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Thursday, 6 October 1904

Sir PHILIP FYSH (Denison) - I sincerely hope, if honorable members will bear With me, and c will not interrupt, to be able to confine my observations within a very reasonable number of minutes, as compared with the time which has been occupied by other speakers in this debate. I hope that honorable members will not take exception to my statement when I say that I am satisfied that our constituents have become heartily tired of this discussion. It must have become apparent during a number of trie very lengthy speeches to which we have listened that honorable members have travelled greatly outside the compass and purpose of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Bland. It is not, in my view, competent for individual members to criticise the action taken by others. I do not propose to criticise the action of those from whom I have separated, the members of the Liberal and Advanced Liberal Parties, with whom I have been working for the last three and a half years. There has been a decided rift, and we have separated, but I still desire to accord to every one of those honorable members from whom I have parted, and who now sit on the opposite benches, the same respect for their opinions which I believe they have for my own. I have chosen this side for reasons which I shall proceed to give. The party to which I belong has, for three and a half years or more, been associated and working in cooperation with the Labour Party. We have been glad to work with them up to a certain point. I have no doubt that they were glad of the assistance of previous Liberal Governments. We have now come to a parting of the ways, which is likely to separate us for some time. We cannot foresee what circumstances may arise to bring us together again, but it is very certain "that the exigencies of political life will sooner or later bring about another change in parties in this House. Because of political exigencies over which we have very little con trol - if we are here to conserve the interests of our constituents, and not merely our own, honorable members must become separated from time to time. We should therefore deprecate, as I do most strongly, any criticism by one honorable member of other honorable members who have; for the time being, separated from him. I find myself now associated with men who have been for a long time the leading free-traders of Australia, although it is known that I have been supporting a protectionist Tariff and a protectionist policy. We have for the moment sunk the fiscal issue, and I believe that we, disregarding our own interests, can now work together for the good of the country. If politics make strange companionships for a time, it is our duty to rub off the strangeness. It is our duty to recognise that, although we! are now associated with men with whom we have not heretofore been allied, we must continue in that association for a" time, at least, if we are to achieve the objects at which we are aiming. The objects at which I am aiming at the present time are certainly adverse to those aimed at by the Labour Party. I desire to direct the attention of honorable members to the circumstances which have led up to the present crisis. They have been largely influenced by the progress of the fateful Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, towards many of the provisions of which the majority of honorable members are kindly disposed. It is a measure which held us together for a long time, but which early in the career of the Barton Administration was the cause of Ministerial difficulties. We know that in connexion with it the right honorable member for Adelaide made a personal sacrifice in the interests of the cause he had at heart. Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman sacrificed himself in vain, but he certainly did make a sacrifice, which at the time he believed would be beneficial to the cause he advocated. I held then, as I do now, that the right honorable gentleman was mistaken. He left a companionship which was satisfactory to himself, and to which he added much lustre, because he desired to take a stand which his conscience approved in the interests of a class in the community. The right honorable gentleman left the Barton Administration because the other members of the Cabinet would not associate with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill provisions which they believed should properly be inserted in a Navigation Bill. His resigna- tion left the Barton Administration surrounded by certain difficulties. The Bill was again submitted to the House by Sir Edmund Barton, and, on a vote being recorded for the inclusion of the railway servants under its provisions, it was laid aside. In a later session, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, as Prime Minister, re-introduced the Bill, and its consideration again led to separations in this House, and eventually to the resignation of the Deakin Ministry on a great principle. The principle of State rights for which the Deakin Ministry contended was disregarded", by a majority of honorable members, and clauses were inserted giving the railway servants and other public servants of the States rights which the Deakin Administration held could be conferred only by the Legislatures of the States in whose service they were. I emphasize the fact that the resignation of the Deakin Administration was on a great principle, because I believe there is a marked difference between resignation on a broad principle and resignation on an insular motion, the course which was followed by the Watson Government. On a great principle the Deakin Government left office. I am gratified to know that they exhibited devotion to a high ideal in sacrificing themselves when there was at issue an important principle, which had been striven for in the Federal Conventions, and which is comprised in the partnership between the various States, the great principle of State rights. Western Australia, Tasmania, and possibly other of the States, weak in point of population,, would never have joined the Federation but for the respect for State rights for which the partnership agreed to by the Federal Conventions provided. There was nothing more sacred in the view of the people who voted for Federation, and nothing which more strongly influenced votes in favour of the partnership, than the fact that the Commonwealth Bill protected State rights by providing for the equal representation of the States in the Senate, notwithstanding the fact that some were smaller than others so far as their population was concerned. The Deakin Government, I repeat, resigned office on the great principle of the protection of State rights. We need not add any other reason. I hold that our adherence to that principle was quite sufficient to satisfy the people of Australia that, in resigning, the Deakin Government were actuated by the highest of considera- 8x2 tions. Then we had the Labour Administration, under the leadership of the honorable member for Bland, and associated with men with whom we had been co-operating for three years and a half, many of whom we had come to know as personal friends, and for verymany of whom we had very great respect, because of their ability and their reasonableness in most of their utterances in this House. The Watson Administration subsequently resigned, but not on a great principle. If they had done so, I should have respected them as honorable members must respect the Deakin Administration. But they showed their insularity by resigning upon ' a clause of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, intended for the protection of a small section of the labour or wage-earning class in the community - the trades unionists with whom they were associated. It is that fact which marks the great difference between their resignation and that of the Deakin Administration. It is this insularity of the Labour Party, as manifested by so many of their speeches in this House on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which leads us to say that they are here primarily and largely in the interests of a few and not in the interests of the community as a whole. I suppose that I am one of the oldest politicians in this House, and if has been my privilege in years gone by to lead' the members of the Tasmanian Parliament in passing various measures of legislation. As leader I have piloted through the Legislature of Tasmania all the liberal measures in force in that State, legislation which is to-day iii no way behind the liberal legislation of the other States. If one desires to know whether a man is a Liberal or a Conservative he has only to look at the Acts of Parliament which that man has piloted, or assisted to pilot, through the Legislature of his State. The right honorable member for Swan is often described as a Conservative, but honorable members have only to look at the legislation which has been passed in Western Australia to find that as regards its progressive character it is not far behind the legislation which has been passed in Victoria, New South Wales, or any of the other States of Australia. Certainly, honorable members will not find lacking in the legislation which has been passed in Tasmania any liberal measure for which the people hare asked. Whether under the leadership of Mr. David Lewis, the late Sir

