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Tuesday, 20 September 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I do not at all question the right of honorable gentlemen sitting opposite to table the motion which the leader of the Opposition has just moved ; but there is a marked difference between the motion involving the existence of , the then Government which I moved some three years ago, and that which the leader of the Opposition has just moved. On the occasion to which I refer, I stated, in my motion, the grounds of principle upon which I asked the House to censure the then Administration; but my honorable friend has taken a different course. He has made a speech which amounts to the raising of an issue of vast national importance somewhere else. His closing sentences could have no meaning at all if applied to the position of honorable members who are now sitting in this Chamber. They point to a decision upon vital matters of national importance, which cannot be made by us. Although the honorable gentleman has framed his motion as if this were a mere domestic squabble between the " ins " and the " outs," he might well have framed it in such a way as to bring to the service of this party fight the declaration of some large principles, in respect to which the two sides of the House are, at issue. We find it necessary, however, to interpret the motion by the way in which it has been supported. The leader of the Opposition has no serious fault to find with our proposed procedure for the present session.

But he complains that the Ministry which has just come into office is not sufficiently foolhardy to regard itself as fit to work out a deliberate matured policy for a session which cannot possibly begin for the next six or eight months. We are not heavenborn statesmen like those gentlemen who recently sat on these benches. We have had sufficient experience to know that whilst it is easy to make speeches in this House, especially from the other side, the position is different when one assumes vast responsibilities, and when the welfare of a great Commonwealth' is intrusted to a Ministry, with reference to its policy. I think I can claim that I am supported in this Ministry by men of experience who have held high positions in the Governments of the States, who are men of affairs, and who know the difficulties of such a position ; and we have had too much sense to profess to introduce, out of season, and six months before the time, anything like a declaration of policy upon large measures of national concern. Surely it is not a ground of censure that we do not come down now with the policy which we shall have to submit to Parliament, if Parliament continues to exist, somewhere about the middle of next year. My honorable friend the leader of the Opposition did pursue that course in a mild way.

Mr Poynton - The right honorable gentleman asked him to do so.

Mr REID - Surely my innocent friend, the honorable member for Grey, does not consider that because I ask a Minister to do anything, he need do it? The leader of the Opposition is not a puppet. I do not pull him with a string. If I allowed my honorable friends to pull me with a string, it would not be quite so well for me.

Mr Poynton - The right honorable gentleman could not pull the leader of the Opposition with a string.

Mr REID - I am glad to have the certificate of the honorable member. I am merely alluding to important facts. I presume that the leader of the Opposition spoke as the result of studied intention. I am sure that my honorable friend did not make that announcement with regard to the tobacco monopoly and the banks' reserves because I asked him to do so.

Mr Poynton - He made the announcement because he was not ashamed to state his intentions.

Mr REID - My honorable friend said something else just now. He said that I had asked the leader of the Opposition to make that announcement. My honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, did project himself into the future with reference to some measures for a future session'.-

Mr Watson - Even then we were told that our programme was a crawling one.

Mr REID - I suppose we all have to hear a number of epithets. We all have to put up with them. Probably no man in Australia has had to go to bed with more epithets than I "have, but I have never grumbled. I never meet honorable members with a scowl merely because I know them to be utterly wrong. I wish to say on the present occasion that, whilst in my opinion the leader of the Opposition may justify projecting his mind forward to a distant session - so far as the practical business of Parliament is concerned, the House wants to know what it has to do during the session it is in, and wants to know that clearly. It likes to leave Ministers - especially those who have just come into office - some reasonable time for consultation and investigation before they commit themselves to definite measures of large importance. Our policy was to close this session with all reasonable expedition after certain work had been done. I hope that honorable members will recollect the simple fact that we did not come into office as soon as we should have done. I ought to have been here years ago; but, as a matter of fact, the present Ministry has just come into existence. As another matter of fact, the session was six months' old when it came into existence, and, as a further matter of fact, we all hope, apart from party fights, to adjourn at a reasonable time before the end of the year, as the House has always endeavoured to do. Therefore, honorable members will see that to talk of the Ministry elaborating, within two or three months, a great national policy, which is to be announced nine months hence, is to make a demand of the kind that is only urged by a leader of the Opposition when moving a vote of censure. There was a singular omission from the statement made by the leader. of the Opposition. We have heard nothing from him about, the alliance - not a single word about the gigantic mountain which has brought forth two mice.

Mr Watson - We shall tell the right honorable gentleman ail about that.

