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Thursday, 6 October 1904


Mr CAMERON (Wilmot) - It is extremely gratifying to me to receive such a hearty reception from both sides of the House. I am greatly afraid, however, that when I sit down, although I may be cheered by one side, I shall not then be cheered by the other. I may also be permitted to express my deep regret at the absence of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition ; but we can quite understand that, in view of the importance of the occasion, their feelings may probably have overcome them.


Mr Page - I feel very uncomfortable, I can assure the honorable member.


Mr CAMERON - The honorable member will feel much more uncomfortable before I am finished. I feel deeply the responsibility which rests upon me at the present time. When I said a short time ago that I held the Ministry in the hollow of my hand honorable members were inclined to jeer. I rather fancy, however, that, as the debate has proceeded, and it has been realized how equal the balance between the parties is, their laughter has faded away. I think i may claim at the present time to possess a power equal to that of the leader of the Government, and also equal to that of the leader of the Opposition. It rests with me to make six men happy and sixty-eight men miserable, or to make sixtyeight men happy and six men miserable ; and such a responsibility is calculated to make a man pause before deciding what course he will take. It has been said that some of the members of the Opposition, upon the eve of the division, will be stricken with a mysterious illness, which will prevent them from attending and recording their votes. I do not believe that prediction is likely to be fulfilled. I rather think that, like the gladiators of ancient Rome, who, when they entered the arena, shouted. Ave Imperatorl Morituri te salutantl those honorable members of the Opposition will enter this Chamber shouting, " Hail, member for Bland ! Hail, member for Indi, we who are about to die, salute you !" And I greatly fear, Mr. Speaker, that some of them may die.


Mr Page - Only politically, I hope.


Mr CAMERON - Only politically, unless sudden joy has a disastrous effect. I can imagine those honorable members of the Opposition as they enter the Chamber, parodving the words of Tennyson -

Their's not to make reply,

Their's not to reason why ;

Their's but to do and die ;

Into the Valley of Death,

Into the mouth of hell,

Walked in the ghosts

Of those labour men.

I need hardly say that, for some of those honorable members equally with some honorable members I see on the Government side, it is not likely that there will be any resurrection.

Mr.Joseph Cook. - Now then, be quick !

Mr.CAMERON.- I propose to divide my speech into two portions. I shall first of all deal with the Opposition, then I shall deal with the Ministry, and I shall conclude by telling the House how I propose to vote.


Mr Wilks - Boiling in oil is not in it to this !


Mr CAMERON - I need hardly say that I expect that respectful attention from honorable members on both sides which is due to the man who holds the balance of power. Three and a half years ago the Federal Parliament first came into existence. On that occasion, the Ministerial Party and the Opposition were about equally balanced. A third party called the Labour Party, but which in my opinion ought to be called the' "Union Party," as its members are practically the representatives of unions, held the balance of power. They found the Ministry of the day singularly kind and considerate, and with distinct leanings, I think I may say, towards the policy in which the Union Party believed. They found, at all events, that if the then Government had not sympathetic leanings towards their policy,, they were squeezable. The result was that legislation was introduced and passed, which, in my opinion, was then, and is now,, calculated to bring disgrace and discredit upon Australia. The Government of the day with the assistance of the Labour Party, if I may be allowed to call them, by their old- name, secured the passage of such Acts as the Alien Immigration Restriction Act, ' and the Pacific Island Labourers Act, and were instrumen- tal in getting a section inserted in the Post and Telegraph Act prohibiting the employment of coloured labour on mail steamers subsidized by the Commonwealth. Later on, the Government introduced a Bill known as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I need hardly tell honorable members, most of whom were, with myself, members of the House at the time, that I was then, as I have always been, bitterly opposed to that Bill. I opposed it, not only because I believed it to be bad in itself, but because I believed that if it were carried in the form proposed it would have a most disastrous effect upon some of the smaller States, and particularly the State of Tasmania, to which I belong. Considering the strength of the Ministry that introduced the Bill, and knowing that the members of the Labour Party intended to assist in getting it through, it was very doubtful whether it would be possible to wreck that Bill. However, the honorable member for Wide Bay was kind enough to give me an opportunity, by moving an amendment to include in the provisions of the Bill the civil servants and railway employes of the various States. I saw the opportunity; I induced another honorable member to support me, and I am proud to say that upon that occasion I wrecked the Bill. There can be no get away from that fact. The result was that the Bill was thrown under the table. Shortly afterwards the general elections were held, and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat announced, as leader of the Government, that he intended to oppose the inclusion, in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, of States civil servants and railway employes. He told the people that sooner than agree to their inclusion - a course which he did not believe the Federal Parliament had power to adopt - he intended to resign. I say that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, having made that distinct statement as to what his intentions were as leader of the Government, the members of the Labour Party in this House, as a matter of courtesy, and as a matter of gratitude for all the past benefits they had received at the honorable and learned gentleman's hands, should not have pressed the proposal.


