is the honorable member sure with regard to the raising of the price ?


Mr WATSON - Yes, quite sure. The price has been raised to the retailer. There is no doubt at all. Next, we have the proposal for a citizen defence force. Every member of the community has an equal interest in the defence of Australia, but, so far as property is concerned, the class whom we are so persistently alleged to represent peculiarly, bave no particular interest in the defence of the country. Those who have most to lose do not, generally speaking, belong to what are ordinarily known as the labouring classes. So that I contend that in seeking for an efficient defence for Australia, and in demonstrating - as the Labour Party did during the last Parliament time and again - that we were prepared to vote any reasonable sum for expenditure on armaments and munitions of war, we were taking an action which was not in the interests of the section of a class that we are alleged to represent, but in the interests of the whole people of Australia. Another plank in our platform is that of the restriction of public borrowing. Can it be said that that is an evidence of anxiety to push the interests of a class ? Who would gain most from the expenditure of borrowed money? If we were inclined to be extravagant, and to overlook the interests of the community as a whole, what would be more popular than to engage in an extravagant expenditure of money that is easily got, and which it would remain for " the other person " to repay ? Surely it is a patriotic object on the part of the Labour Party to seek to educate the ordinary worker outside to have some regard, not only for his own interests, but for the interests of those who follow us, who would otherwise be asked/ to pay more than their fair share, as has been the case in connexion with the borrowing policy on which the States have been engaged. I contend that that policy is of a most patriotic character, and that no allegation of class consideration will lie against us in regard to it. I do not wish to enter at length into other points, but I may remark that the Navigation Bill also is of interest to all Australia. The suggested Commonwealth bank of deposit and issue cannot be. said to be of interest to the class of manual labourers only.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Who have nothing to deposit. '


Mr WATSON - Who certainly have no large sums to deposit, and have no particular concern as to what the rate of interest is. Again, the proposal to establish a life and fire assurance department is really of interest to all sections of the community. There is no particular reference to workmen as apart from other sections of the community in the proposal to simplify and cheapen the patent law. In short, I contend, in regard to the programme of ' the Federal Labour Party, and equally in regard to the programmes of the Labour Parties of the States, that I have shown sufficient to prove that no object purely sectional can be urged in respect of them. The proposals of the State Labour Party of New South Wales include measures - and include only those measures - that are for the interest of the whole community directly or indirectly. And so I hurl back the accusation at those gentlemen who accuse us of being here to represent class interests, and say that it is -not the Labour Patty that supports class interests but those gentlemen who are determined to uphold the existing order of things where class interests have already acquired a supremacy with which it is not desired, by some, at any rate, that we should interfere. Another question of difference between the piesent Government and ourselves is as to what we are told is Socialism.


Mr Batchelor - Everything is Socialism now-a-davs.


Mr WATSON - Everything that is proposed by the " other fellow " is Socialism. Everything that will benefit the " other fellow " is Socialism. But when a proposal is brought forward that will benefit, at the expense of the State, or with the assistance of the State, the farmers, for instance, who are so ably represented by' the Minister of Trade and Customs, then we hear nothing of this cry about Socialism. The ' Prime Minister made a declaration about Socialism which, so far' as I have been able to glean, is rather cryptic. He stated the other evening, in the House -

I place side by side with the ideal of using to the furthest extent the national power to promote the national good, the ideal of leaving _ every human being in a free country as free in the exercise of his individual rights and in the carrying on of his individual enterprise, as is consistent with the legitimate use of the national power for national ends.

What does it mean ? There is not one member of the Labour Party who cannot subscribe to that proposition. Every one of us believes in allowing as much liberty to the individual as is consistent with the conservation of national ends. Not one iota do we differ from the general proposition that the right honorable gentleman puts forward. But he appears to have gone a great deal further in the statement he has been putting before the country - before, for instance, the farmers at Kyneton. There he declared an anti-socialistic crusade - that was to be the mission in life to which he would devote . himself. The right honorable gentleman has been distinguished by a steady adhesion to the principles of freetrade for many years ; and, finding that those principles are not exactly in popular favour at the present time, he now proposes to devote the rest of his political career to fighting Socialism. It would be interesting to know just where the limitations are in respect of his policy. When will the national ends refuse to be served? How soon will he draw the line between the interests of the nation and individual freedom of action? It is a truism that it should hardly be necessary to . repeat that every form and attribute of government is an interfeience in some degree with the liberty of the individual. We cannot have government at all without impinging in some manner on the right of an individual to do as he likes. And, therefore, it is idle to talk about the " liberty of the subject" - about the desirability of allowing free play to the individualistic enterprise of each person. We know exactly where private enterprise will take people if we allow free scope, so far as the law is concerned. We know what advantage private enterprise took of the poor, the needy, the weak, and the young in the older land of England one hundred years ago or more. We know what advantage private enterprise is taking in the Southern States of America of the children in factories where there is no factory legislation.

