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Thursday, 29 September 1904

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Nothing of the kind. I entered' Parliament before the Labour Party, as now constituted, came into existence, and I have held a seat in Parliament for over ten years. Whenever I have been opposed by Labour candidates, I have beaten them by constantly increasing majorities; but, as a matter of fact, I have not yet nominated against a Labour candidate. The men who supported me at the last election were the Liberal-Protectionists of Bourke, while those who supported the Labour candidates were those who believed in the platform of the Labour Party. The man who was supported by the Employers' Federation and the Reform League was Mr. Grundy, the conservative candidate, and I beat him by over 4,000 votes. In these circumstances, we are quite justified in saying that we have no confidence in the Government, first, because they have declared a truce in which we do not believe, and which we cannot support, because it will do injury to the interests of Australia. We do not believe in them, because their boast, that they will restore public confidence, is a phrase which means nothing, especially in view of the fact that at the time when they should be doing something, thousands of persons are leaving these shores, because the Tariff is operating in such a way that trade is being taken from our industries, and they cannot give employment.

Mr Kelly - People have been leaving Victoria for the last fifteen years.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I admit that there have been losses of population from Victoria for a long period. They were due, in the first instance, to the great banking crisis. At that time 75 per cent. of the banking institutions of Australia closed their doors; but we are carrying on to-day without any repudiation, which is a grand thing to be able to say. Probably no other country would have done what Australia has done in this matter. The second reason why population left Victoria was that the bank smashes were followed by a succession of bad seasons. Had it not been for the development of the Western Australian gold-fields, this country would no doubt have lost even more heavily than it has done. But whereas in the two years prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, Victorialost only 9,000 persons, in the two succeeding years she lost 30,000 persons; and while the Commonwealth as a whole gained in population in the first period, it has lost about 6,000 persons, of whom 4,000 were adults, in the second period. The operation of the Tariff is responsible for this loss of population. The next reason why we have no confidence in the present Administration is that it is the result of a coalition, and the history of coalitions in Victoria has been so disastrous that we do not wish to repeat it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member was glad to have the support of the Treasurer on one occasion; but he is condemning him now.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I am not ashamed of any action which I have taken in connexion with the present Treasurer, nor of any action which I have taken in connexion with the other leader of the Government, whom, on one occasion, I assisted to defeat the present Treasurer.

Mr Wilks - When does the honorable member intend to support the party on this side of the House ? He seems to have supported every one in turn.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I assisted the honorable member for Gippsland to defeat the right honorable member for Balaclava, because the latter wrote off some £2,500,000 from the irrigation trusts, and placed it to the debit of the general taxpayers, a proceeding which I could not justify to my constituents, some of whom were paying 2s. 6d. in the £1 in rates. We cannot support a coalition, because the history of Victoria has shown that coalitions are disastrous to all who have had anything to do with them.

Mr Kelly - Is that why honorable members opposite call their coalition an alliance?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Ours is not a coalition, which I take to be a truce between two parties mutually opposed to each other; ours is an alliance, by which I mean the junction of two parties which are mutually favourable to each other. We have common views, and there is no difference between our policies and our platforms.

Mr McLean - Yet the honorable member is going to be opposed by a Labour candidate.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I have already said that I expect opposition from some of the branch leagues in my electorate; but I shall not be opposed by those with whom I am allied, and I. shall have their support if I ask for it. Then we are opposed to the Government because; while they profess to be the friends of the farmers, the artizans, and the producers generally, they are content to leave untouched such questions as the granting of bonuses for the production of iron and preferential trade. I cannot and will not support a combination which does that. I am opposed to the Government also because it is supported, both in this House and outside, not by a brilliant democratic following, but by an unscrupulous conservative following. I do not use my own terms and phrases in so describing it. The character of its backers outside is to. me the best of reasons for not support ing the Government. In the next place, the man whom I honour above all others in the political life in this country, and whose lead I should be content to follow if he were a free man, is not a member of the coalition, but is giving such support to it as leaves him free to act against it whenever he thinks fit to do so. When he chooses to again lead the party with which I am associated - and it must be remembered that the Labour Party were willing to accept him as their leader - he will be in the position in which all the LiberalProtectionists and democrats wish to see him. In the meantime, his position and attitude give the keynote to my position and attitude. If he cannot jointhe Ministry, I cannot support it. Lastly, I feel that the protectionists who have agreed to follow the right honorable member for East Sydney have been so betrayed and trapped that they will never be able to join our party again. As the result, we have been compelled to enter into an alliance with the Labour Party, and have, in the full light ofday, put forward a programme which we believe represents the democratic thought and feeling of this continent. For that programme we will fight, and by it we will stand or fall.

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