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Friday, 23 September 1904

Mr RONALD (Southern Melbourne) - The fact that the present Administration do not possess the confidence of the House has been demonstrated continually during the debate by the state of the benches on the Ministerial side of the Chamber. When the first Parliament assembled in Athens', and on one side of the House were gathered the Prime Minister Necias and his supporters, and on the other side Alcibiades and his followers, we had, for the first time in history, two leaders of a political assembly sitting face to face, supported by the presence of their followers. But during the present debate the supporters of the ReidMcLean Administration might have been counted on the fingers of one hand. That state of things appears to me to make it unnecessary to try to prove that the Administration does not possess the confidence of the House. They are obviously at all times practically dependent on the Opposition to keep a House. There are, however, one or two other matters to which I wish to refer in the few minutes which remain before the adjournment - because I cannot be expected to finish my speech today. One of the facts that lie before us at the present time is that the three parties in this House are to all intents and purposes one party, and that that is why the present confusion exists. Every Government thai has been in power since the Parliament met - and this is the third Administration which we have had - has put the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in the forefront of its programme. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat brought in the Bill, and professed to be in favour of its principles ; but if he had been true to those principles the measure would by this time have been placed on the statute-book. When he was defeated in Committee, however, on a question of detail, he resigned office in a pique, and the Watson Administration supplanted his own. That Government, in its turn, resigned because it was defeated on its proposal to grant preference to unionists, which it regarded of vital importance. Now we have the Reid-McLean Administration, and the question naturally suggests itself, " Will *hey make anything vital?" It will not reflect credit on the intelligence of the House if the three parties find themselves so much in general agreement - and almost every member of the House has declared that the measure is urgently needed - and cannot agree as to details. We are told that there is no opposition to the principles embodied in the Bill, and that fact is borne out by the action of each party as it has come into power in turn, in declaring that the first measure on its programme would be the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. What we really want to know is. are honorable members sincere in their professions of belief in the principle of conciliation and arbitration? Are they in , earnest in the desire to settle industrial disputes amicably and peaceably by judicial authority?

Mr Mauger - I do not think so.

Mr RONALD - I believe that the honorable member is right, and that beyond the shadow of a doubt what we have seen is sheer and unmitigated political hypocrisy. If honorable members are anxious for industrial conciliation and arbitration, why has there been all this waste of time over details? We have been here for many months, and have nothing to show as the result of our labours. The only point upon which we differ is as to who shall occupy the Treasury bench, and that fact is a reflection upon the earnestness and integrity of honorable members. . If we were earnest in our desire to legislate in the best interests of the country, we should put an end to the present unseemly and un-Godly scramble for office. I could understand the last two Governments being displaced, if they were succeeded by a new Administration which was prepared to declare its utter disbelief in socialistic legislation, but I cannot understand any section of honorable members pretending to be in favour of the measure that has been before us since the beginning of the session, and making a dispute with regard to petty details a pretext for ousting the Government from office. Conciliation or no conciliation should be the issue before us.

Mr McDonald - I do not wish to be included amongst those who have been scrambling for office.

Mr RONALD - The honorable member is like the Pharisee. He thanks God that he is not as other men are, and I might join him to that extent. I strongly deprecate the subversion of all other considerations to that of obtaining possession of the Treasury bench. The present Government is a sham. It came into office as the professed friend of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, after having ousted the previous Government, which placed that measure in the forefront of its programme.

Mr McCay - The late Government insisted on going out of office.

Mr RONALD - We may have our own opinions' with regard to the wisdom, or unwisdom, of the course adopted by the late Government, but I do not wish to enter into that question. As a matter of fact, the present Government is an antisocialistic combination.

Mr Mauger - What is Socialism?