We know what private enterprise has accomplished in the way of sweating in this fair city of Melbourne, and the neighbouring city of Sydney, within the -last few years, when there was freedom from any interference with the right of the individual to conduct his enterprise in his own way. It is absolutely essential that we should curb the greedy disposition which seems to come to so many of us. I do not say that any of us are so free from the 'possibility of falling into temptation- that it would be safe to allow us to go without some curb or some direction on behalf of the community as to what our conduct in life is to be. It Ls utter moonshine to talk about allowing freedom to the individualistic enterprise of the people. As I have said, it is rather interesting to attempt to ascertain exactly what the propositions of the right honorable gentleman are in this regard.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Bland keeps explaining what those proposals are.


Mr WATSON - I do not pretend to do that - it is beyond my power. I am not sufficient of a seer to accomplish anything of that description. But we had a statement from the honorable member for Echuca which seems to explain the proposal. I was commenting last Thursday week on this aspect of affairs, and the honorable member for Echuca then stated that, in regard to the Prime Minister's speech at Kyneton, " the farmers knew what he meant." What did the Prime Minister mean?' Is there some esoteric interpretation that is known only to the initiated? And, if so, what is that interpretation? Is it proposed by the right honorable gentleman, as indicated by the Postmaster-General the other day at Numurkah, that socialistic concessions are to be made to one class of the community only? Is that the proposal that is coming from the present Government? Are they to resist sternly every idea of the extension of socialistic enterprise - every idea of expanding the functions of government - except when the proposal is in the interests of the farmers or some other particular section of the community? The farmers at Kyneton, we are told, understood what the Prime Minister meant ? Did they understand that the right honorable gentleman would offer no opposition to the socialistic proposals which were being put before the country at that particular conference ?


Mr Higgins - The Prime Minister has said that he himself has no fault to find with the theory of Socialism.


Mr Reid - I am afraid the legal interpretation of my actual words by the honorable and learned member is not quite correct.


Mr Higgins - I can give chapter and verse.


Mr WATSON - At Kyneton, where tha Prime Minister spoke so eloquently about the evils of Socialism, we find the farmers in conference passing a resolution ^ to form a political organization. Political organizations seem to be duplicating themselves everywhere. The farmers founded one at Kyneton, and the exPrime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, formed another at the latter place, and I dare say that, as a result of the coalition, it will be necessary to found yet another in order to give expression to the aims of this twoparty Government. But at the Kyneton conference, the farmers not only decided to form an organization - called, I think, the Farmers and Producers' League - but declared that its main feature in all cases should be its opposition to socialistic candidates. Then, having done that much, they proceeded to ask the State Government for a Manure Protection Bill, so that private enterprise might not rob them, or be allowed to rob them, as they allege they have been robbed in the past. The conference also asked for reduced grain freights, and for wire netting on deferred payment. If the farmers do not believe in Socialism, why should they not provide their own wire netting? If every man is to stand on his own feet and rely on his own enterprise - if we are not to be " coddled by a paternal Government " - why do not the farmers find their own wire netting? The Kyneton conference also asked for a bonus on foxes' scalps,. starving stock rates, cold storage for produce, agricultural colleges, grants for shows, the opening! of new markets for fruits, lessons in tobacco manufacture, and an extension of the Credit Foncier system of loans. And later there was a deputation from the same gentlemen, who asked Mr. Bent to find £r,000-


Mr Mauger - Under another name.


Mr WATSON - That is so. They asked Mr. Bent for ^1,000 to be devoted to the finding of new markets for compressed hay. Those are all proposals with which, so far as I aim personally concerned, I heartily agree. I believe that producers in Australia have a hard row to hoe. We are such' a distance from the markets of the world that it is wise to give every encouragement possible, so far . as the central powers of the Government are concerned, in order that producers may successfully occupy the land. I have assisted in' New South wales men like the Prime Minister, the Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Hume/ tb provide facilities for the producing population at the expense, and under the control of the State. But it comes with a very peculiar grace from those who are continually crying for State Socialism in the form of Government assistance to enter upon a campaign of antiSocialism. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his anti-socialistic ideas carry him to the extent of refusing to establish agencies for the' disposal of agricultural products abroad?


Mr Higgins - Or the growth of (beetroot here.


