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Friday, 30 September 1904

Mr McCAY (Corinella) (Minister of Defence) . - I am not quite sure, after having listened to the debate pretty closely for- a fortnight, and much more closely than I have previously been in -the habit of listening to debates, whether I shall be in order in addressing myself to the question if I refrain from making personal explanations, and from diving into ancient history. If I may judge by the experience of previous speakers, my turn for making personal explanations will come after I have spoken. But I shall endeavour to avoid as far as possible going into the ancient history of either Victoria or New South Wales. Interesting and exciting as the episodes recounted to us may have been, they do not seem to rae to bear very directly on the question now at issue. I have waited for nearly a fortnight to speak, because I thought, and but for present experience would still think, that the members of a Ministry whose existence was challenged were entitled to wait until they bad ascertained the causes for challenging it. The motion of want of confidence, which was moved by the honorable member for Bland last Tuesday week, in a speech in which he extolled the beauties of Socialism, and described the ideal state that is to come into existence long after we are dead and buried, so that it has no direct personal interest for us, was seconded by the honorable :a~nd learned member for Indi, who said, "I second the motion, but reserve my right to speak later on." Apparently it is to Be much later on that that right will be exercised - much later than the country will think he should postpone his speech, and much later than the Ministry which is attacked ha's a right to expect, if- it is to be treated in. the manner which is customary upon occasions of this kind, and in a way which can be regarded as ordinary, not to say fair, political fighting.

Mr Fisher - Why whine ?

Mr McCAY - Does the honorable member call that whining? I am not whining. We have had some new definitions added to the English language during the last week or two - a new definition of the word " truce " by the honorable and learned member for Indi and others, for example ; and now we are getting a new definition of the word " whining." I assure the honorable member for Wide Bay, who joined in running away from the bridges which he and his friends erected from time to time to save the Government of which he was a member, that there will be no whining in my speech. However he may be able to characterize it when I have finished, he will find a notable absence of the whining which he desires to impute to me before I have begun to address myself to the main subject of my remarks. The honorable and learned member for Indi has delayed speaking until now, and we have not been able to ascertain when . he will speak. It is one of those happy events which are to occur in the dim future, which is to come upon us along with many other blessings when the Opposition have achieved their object of ousting the present Government from office, and have secured the first steps in the advance to that sys-- tern of perfection which their entrance into office is to insure this time, though when they were there a few months ago none of those steps were even proposed.

Mr Mauger - They got a good reference from the Minister's leader, at any rate.

Mr McCAY - I am not going to discuss the past more than is absolutely necessary. »I am willing to admit at once that Honorable members on that side, like honorable members on this side, have said a good deal about each other which they wish now they had not sai3. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said many things which he would like the waters of kindly oblivion to cover, if only for a time.

Mr Mauger - Not a thing.

Mr McCAY - Then he still believes that what he said about the Labour Party in November last is true.

Mr Mauger - I did not say it about the Labour Party, and the Minister knows it.

Mr McCAY - Might I ask the honorable member for Bourke if he indorses that statement ? Does he believe that all that he said about the Labour Party in last November and December is still true?

Mr King O'Malley - He was talking about anarchists then, not about the Labour Party.

Mr McCAY - If the Labour Party in this House do not mind the things which were said about them a few months ago by some of their bosom friends, there are members of the party outside - a good many thousands of them - who mind it a good deal, and it is those gentlemen, as they have taken care to assure their agents inside this House, who will determine what action is to be taken in consequence of the speeches to which I refer.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - That is the only comfort which the Minister has.

Mr Reid - I do not know what comfort the honorable member has.

Mr McCAY - It is a good thing that I have something to comfort me. The honorable member for Bourke is not in that happy position. However, I was referring to the honorable and learned member for Indi andhis methods on the present occasion. He has, I understand, suggested that he helped to frame that beautiful alliance programme, about which I hope to say a word or two later on. I understand that he regards that as his indictment against the Government, which must be answered before he is called upon tospeak. It betokens a most praiseworthy and admirable modesty in the honorable and learned member to say that he helped to frame the alliance programme. There are amongst us those who make a more generous estimate of his ability and his intellectual powers than he appears to hold himself, who ascribe to him much more than a mere share in framing the programme. We see in it one master hand from first to last. To those who, like myself, have some familiarity with the verbiage and procedure of the law courts, the hand of the practised drawer of pleadings appears throughout the document, not merely in the " a " and " b " provisions to which the Minister of Trade and Customs referred, but from A to Z - from beginning to end. The honorable and learned member says, " There is my indictment against the Government." I confess that to me the document appears, to quote a line from Gilbert's Bab Ballads, " Pretty ; but I don't know what it means." I think a good many of us are in that position with regard to it. The honorable and learned member has adopted the method of pub lishing his opinions by means of newspaper interviews. An interview is an excellent thing in many ways.

