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Friday, 30 September 1904

Mr MAHON - The intimation was given the agent to save him the expense of cabling. I recollect the incident. My impression at the time was, and this letter shows it, that the difference at stake would be represented by shillings rather than by pounds, and that there was no real advantage in taking the American article. As this agent wanted the information at once, and did not appear desirous of obtaining the contract, it was to his advantage, and to that of the Department, to act as I did.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not blame the honorable member for adopting that course ; but he has declared that he did not do so.

Mr MAHON - If the PostmasterGeneral could not find something stronger than that to support his statement, it would have been wiser of him to have kept it in the background.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is blaming others for doing what he himself did.

Mr MAHON - I certainly blame the politician who, having made free-trade the great cause of his life, declares that he lives politically only to advance its triumph, who secures office through its instrumentality, repudiating his professions when in power and practising protection. I regret having to introduce into this debate anything of a personal character ; but the speech delivered a few evenings ago by the right honorable member for Swan compels me to do so. For a man of such broad and generous instincts, I think that he betrayed almost incredible pettiness upon that occasion. He was good enough to say that I am his personal friend. I do hope that the relationship is reciprocal, and that he is also my friend. If he is, all I can say is that he has a very remarkable way of manifesting his friendship. What has he done ? I think that he has really misrepresented facts, not merely for the purpose of damaging me, but to injure the other labour representatives of Western Australia in connexion with the Transcontinental Railway. He also went to the length of threatening opposition to me. Of course I suppose that the opposition will come, and that I must meet it as best I can. But, should there be a dissolution, I think that the right honorable member may require to look after himself. Ever since I have been a member of this House his practice has been to blow hot and to blow cold. He knows very well that I have assisted him in every possible way in connexion with the Transcontinental Railway project-

Sir John Forrest - I said so.

Mr MAHON - Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman said so in one breath and said something else in the next breath.

Sir John Forrest - I was referring to the honorable member's allegiance to his party, and not to him personally. He is bound to the party.

Mr MAHON - The right honorable member knows no friend except one who will follow him blindly. The real trouble is that I owe allegiance to somebody other than himself. I am not one to blindly follow any person. I have never fulfilled that condition, and never shall. I tell the right honorable member that, so that there may be no mistake in the future. I prefer to think and to act for myself. I consider that his attack upon the Western Australian representatives was unprovoked, ungenerous, and unworthy.

Sir John Forrest - I assure the honorable member that there was nothing personal in my attack.

Mr MAHON - I am bound to put my own interpretation upon it. The right honorable member sometimes lectures honorable members as if they were children, or as if the records of the House did not enable them to ascertain the true facts concerning the postponement of the motion relating to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. I say that the records of the House flatly contradict the attitude which he has taken up. The right honorable member himself is largely blameworthy for the position in which the Bill relating to that project stands to-day. As far back as June last the Watson Administration took the matter up.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member assisted to turn the Deakin Government out of office, or we should have put the Bill through.

Mr MAHON - The right honorable member also assisted to turn the Watson Government out of office, when we were prepared to proceed with it. I freely admit that the Labour Party did form a portion of the majority which displaced the Deakin Administration. But the right honorable member cannot deny that he was three years in office before the project was brought before the House in a concrete form. It never came before honorable members until what was practically a motion of censure upon the Government had been tabled.

Sir John Forrest - It was mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech as forming part of the programme of the Government prior to that.

Mr MAHON - I will admit that, but the House had no opportunity of considering it until the Government were actually under sentence of death.

Mr McCay - Which Government?

Mr MAHON - The Deakin Government. What happened upon that occasion ? Who were the members who blocked the Bill ? One is a member of the present Government, which is supported by the right honorable member for Swan, and another is a leading Ministerial follower. Upon the first occasion the present Minister of Home Affairs protested against the preliminary message relating to the matter being taken into consideration - protested at a stage which is usually regarded as formal.

Sir John Forrest - It was not regarded as formal when the next Government brought the' matter forward.

Mr MAHON - It was not then regarded as formal, simply because the present Minister for Home Affairs made an objection never raised before at that stage in the progress of a Bill. The proposal had to be shelved by the Deakin Government owing to his action, and to that of the honorable member for Moira, another Government supporter. Then the Watson Administration took up the Bill. Again a supporter of the present Government blocked the measure and talked it out. The right honorable member for Swan voted against the Watson Ministry, and in that way helped to defer its passage.

Sir John Forrest - But it reached a further stage after the present Government took office.

Mr MAHON - I am aware of that. The right honorable member, however, knows perfectly well that the honorable member for Moira talked three hours against the motion relating to the Bill, despite the fact that the measure had to pass its first and second readings, the Committee stage, and its third reading, before it could be sent to another place. At every one of those stages it would have been blocked by the supporters of the present Government.

Mr Carpenter - They had threatened to block it.

Mr MAHON - The right honorable member was informed that the honorable member for Fremantle and other Western Australian representatives had seen the opponents of the Bill, and done everything in their power to induce them to withdraw their opposition to it, but without success. Consequently, his condemnation of the Western Australian members for not holding back the censure motion was wholly unwarrantable.

Sir John Forrest - Where was the hurry about it?

