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Wednesday, 21 September 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Order. These conversations across the floor of the Chamber, especially when they so seriously interrupt an honorable member who is addressing the

Chair, are entirely out of order. Therefore, I would ask honorable members who wish to place their views before the House to wait until an opportunity is presented to them to speak in the ordinary course.

Mr CROUCH - In justice to the honorable member for Parramatta, I must say that I appealed to him for the name of the member of the Committee of Inquiry who was supposed to be a political opponent of the Prime Minister. I would now like to ask him whether it is not true that the two bankers who were members of the Commitee were appointed by the right honorable gentleman?


Mr CROUCH - Or selected by him?

Mr Fuller - No. They were appointed by the' honorable member for Hume.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister took no exception to their appointment.

Sir William Lyne - The Prime Minister nominated them.

Mr CROUCH - The Prime Minister proceeded to say -

It transpired that another member, Mr. Dibbs, of the Commercial Bank, had judged the case before his appointment.

Of course, I knew my man, even though I had had only a few years' experience of the right honorable . gentleman. I thought it very unfair to the members of the Committee that these statements should be made at a place like Kalgoorlie, far distant from Sydney, and I took care to communicate them to the chairman of the committee, Mr. T. A. Dibbs, the' general manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, one of the principal financial institutions of Australia. The reply I received was dated 14th March, 1903, and read as follows: -

Most people do not attach much importance to what Mr. Reid, says when he in out on the stump. In your clipping he says the Committee exonerated him from blame; then what necessity to say that I was a political opponent? I read the other day that, in answer to a deputation, he said that if he got into power he would disturb the Tariff as little as possible, and in the next sentence he said that he would make drastic alterations, statements made to please both sides. The best answer I can give you . is to read the report of the Finance Committee, a copy of which you could get on application to the See Government. The committee were : - Mr. J. R. French, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales ; Mr. Yarwood, a very able accountant; and myself. Mr. Reid appointed the bankers, Sir William Lyne appointed Mr. Yarwood. Let me refer you to the last Sydney Bulletin; which is worth your perusal, on- Mr. Reid's ever-changing attitude in politics.

I send you a clipping taken from it (28th February) referring to the particular subject of your inquiry.

P.S.- The finding of the committee was adverse to Mr. Reid.

I do riot know that it is necessary for me to proceed much further. It was said of George IV. that to the end of his days, he claimed to have been present at the Battle of Waterloo. He had told the lie so often that in the end he was persuaded that he was stating the truth. The Prime Minister has so frequently made misstatements and denials that I should not be surprised if he fully believed that the report of the Committee was favorable to him. When he stamped and screamed in this Chamber .yesterday, and pointed' to me and others, and spoke of the slanderous' statements that had been uttered, I have no doubt he thought he was a much' maligned man. No doubt it is quite possible for him to work himself up into such a state that he will believe anything. The fact that he made the statement to which I have referred in Sydney, that he repeated it in a much stronger form at Kalgoorlie, and at last - under the impression that I was not in possession of the letters which I have read - attacked me in this House evidences an amount of moral obliquity which is surprising. Honorable members have heard the statements which I have quoted, and I invite them to again study the letter from the members of the Committee which was read by the Prime Minister yesterday in his endeavour to refute the accuracy of my charges. That letter states -

Dear Mr. Reid,

Referring to your note of 10th inst. to Mr. J. Russell French, covering extract of a letter published in the Melbourne Age, our report, which is referred to, speaks for itself, and should not have given rise to any misapprehension.

I think I had better repeat those words -

Our report, which is referred to, speaks for itself, and should not have given rise to any misapprehension. In view, however, of the remarks in the extract in question, it is but just to you -

Evidently the Committee think that it is necessary to add something to be just to the right honorable gentleman, thereby implying that in itself their report cannot be favorable to him. The letter continues -

It is but just to you to state that we made no reflection whatever on -your personal honour or integrity -

Who did ? I was glad- that the honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out yesterday that no such reflection had been made. At the same time I hold that for his political trickery and maladministration as Treasurer of New South Wales, the right honorable gentleman is deserving of the severest censure.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The report says that he kept the accounts according to law.