Mr REID - No doubt; but does not my honorable friend think that when he enters into an alliance with bodies of public men who have the fate of the Common- wealth in their hands, this House should be the medium through which the public are made acquainted with the arrangements of the alliance?

Mr Webster - Did the right honorable gentleman do that in respect of the coalition?

Mr REID - I did everything in the most public way.

Mr Watson - So did we.

Mr REID - May I. suggest to my honorable friend that there was no coalition; that there was a memorandum drawn up by my friend the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and myself-

Mr Higgins - And agreed to.

Mr REID - Will the honorable and learned member listen? That memorandum was submitted to the two parties, who did not agree to it. Surely, in the stress of this vote of censure- motion we are not going to emasculate our memories. Surely I am not called upon to inform my honorable and learned friend of accurate judgment that, as a matter of fact, the party led by the honorable and learned, member for Ballarat did not accept that proposal.

Mr Higgins - But the right honorable gentleman agreed to it.

Mr REID - I am glad I am making my honorable friends lively. It was quite beyond the efforts of- the leader of the Opposition to stir up honorable members; on this side of the House. I hope, however, that the clamour which sometimes prevails in public meetings will not characterize our proceedings.

Mr Mauger - Would not that help the right honorable gentleman?

Mr REID - Not if it assumed the form pf unseemly noise. The basis upon which the alliance was. proposed was set downin black and white and published in all the newspapers, but that alliance was never consummated. There was neither an alliance nor a coalition, because one party refused to join on the basis suggested. Nothing came of that proposal. In the meantime the late Ministry deliberately dug a pit for themselves, and buried themselves.

Mr Webster - And the right honorable gentleman knocked them on the head.

Mr REID - I do not mind a certain amount of interruption, but when I am just beginning a sentence I do not wish to be interfered with. I have a great deal to say on the present occasion,' and I would remind honorable members opposite that the leader of the Opposition was not greatly interrupted when he was speaking.

Mr Webster - He never gave cause.

Mr REID - Is this a hall for free discussion? Must I speak with bated breath here, before the representatives of the only real democracy? Now, the leader of the Opposition, when he sat in the more serene position which he occupied in the Opposition corner, said that there had been a great deal of talk about alliances. Of course, to the honorable member, at that time, alliances were anathema maranatha. He was at the- head of a solid party which was steadily marching, within its own highly disciplined ranks, to dominate the policy of Australia. The honorable member never thought then that he would have to embrace the honorable and learned member for Indi. When I heard my honorable friend's discreet and studied utterances this afternoon I could not help remembering - with a slight alteration - the language of old Abraham -

The voice was the voice of Esau.

Honorable Members. - Oh, oh !

Mr REID - I announced, Mr. Speaker, that I intended to alter the quotation -

But the hands were the hands of Isaac.

The leader of the Opposition said, " There has been a good deal of talk about alliances, but we " - that is the solid party - " have no serious intentions of our own until we have a majority who subscribe to our platform." Have these gentlemen subscribed to the platform? If so, it has been done in the Parliamentary vaults.

Mr Watson - From where did the right honorable member obtain that quotation ?

Mr REID - I am speaking from memory, but it is contained in the speech which the honorable member delivered upon the Address-in-RepIy, at the opening of this House.

Mr Watson - Years have elapsed since then.

Mr REID - I know that very much has happened. It is a new Mr. Watson that we have now. When the honorable member for Bland was the leader of the elect, with no strangers admitted, he practically affirmed that until the Labour Party had a majority of members who would subscribe to its platform, it did not hope to exercise any position of authority in this House. Now, I ask, " Has that subscription been made ?" Have those honorable and industrious gentlemen really got an alliance at all. Because I accept the. declarations made by duly admitted members of the Labour

Party. I know that no member of that party, when he refers to the proceedings of the caucus, speaks wide of the truth. There is no member of the Labour Party in whose accuracy I have more sublime confidence than- in that of the honorable member for Perth. He is a genuine member of the Labour Party - a man who has stood his ground against every opponent in a fair and honorable way - and this is what he is reported to have said at a " Pleasant Sunday Afternoon " meeting which was held an Sunday last -

Where was the necessity or advantage of an alliance ? He, for one, would never indorse any attempt of that kind.

Mr Fowler - That is correct.

Mr REID - The leader of the Opposition has not got a majority now. His majority has gone.

Mr Spence - The honorable member for Perth cannot be " trapped " in that way.

