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Tuesday, 20 September 1904


Mr JOHNSON (Lang) - I am but a young parliamentarian, and, therefore, I cannot speak from long experience ; but, as far as my knowledge goes, I believe that usually when a Government is challenged, it is challenged upon some question of public policy, or because of the nonfulfilment of pledges, or for some specific reason which can be clearly shown. But now we have the astonishing spectacle of a Government being challenged, not for acts of maladministration, not upon any ground of public policy, or of injury to the public weal, but simply because it has decided to go on with public business, and devote the tail end of the session to some useful public purpose. That is the sole ground, apparently, for challenging the existence of the present Government. There is no justification whatever for the action which has been taken by the leader of the Opposition. So far as his speech was concerned, not the slightest reason was advanced for the tabling of this motion. The speech to which we have just listened has added nothing further in that direction. On the contrary, it has simply been one long tirade of abuse, and of misrepresentation, and has been conspicuous for the amount of spitefulness and vindictiveness which have been imported into it. We have heard a great deal about a White Australia. But is it not a fact that the present Prime Minister "moved an amendment in the Alien Immigration Restriction Bill to substitute the colour line for the education test, and is it not a fact that he had the support of the leader of the Opposition in doing that?


Mr Tudor - Not in this Parliament.


Mr JOHNSON - So much has been made of this White Australia cry, that I am justified in saying that the use which has been made of it is altogether unjustified by the facts. I will quote what the Tocsin said in regard to certain members of the Opposition in reference to that matter. Speaking of two members of the Opposition, the Tocsin said- -

When it came to the vote, McMillan kept his promise, but Mauger did his little somersault.

That is in reference to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Then, in regard to the honorable member for Bourke, the Tocsin said -

When it came to the division, he, like Mauger, turned turtle. Hume Cook was one of the few citizens of the Commonwealth who, to use his own words, would not support the proposal for which he had spoken.

As to the honorable member's attack upon the Prime Minister, in reference to his action with regard to the six potters, I should like to know what action the honorable and learned member himself would have taken, and what he would have said if the Prime Minister had adopted any other course. He would have said that honorable members ought to vote against the Government, because the Prime Minister had not the courage to carry the law of the land into effect. I ask honorable members opposite whether it is not the duty of the Prime Minister, or any responsible Minister, when he finds a law in existence of which, personally, he may disapprove, to carry out that law just as fully as if he was in favour of it ? Would it not be a dereliction of duty if a Ministry did not carry out the law ? That is an aspect which ought to be placed before the country in contra-distinction to the aspect already placed before us - an aspect which has been grossly distorted. Carrying out the law as it exists is not inconsistent with any promise which a Minister may make to alter that law if he gets the opportunity. Until that opportunity presents itself, and the Minister is able to repeal the law or its objectionable sections, it is his duty to see that it is carried into effect.


Mr Reid - A Minister is under oath to do so.


Mr JOHNSON - That is so; and if he does not do so, he simply breaks the oath he' takes on accepting office.


Mr Tudor - But the Prime Minister denounced a previous Government for carrying out the law.


Mr Reid - In that case the men were not breaking the law, and they were liberated.


Mr JOHNSON - It is unfair for the honorable and learned member for West Sydney to bring charges of this character against the Prime Minister. But what can we expect? The Opposition has absolutely no material on which to base an attack of a legitimate character, and they are driven to the necessity of resorting to those questionable and very unfair means to bolster up a motion which has no justification whatever so far as the public interest is concerned. I am surprised that an attack of the kind made on the Prime Minister should come from the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He, of all others !


Mr JOHNSON - Of all men in this Parliament, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney is the last who should say one unkind word of the present-

Prime Minister. No man has received more favours or greater kindness at the right honorable gentleman's hands than has the honorable and learned member.


Mr Bamford - What does the honorable member for Lang know about it?


Mr JOHNSON - I happen to be in a position to know. While the honorable and learned member for West Sydney has been making attacks on honorable members on this side, because of an alliance with those who are of opposite fiscal faith, it is a fact within the knowledge of many besides myself that the honorable and learned member sought the support of the party in New South Wales, of which the present Prime Minister was the head.


Mr Frazer - -The honorable and learned member for West Svdney does not deny that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member for West Sydney had more support from that party than either myself or the honorable member for Lang.


Mr JOHNSON - Unquestionably. The Prime Minister went out of his way to assist on the platform, and in other ways, the candidature of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. That honorable and learned member himself, when he saw that his name did not appear on the list of approved candidates of the party led I>- the present Prime Minister, I am credibly informed, went to the newspapers and sought the support of the party. I hold in my hand a special issue of a leaflet sent out by the Free-trade Association of New South Wales at the request of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.


Mr Bamford - The honorable and learned member is a good free-trader.


Mr JOHNSON - That leaflet asked the electors to vote for the honorable and learned member, not because he was a labour candidate, or because he was a member of any other party, but because he was a free-trader, and he desired the imprimatur of the Free-trade Association.


Mr Bamford - When was that?