Mr CROUCH - The letter continues-

Nor did we intend to suggest any improper manipulation of the Treasury accounts by yourself or the Treasury officials, as would seem to be implied by the terms " cooked " or " doctored," which appear in the letter.

I am very glad that the Prime Minister brought this matter forward, because now that he is at the head of the Commonwealth Government we know that he has a right to interfere in all Departments, and if he continues in office we need to be very careful indeed that he does not interfere with the Treasury.

Mr Robinson - He would not send an article to two different newspapers and ask for cheques from both.

Mr CROUCH - I cannot say straight out that the interjection of the honorable and learned member for Wannon is a lie, because that would be unparliamentary, but when he declares that I sent an article to' two newspapers and requested cheques from both, I ask him if he has any sense of fair play? If he has, he will father that statement outside the House, and I will soon teach him manners.

Mr Robinson - The honorable and learned member runs away from a vote here, and he would run away outside.

Mr CROUCH - If the honorable and learned member will repeat the statement outside of the House I will give him some lessons in veracity which he very much needs. There are some men who have no manners, and who can be reached only through their, pockets. I regret this un-. fortunate digression. Perhaps I have devoted too much attention to a State matter, but I do not think that the time has' been wasted in exposing the present Prime1 Minister and his methods. Immediately after his assumption of office, the right honorable gentleman issued a manifesto to the people of Australia, in which he declared - \Ve thoroughly believe in progress, a fearless forward policy. ,

That declaration appeared in the newspapers of 22nd August last. I now wish to show the' character of this " fearless, forward policy." Personally I regard the Ministerial policy as one of the most watery and colourless that has ever ' beenpresented to any ' deliberative Assembly; in the world. For example, the right honorable gentleman accepts all the amendments which have been made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. He bids farewell to State rights, although he voted with the Deakin Administration to resist what he deemed to be an encroachment upon them. In spite of the position which he then took up, he now. says, " We accept the Bill as it stands." Although he came into power over a clause in that measure, and although the Deakin Ministry were defeated upon another provision in it, he says " We accept the Bill as it stands." Despite the injury which he declared would be done to State' rights by making the measure applicable to the railway employes and public servants of the States, he is now content to accept it in its present form. That represents his " fearless, forward policy." Then upon the question of preferential trade and Tariff Revision, he says that the Government take up the same position as did the Watson Administration. That is another evidence of his " fearless, forward policy." There are three Bills, however, with which he will proceed, and in regard to which he will nail his colours to the mast. In such matters he is simply reckless in his bravery. He says that he will proceed with the Papua Bill, the Trades Marks Bill, and the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill - all non-contentious measures. But upon measures of a party character, we find how weak and colourless is the ' policy of the Government. I do not know whether honorable members have heard of the man who entered a restaurant, and after being supplied with chicken broth which he had ordered, handed it back to the waiter with a request that the chicken should be allowed to run through it again. That storv remindsme of the "fearless, forward policy "' which the Government have adopted. They had better let a little more courage run through it. This remark applies even to the High Commissioner Bill, which is absolutely a nonparty measure. Unfortunately, the terms of the Labour-Liberal Alliance were disclosed upon the very day that the Prime Minister was to make his statement of policy to the House. The alliance decided that the appointment of a High Commissioner should be subject to the approval of Parliament. That was sufficient to make this fearless, forward policy-monger immediately double back, and announce that in order that- there should be no interference with States' rights, the Government had determined to allow the High Commissioner Bill to remain over until next session. If there is one thing more than another of which the Commonwealth Parliament has absolute control, it is the appointment of a High Commissioner; but the Prime Minister has determined to allow the Bill to stand over in order that he may, during the recess, consult the Premiers of the States in regard to the matter. On the one Bill, in regard to which there was the slightest possibility of opposition being shown, the right honorable gentleman backed down. Some of the protectionist supporters of the Ministry have fought well in the past, and I appeal to them to say whether this is the sort of craven leader that the fighting men of Victoria are going to accept in order that they, may remain in office. This is one of those occasions on which angels should we'ep.