Mr REID - My honorable friend will do what he deems to be right, and I do not care which way he votes, because he will still inspire my respect.

Mr Spence - Let us be thankful for small mercies.

Mr REID - The honorable member for Perth is not a small mercy, and the Labour Party ought to be proud of him. Continuing, the honorable member is reported to have said -

The labour movement was liberal enough for any one wishing to associate with it, and, so far from there being any advantages in an alliance, there were very grave disadvantages. Was it not a tendency on the part of many supporters of the movement to be enticed away by some red herring across the trail?

Does that refer to the honorable and learned member for Indi?

It might be protection, or it might be freetrade. The so-called alliance never had any vitality, and was doomed from the outset to disruption.

What an unhappy pair of political twins. This is a . pronouncement by one who has been in the nursery.

Mr Spence - That applies to the Ministerial coalition.

Mr REID - If I were quoting the honorable member for Darling he might say that, but I am quoting a gentleman of a different stamp. The report continues -

It was resorted to onjy as a very temporary expedient -

That is where I do not come in. What is the temporary expedient of this alliance? It is not a matter of public policy. It is a sort of uneasy movement on the part of my honorable friends opposite, for which I have no word of censure, because every man has a right to better himself.

Mr Watson - That is worthy of the right honorable gentleman.

Mr REID - Surely political ambition is not a thing of which we ought to be ashamed ?

Mr Watson - The right honorable member insinuated more than that.

Mr REID - My honorable friend does me an injustice when he says so. Surely political ambition is not a dishonorable thing. I have never been ashamed to avow it myself. I have been criticised because I did so, but I despise such criticism. A man in public life who has no ambition has no right to be there.

Mr Hughes - There can be such a thing as dishonorable ambition.

Mr REID - I am not attributing that sort of ambition to honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Perth continued -

It was resorted to only as a very temporary expedient, but there were always within the ranks of the party those who regarded it as contrary to the principles of the labour movement.

Have we not always been told that office as compared with the principles of the labour movement was as dust? Could we deflect these pure unselfish patriots from the path of loyalty to the labour movement for the sake of a vote upon a motion of censure ? Never ! But the voice from within has been heard, at last. Hitherto we have been unable to learn what the caucus really did, but we have always been told what it did not do. Whenever anybody made a statement as to what was done at the caucus meetings of the Labour Party, we were always assured that nothing of the kind ever occurred. Nobody has ever told us what did occur. Now, however, we have a gleam of daylight.

Mr Crouch - It must be interesting to the right honorable . member to know that principles exist.

Mr REID - Continuing, the honorable member for Perth is reported to have said -

Those members felt it was unnecessary and objectionable, and their ideas had at least received the assent of a majority of their colleagues.

Mr Fowler - That is incorrectly reported.

Mr REID - I wanted my honorable friend to follow the quotation. Does he repudiate any other portion pf it ?

Mr Fowler - I do not.

Mr REID - That is a straightforward statement. Now we can understand why the alliance has not been talked about.

Mr Watson - It will be loyally adhered to.

Mr REID - If the masters of the Labour Party in this Parliament will allow it to be adhered to. I should like to refer to the language of the overtures which were made to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. We have a letter in the handwriting of the honorable member for Bland dealing with the subject, and I hope 'that the honorable member for Grey will agree that it is correct.

Mr Watson - I hope that the Prime Minister can decipher the letter.

Mr REID - It is in print. In the later alliance, which does not seem to have a very healthy existence-

Mr Groom - Does the Prime Minister

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member is all right. After some years he is at last beginning to see daylight. I wish to quote certain remarks made in a letter written to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat by the present leader of the Opposition. The Labour Party, which pursued its lonely course above the mere adventitious transitions of ordinary politicians who form alliances, has suddenly developed, so far as ' politics go, a most amorous condition. There was an approach to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat-

Mr Watson - At his invitation.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - I will take it as the honorable member pleases. There was an approach; but, although the young lady was willing, it did not come off, and now my honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, finding no one else whom he can embrace, cultivates the melancholy personality of the honorable and learned member for Indi. Instead of this new alliance being greeted with delight by the whole family, there seems to be all the elements of a first class family quarrel.

Mr Watson - Not at all.

Mr REID - My honorable friend is all right, and so is the honorable and learned member for Indi; but there are other persons who have to some extent to study these matters.

Mr Isaacs - Does the Prime Minister feel all right?