Mr JOHNSON - At the last Federal election. The leaflet is headed, " How to vote in the West Sydney electorate." and there is a representation of a ballot-paper with the honorable and learned member's name marked.


Mr Frazer - Why labour the point? The honorable and learned member does not deny being a free-trader.


Mr JOHNSON - But he sought the imprimatur of the Free-trade Association while running under the flag of the Labour Party.


Mr Frazer - He does not dispute that.


Mr JOHNSON - He was running in a dual capacity. It is all very well for the honorable and learned member to now come into the House, and say that free-trade is a secondary or tertiary matter - that the Labour Party is first. Free-trade was first when he was seeking election. And why ? Because he knew perfectly well that if the Free-trade Association had put another free-trader up against him he would not have been returned. Did not the honorable and learned member, through the present Prime Minister as the leader of the Freetrade Party, beg for the support of the association when he was in danger, knowing that without that support he- would probably lose his seat? If the honorable and learned member makes these disgraceful and unwarranted attacks on the Prime Minister it is right that something on the other side should be shown. I would be the last to say an unkind word of an opponent, and these words are said, not in any unkindness, but only with a desire, that honorable members and the public shall learn the truth as to the actual position the honorable and learned member for West Sydney occupies as a member of this House. I have a perfect right to show that the honorable and learned member was a candidate with the imprimatur of the Free-trade Association, from which a request was sent out that the electors of West Sydney should give him their votes.


Mr Frazer - The honorable member has only proved what was admitted before' he started.


Mr JOHNSON - The honorable and learned member for West Sydney also went out of his way to attack my position in regard to certain principles which I hold - to charge me with abandoning those principles. But I have a better record than the honorable and learned member can show for holding true to the principles which I have advocated all my life. There is not the slightest abandonment of principles shown, in the fact that I am supporting the present Government. There is no alliance, so far as the two parties are concerned, other than one which is based on the perfect freedom of individuals - on an entirely voluntary principle. There is no attempt to subjugate principles, or to put a round peg into a square hole. Every honorable member in the alliance is left absolutely free to follow his own inclinations, according to his convictions ; there is no restriction in any direction. I defy any honorable member of this House, or any one - else, to coerce me into voting in a way I do not think proper. I am a free agent, and I am at liberty to hold opinions differing from the opinions of the leader of my party on other matters than the one vital principle which unites us as a party.


Mr Bamford - -Why was the honorable member not here to vote against the third reading of the Arbitration Bill?


Mr JOHNSON - I was laid up with influenza at the time, and I did not know that a division was to be taken. There is absolutely no justification whatever for the motion tabled by the leader of the Opposition. The half-hearted manner in which the honorable member for Bland advocated his cause, showed clearly, to my mind, at any rate, that he has no great confidence - that he feels there is no justification for the motion at the present time. . What good can possibly be done by the motion? If the Prime Minister had brought forward a larger programme for this session, knowing there was no possibility of carrying it into effect, there would have been just ground for a motion of noconfidence or of censure. Here we are, at this late season, without the Budget, which ought to have been before us long ago ; and this motion is only brought forward with the obvious object of. obstructing public business, and with no other object in the world. It was clearly seen that the Government were going on with some useful measures, and making progress with useful legislation. We had got so far with the Transcontinental Railway Survey Bill that honorable members opposite began to take alarm. Some of them were afraid that the Bill Would be carried, and that, by contrast with the work done by the late Government during a much longer period of office, there would have been too good a record for the present Government for the short time they have been in office.


Mr Tudor - That was owing to the obstruction of honorable members opposite.


Mr Bamford - Was not the Seat of Government Bill of more importance.


Mr Brown - If honorable members on this side treated the present Government as honorable members opposite treated the late Government the)' would be able to do nothing.


Mr JOHNSON - I now come to the real grounds for the opposition to the present Government. It is not opposed on the ground of public policy, because of . the non-fulfilment of promises, or on account of any maladministration of public affairs. It is opposed for two reasons only, the first of which is personal animus against the Prime' Minister. That is the mainspring of the action of honorable members opposite, and it is. bolstered up by the second reason for opposition, which is the gratification of personal ambition by individual members on the opposite side. Not grounds of public policy, but private ambition and private hatred are the two worthy motives which are the basis of this motion of want of confidence.


Mr Bamford - The honorable member is altogether wrong.


Mr JOHNSON - We have only to look at the newspapers supporting honorable members opposite, and the utterances of their public mert, to know that there is no other reason. We know that the public, of Victoria especially, have, month after month, and year after year, had their minds inflamed with the sole object of defaming the Prime Minister in their eyes. I am glad to know that the right honorable gentleman's residence in Victoria for some time, and his position as head of the pre-, sent Government, has given, and will give him opportunities of meeting the people of Victoria face to face, and thus by personal contact, ' destroying the baneful influence brought to bear unfairly on the people of Victoria, with a view to prejudicing him in their eyes. We have to go back to the recent elections, and ask ourselves what was the issue put before the public at that time. We know that the issue, so far as honorable members opposite who at that time supported the honorable and learned member for Ballarat are concerned, was fiscal peace. That cry was taken up by every member of that section of the Opposition that is. now clamouring for fiscal strife. In their election addresses and elsewhere, they supported the honorable and learned member for Ballarat in the demand for fiscal peace, which he raised as the chief issue of the general election. Those honorable members now break away from the agreement into which they entered with their chief, and, after the verdict of the country has been given in favour of fiscal peace, they desire to go back upon the verdict which they asked the people to give, and resort to fiscal strife. It is this betrayal of pledges which is the basis of the unholy alliance between those honorable members, and the members of the Labour Party. I say an "unholy" alliance advisedly, because it is an alliance which is based, not upon a recognition of the individual rights of free men, or on voluntary support, but on the subjugation of principles for private and party ends.