Mr WATSON - Or to encourage the growth of beet-root here, as has just been suggested? I ask whether the honorable gentleman is prepared to refuse all requests for Government assistance of this kind as purely socialistic, or whether he proposes to extend socialistic help to one class only? That is the position I put before the present Ministry, and the Munster of Trade and Customs in particular. In my own opinion a great deal of what is said to-day about Socialism is quite beside the mark. Modern industrial conditions, as has been pointed out frequently, inevitably tend towards monopoly. The power of capital was never greater, as such, than it is to-day, and in every country in the world we find statesmen agreeing that there must be some curb put upon the power that capital is wielding.' Everywhere that feeling is finding expression in legislation of one kind and another. While that is so, while in America we have anti-trust legislation - which is partially successful, but in regard to which it may be found necessary even there to go much further - and while in other parts of the world also we find just the same complaint being made about the power of combined capital and its effect, not only upon the smaller capitalists, but upon the general community - when we see that condition of affairs existing, it is idle .to seek to frighten the people by raising the bogy of Socialism. We were told the other evening by the Prime Minister that the Labour Party were sharpening wedges to be driven right into the heart of human and industrial liberty. Well, we have been at that game in Australia for very many years, if the people would only recognise what they have been doing. Long before the Labour 'Party came into existence, and before' there was any suggestion of a Labour Party, there were wise men in the land who found it necessary to prevent private enterprise from securing control of those great national sources of wealth which might be converted into monopolies against the interests of the people. We had, years ago, I am glad to say, men of sufficient prescience to realize that our railways should not be handed over to private enterprise. We had men like the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who saw that, so far. as his own Colony was concerned, at any rate, the great natural water resources were not handed over to private individuals. I honour the honorable and learned gentleman, and shall continue to do so if he has nothing, else to his credit but the one fact that he so roused the people of Victoria that they conserved these facilities for the use of the people generally. Even if advantage were- not taken of his legislation immediately upon strict business ' principles, the great fact is there that Victoria has shown the lead in socialistic enterprise so far as ' water conservation is concerned in Australia.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - It is a pity the Melbourne tram system is not in the same category.


Mr WATSON - It is indeed, and not merely for the sake of the labouring me:who work the trams, but for the sake of citizens of Melbourne who cannot afford a threepenny ride, and are, in consequence, compelled to walk-


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Compare the Melbourne system with that in operation in Sydney.


Mr WATSON - People in the neighbouring city are enabled for one-third of the price to travel, in many instances, quite' as far as they travel in Melbourne for threepence. We are told by an organizer of the Employers' Union - the body now standing behind the present Government with all its power and force - that the success of the trams in Sydney or Glasgow when owned on behalf of the people- cannot be taken as a criterion, because, as he said, there is no competition. I ask what competition is there in Melbourne, where a private syndicate controls the tram system? There is no competition here, and yet the people do not benefit as the result. It is worthy of remark that the trams in Sydney, notwithstanding the fact that they are carrying a huge amount of dead capital owing to the transfer from steam to electric traction, during last year paid more than tha interest and other charges, and, in addition to that, carried the population of the city many times over at an average rate of about Jd. per mile.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I wonder how much the Melbourne tram system pays?


Mr WATSON - We have no means of ascertaining accurately what the Melbourne trams pay, but it is certain that they do not afford the same measure of convenience to the people at the same cost that is afforded by the tram system in operation in Sydney. So far as the complaint about Socialism is concerned, it seems to me that the proper policy for the people of Australia is to weigh fairly and honestly every proposal to extend the benefits of government.


Mr Mauger - Hear, hear; to consider it on its merits.


