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Wednesday, 21 September 1904

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - I had no intention to speak this evening, but the opportunity has come to me, and I must take advantage of it. I realize that the honorable member for Perth at any. rate, has given the true history, and true view of the alliance on the other side. I am quite certain that the labour representatives themselves cannot believe that there is absolutely any bond of union between themselves and the party with which they have formed an alliance. One party is trying to make use of the other, and both are acting with the same desires, and from the same motives. Whenever there comes an election it will be shown that men outside connected with the Labour Party will not tolerate the kind of union that has apparently been entered into within this House.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The electors will indorse the union right enough ; do not make any mistake !

Mr LONSDALE - I am sure labour men outside will not indorse the union.

Mr Bamford - The honorable member will regret that, I have no doubt.

Mr LONSDALE - I shall take my own course, and let other parties take theirs. The idea of the liberal-protectionists, as they call themselves, going to the country to raise a fiscal agitation is absolutely absurd; and in their hearts they know that to be so. They know that it is only a game they are playing, and that there is no possibility of the Labour Party standing by them in their efforts to re-open the Tariff question.

Mr Poynton - The honorable member will not help the protectionists, at any rate.

Mr LONSDALE - I shall not help any coalition to raise the fiscal question. So far as I am concerned, I shall stand by the policy I have always advocated.

Mr Poynton - What is that - land taxation?

Mr LONSDALE - I shall stand by the policy of land taxation, but not in the way in which the honorable member would like. I have been, and I am still, a land-taxer, but I have no desire to pile on a land tax without giving some concessions in return. Nobody has ever found me advocating an increase in the burdens of the men on the land ; my desire is to decrease those burdens by changing the system of taxation from that at present adopted. As to old-age pensions being provided from a land tax, I am not likely to give an idea of that kind any support, because that would simply mean an increased burden.

Mr Fisher - Then the Honorable member does not believe in old-age pensions?

Mr LONSDALE - I do, but not in that form. I read with regret the reports of the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for West' Sydney last night, in which he made charges against the Prime Minister. When I first read the speech I thought there might be some truth in the charges, but to-night we have the honorable and learned member admitting that they are without foundation. It will be admitted by everybody that the honorable and learned member directly pointed to the Prime Minister as being the originator of the prosecution in connexion with the six potters. The words of the honorable and learned member were -

Six potters were brought all the way from England and landed in this country. Although they are here, citizens of our own flesh and blood, bone of our bone, sinew of our sinew, under the regime of the right honorable gentleman, instructions have been given to the Solicitor-General of New South Wales to file against the man who brought them here an information under the section of the Act which did not permit of the six hatters coming in.

There we have a distinct statement that the Prime Minister gave instructions for this information to be filed, though it is well known that it was the honorable and learned member for West Sydney who, as Minister of External Affairs, took that action. Is that honorable or fair? Is that the kind of fighting we should have in this Parliament? If we do fight each other, let the fight be about principles, and let our weapon be truth, not falsehood. The honorable and learned member went on to say that the Prime Minister proposed to deport the six unfortunate potters, though he well knew that no proposal of the kind was ever made by the right honorable gentleman. That is a statement the honorable and learned member cannot back out of, because we have it here in the report of his speech, as corrected by himself. That is the kind of fighting we have had right through on the part of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, and it certainly cannot be described as honorable. In dealing with this matter, one may be excused for getting rather warm when we remember that the honorable and learned member has received many kindnesses from, and been supported time after time by,, the present head of the Government.

Mr Fisher - We shall have to find a little Parliament in which the New South Wales representatives may be by themselves.

Mr LONSDALE - We do not want a separate Parliament for the New South Wales representatives; all we want is fair play. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney, after making his speech in the House last night, went outside and made a different or modified statement to the Melbourne press ; but that was after his original remarks had been telegraphed throughout the States. If the honorable and learned member has any conscience' he will realize that he has deliberately done the Prime Minister a wrong. Another reference to the Prime Minister has been introduced in the course of the debate. I do not know why these masters should be brought up, but the Opposition corner is responsible for the one to which I am about to refer. There is no doubt that these references are made for the express purpose of, as far as possible, discrediting the Prime Minister in Victoria and the other States.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was the gentle Crouch.

Mr LONSDALE - Those who know the honorable and learned member for Corio, and have seen his conduct, pay little attention to him.

Mr Frazer - What has the honorable member against the honorable and learned member for Corio?

Mr LONSDALE - I do not want to say anything in that direction, but every one must have noticed the honorable and learned member make a speech one night, and the next night make a speech exactly opposite - saying he is going to vote in one direction, and the next night voting directly opposite. We have seen that here repeatedly ; and everybody who does that kind of thing must be a little bit soft, I think. The charge has been made repeatedly against the present Prime Minister of maladministration of the 'finances of New South Wales. I was a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales when the alleged maladministration is supposed to have taken place. The Treasurer of the Dibbs Government, in his last financial statement, previous to the defeat in the country of the Government of which he was a member, made use Of these words - I make this quotation, because I wish it to be perfectly clear how this difficulty arose -

So far as can now be ascertained, the deficiency is about £ 1,200,000, and I propose to ask authority to issue Treasury Bills to cover this deficiency.