Edward Braddon, or myself, Ministries in that State have invariably gone out to meet the wishes of the people, rather than have them clamouring at the doors of Parliament for liberal legislation. It has been so throughout Australia, inyears which have passed, and when there has been no Labour Party. There was certainly no Labour Party in Tasmania, or in Western Australia, when much of the liberal . legislation in force in those States was passed. There was certainly no recognised Labour Party represented in the Federal Convention, or in the Federal movement from 1891 to 1899, which ultimately gave to Australia its Constitution. No Labour Party was then represented.

Mr Page - The honorable member would not recognise the Labour Party now, unless he was forced to do so.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - There was no forcing by the people of the representation of the States in the Federal Conventions, whether we refer to those elected by the various States Parliaments, or to members elected by the people of Australia, and who assembled in Adelaide and afterwards in Melbourne in 1897. The people of Australia were satisfied to leave to their former political representatives the very important work of framing the deed of partnership which brought the States together as a Federation, and the most liberal and democratic measure to be found in the world is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. All this was done without a Labour Party. What is it that the Labour Party desires at the present time?

Mr Wilks - To get into, office.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - I often ask myself the question, " How far does the Labour Party desire to carry us?" The Liberals gave the people adult suffrage, the most liberal electoral law which it was possible to conceive, and the ballot, before there was any Labour Party in existence.