Mr Wilks - The honorable and learned member is himself a good mourner.

Mr CROUCH - The interjection made by the honorable member reminds me of another matter, to which no reference has been made during the debate. The Ministry is not entirely a free-trade one.- We have to remember that the Prime Minister was returned not merely as a free-trader, but as a free-trade and sectarian member.

Mr Wilks - The honorable and learned member played the sectarian card fairly strongly at the last general election.

Mr CROUCH - Those are the two planks on which the Prime Minister was returned. He secured the vote's, not merely of free-traders, but of others, because he promised Dr. Dill-Mackay that he would do certain things, and accepted the platform of a certain organization. The freetrade ticket was not solely responsible for the return of that solid phalanx of representatives from New South Wales, which we see on the Government side of the House. The cry related, not only to free-trade, but to the question whether there should be certain precedence given to ecclesiastics, and whether Roman Catholics should not be employed in the Public Service.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is all right; we do not object to that.

Mr CROUCH - Some persons may object to the introduction of this subject; but the distinct appeal which sectarian bodies made to the people of New South Wales, to almost entirely support freetrade candidates at the last elections, was outrageous and scandalous.' I am told by those who are familiar with the conditions which prevailed in New South Wales - and the matter was mentioned during the Address-in-Reply - that one of the. ablest members of the protectionist, party in the last Parliament was defeated simply because of his religion, and because he would not subscribe-

Mr SPEAKER - -I must ask the honorable and learned member, whether he proposes to connect the matter which he is at present discussing with the motion now before the Chair? Unless he can, he certainly ought not to proceed to debate the motion on these lines.

Mr CROUCH - I shall certainly connect my remarks 'with the motion, Mr. Speaker. If. the Prime Minister was returned on certain grounds, and received the support of a certain following, because of promises which he made, he should be ready at once to fulfil those promises, rather than to sink them, as he has sunk everything else. If he intends to sink the particular pledges upon which, I contend, he was returned, he should inform the House of that intention. It seems to me little short of scandalous that at the last general election he largely used the influence to which I have referred. Perhaps it is not desirable to deal with this matter at greater length, but I strongly object to the combination of sectarianism and of free-trade, on which the Prime Minister was returned. It is a combination that should, at the very outset, be strongly reprobated.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In New South Wales the issue was not merely that of sectarianism and free-trade

Mr CROUCH - I cannot forget that the Prime Minister, when leader of the Opposition, wrote a letter to an organization in New South Wales, in which he stated that throughout his public career he had always been opposed by a certain religious body, and that he would never forget >hat fact. That assertion constitutes one reason why he should not be allowed to remain in office one hour longer than we can prevent. I wish now to deal with the position of the seceding protectionists who have left this side of the House to take refuge under the wing of a free-trade Prime Minister. I regret already to observe a desire on the part of the Prime Minister to depose the honorable and learned member for Ballarat from the leadership of the protectionist wing of his supporters. Up to the date on which he issued his manifesto to the electors of New South Wales, the Prime Minister had always referred to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as " the leader of. the protectionist party " ; but in that manifesto he shifted his ground, and endeavoured to introduce other leaders. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat had refused to join his. Ministry, or to have anything to do with him.; he had declined under any circumstances to enter the coalition as a Minister,, and as the result of this the Prime Minister, in his manifesto to the electors of New South Wales, referred to " Mr. Deakin and Sir George Turner, and their supporters." Since then this free-trade Prime Minister has apparently taken up the position that he has a right to depose the honorable and learned member for Ballarat from the leadership of the protectionist wing of his supporters, and to appoint another leader. In accordance with this view, he now invariably refers to the Minister of Trade and Customs as " the leader of the protectionist party on this side of the House." I do not know what right the Prime Minister has to make a change in the leadership of his protectionist, wing. If I were in the position of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, I should certainly object to his efforts in that direction ; but we find that the honorable and learned member is taking them very quietly. He is, so to speak, taking them " lying down. ' ' I should like to know what the Minister of Trade and Customs has to say to the statement made last night bv the Prime Minister, that there is no longer any- coalition, and it would also 'be interesting to learn, the views of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.