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member will have an opportunity to speak later on, and, unfortunately, I shall not be able to reply to him. Let me quote one of the proposals contained in the letter written by the present leader of the Opposition to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat -

Members of the joint party to be supported at the elections after the manner usual in all parties during continuance of an alliance.

That suggested something like a free body of men. But something else has since happened. Let us compare that, which sounds perfectly fair and reasonable, with the humble tone of the arrangement made by the new alliance -

Each to use its influence individually and collectively -

This is where the legal intellect comes in! An ordinary member of the Labour Party could not resort to all these legal subtleties of expression, bred of keen suspicion - with its organizations and supporters, and secure support for and immunity from opposition to members of either party during the currency of the alliance.

The alliance betweeni the Labour Party and the followers of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was to be free. In that case there was talk of equality, party with party - the usual alliance - and a promise that " we shall give the usual support." But even that assurance had to be repudiated. The honorable member for Bland, and the party of which he is leader, were to use their influence over their organizations, but that influence has failed.

Mr Watson - No.

Mr REID - It has failed in that particular part of Australia that concerns the honorable and learned member for Indi.

Mr King O'Malley - It is a " Rock of' Ages " cleft for him.

Mr REID - Does my honorable friend say that the Political Labour Council of Victoria has not passed a resolution refusing to use its influence in the way referred to?

Mr Watson - No; they say that they will make no promise ; but . that it rests with the branch leagues and not with the central executive to decide the matter.

Mr REID - Exactly ; so that my honorable friends have still the blessing of areprieve. The fate which seemed to look so black is still subject to possible revision, if the principals do not repudiate the bargain made by the agents on their behalf. I wish to take a somewhat retrospective view, and to show what, in my opinion, makes this alliance - if it be a real alliance

Mr Maloney - The right honorable member will find out that it is.

Mr REID - I desire to criticise it if it be a real alliance ; but there are some who evidently do not believe that it is. I wish the House to look back to the history of the situation which has arisen in connexion with one matter which my honorable friends in the Opposition corner profess to be anxious about - a revision of the Tariff, in the way of helping some of the protectionist industries that are said to be in distress. That is the basis of the alliance which my honorable friends in the Opposition corner have put before the country.' It is not love of the Labour Party, nor belief in its principles, that has caused them to ally themselves with that party- I do not deny that a large number of their views are in sympathy with those of the party, just as is the case with honorable members on this side.

Mr Webster - Not many Government supporters are in sympathy with us.

Mr REID - But my honorable friends in the Opposition corner put themselves in the position I have mentioned. It is not ambition ; it is not a desire to injure an unfortunate individual who happens to be in the road - it is not anything of that sort that has led them to take this step. It is a great public necessity. There are protectionist industries in distress, they say, and in order to rescue them they have formed this alliance. Have honorable members of the Labour Party, who, I may say, all their lives long have' stood loyally by the cause of freetrade, agreed to this compact?

Mr Webster - The right honorable gentleman has left them in the lurch.

Mr REID - I ask that question, and I think that I am' entitled to do so.

Mr Hughes - Oh !

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member for West Sydney came to me before the last general election, and I took advantage of our meeting to put some questions to him on a subject which I had to consider prior to the. election taking place. I then asked him, 'as I was fairly entitled, in a humble way, to do, a certain question.Whatever the support of the Free-trade Party may be worth, we have always given it. to the honorable and learned member in his candidature for West Sydney.

Mr Hughes - The Prime Minister knows that he opposed me tooth and nail at the first election at which I stood; but that I was returned in spite of that opposition.

Mr REID - I did not know the honorable and learned member at that time.

Mr Hughes - But I was returned.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member was then a perfect stranger to meHow many years ago was this?

Mr Hughes - At the elections held in 1894, when the right honorable member himself was almost unknown.

Mr REID - Cannot I bring my 1 honorable and learned friend closer to the facts of to-day than that? Is it necessary now to make, so to speak, a hurried expedition to the North Pole? I asked the honorable and learned member, as I was entitled to ask him, what was his position with reference to the labour pledges, and he gave me a perfectly fair explanation, saying, " I am perfectly free on a vote of censure."

Mr Hughes - Touching the fiscal question.

Mr REID - I understood that- the honorable and learned member meant that he was perfectly free to vote as he pleased on a motion of censure, whatever it might be.

Mr Hughes - Oh, no !

Mr REID - I may have been mistaken:

Mr Hughes - The matter has been frequently explained. I told the right honorable gentleman that I was perfectly free, except in regard to a plank in our platform.