The whole of this trouble arose out of that deficiency. The statement of the honorable member for Grafton, the Treasurer of the Dibbs Government at that time, must be taken as being correct.

Mr Isaacs - Are we really concerned in that matter?

Mr LONSDALE - The honorable and learned member for Indi is not concerned in the matter. He is concerned to let the lie go forth, and let the Prime Minister suffer under this imputation. That is what the honorable and learned member is concerned about. . Honorable members opposite do not desire that this matter should be spoken of. It should never have been referred to here, and we should never have had anything to do with it, if a member of the honorable and learned gentleman's little party had not brought' it up. Now, the honorable and learned member does not desire that the Prime Minister shall be defended. That is the kind of conduct we have from the honorable and learned gentleman. We are not concerned about this matter, I admit, but we are concerned to defend an innocent man, to disclose the truth, and to brand a lie as a lie. In a speech, which I made in the New South Wales Parliament, in dealing with this matter, I made the quotation which I have just now made, and I then said - " That statement is either true or untrue. If it is true, then the deficiency which the present Colonial Treasurer brings forward exists." 1 hat was a reference 'to the deficiency which the present Prime Minister brought forward, and I claimed that if the statement of the Treasurer in the previous Administration was correct, then that deficiency existed, because that honorable gentleman had said so. I went on to say -

If the statement is not true, what must we think of the honorable member for Grafton, who takes a course to establish a book deficiency. . . . When this deficiency was originated, the members of the Opposition party joined issue with the honorable gentleman and pointed out that no such deficiency existed.

When the Bill dealing with the matter was under discussion, the honorable gentleman, who had admitted the deficiency, came town to the House and stated that no such deficiency existed. I then said-

Now we have the same gentleman standing here and saying that no, such deficiency existed. Are we to believe the statement they made during this financial debate, or are we to believe the statement they made on previous occasions. I ask them to say which of the two statements is true.

I there referred to the gentlemen who had. been quoted as having accused the present Prime Minister of doing this wrong. First of all, they said that the deficiency did exist, and then when the present Prime Minister brought it forward they said that it did not exist, although one would imagine that if there had been a deficiency of £1,200,000 it should not have been difficult to discover it somewhere. These gentlemen were -opposed to the present Prime Minister, and when he proposed to do exactly what they had proposed to do themselves - issue Treasury bills to cover the deficiency - they said that the deficiency did not exist, and the whole of the charges against the present Prime Minister arose out of that. What did the right honorable gentleman do ? He carried the Bill through the House, and I believe that the present honorable member for Bland, and other members of the Labour Party in the State Parliament, supported him in doing so. We have had some quotations made from the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into this matter ; but if honorable members will read the report, they will find that the members of the Committee admit that the present Prime Minister carried on the accounts in conformity with the programme of Parliament.

Mr Wilks - In conformity with the law.

Mr LONSDALE - In conformity with the law which the State Parliament, the Labour Party assisting, passed with its eyes wide open. The members of with its eyes wide open. The members of the Committee admit that, and whatever may be the conclusions tq which they came, honorable members will at once realize that if anything wrong was done, it was the New South Wales Parliament, and not the right honorable member for East Sydney, that was guilty. I may explain that the deficiency to which I have referred, and which was covered by the Treasury bills authorized to be issued, arose from payments for works made in the previous years. The present Prime Minister altered the system of keeping the accounts, so that it should not be possible, in years to come, for the same thing to occur again. He desired that the revenue actually received during the. year, should be taken as the revenue for that year, and that the amount actually spent should be considered the actual expenditure for the year. He decided that the public accounts should be kept upon that system, and that in the case of every work not carried out, the amount voted for it should be written off at the close of the financial year, and should be re-voted when necessary. On 30th June, 1895, at the close of the first half-year during which the present Prime Minister was in office, the accounts showed a deficiency of £186,000.

Mr Fisher - The Consolidated Revenue Account ?

Mr LONSDALE - Yes, for the halfyear under the old system. The first full year under the cash system was from 1st July, 1895, to 30th June, 1896, and at the close of that year*, the New South Wales Auditor-General certified that there was a surplus of £349,000. Before dealing with a new matter, I should like to say that as it is half-past ten o'clock, the Prime Minister might consent to an adjournment of the debate, as I shall not have finished what I desire to say for some time.

Debate adjourned.

Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed^ -

That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for to-morrow.

Mr Thomas - If the honorable member for New England will not be too long-

Mr SPEAKER - -Order. I have before called the attention of honorable members to the standing order which requires that there should be silence when Mr. Speaker is putting a question. Honorable members will see the importance of observing the standing order, because they may give votes under a misapprehension, unless when a question is put from the Chair they are enabled to hear it distinctly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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