Mr Frazer - And should have broken their pledges to their constituents ?


Mr CAMERON - I have nothing- to do with their pledges to their constituents, but with what they actually did. Honorable members have all read of Judas, who sold our Saviour for thirty pieces of silver, and then hanged himself. In my opinion, Judas was not in it with the members of the Labour Party on that occasion. They were worse than Judas. They had received benefits time after time at the hands of the1 honorable and learned member for Ballarat and his Government; they knew distinctly what would be the result if they insisted on the inclusion of the public servants and railway employes in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and if they had had any gratitude at all they would not have pressed their proposal. However, they did press the proposal to a division, again at the instance of the honorable member for Wide Bay. They ought to have known what they were doing. -They knew that the then Prime Minister would not consent to accept the amendment proposed, they knew that he would resign if it was carried, and yet they deliberately, if I may so describe it, politically murdered the honorable and learned gentleman, and after he was dead they stripped him of his clothes, and then fell down beside him, and said, " Oh, dear brother, why did you die"? If they had had the slightest knowledge of political warfare, or I may say if thev had had common intelligence, they would have behaved differently. Their party" numbered only twenty -three or twenty-four members. They should have known that by their action they would embitter the feelings of honorable members who then sat ora the Government side of the House, and that those men would go into opposition against them. They knew that the honorable members who were in opposition at the time were their bitter opponents, and yet they were so led away by greed for office that they took the responsibility of carrying on the government. What they ought to have done was this : They had, by a majority, forced the inclusion of the States public servants and railway employes under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and it was not in the least degree likely that the provisions which they had carried would subsequently be struck out. Knowing that ten men had gone over from the Opposition to oust the Deakin Government, they could have checkmated those ten men, if when the Go vernor-General sent for the honorable member for Bland, that honorable gentleman had declined to carry on the government. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then leader of the

Opposition, would in the circumstances undoubtedly have been sent for, and within twenty-four hours, or within a week if they had chosen to give the right honorable gentleman that length of rope, the previous Government party and the Labour Party could have coalesced, they could have wiped the right honorable member for East Sydney off the Government side of the House, to which he would never have returned, and the fifty men comprising the Deakin Party and the Labour Party could then have formed a Government that would have been able to carry on the) business of the Commonwealth for the next, three years. (


Mr Frazer - Would the honorable member have supported them?


Mr CAMERON - Certainly not. I would rather remain on the Opposition side until the day of my death than support a policy in which I do not believe. If honorable members of the Labour Party will reason the matter out for themselves, they must realize that they had the ball at their feet, but they had not the common intelligence to see it.


Mr Frazer - Did the honorable member see it?