Mr REID - I did not know that a vote of censure was a plank in the Labour Party's platform.

Mr Hughes - A vote of censure might involve a plank in the platform.

Mr REID - Then the honorable and learned member thinks that the present motion of censure involves a plank in the labour platform?

Mr Hughes - It involves the whole of them.

Mr REID - It, perhaps, involves one of the Ministerial planks. The honorable and learned member very fairly gave, me the information that, on the fiscal question, he was perfectly free to vote according to his views. The honorable member for Canobolas was in the same position. I am not putting it that these honorable members ever asked us for our support ; but I say that they did run, on the fiscal question under the colours of the free-traders of New South Wales.

Mr Wilks - They did not refuse that support.

Mr Hughes - The statement is not quite accurate, but it is near enough. We could have so run had we wished to do so.

Mr REID - They were bracketed day after day with our candidates, and I never received any complaints on the subject. That is all I will say. The honorable member for Canobolas was returned unopposed. I am not making any imputations. I feel sure that there is not one free-trader in the Labour Party who has sold himself on the Tariff revision question to the honorable gentlemen in the corner. That is all I say.

Mr Batchelor - That is funny !

Mr REID - It is not a bit funny. If honorable members opposite had sold themselves - I do not believe it; I will not believe it for a moment - it would not be funny at all. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am only mentioning that in order to come back to what I consider an outrageous attempt to violate public faith. I say it is an outrageous attempt.

Mr Poynton - Say that again !

Mr REID - I do not think it is necessary ; I am going to prove it. I think it is a matter that concerns the public far more than the question who is to hold office. If people are to be allowed to betray their promises to their electors the electors had better know it. I suppose that the policy of the Deakin party may fairly be quoted from the lips of the then Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. In the opening speech of his campaign, the honorable and learned member described my attitude by saying that I had greatly come down in my demands. He said that I had asked for a mild Tariff revision, and that "it was only a little one." Then my honorable and learned friend went on to say that he knew that industries were being injured by the Tariff. So that this is no new discovery which has just been made. It is nothing new. The then Prime Minister said -

Some industries have been destroyed by this Tariff; some others have been injured, and many have not been assisted.

So that the then Prime Minister went before the people of Australia, telling them, "We do not like this Tariff; it has destroyed some industries; it has injured others ; it has not assisted some others ; but, nevertheless,. I say that the policy which I put before the people ' '-

Mr Mauger - He had not the faintest idea of the extent of the injury.

Mr REID - May I read what the honorable and learned member for Ballarat said before the election? He said -

The clean cut issue, then, in the contest now to be commenced, lies between those who hold with us that what we need is time to adjust ourselves to our new conditions without another Tariff campaign in Parliament. .

What is the Opposition corner trying to bring about? A new Tariff campaign in this Parliament. In the debate on the Address-in-Reply, the three leaders of the House declared the verdict recorded by the electors of Australia, in the following words : -

Mr Deakin - The fiscal issue is dead and buried during this Parliament, at all events.

Mr Reid - I recognise that that is the verdict of the constituencies.

Mr Watson - I share the gratification of the Prime Minister that with the last election the issue, as between free-trade and protection, has disappeared for some time to come, at any rate, so far as the Tariff is concerned..

Practically the fiscal issue is dead, at any rate, so far as this Parliament is concerned.

Even Sir William Lyne, in returning thanks at Albury, said -

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

I want to go a little further. I have here some quotations from the leading protectionist organ. One was published after the speech to which I have referred. It is contained in a leading article, published on the 30th October, 1903.

Mr Tudor - In what newspaper?

Mr REID - In the Age.

The first and foremost necessity of the time is a truce on the fiscal question.

The word "truce" is used. It was not recognised some months afterwards.

Mr Mauger - The right honorable member would not recognise it then.

Mr REID - I am referring to the attempt made in a certain quarter to deny that they ever used the word " truce."

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.

I now give a number of others - 6.11.1903. - The issue is clear enough - Preferential Trade, a White Australia, and Fiscal Peace.

23.   1 1. 1903. - This being the position, protectionists are compelled to concentrate all their strength upon the single item of fiscal peace, including the addendum of preferential trade within the Empire. 7.12.1903. - They (the electors) wish either for fiscal peace or for fiscal war again. They would have the present Tariff let alone pending the Imperial preferential proposals, or ripped up again as soon as Parliament meets. . . . .

But the issue on which the bulk of the community is divided is fiscal peace or fiscal war_

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