Mr RONALD - The question "What is truth?" has never yet been answered, and the question "What is Socialism?" is not likely to elicit a satisfactory reply until men are supplied with consciences, as well as with the power of reasoning, and are able to appreciate mental and moral truths. The root of the word " Socialism " is the Greek word socios, meaning a friend, an ally. Therefore, Socialism means nothing else than an alliance, a friendship, a brotherhood, an association or co-operation for . a given purpose. All Governments are in their very essence socialistic. If the words "Socialism" and "alliance" are to be regarded as synonymous, we should not seek for any special definition of the former term, because we are sufficiently familiar with the meaning of the latter. If honorable members in this House were divided into Socialists and anti-Socialists, the latter would eventually prove to be anarchists, because anti-Socialism and anarchy are practically identical. Those who are opposed to Socialism, or alliance for the purpose of maintaining law and order and . good government - and the term is capable of no other definition - must needs be anarchists. I must protest against the references which have been made to paid agitators in the Labour- Party, and to the engagement of Mr. Tom Mann as an organizer. We have been told that we have set a bad example, but we might be more reasonably charged with following a bad example. We have followed in the footsteps of the Employers' Federation, and we claim that, whilst one side is using its wealth to hire agitators, the Labour ' Party, which has no press to support it, would be very foolish indeed if it failed to take advantage of the services of a man who is so well fitted for the work of organization. So long as one class in the community is permitted to employ agitators, the other side cannot be blamed for following its example. A great deal has been said during the course of this debate - in order that it may be scattered far and wide - against the morality of this proceeding. As to the morality of the teaching of our representative, I claim' that it will compare very favorably indeed with the unseemly and dangerous instruction imparted by the paid agitator of the Employers' Federation. At any rate, we never acknowledge or countenance! any attack upon the sanctity of the marriage tie. But the hired agitator of the Employers' Federation has descended to the lowest depths of immorality by declaring that marriage, which is the foundation of our family life, and the one institution in our civilization that is worth preserving, isa luxury which should be placed in the same category as long beers. That is the teaching of this moralist, this instructor in the ethics of politics. He has proclaimed to the world that the Labour Party is to be re* probated for all that is vile, because it will not indorse that sentiment. To me it is manifest that the present Administration do not possess the confidence of this House, and if for no other reason than is supplied by the programme which they have presented, they should be deposed. So far as the members of the Government are concerned individually, there are no men in this House whom I should be more pleased to see upon the Treasury bench. They are gentlemen of whom this Parliament or any other Legislature might well be proud. I find no fault with the personnel of the Cabinet, but I claim that it is possible to respect them without in any way agreeing with their political views. I very much deplore the washing of dirty political linen which has taken place during the course of this debate. Whatever our differences may be, I trust that they will always be differences of principle, and that our respect -for each other will be maintained. In my opinion, the coalition between the avowed - protectionists and the declared free-traders in this House is an unholy one. On the other hand, the alliance between the Labour Party and the liberal protectionists is a natural alliance, because their members have many things in common. The liberal protectionists are democrats. Personally I hope to see the day when the term " Labour Party " will ' disappear. " Democratic Party" would suit my taste far better. Nevertheless the word "labour" is associated with all that is honorable, and I have no objection to it. But there are those who do object to it, and I hope, as the result of this alliance, to see a new party spring into existence which will absorb both. We shall then have a clear line of demarcation between the democrats and the conservatives. Our alliance is not based upon a mere negation ; it is a positive alliance, whereas the coalition between honorable members opposite is based upon a pure negation. It is anti-labour. History demonstrates that no movement will ever make for the good of the community which is founded upon a mere negation. If we are to achieve any good, it must be by having something positive. What is there that is positive in the programme of the Government? Nothing but what has been taken out of the policy submitted by the Watson Administration. Some time ago, a very ludicrous advertisement was posted up all round Melbourne. It pictured a certain distinguished gentleman in a very unbecoming, not to say nude, state. Later on, his figure was obliterated, and the public were informed that he had gone to be clothed at a certain establishment in the city. The recollection of that advertisement leads me to say - speaking in a political sense - that he went to the bathing boxes of the Labour Party, stole their clothes, and came back dressed in arbitration breeches, a conciliation coat, a free-trade waistcoat, and a protectionist belltopper. The present Administration found the Labour Party bathing, .and stole their clothes; Such a grotesque figure is not likely to commend himself to the people as one who is properly clothed, and in such a state of mind as to warrant him being charged with the conduct of the political affairs of the Commonwealth. Because he is so grotesquely arrayed I think he should be arrested, and a speedy termination put to his Ministerial existence. If I am a prophet as well as a parson, we shall find upon an appeal to the electors that the Government do not possess their confidence. The Ministerial programme is a miserable piece of patch-work, which contains nothing but that which has been filched from their predecessors in office.

Debate adjourned.

House. adjourned at 3.59 p.m.

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