Mr CAMERON - Did I see it? I went over and voted with the Labour Party before the honorable1 member for Kalgoorlie was known in this House, in order with their help to throw the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill under the table. I knew what would happen. I trusted that my Opponents - of course 1 refer to them only as political opponents - would not see the game, and as subsequent events have proved, they did not see it. The supporters of the late Watson Administration have been howling that the Watson Government did not get fair play from the time they went on to the Treasury bench until the time they were forced into opposition. I ask every impartial person to answer the question : Did they deserve fair play ? It is perfectly true that the present Prime Minister kicked them from behind, but that is a matter for the right honorable gentleman himself. My contention is that the Labour Government did not legitimately come by the power which they seized, and they therefore have not the slightest reason to cry out because they themselves were treated in the way in which they previously treated their opponents. There are just two' other matters to which I wish to allude in connexion with this debate. One was raised by the honorable member for

Darling. The honorable member gave us what I think I may term a long discourse, in which he told us one or two stories, and quoted from a number of authors. After hearing the honorable member's story about the gentleman who found that he had made ^400 more than he expected to make, and wanted to divide it with his men, I understood the honorable member to say that the Socialism advocated by him was that carried out by the Governments of the various States in the control of water, gas, tramways, railways, and enterprises of that sort. The honorable member claimed that all these works are carried out- by the States Governments for the good of the people as a whole, and not for the good of any particular individual. That, I understand, is the Socialism advocated bv the honorable member. Is that correct?


Mr McDonald - Only partly.


Mr CAMERON - If that be so, I ask the honorable member for Darling how he can reconcile his statement that he supports Socialism because under it all are treated alike, with the proposal which honorable members of the Labour Party desire to introduce into the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, to give preference to unionists?


Mr Spence - That is easily done.


Mr CAMERON - It may be easy for the honorable member for Darling. The honorable member may be able to square the circle, but I am not, and I honestly confess that I cannot reconcile the two things. There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the statement made by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney with respect to what is known as the " six potters " case. I am sorry that I should have to allude to the matter. I may say that if the honorable and learned gentleman's statement had been proved to be correct I should not have hesitated for one moment after I heard it. I have hesitated repeatedly as to what would be the best course to pursue as regards my vote, but had the statement of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney with respect to the action of the Prime Minister in that case been proved to be correct, nothing would have induced me, by my vote, to have allowed the right honorable gentleman to remain another second on the Treasury bench. The statement of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney was proved to be incorrect. I can find no justification for the honorable and learned gentleman's statement that the present Prime Minister is responsible for the carrying out of the law in that case. I hold that when laws are made, be they bad or good, it is incumbent upon those administering the government for the time being to carry them out in their entirety. Therefore, I do not think that any reproach could have been cast upon the Prime Minister if he had done so. The only other thing he could have done was to disguise his action. I can find no fault with him under these circumstances. But I do say this - that, if by any chance he remains in power, it is his duty to try to get such a section as that under which these troubles have occurred repealed, because it is calculated to bring great discredit upon the Commonwealth. Nothing has ever cast more discredit upon Australia as a whole than what is known as the Petriana case. Of course there can be no question upon this point - that the case was somewhat exaggerated. At the same time, it simply shows what might have happened; and I sincerely trust that if the right honorable gentleman remains in power he will endeavour to have that section repealed. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is all I have to say against the Opposition.


Mr Spence - There are no cheers from the Government side, I notice.


Mr CAMERON - I now propose to deal with the Government of the day. Holding the scales of justice impartially, I have shown the House as well as I could what I think of the Opposition. I deeply regret that the Prime Minister is not present to hear what I have to say concerning the Government. I daresay you will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that on the occasion when the late Deakin Government' were turned out of office, the right honorable member for East Sydney expected to be sent for. He remained for twenty-four hours, more or less, within the precincts of this House, and he spent most of his time in saying not " Sister Ann, Sister Ann, is there any one coming?" like the young lady in the "fairy tale. but ? Brother Smith. Brother Smith, is there any one coming ?;! And Brother Smith had to reply, very regretfully, " No, Fatima, I am very sorry to say that no one comes from Government House." As honorable members all know, the right honorable gentleman retired a very sad and sorrowful man. But he said that as soon as the Watson Government met Parliament he would table a direct no-confidence motion.

I would ask - the right honorable gentleman is not here, unfortunately, but I should like to ask - why did he not do so? I am a straight-going man; at least I have tried to be straight all my life, and when I make a threat I endeavour to carry it out.