Mr Tudor - What about the alliance which the party to which the honorable member belongs tried to make a couple of months ago?


Mr JOHNSON - That was an alliance made in open daylight, and all the points of the proposed agreement were handed to the press, while no honorable member of either party to the alliance was pledged to stand to it unless he chose. There was nothing of the "caucus" in that case. There was in that case no violent disagreement on the matter amongst ourselves, no beargarden within our own ranks, owing to some, being for it and some against it, and those against it being compelled to vote for it afterwards. There was nothing of that sort. The agreement was simply put to members of either party individually and collectively, and they could accept or reject it at their pleasure. There was no power in either party to compel any single member to subscribe to the proposed agreement.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Grey left the party, and he has not yet been denounced as a renegade.


Mr JOHNSON - The honorable member for Grey left the party because he did not accept what was proposed. The honorable member went over to the Labour Party, and, as is usual with brand new converts, he is now one of the bitterest opponents of those with whom he" was formerly associated.' I have just stated the issue put before the electors by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as Prime Minister, and that issue was supported by the Age newspaper as the central cry upon which the campaign was based.


Mr Tudor - Some of us were' not in favour of that.


Mr JOHNSON - Perhaps not, but as a party honorable members supported it, and after they were returned, though they might not have supported it prior to the election, they sat behind the Government that had declared that that was the policy on which they ha'd gone to the country, and upon which the verdict of the country had been given. On the 12th December, 1903, the Age said-

The watchword of the Deakin Ministry is fiscal peace, and all Australia at the present juncture should cry a truce ou the Tariff question while the great issue of Imperial preference is being fought out in England.

A truce not only up till now, but while that great issue was being fought out in England. That is what the Age said on this question.


Mr Bamford - Who takes any notice of the Age?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Speakers on the opposite side have quoted the Age all night.


Mr JOHNSON - The Age newspaper was the organ of the party that went into the election campaign on that cry for fiscal peace. On the polling day, 16th December, the Age published a leader in which these words occurred -

To-day the electors will return their verdict. They are to-day most truly a jury in their country's cause. In this State we know beforehand the overwhelming preponderance of the popular voice is for the Deakin Government and fiscal peace as against Reid and another fiscal war.

I do not think the matter could have been put more clearly. There is the issue put on behalf of the Government by the Age newspaper, which was the organ of the Government, and was backing it up. The verdict, of the people was in favour of that issue, not in New South Wales, it is true, but that State is only one of six, and the verdict outside of New South Wales was admittedly ona of fiscal peace. On the same date, amongst the names printed in heavy black type, as supporters of that policy of fiscal peace, and as opponents of Socialism - because opposition to Socialism was another matter put prominently before the electors by the .party - I find those of the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The same paper cautions the public against voting for Reidites, amongst other reasons because he is the man who, " by re-opening the Tariff, will disorganize Victorian trade and commerce." Who is it who to-day wishes to re-open the Tariff, and to disorganize Victorian trade and commerce? The prime mover in that direction is one of those who subscribed to the speech delivered at Ballarat by the representative of that city, who was at the time Prime Minister. But although he subscribed to the declaration for fiscal peace which that speech contained, he is to-day endeavouring to promote fiscal warfare. Associated with the honorable member to whom I refer is the honorable member for Hume, who, by the way, has been supplanted in the leadership of the rebellious section of the Opposition. The honorable member for Hume is reporter! to have said at Albury -

The fiscal question should never have been raised at this election. Whatever party is in power, the only possible Tariff must be very similar to that now in force, and until the expiration of the Braddon sections of the Constitution Act, it would be vain for either party to try to frame a Tariff.

How does that statement tally with the present position of the honorable member? Amongst others who supported the declaration for fiscal peace were the honorable and learned members for Northern Melbourne and Indi, and the honorable member for Bourke. We, on this side, have been charged with having sunk our principles, because we have entered into a perfect^' voluntary and open alliance with members of the protectionist party. But our alliance involved none of the elements of coercion such as were involved in that of honorable gentlemen opposite. It has been the result of political accident, and has been caused by political circumstances, and the necessity for restoring responsible government and saving the country from the threatening disasters of class legislation of a most pronounced character. The representatives of New South Wales found that, as the result of the verdict of the people, they were not in a position to challenge the Government of the day. The Free-trade Party comprised only one-third of the House, and were consequently in a minority. That being so, how could they give effect to their fiscal principles?