Mr Watkins - There were Labour Parties in some of the States.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - Possibly there were Labour Parties in New South Wales and Victoria, but there were none in Tasmania and Western Australia. Yet those States have not been one whit behind in passing legislation to bring us even with the times. Though some of us are termed Conservatives, we have followed the good old rule of the mother country in giving the people all the liberty they could possibly desire. In England there has been no judicious wish expressed by the people since 1832 which has not been conceded to them by the Imperial Parliament. If we can point to legislation in that direction, what care we for the charge that we are Conservatives ? To any one who levels that charge at honorable members on this side of the House, I reply that, while there may be ultra-Conservatives amongst us, there is, nevertheless, a leaven of that good' old liberalism which, during the last fifty years, has been concerned with passing progressive and useful legislation for the benefit of the whole people. Fifty years ago the legislation of these States was thoroughly behind the times. In Tasmania we had so illiberal a Masters' and Servants' Act that it was criminal for a servant to break his engagement. The very: first act of my political life was to ask Parliament in my State to amend that Act. We have passed liberal land laws which have enabled the poorer classes to settle upon the land, and in some cases to become rich. We have given the people privileges and liberties which were in conformity with those great institutions which have been brought to Australia from the mother country, and which were secured at such great sacrifice by the people of England. And whatever leaven of conservatism there may be amongst us, the fact remains that we are the sons of toil, or the sons of the soil. The great body of the legislators of Australia can point to the fact that they have worked their own way up, rising from one steppingstone to another. Many of them were glad to earn their half-a-crown a week at the beginning. They are imbued, therefore, with a spirit of sympathy for those who are fellow-labourers to-day. It does not follow that because some of us hold good positions to-day that we have always held them. We hold those positions now by reason of. our zeal, our temperance, our judgment, our education, and also by reason of the liberties which the country has given to us. We also owe a great deal to the liberal legislation of the old country ; and here we are now, sons of toil, or sons of the soil, brought up amongst the people, and warmly sympathizing with them. Even though some may live in big mansions, and enjoy the luxuries which riches can give, they are ever ready to lend a helping hand to the wage-earner. I am frequently driven to ask the question. "Whythis Labour Party"? I regret the name. The ex- Attorney-General on a former occasion denounced those who called the party labour members. It is the style by which the members of that party choose to be known, but I wish they had adopted some other name.

Mr Page - It is a name we are proud of.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - In just the same way the Liberals of Australia are proud of the fact that there is no legislation in America, England, or elsewhere, which is more liberal than that which we have placed upon the statute-book. We have reason to be proud of our work. The Labour Party has yet to show what it can do. It is1 because it is attempting to do more than we think is judicious that we have separated from it. It is due to the Labour Party that we should give our reasons for the separation. I hope that they will learn wisdom as they grow older as a party. They certainly represent a large mass of the people, but, at the same time, there are numbers of men even in the labour constituencies who will recognise the liberal actions of men who, nevertheless, hesitate to call themselves labour members. Fortunately we in Australia are all Britons. That fact brings us together in our sympathies, and our interests ; it ds a tie between us which leads me to hope that we shall not always be separated as we are to-day; but that the Liberals and the Labour Party will come together again by-and-by. There was a hope even lately that the Liberal Party would be able to associate itself with the Labour Party. We were willing to listen to any proposals which might have kept us together, a compact body. The coalition which is supporting the Government is not composed of men who are entirely at one. I find myself associated with, those with whom I have been at issue on many occasions. I am not attracted, possibly, by; the personality of the Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister represents in Australia to-day a policy upon which I think the people of Australia are agreed - that we should Have fiscal peace, and arrest hasty and injudicious legislation. Socialistic tendencies have been manifested in this House and by people outside, of which I do not think that the bulk of the people approve. The country desires that that tendency shall be scotched or, at all events, delayed, in order that we may ascertain where it is likely to lead us. Modern Socialism, to my mind, is an awful canker in the body politic. I know that some members of both branches of the Legislature repudiate ultra-socialistic tendencies ; but when we find that sympathetic messages are sent by the leaders of the Labour Party to the Socialistic Party at May-day celebrations ; when we find the New Zealand Labour Party putting forward a platform, much of which appears to be taken from the programme of European Socialists; and when we hear the honoraBle member for Bland telling us,that by next session he hoped to commence upon a modern socialistic programme, it is time for us to pause, if only to ask ourselves what that programme is, and into what new paths it is likely to lead us. Perilous, pernicious stuff is written in the name of modern Socialism. In Ensor's book on the subject, which honorable members will find in the library, there are printed the programmes of the English, the Belgian, the French, and the German "Socialists. I am ashamed to say that the programme of the oldest English Socialist society - the Social Democratic Federation - is far more extravagant than are the programmes of the European Socialists. It is well that the public should study that programme. The first line of it declares for the dethronement of the monarchy. Here is a revolution to begin with. The institution which Britons most treasure, our ancient limited monarchy, is to be assailed at the outset1. Assailed by whom? By followers of Socialists like Marx, Millerand, Sidney and Beatrice Webb - who travelled in Australia a few years ago - and by believers in such Utopias as William Morris described. The next proposal in this programme is the repudiation of the national debt. Do the great mass of the workers in Australia and Great Britain know what that means? Out of ^800.000,000 of national debt in England, £200,000,000 worth of bonds are held by depositors in the savings banks. They are the savings of the poorest of the people. That debt, however, is to be repudiated under Socialism. Then the country is to be divided into medical districts, and medicines' and the services of doctors are to be given free. The country is also to be divided into legal districts. People are to obtain their legal advice free. Next, there is to be a national bank, and - parody of parodies ! - a national pawnshop. It is curious to read that when we have a division of the spoils, giving to the " have-nots " what is already possessed by the " haves, " it is contemplated that the "have-nots" will not be able to keep what is given to them at the beginning of the week, so that national pawn-shops will have to be established for their use at the week's end. The English association of Socialists propose the nationalization of the land, the nationalization of the mines, the nationalization of all machinery, all husbandry tools, and all tools of trade. Finally, they propose the building of workmen's cottages on land for which no rent is to be paid, the amount of the rent of the cottages to be limited to the interest upon the money outlay. Those are the proposals of the modern Socialists with whom our friends in the Labour Party are to a certain extent associated, or at any rate whose propaganda is so far acknowledged as to obtain the plaudits of the Labour Party. I impeach that party because of its insularity. It regards primarily the interests of a small section of the wage earners.