Mr Mauger - The Prime Minister said that the Deakin party had refused a coalition.

Mr CROUCH - And that there was no coalition on that side of the House. That statement, was distinctly made, by the right honorable gentleman.

Mr Poynton - He said that it was now a voluntary association.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member should quote the next sentence.

Mr CROUCH - If the honorable member will supply me with it I shall be happy to read it. In his manifesto to the people of New South Wales, the Prime Minister said that the appearance in office of a caucus-tied Labour Administration, supported by a small minority in the House, raised constitutional and national questions which - i think fully justified the junction which has taken place between myself and my supporters, and Mr. Deakin and Sir George Turner and their supporters, a junction which leaves all our supporters free from any surrender of principle. '

Evidently, on the 22nd August, 1904 - the date of this manifesto - he did not think it necessary to endeavour to depose the honorable and learned member for Ballarat from the leadership of the protectionist wing on the Government side of the House ; but, judging by his present attitude, and from certain indications afforded us by the. speech made by him last night, I feel satisfied that he will do his best to gradually draw away from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and so to secure an entirely .undivided party. If his protectionist supporters cannot be absorbed by the free-trade wing he will endeavour to eject them. I can clearly read for them "the handwriting on the wall." The Prime Minister is doing his best to induce the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to finally leave him. He certainly does not wish to lose his support at this stage, but if a dissolution occurs at an early date, the Prime Minister will take up an entirely different attitude in regard to the terms of the coalition than that which he assumes at the present "time, when he absolutely relies on the support of some of the protectionist members of this House.

Mr Higgins - As soon as he gets into recess he will sell them.

Mr CROUCH - The Prime Minister, for some weeks past, has been touring the country, and talking of the restoration of responsible government ; but he knows that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat - and this is why he does not relish the position occupied by the honorable and learned member - has him completely in the hollow of his hand. If the honorable and learned member chooses to say to the Prime Minister, " Do this," pr ".Do that," he must obey or leave office, and a dissolution would then at once take place. The right honorable member is seeking to undermine the. position of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. He is never grateful for services rendered. That is his record, and I certainly think' it ' will be his record, so far as the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is concerned. That he should be grateful to a man is his best excuse for disliking him. In regard to the protectionist position, I may say that at the last election I was in favour of fiscal peace. I was returned on the principle of fiscal peace. But then we had this condition and circumstance obtaining: that there was a protectionist Prime Minister in power. That altered the position very materially. As long as a protectionist Prime Minister was in power, I do not think I should have advocated any change in the Tariff without going to face my electors again. I made fiscal peace so prominent in my programme that I could not honorably have changed my vote in this House without resigning.

Mr Ewing - Why, then, does not the honorable and learned member resign?

Mr CROUCH - The position is altogether changed. A free-trade Prime Minister is in power, who certainly was not chosen by the electors. In fact, the electors declared against him. At the last elections the contest was not between the present Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. It was distinctly between the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and the Prime Minister. So far as the electors of Australia could say that the present Prime Minister should not occupy that office, by an overwhelming majority they said it. It seems to me ro be a blot upon our democratic institutions that a man. whom the country so overwhelmingly condemned and rejected should have attained to the position of Prime Minister - in my opinion, by a long course of Juggling and trickery. In my belief the Prime Minister will take the earliest opportunity to sell the Protectionist Party. Indeed, he has already given indications in that direction. On the last Thursday in August - I cannot give the exact date - he spoke to a Farmers' Conference in Melbourne, and he then made use of this statement - i was Premier for- five year's in New South

Wales, during which the Labour Party had me in the hollow of their hand. And what was the result? i got my free-trade policy passed by protectionist labour men. You can always come upon me with a deal of that kind.