Mr Bamford - We, on this side, have always kept our flag flying, no mattter how few- our numbers.


Mr JOHNSON - There has been no hauling down of the flag on the part of either free-traders or protectionists ; but an informal and unofficial alliance has been come to between us, which is more powerful, and more likely to do useful work than the alliance of honorable members opposite.


Mr Poynton - The honorable member agreed to a tied alliance.


Mr JOHNSON - This is' no tied alliance. Every member on this side of the Chamber is free to vote as he likes. No section and no clique can interpose between him and his constituents. He could, if he chose, vote against the Government. He is not bound by any pledge to an organization, and no ohe can come between him and his constituents. But what is the position of honorable members opposite ? Some of them belong to a party which is governed by the caucus, and it does not matter what pledges they may have given to their constituents, if the caucus decides that it is not in the interests of the party to keep them, they must break them. That is the machine against which we are fighting. It is admitted, too, that there is no full agreement among honorable members opposite as to their alliance. Even if it had not been admitted, the modifications of the proposals for an alliance which have been put forward from time to time, modifications which have practically amounted to the surrender of principles on both sides, show that there is no full agreement. The leaders of the Labour Party have given the assurance that every effort will be made to induce labour organizations to withhold opposition to the extreme protectionists who have joined the alliance on a basis of support in return for concessions. But as they are only part of a huge machine the controlling influence upon which is the organizations outside, it is seen that they have no power to bind those organizations. Do honorable members think that members of the Labour Party outside who aspire to political honours will submit to the thwarting of their aspirations because the seats upon which they have cast their eyes are occupied by protectionists? Is it to be supposed that these men, after working -for their organizations for years, subscribing to their funds, and, perhaps, suffering some privations, will consent to be calmly swept aside because the leader of the Labour Party in this House says that they are not to offer themselves for election to the positions to which they have been aspiring? Perhaps they may submit to such treatment, but unless human nature has undergone a great change within the last few weeks, I doubt very much whether we shall see any evidence of that unquestioning support by the Labour Party which has been promised to those honorable members who have entered into alliance with them.


Mr Mahon - When did the Labour organizations ask for the advocacy of the honorable member?


Mr JOHNSON - How long is this alliance to last ? We find that the agreement entered into is not intended to extend - as our alliance was - over the life of this Parliament only. Honorable members opposite have assumed a power they do not possess, namely, to bind the next Parliament. How 'can they control' the action of the next Parliament, of which they may not be members? It is certain that at least some of them will not be returned as members of the next Parliament. Their agreement can extend only for the life of this Parliament, and can affect only those parties who signed it.


Mr Poynton - Let us go to the country. There is no need to prophesy as to the result.


Mr JOHNSON - If we do go to the country, the party to suffer will be that which is now trying to obstruct public business and to secure special privileges for a certain class, at the expense of all others in the community. I think that there is a fair amount of evidence of fear on the part of some honorable members opposite, that they will lose their seats. When some humorist, on a recent journey to Sydney, sent a telegram, which seemed to indicate 'the possibility of a dissolution, upon the defeat of the Watson Ministry, honorable members who had been very pot-valiant in this House, and who had talked in grandiloquent strains about appealing to our masters, the people, ceased their jubilations. A great change came over the scene, because some honorable member were not sincere, even as advocates of the rights of the Labour Party. They had posed as the champions of certain principles, which they themselves abandoned when they had an opportunity to carry them into effect. What did they do ? When the Deakin Ministry was in office, they went to the length of tabling a motion in favour of the inclusion within the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of the public servants of the States. The then Prime Minister stated that the Government could not accept that proposal, because, in their view, it was unconstitutional.


Mr Tudor - They have accepted it now.


Mr JOHNSON - No; they have not. Let me relate the history of events which have been referred to, but not correctly, by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wide Bay was put up to move an amendment providing for the inclusion within the scope of the Bill, not of the railway servants, but of the whole of the public servants of the States, and of the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat gave the Labour Party clearly to understand, that, if they pressed their proposal to a division, the Government would make it a vital matter, and, if defeated, would have to consider their position.


Mr Tudor - That is the reason the honorable member voted for the amendment.


Mr JOHNSON - That is one of the reasons, because' I had pledged myself to get rid of the Deakin Government. Our object in New South Wales was to . reduce the Customs duties, and to get rid of all those who were responsible for the Tariff, or who were likely to seek to increase the imposts under it. So that I was. pledged, first of all, to get rid of the Deakin Government, and when the opportunity arose, I voted in order to put them put of office. But I had good reasons apart from, that consideration for voting as I did. Honorable members of the Labour Party spoke about the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wide Bay as embodying a vital principle, without which the Arbitration Bill would be absolutely useless. Notwithstanding that, by reason of their numerical strength as a minority, they were in the position to coerce the Government into bringing in measures which they, when they took possession of the Treasury benches, dared not bring forward, they were willing to press their amendment to a division. They did so, not because they desired to displace the Government, but because, secure, as they thought, in the knowledge that their proposal would be defeated, they wished to pose as the champions of the civil servants. They knew that the present Prime Minister was practically bound to vote for the Government on the question, because he had spoken so strongly in support of the attitude they had assumed, and they also thought that all the members of his party would follow him. That is where they made a grave miscalculation. They had overlooked the' fact that the members of that party were free men who had the right to vote as they thought fit upon such questions. They had measured the Freetrade Party by the conditions of their own caucus, and they made a great mistake. The result was that when they discovered that several honorable members of the Freetrade Party intended to vote with them, it was too late for them to retreat from the position which they had taken up. The honorable member for Gwydir waved his arms like a wind-mill, and threatened those honorable members who supported the amendment with what would happen to them when they went before the electors - as if the. Labour Party had not previously opposed them. Honorable members of the Labour Party, one after another, 'expressed themselves in terms which showed how disappointed they were at the prospect of the amendment being carried. But their knowledge came too late, and their object in posing as champions of the public servants was defeated, because, when they came into office, and had an opportunity to carry into effect the principle they had advocated, they failed to do so.