Mr Page - A small section?

Sir PHILIP FYSH - The unionists are only a small section of the wage earners.

Mr Page - The honorable member will discover at the next elections that they are a very big section.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - We know their numbers. It was proposed in the Bill-

Mr.Mauger. - In the Bill of the Deakin Government, for which the honorable member was responsible !

Sir PHILIP FYSH - I was not responsible for clause 48. I have never, either in this House or elsewhere, referred to the differences which may have arisen between my colleagues and myself ; but I have always held myself free to vote against preference to unionists.

Mr Page - The right Honorable member for Swan said that there was no difference between the 'honorable member and himself.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - The right honorable member and I were often to be found in agreement, and on this matter we were in complete agreement. I shall not forget the scathing denunciation of class legislation administered by the Prime Minister when he said that preference to unionists was the creation of a new crime in democracy, a rebuke which the members of the Labour Party ought to have taken to heart. Their purpose, as shown by their actions in this House, is to compel men to enter the unions, whether they will or not. They have striven against the liberty of the subject, and while, like the French, they may have cried out for " liberty, equality, and fraternity" there is neither liberty, equality, nor fraternity in their actions towards those who, believing that they can earn their living in their own way, are prepared to work out their own salvation without joining unions. These are some of the reasons which have caused me to review the position, and they have compelled me to the conclusion that I cannot regret the separation between the Labour and Liberal Parties. The Liberal Party was at one time willing to draw the Labour Party within its borders, provided that the former were to rule; but the Labour Party refused all approaches, and compelled the present coalition. If there is one thing more than another which has drawn me to the right honorable member for East Sydney, it is the selfabnegation which he exhibited in this Chamber on several occasions, and outside, in respect to the taking of office, conduct which we did not expect from him. He repeatedly called upon the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to move a motion against the Watson Administration, and always gave precedence to him. He was always ready to stand aside to allow the honorable and learned member to take the lead, and he exhibited self-abnegation such as it is well to see occasionally, because it gives the lie to the statements so frequently made outside that, instead of being for the State, we are all for the party, and instead of being for the people, we are always for ourselves. I hope I have given sufficient reasons why I can no longer work with the Labour Party. I have expressed a very strong opinion with respect . to the extravagant socialistic proposals of the day. I have in my mind the old country from which those of us who are adopted children of Australia set out. I remember the commercial greatness of that land, and the commercial greatness of America. Both countries have been working out their immense destiny, and have arrived at their supremacy, through the instrumentality of men who, (though they 'have not been called labour members, have always manifested the desire to help those who could not help themselves, it is my sincere hope that in coming years the legislation of Australia will follow that of Great Britain -

A land of . settled Government,

A land of just and old renown,

Where freedom . slowly broadens down

From precedent to precedent.

I hope that, instead of taking a leap in the dark, we shall proceed from precedent to precedent by the adoption of measures which approve themselves to our best understanding, instead of' passing laws which, although they may bring a fleeting popularity to their framers, will result in misery and discredit to the future of Australia.

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