Mr Wilks - When you write it yourself.

Mr McCAY - With that recognition which a great mind always gives to the importance of its prominence in the public eye, the honorable and learned member for Indi has not shrunk from interviews. The interview has many great advantages in comparison with a speech made within the precincts of this House. In the first place, it is. not liable to troublesome interjection or contradiction, and, in the second place, it gets at least a day's start of the critic, however active he may be.

Mr McDonald - Why does not the Minister read the Argus leader in which these views appeared a day or two ago, so that we may have them at first hand. Apparently he has committed it to memory.

Mr McCAY - The reading of leading articles is not an occupation which I regard as the summit of bliss, and if I am now expressing the views contained' in an Argus leader of recent date, it is only another instance of great minds thinking alike, because I have not read the article to which the honorable member refers. I am gratified that for once in a way the Argus and I are in agreement. One great advantage of being interviewed is that it enables one to get ahead of his critics.

Mr Groom - Being interviewed is not peculiar to the honorable and learned member for Indi.

Mr McCAY - No; but it is more especially his method than that of any other member of the House at the present time. The honorable and learned member professes to have helped in framing the alliance programme, about which I wish to say, a few words, and, in passing, I would like to remark that it reminds us very forcibly of a fact to which naturalists have so frequently drawn attention, that in the animal world, there are a great number of insects which show a wonderful capacity for adapting themselves to their environment in order to escape the notice of their natural enemies. But nature has once more to yield to art. No insect, however successful in escaping its enemies by means of its adaptability, has shown itself as adaptable as this alliance programme). There is one article - a secret article - of the alliance programme which says that the programme is intended to secure the votes of a majority of members of the House of Representatives, and with that object in view it is to be altered from time to time to an extent to which no natural insect has ever succeeded in changing its appearance. Just remember that the programme as it left the Committee of three which drew it up was full of fight. Fiscalism was to be revived forthwith, the Tariff fight was to be renewed within these halls at all costs and hazards. But this unhappy programme had to undergo the scrutiny of the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party. I will not call them " seceders," but the smaller of the two branches into which the party is now divided.

Mr Mauger - Oh, no.

Mr McCAY - It is said that figures cannot lie, although the men who use them may do so. At any rate, an analysis of the figures as to the division of the twenty-three or twenty-four Deakenites shows conclusively that a majority of the party sit on this side of the House and not upon the Opposition benches. Those honorable members who appear in Opposition may represent the younger and yet the more distinguished branch of the party, and may possess greater intellect, ability, and activity as a set-off to the mere brute force of numbers which is to be found upon this side. Whatever advantage attaches to numbers is undoubtedly on the side of the branch which sits behind the Government. The alliance programme had to go through the crucible of the consideration of the Opposition branch of the Protectionist Party. I will say in justice to those honorable members, however, that the programme did not suffer much at their hands. They swallowed the whole of its items, just as they swallowed its subsequent version, with a willingness and cheerfulness which leads one to suppose that they find the operation entirely to their taste. A few days later the programme had to face the Labour Party, which has no fiscal faith. Included in its ranks are men who hold strong opinions against re-opening the Tariff in the way suggested - re-opening it in order to raise duties and not to lower them, re-opening it so that duties may be raised in the interests of a few industries only, leaving alone all the other duties with regard to which free-traders may hold different views. I should like to ask how, if the Tariff were once re-opened, this House could be prevented from discussing or altering any item. We know enough of the forms of the House to be fully aware that that could not be prevented. The programme came before the Labour Party and emerged, subsequent to the meeting of the joint parties, in a somewhat bedraggled condition. It was considerably altered from its original form, and upon it the alliance of thirty-five members stood. Then, alas, the honorable member for Barker came to Victoria. I was not present at the gathering when he arrived, but if the newspaper reports be true he was received with great cheering.

Mr Reid - He had a royal reception.

Mr McCAY - Then the question arose, " Can thirty-five be turned into thirty-six ? " because that would be, indeed, a noble object to achieve if it could be achieved. Article1 of the programme - I do not refer to the preliminary condition - which stated that " the Arbitration Bill is to be carried with the substitution of Mr. Watson's amendment for Mr. McCay's amendment" became "the Arbitration Bill is to be carried as introduced, but members are to be at liberty to vote as they voted before." What an adaptation to environment. What insect - I should say what other insect - could show such adaptability?

Mr Mauger - The Minister is making a statement that is absolutely untrue.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to a point of order. The honorable memberfor Melbourne Ports has characterized the statement made by the Minister as absolutely untrue.

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