Mr Tudor - No, they did not fail.


Mr JOHNSON - I say they did. They took into their Cabinet the .honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who had previously voted for that provision. I believe that he voted for it. At any rate, whilst the Labour Party occupied the cross-benches the honorable and learnedmember, in speaking upon the AddressinReply, attacked the Deakin Government upon their position in regard to this matter. He said - as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 1037 -

The best argument that has been advanced by the Prime Minister is that at the inception of this Act it is inexpedient to overload it. I should be strongly impressed by that argument if this question were not involved in a greater one. We are asked to refuse to extend the operation of this Bill .to the public servants of the States, upon the ground that we do not possess the constitutional power to take such action. With me that consideration overweighs any question of expediency. If we believe that we have the necessary constitutional power, by all means let us exert it. Now is the only time for us to exercise it. We must speak now, or be for ever silent. When we are told by the Government that we do not possess this power, we must insist upon testing the question.

That declaration meant that the only way in which the matter could be tested before the High Court was by including that provision in the Bill. The honorable and learned member affirmed that that was the only opportunity which honorable members had of testing the question, and if they believed in the principle they should incorporate it in the Bill. He continued -

I would not be a party to including in the measure any provision which I thought would be nugatory and useless. At the same time, if we 8 c honestly believe that we possess this power, lel us exert it, and not abandon the trust which the people have reposed in us.

That language clearly indicates the attitude of the honorable and learned member upon this question. What happened sub sequently ? The Labour Government sueceeded the Deakin Administration. Hav ing defeated that Administration upon this very principle, which they had declared was absolutely necessary to the successful working of the Bill, one would naturally suppose that their first step would have been to include such a provision in that measure. Instead of doing so, however, they presented the Arbitration Bill with this clause excised from it, and that upon the advice of their Attorney-General, who had previously declared that they must seize this as the only opportunity which would present itself of including it in the Bill, so that the question might be tested.


Mr Poynton - Can the honorable member name a public servant who is excluded from the operation of the Bill?


Mr JOHNSON -- All civil servants were covered by the amendment.


Mr Poynton - So they are now.


Mr JOHNSON - No; only the public servants of the States, and those who are engaged in industries.


Mr Tudor - Would clerical employes have been covered by the amendment in its original form?


Mr JOHNSON - Unquestionably. There was no invidious distinction thus contemplated. The contention ' was that, without the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, the Bill would be absolutely useless. I should like to dwell for a moment upon the attempt which is now being made to reintroduce the Tariff question, with a view to raising the protective duties at present operating? The object of the Ministerial alliance is to abide by the verdict of the people during the life of this Parliament. That arrangement involves no sacrifice of principle, because protectionists are still free to advocate their Tariff theories, whilst free-traders possess absolutely the same. liberty. So far as the Free-trade Party are concerned, I hold that when they have not the power by force of numbers to effect any revision in the Tariff by way of lowering the existing duties, the next best thing for them to do is to attempt to prevent those duties from being increased.


Mr Tudor - Then the honorable member admits that the protectionists who are associated with the Ministerial following are betraying the people.


Mr JOHNSON - No ; because the appeal to the people, was not made on behalf of protection, but on behalf of fiscal peace. As evidencing that, I will read what honorable members said immediately this Parliament met. . According to Hansard, page 90, the present Prime Minister, in discussing the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, said -

I wish now to express my entire agreement with a remark made by the Prime Minister in a remarkable announcement which he made on the occasion of a great gathering in this city at the beginning of last month. I heartily agree with the Prime Minister that the only basis upon which a system of a responsible Executive, acting in a Parliament of this type, can be secured - the only possible condition under which that principle can be honorably and usefully worked - is when the Ministry in office commands the confidence of the full majority of the people's representatives. If the Ministry do not command that confidence, they should make an alliance - provided that alliance can honorably be made.

That is precisely in keeping with what has since taken place. He continued -

I will at once admit that, provided an alliance can be honorably made between two parties in the House, it is the only way in which to adjust the balance. But as long as three independent parties live in the same House - the parties being more or less equally balanced- the basis of an honorable Government is, I will not say lost, but endangered. . . . There must be none of these underhand intrigues. I hope that the party to which I belong, and that the Labour Party too, whatever they may do in the public life of this country, will act up to the principle which the Prime Minister has announced.