Here was this Prime Minister, having consummated a coalition with certain seceding protectionists, /stating about a fortnight after the coalition was formed, and after he had got certain protectionists in his Ministry, that he passed his free-trade policy in New South Wales with the assistance of protectionists, and that " You can always come upon me with a deal of that kind." If that is not a statement which should make those honorable members, who were previously with us in the Protectionist Party, pause in their career - if they are really protectionists - and prevent themselves being used by the present free-trade Prime Minister, as he used the protectionists in New South Wales, I do not know that any more public warning could be given.

Mr Ewing - It was not the Protectionist Party, but the Labour Party in New South Wales that the Prime Minister used.

Mr CROUCH - The right honorable gentleman said, "I got my free-trade policy passed by protectionist labour men."

Mr Ewing - Yes; labour men.

Mr CROUCH - If, after a warning of that sort, the protectionists who are supporting the Prime Minister can continue honestly and honorably to do so, I am very much surprised. A little while ago, I asked the Prime Minister what his position would be in reference to giving a preference to local contractors. He refused to answer, but made some sort of a joke. I should like to point out to those protectionists who have seceded from the Protectionist Party, that the Prime Minister said that he would never rest until the policy of the Protectionist Party was stamped out. It was not so long ago since the Prime Minister called the protectionists cowards. During the Tariff debates, he accused the honorable member for Mernda, in this House, of discreditable actions in trade. The right honorable gentleman continually interjected remarks about starch during the speeches of the honorable member. After his references to the weight of the packages sold bv the honorable member's firm, after his statement that the honorable member was really making his money out -of the poverty of the people who used his starch, and after the series of accusations which the Prime Minister made against him during the Tariff discussions, it seems to me that the honorable member for Mernda is a very funny protectionist if he is prepared to follow, as' he seems to do, the right honorable gentleman. There is one other position which the' Prime Minister takes up in his manifesto. He says that he is strongly against Socialism. Since the issue of that manifesto, he has addressed several meetings against Socialism. He thinks that Socialism is one of the worst things in the world. He as the nationalization of industries. Unfortunately, we have the honorable member for Wilmot stating that, although the leader of the Opposition is a Socialist, he finds that the Prime Minister is also a Socialist. Yet the Prime Minister goes up and down the country denouncing Socialism. That is the ground upon which he endeavours to retain his position. History does not pass away from our memories so soon. We have had only four years of Federal parliamentary life. Statements have been made in this House by the Prime Minister, which are reported in Hansard, and which show that he was formerly very anxious to get the Labour Party to vote with him. The Prime Minister was going a good way in the direction of Socialism then. On the 21st May, 1901, when this Parliament met for the first time, and we were discussing the Address-in-Reply - and he was not then indulging in any funnyisms but 'seriously placing his political intentions before the country - he said -

We say - " If you will encourage new forms of industry, make Government industries of them. If you believe that you can fashion industries, try a few experiments - Government experiments, and let us see how they get on. Then, if there is failure, no one else can be blamed, and the experiments can be dropped."

On the 15th October, 1901, when he knew he could not carry a vote of want of confidence without the support of the Labour Party, he said -

I have always been one who would like to see the iron industry firmly established, but my method of effecting this would be by giving it direct encouragement from the national exchequer. My reason for so doing would be that as if is a national industry the nation should pay the expense of encouraging it.