Mr MAHON - Was a motion, which invokes the life of a Government, and which is of far-reaching consequence to the whole of Australia, to be deferred upon the offchance that the Bill would be dealt with? The right honorable member knows quite well that the measure could not have left this House that week, and that even if it could, it would not have been dealt with by the Senate, because of the want of confidence motion intervening. Then upon what ground does he assume that it would have been carried in another place? The Government have not a majority there. They have only five or six supporters in that Chamber. How, then, could' they have put the Bill through? I wish to show the unreasonable character of the right honorable member's expectation in regard to the passage of this measure, and his equally unreasonable attitude in claiming that the honorable member for Bland should have deferred his want of confidence motion until it had been got out of the way.

Sir John Forrest - That is only a matter of opinion.

Mr MAHON - I think that the right honorable member has acted very wrongly in reproaching the Labour Party in connexion with this matter. Instead of reproaching them. I will show that he should have been grateful" to the Labour Party for the assistance which they had rendered him. What are the facts?

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is as much pledged to the railway asI am.

Mir. MAHON. - But I am speaking of labour representatives of the other States who are not pledged to it. Of the thirtynine affirmative votes cast in favour of the motion, seventeen; were those of labour members. In addition to that two labour representatives paired in its favour, so that almost one-half of the total number of those who voted for the motion were members of the Labour Party. I am of opinion that the right honorable member is merely endeavouring to . cover up the fundamental error which Re madeprior to the accom plishment of Federation, in neglecting to make the construction of this railway a condition precedent to Western Australia joining the Union. But, instead of doing that, he insisted upon something which Western Australia did not require - something which has engendered in this House a great deal of irritation and ill-feeling against that State. It was a signal error that he did' not insist upon the construction of the Transcontinental Railway as a condition precedent to Western Australia joining the Federation.

Mr Chanter - The Prime Minister himself is pledged to it.

Mr MAHON - Yes, we have that in black and white.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member's party would not allow me to insist upon any such condition. They would not even ask for an alteration of the Constitution, so that we might have the right to build the railway.

Mr MAHON - The right honorable member knows as well as I do that the people of Western Australia did not have a vote in the selection of delegates to the Federal Convention.

Sir John Forrest - But I am speaking of a subsequent period.

Mr MAHON - Had the right honorable member put forward such a proposal I believe that the residents of the gold- fields would have been solidly behind him.

Sir John Forrest - They wanted Federation at any price.

Mr MAHON - But the right honorable gentleman should have made this railway part of the price ; and other people think so, too.

Sir John Forrest - It is not soeasy to do.

Mr MAHON - When the Prime Minister was at Fremantle on the 21st January, 1903, he said -

SirJohn Forrest had not pushed therailwayatthepremiers' Conference to the point of formal agreement,and in that respect he had not quite acted up to the lines he (Mr.Reid) had followed when getting something for hisown State. (Laughter.) He got all he could into a document before he signed it, and that waswhy he was called No-Yes. (Laughter.)

Sir John Forrest - The Prime Minister forgot that I tried my best to introduce the subject at the Premiers' Conference, but did not succeed.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - In thereport of the Conference nomention is made of the railway.

Mr MAHON - It is exceedingly regrettable that the right honorable gentleman was led into making personal remarks abouthonorable members from Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member's interjections were the cause.

Mr MAHON - I can assure the right honorable gentleman that I never made an interjection until he attacked me, and said I was a stranger in Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - What did I say?

Mr MAHON - He made the really dreadful charge that I was a stranger in Western Australia. Then he went on to say that I am indifferent to the interests of that State.

Sir John Forrest - Surely I didnot voluntarily make that statement without any provocation?

Mr MAHON - If the right honorable gentleman desires, I shall refer to the report of his speech in Hansdrd. .

Sir John Forrest - What made me say that ?

Mr MAHON - The right honorable gentleman was referring to my action in indorsing the action of the leader of the Opposition, in giving notice of the motion before the House.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member must have said something to make me say that.

Mr MAHON - Not on that occasion. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that I had no public service to my credit, and that that explained why 30,000 infuriated diggers had never chased me out of Kalgoorlie. As to the first charge, that I am unknown in Western Australia, all I can say is that I lived in that State from 1895 until I was elected to this Parliament. It may be true that I am not so widely known as is the right honorable gentleman, but that may be because I never sought to stand, under the limelight on all possible occasions. I was, however, sufficiently well known three and a half years ago to beat one of his proteges for a seat in this House.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member only just beat his opponent - it was a very narrow "squeak."

Mr MAHON - For an unknown man it was not too bad to have a majority of nearly 400 in a poll of about 3,000. '

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member's opponent was, or was represented to be, a capitalist. At any rate, he gave the honorable member a " run for his money."

Mr MAHON - I quite agree that my opponent had a pretty good run for his money. I have heard that where I spent £1 he spent £10.

Sir John Forrest - It was a fair run. Mr. MAHON.- There is no doubt that the candidate on that occasion, who, I may say, proved a scrupulously honorable opponent, was a friend of the right honorable gentleman. .

Sir John Forrest - Hear, hear !

Mr MAHON - And the fact that I beat him reflects on the right honorable gentleman who used the argument that I was unknown.

Sir John Forrest - I was not very popular at that time, as the honorable member knows.

Mr MAHON - That is true, and I am glad to have that confession from the right honorable gentleman.

Sir John Forrest - I ought to have been popular, but I was not.

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