The honorable and learned member for Ballarat said, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 91 -

The problem facing them now was how to conduct a Parliament which, instead of having a majority and a minority, had three practically equal parties taking part in the proceedings. It was a problem which had not yet been solved in any part of the world..... Administration and legislation had always been conducted 011 the principle of a majority and a minority. Now, however, they had practically three equal parties, and the position was unstable. It was absolutely impossible. It could not continue, and ought not to continue.


Mr Poynton - That is the position which exists to-day.


Mr JOHNSON - It was the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the present Prime Minister, immediately after the assemblingofP arliament - so early, indeed, as the debate which took place on the Address-in-Reply. Their attitude indicated that two parties must find a common basis of agreement if the business of the country was to be successfully carried on. This statement was made by the honorable and learned member at a time when he was fresh from the elections. We may say that we are still fresh from the elections, for are we not in the first session of the new Parliament? Let me read what the honorable and learned member for Ballarat said on the question of the armed truce during the course of the same speech. At page 108 of Hansard he is reported as follows: -

When he spoke with a certain sympathy -

He was referring to the right honorable member for East Sydney - of the funeral obsequies of the Ministry, the apprehensions which I might otherwise have felt were calmed by the realization that he is wearing black crape upon his own arm in remembrance of obsequies far more important than those of a Ministry or party - the death and burial, during this Parliament, at all events, of the fiscal issue.

The honorable member for Bland, who at this time was the sole leader of the Labour Party-


Mr Bamford - He is still the only leader of the party.


Mr Tudor - Does the honorable member think that we now have more than one leader ?


Mr JOHNSON - The Labour Party is now a triple-headed party. I understand that the honorable member for Hume is one of its leaders, that the honorable and learned member for Indi is another, and that it has yet another in the honorable member for Bland. Honorable members on this side of the House have been twitted with supporting a double-headed Ministry. That may be an undesirable state of affairs. I should be better pleased if it did not exist ; but, on the other hand, those who " live in glass houses should not throw stones." When we look at the composition of the Opposition, we find that they are in a worse plight than we are - that instead of having only a dualheaded leadership, they have a triple-headed one. It will perhaps in. time be only a dual-headed Opposition, for the head' that happens to be between the other two will probably get crushed in the course of the battles that are sure to rage in the ranks of the party itself.


Mr Webster - It is only the honorable member's imagination that we have a tripleheaded Opposition.


Mr JOHNSON - We witnessed the spectacle of the honorable member for Hume leading the forlorn hope of the extreme protectionists, who are anxious to raise the fiscal issue, notwithstanding that they have subscribed to a Tariff truce, and honorable members on this side of the House commenced to look upon him as the actual leader, not only of the Labour Party, but of the whole Opposition. Suddenly, however, another leader sprang up, and the honorable member for Hume was apparently deposed. I should not like to say that he was, for it is only charitable to believe that he still holds the position which he was assumed to occupy.


Mr Tudor - Who assumed that he occupied that position?


Mr JOHNSON - Honorable members were entitled to assume that he held that position, in view of the very prominent part which he played on various occasions as spokesman for the whole party, and also by reason of the fact that several consulta-tions took place between him and other leading members of the Opposition. I shall not read any lengthy quotation from the speech made by the honorable member for Bland, during the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply ; but I shall take extracts from it which show that when he met this House, he, in common with the leaders of the other parties, recognised that the country had declared for a truce on the fiscal issue. It was not the fault of the free-trade members of this House that such a declaration was made by the people. So far as New South Wales is concerned, the country declared for a revision of the Tariff in the direction of free-trade. But New South Wales is only one of six States in the Union. The remaining States were opposed to her in this matter, and declared not for a greater measure of protection, but for a Tariff truce. That is vouched for by the honorable member for Bland, who, at page 147 of Hansard, is reported 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 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, and the surest confirmation of that view is the neglect of the leader of the Opposition to test the feeling of this House upon the subject. That is an admission that the question is dead, at any rate, so far as this Parliament is concerned. I

There is no vague ambiguity about that declaration. How can the honorable member . reconcile the position which, he then took up, with his position at the present time, as a member of a party which, although it has declared the Tariff issue to be dead, is now anxious to raise it to .its highest possible point? How can he reconcile his position as an advocate of fiscal war, with the position which he then took up as an advocate of fiscal peace, declaring that he accepted the verdict of the country as being in favour of the adoption of that course?


Mr Webster - That is not correct.


Mr JOHNSON - I have quoted from Hansard.


Mr Webster - I say, that the conclusions which the honorable member draws from the speech are not correct.


Mr JOHNSON - I am not responsible for the accuracy of the report, but I presume that, had there been any inaccuracy, it would have been corrected. If the honorable member thinks that the Hansard report is incorrect, what has he to say to a further declaration which was made, on a subsequent occasion, by the honorable member in his capacity as Prime Minister?