I do not go so far as the Prime Minister as a Socialist ; but I object to his going around the country speaking against Socialism when we remember that only two or three years ago he was ready enough to agree to almost any nationalizing of industries if he could only get the support of certain persons. Then what do we find this antiSocialist, to the horror of some of his supporters, and certainly 'to the horror of the conservative group in the Government corner, saying in regard to the Papua Bill, in which there was. a most Socialistic experiment

Mr Poynton - Clause" 20.

Mr CROUCH - That is so. To the surprise and horror of those I have mentioned, the present Prime Minister said that that clause was accepted by a large majority of the House, and he did not think he ought to disturb it. There was a fearless policy ! There was anti-Socialism ! This clause was actually moved and agreed to by the present Prime Minister, and it stands to-day in the Papua Bill, as I hope it will stand for some time, though it gives up a principle which the right honorable gentleman outside the House is only too ready to advocate. I do not wish to speak at any length on the question of preference to unionists. When that question was discussed I was, to a certain extent, " sand-bagged," and could not say all I desired ; but it is just as well that the people of the country should recognise where the difference is. Both sides of the House were agreed that there should be preference to unionists, and the only difference between _ honorable members on this side and the Ministerialists was that we held that the preference should be unencumbered by any proviso which would make it unworkable. The desire was to recommit the Bill, in order to pass a really workable clause; and there is not the slightest question that those who voted against the recommittal of clause 48 desired that preference should bet given to unionists. That provision was in the original Bill, introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the principle is supported absolutely and completely by the present Prime Minister, and even by those five representatives of the Victorian Employers' Federation who sit in the Government corner. But it ought to be distinctly understood that the difference between the Ministry and the Opposition is not as to whether there shall be preference, but only as to whether the provision giving preference shall be workable or combined with conditions which will make it practically impossible. I have already referred to the Deakin party, who are still following the Prime Minister. In his manifesto the right honorable gentleman stated that he would adhere to the position he assumed in the negotiations with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. But, in the first announcement he made to the House, the Prime Minister went back on that position, and said that so far as preferential trade was concerned - and this was certainly the most important plank of the Deakin party at the last election - he was going' to take up exactly the position of the Watson Government, who, until approached by England, were not going to do anything in the matter. What was the plat form agreed to at the meeting at which the joint proposals were considered ? It was that the question of preferential trade should wait until the British Government had spoken, as is shown by the following:

It is recognised that no proposals affecting trade relations within the Empire can be looked for from the mother country during the life of the present Commonwealth Parliament, but the maintenance of .1 truce for that period is not to prevent the acceptance of statutory concessions offered to us by any other part of the Empire.

The Prime Minister has confined his opposition entirely to refusing to do anything in regard to preferential trade until the United Kingdom makes approaches ; he neglected altogether the latter part of the paragraph - but the maintenance of a truce for that period is not to prevent the acceptance of statutory concessions offered to us by any other part of the Empire.

Already the Deakin party are in process of being " sold," and this they will find out , and be sorry for. They are dealing with a very astute man ; and they will recognise that it is impossible to follow a free-trade Minister and expect him to endeavour to conserve a protectionist policy. The sooner they get into office a man whom they can trust as a thoroughly honest man, who regards his political engagements as binding on him, the better it will be for them; and unless they can achieve that end they had far better sit in Opposition, and endeavour to remove the present Government from office. The Ministry has been christened the "sand-bagging" Ministry, though I do not know that that is a good description. It might really be properly called the "Yes-No" Ministry, simply because on the fiscal question we have four members Qf the Government saying " Yes " and four members saying " No." Or it might be called a " black-white " Ministry, because we have five saying " black " and three saying " white."

Mr Mahon - What about the free-trade Minister who gives protectionist preference in the Post Office?

Mr Mauger - The Minister is going to consider that matter on its merits.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 1 was " game " to give a decision, and the late PostmasterGeneral was not.

Mr CROUCH - I do not want to call the Ministry by any of the names - 1 have suggested, because it will sufficiently condemn them as unreliable and incompetent in the eyes of the people of Australia if it be simply called the Reid Ministrv.

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