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Wednesday, 28 September 1904

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - After the three very long and elaborate speeches which have been delivered to the House this afternoon and evening, I am afraid that honorable members must be somewhat tired and exhausted. Probably their inclinations will be somewhat similar to my own, after waiting such a long time to get a little innings in this debate. I think it can hardly be expected that I should enter upon the debate with a view to conclude my remarks to-night. I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne upon his oratorical capacity, and his powers of endurance. I should also like to compliment him upon the very vast stores of information with which he has favoured us. Some passages of his long speech were very eloquent, some were very pathetic, and the whole was bristling with detail ; but I venture to say, with very great respect to him, that a large part of it was utterly irrelevant to the debate now proceeding, although no doubt his observations were made with 'the very best intentions. Mr. Speaker thought it necessary several times to direct the honorable member's attention to the fact that the question before us is as to whether the House has confidence in the present Administration, and I think that any speech which is directed fairly and squarely towards the main issue may assist honorable members. But a speech that rambles over the history of Victorian and Australian politics generally, is scarcely calculated to attain that end. This much, however, I should like to say in fairness to my honorable friend, the member for Melbourne - that he certainly set a good example to even more experienced' and distinguished members than himself in avoiding personalities. Whilst he found it necessary to attack the head of the Government, he did not deem it to be necessary to descend to the depths of vituperation and abuse, and he also found it to be consistent with his political position as a member of the Labour Party to do justice to the Prime Minister in several matters, for which he gave him credit. The honorable member, as a labour member in particular, is also to be commended for not seeking to introduce any of the old feuds and vendettas of New South Wales into this debate. A considerable amount of time has been wasted in that way. I do not think that such allusions are calculated to elevate the debates of the Federal Parliament, and I do not believe . that they will influence a single vote. Honorable members have a' sufficient grip of the present situation to deal with it on its merits as a Federal question, without dragging in and raking up any of the antiquarian episodes of the New South Wales Parliament. Judging from some of the allusions which have been made to it, one would think that the New South Wales Parliament must have been a very terrible place in times past ; certainly the persistency with' which these ancient feuds are being revived is anything but gratifying or calculated to elevate our discussions. I am glad, indeed, that the leader of the Labour Party, in accordance with all his previous history, endeavoured to give a high and respectable tone to it, and to direct attention to political issues, avoiding altogether personal considerations. So far as I am concerned, these references and allusions, betraying an animus against the Prime Minister, irrespective of Federal considerations, are rather calculated to excite disgust than to prejudice me in any way against the right honorable gentleman. I, in common with' other protectionists, have, in years gone by, deemed it to be my 'duty to fight him hard and fast on public grounds and for just cause; and if, at the present juncture of affairs, any want of confidence motion were tabled, and were justified, I should undoubtedly feel it to be my bounden duty to support it. But, in the absence of good cause, in the absence of argument, to support such a motion as has already been submitted, I deem it to be my duty to record my vote against the motion of want of confidence. I should like to draw the attention of honorable members to the present political situation, which, it appears to me, is without parallel in the history of parliamentary government. ' Within nine months of a general election, we have had no less than two Ministries displaced from office, and we are now faced with a motion of want of confidence in a third Government: The position is certainly one which should make us anxious for the safety of our Federal institutions. Such incidents as these, so unparalleled in the history of parliamentary Government, may well be calculated to shake our Constitution to its very foundation. I think that the dangers connected with the situation should induce honorable members of a thoughtful disposition on both sides to subordinate their own ambition, or what they may consider their interests, to the good government and welfare of the Commonwealth. Of course, in every situation a certain amount of selfrestraint is necessary. I think that if the leader of the Labour Party had shown a capacity and disposition to sink what may be, perhaps, a natural feeling of disappointment and resentment at being displaced from office, until a future occasion, when better cause might have been shown, it would have reflected greater credit upon his capacity as a leader, and would, I am sure, have won him greater esteem and respect in the country. Only a few weeks ago, he was beaten in a straight-out division on a detail of a Bill.

Mr Poynton - And the honorable and learned member cannot show a parallel case.

Sir JOHN QUICK - The honorable member for Bland deemed it necessary, advisable, and consistent with his honour and dignity as Prime Minister, to resign office. He did so- freely and voluntarily, without any pressure, so far as I am aware, unless it was from outside.

Mr Watson - There was no pressure from anywhere.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I would point out that the honorable member resigned after unsuccessfully applying for a dissolution.

Mr Watson - We shall have one now, so it is all the same.

Sir JOHN QUICK - It may be that the honorable member felt sanguine of obtaining a dissolution, and that he did not expect that in the ordinary course of things he would have to resign. But having failed to obtain a dissolution, he did. There was nothing in the course of the situation which, in my opinion, called upon him to resign. Having resigned on a detail of a Bill, a devolution of government necessarily had to take place.

Mr Poynton - The business of the House was taken out of his hands.

Sir JOHN QUICK - The King's government had to be carried on, and the Governor-General, in the exercise of his prerogative, commissioned the right honorable member for East Sydney to form an Administration, and no sooner had he done so, and come down here and outlined his policy than the honorable member for Bland rose in his place and gave notice of a motion of no-confidence. In other words, having resigned voluntarily only a few weeks before, he did not allow the new Government to develop their policy or even to have anything like a fair innings. For what purpose did he immediately table a" motion of want of confidence? To get back into the office which he had resigned freely and voluntarily?

Mr Hutchison - Would not the honorable and learned member have resigned if the control of business had been taken out of his hands?

Sir JOHN QUICK - The honorable member for Bland had a perfect right to resign, if he thought fit. I am not challenging his judgment, but contending that he was not called upon to resign.

Mr Hutchison - Was not the control of business taken out of his hands?

Sir JOHN QUICK - No. Now observe the difficulty of the situation.

Mr Watson - It is very difficult for some persons.

Sir JOHN QUICK - The Bill in respect of which the honorable member resigned office still remains in the Parliament. It has not been disposed of. It is true that it was removed to another Chamber, but it will inevitably come back to this House for further consideration.

Mr Poynton - Will the honorable and learned member vote against it?

Sir JOHN QUICK - I shall tell the honorable member how I shall vote when it comes back. In the meantime the honorable member for Bland apparently desires to resume office.

Mr Wilks - With a new team.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Apparently the honorable member desires to resume office, with or without a change in personnel. He would still be in possession of the difficulty in respect of which he resigned. He would again have to advise the House what to do, and it may be assumed that those honorable members who voted against him on the last occasion might feel called upon to vote against him again and again. If they did, would he then resign?

Mr Batchelor - What about the provision relating to State servants?

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