Mr Webster - I am not doubting the accuracy of the Hansard report, but the conclusions which the honorable member draws from it.


Mr JOHNSON - Let me first quote a statement made by the honorable member for Bland, when before the electors. On the 1 2th November, 1903, shortly prior to the general elections. He said that -

He would not, in any circumstances, be a party to disturbing the fiscal peace now reached.

That is a fairly comprehensive statement.

The Labour Party had been able to knock out a few taxes which pressed heavily on the people, and in this way had reduced the revenue by a large amount.

After making the speech during the debate on the Address-in-Reply, to which I have referred, trie honorable member, as Prime Minister, went to his own constituency, and, speaking at a public meeting at Wagga, on 9th of August last, said -

I believe there is no probability of any appeal for the alteration of the Tariff being responded to during this present Parliament. The people were assured at the last elections that it was desirable to have fiscal peace, at any rate, for this Parliament, and I must say that I agree that it is desirable to have some rest from the eternal fight on the fiscal question. If this were a country which had been united for many years, and the full effect of Inter-State free-trade could be 8 c 2 accurately gauged, and the whole records were available for years, then I should say that there might be grave reason to inquire again into the conditions brought about by the Tariff. But we have not had time since the passing of the Tariff to get any clear idea of what its incidence will be in the future.

We thus have the evidence of the leaders of the three different parties which were then in existence - the Deakin Party, the Reid Party, and the Watson Party - as \c the verdict of the country. We have also the evidence of another honorable and learned member, who, strange -to say, is to be found to-day most actively assisting those who wish to fight against what they declared to be the verdict of the country. We find the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne among those who now wish for fisca'l war instead of the fiscal peace on which they appealed to the electors. Here is what the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said in regard to that question -

Now that the Tariff has been disposed of, surely we must recognise that there is nothing between the Ministerial and the Opposition side of the House than the table. There are more differences' of opinion between individual members of the Opposition than there are between members of the front Ministerial and front Opposition benches.

The honorable and learned member professed to recognise that there was practically no difference between those who were sitting in Opposition and those on the Ministerial benches.

Similarly there are more differences between Ministerial supporters themselves than there are between the political views of Ministerialists and Oppositionists.

I should like to know how the honorable and learned member reconciles that attitude with the attitude he takes up now, as one of the small party led by the honorable and learned member for Indi, who are anxious to raise the Tariff issue at the present time ? Some complaint has been made by the leader of the L-bour Party about the unfair tactics which have been pursued in arriving at the vote by which the late Government were ousted from office. But I would remind honorable members opposite that the battle ground was of their own choosing. The issue upon which the late -Government were defeated was not in itself necessarily a vital issue. Believing that they had means of escape at their disposal the late Government, with that appearance of courage which characterizes them when they think they are going to win, and that there is no possibility of defeat, made the question vital. But while they chose the battle ground, the members of the then Opposition chose the time for making their attack. This was what the Labour Party had not bargained for. It was a case of being out-generalled. The then Government had made provision for meeting a frontal attack. They had prepared bridges by which they could escape, and laid mines and made other preparations to repel an onslaught from the front. But they had not made provision for an attack on their flank. The members of the Opposition, whilst accepting the field of battle, chose the time when the issue should be fought, and by means of superior generalship a time was chosen which was inopportune for the occupants of the Treasury bench, whose sentinels were caught napping at their posts. It was a perfectly legitimate thing when the gauge of battle had been thrown down by the Ministry of the day, and they had declared that they would regard a certain proposal as vital, for the Opposition, accepting the situation, to choose their own time for making the attack. Their choice, of course, was made when it best suited them. That was perfectly fair tactics in political warfare. But there was no necessity to make a detail of a Bill in Committee vital, and the members of the Opposition are not to be held responsible because the late Government were foolish enough to do such a thing. But the charge of unfairness made against the Opposition is absolutely baseless. I now want to refer to something which was said by the honorable and learned member for Indi in reference to the Prime Minister. He quoted a passage from a speech by the Prime Minister, in which that right honorable gentleman said -

In the plenitude of time, when our millions have become tens of millions, we shall have a crop of misery which shall solve the difficulty in regard to cheap manufactures.

The object of that quotation was to indicate that the present Prime Minister meant that the question of cheap competition was to be solved when, men and women in Australia were starving and lacking even a crust of bread. But I charge the honorable and learned member for Indi with gross unfairness in separating that quotation from its context, which bore no such construction as he placed upon it. This is a sample of the kind of charges which are levelled against the Prime Minister and honorable members on this side.


Mr Tudor - Let the honorable member read the context.


Mr JOHNSON - This is the portion which the honorable and learned member for Indi did not read -

Will the erection of a fence solve it? Never ! We may run a ring round our own people, but we cannot bull-doze the markets of the world. When we come to compete with those markets, we shall have to do as all other nations do. That is why I have abhorred the policy of producing artificial industries which belong to -a period of human misery and' over-population.