Mr WATSON - On its merits. If proposals are clearly laid down first as to the necessity for governmental action, and if that is conceded, then every care should be taken to put the management of the Government, municipal or other socialistic works on such a basis as- will reasonably insure their working in the interests of the community at large. I am free to confess that if I had to choose between having a Government institution worked under a system of political patronage, where every Member of Parliament would be free to use his influence in the direction of having concessions made to himself or his friends - if I had to choose between that form of government or municipal enterprise and private enterprise, I' should quickly choose private enterprise. Unless we have a patriotic determination on the part of Parliament to provide proper safeguards for the management of these concerns, to conduct them on business principles, so far as is consistent with a due regard for the interests of those employed - applying humanitarian principles, we shall not be justified in extending the sphere of governmental interference. But I say that, with these safeguards, and assuming, as we have a right to assume, that the people of Australia will continue to send into Parliament men who are honest, patriotic, and desirous of forwarding the interests of the people as a whole, we have nothing to fear as the result of this governmental interference. What is the contrary position? That we are to pursue a policy of stagnation or of retrogression. That is to say, we must be pre- ' pared to extend only a callous hearing to those who come to us and complain of the conditions in which they have to live. If we take up the attitude of the coldblooded Spencerian doctrinaire, that we should have regard only to the survival of the fittest, that every person must battle for himself in the struggle of life, and that no effort is to be put forward, so far as. Government is concerned, to save the weak from the power of the strong, then indeed1 the state of things cannot be other than one of hopelessness and despair, so far as the great bulk of the population is concerned. I ask what there is to-day before the ordinary labouring man in Australia, though perhaps he is better off here than in many, other parts of the world? It is true that occasionally the newspapers will mention the fact that one or other individual has" managed after great efforts to emerge from' the ruck, and he is pointed to as an example of what is possible for all others. They say : " Brown, Jones, or Robinson has succeeded ; why not others " ? But very often when the individual succeeds, he does so at the expense of others, so that the blood and tears of the many have contributed to the success of the few. But even if that were not the result of the success of those individuals who have managed to struggle through, it is evident that all' cannot be successful under the conditions which now obtain. Yet, unless we hold out tq our people some hope for the future, unless we instil into them the belief that there is inherent in the power of Governments the possibility to achieve something for them and to lighten their load in some measure, they, instead of advancing, will go back, because nothing so much tends to lower a man's self-respect and to lessen his struggles for advancement as does hopelessness. What is there of hope in the declaration that we must resist, as the Prime Minister has said, every attempt to extend Socialism in the shape of governmental interference ? I can understand that the honorable and learned members for Parkes and Wannon, and one or two other honorable members of- the same way of thinking, should take up that position because it is the logical outcome of the doctrines which they hold. They believe that it is better to let the weakest fail or go to the wall, because those who survive will be better than those who have gone before, and the net result will be an improved race; that, even though evil may ensue in the meantime, the end justifies the means. Those views are, I think, out of harmony with the doctrines which a Christian nation should hold. It is out of place in a country like Australia to say that the Government' should stand idly- by and allow those who have the power, to use every opportunity for self-advancement, regardless of the interests of their fellows. That, to my mind, is a doctrine which will not be approved by the people of Australia, if they are asked to express an opinion upon it. While the members of the Opposition differ on some points, we are in agreement upon the general principle that it is our duty, when we. see that the power of the State can be used beneficially, efficiently, and safely, to so use it. I contend that that principle can be applied in all the avenues of public affairs ; and it will be the guiding principle of those who sit on this side of the Chamber in regard to all matters that come up for public decision. The question is not whether, from the stand-point of the doctrinaire, we should interfere, but how far, when interference ' has been proved necessary in the interests of the great mass of the community, we can safely go. We, therefore, accept the challenge which the right honorable gentleman has put forward. He stands to-day for those who believe in marking time, and for those who believe iu going back; for stagnation, and for retrogression. In respect to the principle of governmental interference, he stands for marking time ; in respect to the past legislation of this Parliament, he stands for retrogression, because he has informed us that it is his intention, so scon as he shall have the power, to take steps to repeal some of the provisions which are so obnoxious to him.


Mr McDonald - That is not in the programme of the Government.


Mr WATSON - No, but that is the intention declared by the right honorable gentleman on the hustings, and the announcement was supplemented by a statement to the same effect made in this Chamber last week. Therefore, there is a clear-cut issue between the present Government and those in Opposition, quite apart from the immediate programme which has been put forward. The question is not whether the Papuan Bill; the Trade Marks Bill, or an amending Electoral Bill should be carried, nor is it whether honorable gentlemen opposite, for whom personally I have the highest respect, shall continue, to occupy the Treasury Benches. It is whether the people of Australia sympathize with the declaration of policy which has been made by the Government, whether they are prepared to go back upon that which their .representatives in Parliament have done, and whether they are prepared to indorse the idea that private enterprise should be allowed full sway, and that interference on behalf of the community as a whole should be refused. I believe that the people are opposed to that idea, and that they will on 'a future occasion declare themselves to be opposed to it. That being so, I think it is my duty, in common with other honorable members who sit on this side of the Chamber, to try to ascertain whether the Government represent the majority of the House. I have been moved to my present action primarily by the considerations which I have put forward; but, in addition, by the desire to clear the political atmosphere, to make sure of how honorable members stand. I feel that the Prime Minister has no right to complain of a straightforward, open attack of this character, against which he has an opportunity to defend himself, the people being asked in the last resort to judge between the two parties.







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