It will be seen that those words are not capable of the construction which the honorable and learned member for Indi sought most unfairly to put upon them. The Prime Minister was referring to the futility of attempting to improve human conditions, and to get rid of misery, starvation, and other evils which oppress humanity, by raising Tariff walls around industry - he was trying to prove the absolute futility of such means for bringing about an improvement in the social and industrial conditions of the people. The words are not capable of the construction which the honorable and learned member for Indi most cruelly attempted to put on them, and which went broadcast through the newspapers as the sentiments of the Prime Minister. I should like to say a word as to the position of the honorable and learned member for Indi, in regard to the fiscal truce. In the Melbourne Argus, of 14th September, there is reprinted an extract from a speech delivered by the honorable and learned member on fiscal matters, and as I have seen no contradiction I may assume that the report is correct.


Mr Tudor - What is the date of the speech ?


Mr JOHNSON - The date of the delivery of the speech is not given', but it was before the last election, I think.


Mr Tudor - The speech was delivered about ten years ago.


Mr JOHNSON - The speech was quoted in the Argus a few days ago, and I presume that if anything had been wrong the honorable and learned member would have taken the very first opportunity to send a correction. - And the miner, how is he on a level with the workers in the town ? He has a weight round his neck.

Evidently, the honorable and learned member was a staunch free-trader at that time.

We are told that the miners patriotically stood by protection in the past. Are we to whip the willing horse to death? Is protection to go 'on for ever to an unlimited extent, right on, as we arc mid 'to prohibition? Are we never to stop taxing the miner? He is the man who goes through the most arduous labour, the .most dangerous pursuits, to win the wealth of the country ; and what does he get in return for it ? A promise that more burdens shall be laid upon- him. His pick is weighted with taxation, every article he wears is weighted with taxation, and when he goes home every article in his house, even his knife and fork, is taxed.

When we read that speech, can we conceive it possible that it was delivered by the same honorable and learned member for Indi, who is now seeking to place fresh burdens on the shoulders of the miner - to put fresh taxes on what the miner uses? Can we conceive it possible that the two are one and the same person ? I must confess' that to me it seems a most strange and unaccountable metamorphosis. As to some other honorable members, it is inter:esting to see what they have said, in- regard to those matters. The honorable member for Bourke is reported in the Melbourne Age of. November 25, to have said at Northcote -

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 -

I wonder whether the honorable member meant any allusion to gentlemen now sitting on the other side of the House. See- - ing that he is in active association with those same gentlemen, I can hardly believe that to be the case. But still we have to go by what the honorable member himself.. has said. The speech proceeds - or whether they would send back their present member, who represented, not one section, but all sections of the constituency . . . leaving the ballot-box to decide whether the choice should rest with the domination of. the Political Labour League or the .individual judgment and liberty of the people.

How are we to reconcile those sentiments with the position of the honorable member at the present time in association with those ' whom he in November last, during thy itcent campaign, denounced in no unmeasured terms? In making a very violent attack on that party, he further said -

Their methods savoured of Tammany Hall and Russia - the caucus did not allow any liberty.

Those, are peculiar sentiments for an honorable member to hold who is now so closely associated with the very men whose methods he thus described in . November.


Mr Tudor - Tell us what the Prime Minister said about the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.


Mr JOHNSON - I leave that to other honorable members. Here is another remarkable speech, delivered at Brunswick Town Hall, and reported in the Age of November 1 2 th : -

It was a question of the domination of a party called the Political Labour Party or of the electors choosing a candidate of their own free right. He would deal with the constitution, the tactics and methods of the Political Labour Party at' a future election meeting, and he would promise to make it very interesting indeed.

And he did, though I shall not quote the speech just now. Honorable members may look it up on the files for themselves.

He held their own declaration in his hand, on which were the names of Tom Mann, Messrs. White and Fleming, and other anarchists.


Mr Tudor - Whose declaration?


Mr JOHNSON - The declaration of the Political Labour League.


Mr Tudor -I think the honorable member is misquoting the honorable member for Bourke.


Mr JOHNSON - I am reading the speech as reported in the Melbourne Age, and if the honorable member had been . misreported, I take it that he would have -sent a correction. I looked in subsequent issues for a correction, but could find no trace of one, and, therefore, I think it is perfectly legitimate for me to accept the report as . an accurate statement of what the honorable member said. At this juncture of the honorable member's speech, a voice interjected, "What has that to do with the Labour Party?" and the . reply of the honorable member for Bourke was: -

It had got this to do with it; that circular was issued as the result of a minute carried at the Trades Hall Council. . . . With reference to the future, he would support the Government as. regards the maintenance of the present fiscal protection and fiscal peace.

So that the honorable member for Bourke ' was a declared anti-Socialist ..at that time, and asserted that the Political Labour League was composed of anarchists and Socialists, because they had accepted as their creed a circular issued by those bodies. The honorable member's name appears in the list published by the Age newspaper of those who were opposed' to any interference with the Tariff and to Socialism, but we now find him amongst those who are raising the Tariff issue in order to bring forward measures of extreme protection, and who to do this have allied themselves with those very Socialists whose policy they have condemned in such vigorous language.. I have a good deal more to say upon the question, and possibly honorable members would agree to an adjournment of the debate at this hour.

Debate adjourned.







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