Mr Ronald - Not always.


Mr CAMERON - Do I not? Let the honorable member induce me to threaten him, and see whether I will not carry it out afterwards. The right honorable member for East Sydney announced that he intended to challenge the Watson Government, and I have no hesitation in saying that had he challenged them directly after the adjournment, he would have defeated them, because the previous Government and their supporters were distinctly sore at the manner in which they had been treated. Talk about the snake that was nurtured in the husbandman's bosom ! It was nothing to the treatment meted out to the Deakin Government by the Labour Party ! I have no hesitation in saying that had a direct vote of want-of -confidence in the Watson Government been tabled at once, the probabilities are that they would have been defeated. But the right honorable gentleman, like Bob Acres, thought discretion the better part of valour. The more he thought about the task, the less he liked it. But at last he saw his opportunity in connexion with th'e amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. He took it ; and as we all know, he carried his point successfully. He has now come into power. The right honorable gentleman has been going about the country speaking at various places, and always - of late, at least - posing as an opponent of Socialism. But he came to the House, and he brought forth his programme ; and his policy for the few remaining months of the session is practically - what? It is practically the programme of the Labour Party, as laid before Parliament by the honorable member for Bland. There' is not the slightest difference between them, as far as I can see. Therefore, I ask the House, how does the right honorable gentleman justify his position on the Treasury bench?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has hardly been there five minutes yet.


Mr CAMERON - I am not quite sure whether he will be there five minutes longer, if that is the case. He had, at any rate, an opportunity to bring forward a pro.gramme or policy in consonance with what he had been saying outside the House, but he brought forward a policy which is practically the same as that which the Labour Government had proposed. But he says, " Only let me get into recess - let me have one of those sleeps for which I am so famous - and I will come down next session and astonish you." That is practically what it amounts to, and nothing else. Then, when the leader of the Opposition brings forward a motion of noconfidence, the Prime Minister, in his own defence, says, " If I had the power I would repeal a certain section in the Post and Telegraph Act, and also a certain section in the Immigration Restriction Act; but I have not the power." Well, if he has not the power, what right has he to be there? If the Prime Minister cannot lead the House, and has not a sufficient party to enable him to carry on the government of the country, what right has he to occupy his present position? He comes down whining - I use an expression which I have often heard from honorable members on the Opposition side, but it really amounts to a whine - and says, " If I had the power I would do these things, but as I have not the power, I am not going to do any- thing." I contend that a man who attains to such a position as that of Prime Minister, and who aspires to hold it, but who makes such a statement as that to the House - a man who does not bring forward a policy in consonance with what he said outside - has failed to make the most of his opportunities. The Prime Minister had a trump card to play until I took it.


Mr Tudor - The honorable member for Wilmot has the joker.


Mr CAMERON - The Prime Minister had a trump card, but I have the joker, as an honorable member suggests ; and I am going to play it. The Prime Minister knew that if he had brought forward a policy of his own, and if it was not carried, the House would practically have been exhausted, and all he would have had to do would have been to ask the GovernorGeneral to grant him a dissolution. The request would have been acceded to. There is no getting away from that fact. Therefore, instead of taking up the position which he occupies at the present time, it was his bounden duty to bring forward a policy of his own. Instead of that, he has merely come down, and said what he would do if he had the power. The man who seizes the right moment is the man who takes the power - as I have taken it.

There is, however, one condition which weighs very heavily with me in giving my decision upon this question. It is this : On the Government side of the House I see a number of honorable members with whom I have been in close sympathy during the last three-and-a-half years while I have held a position as a member of this House. Ialso, recognise the fact that during the last few months, State elections have been held in Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. In every one of those States the unionists Or Labour Party have increased their power. At the last two elections in connexion with the Federal Parliament, two new members who support the Labour. Party - one sitting in direct opposition, and one in the Opposition corner - have been returned. I recognise that if a general election were held at the present moment, it is quite possible that the Labour Party would sweep the polls to a very great extent. I think that any thinking man can have no hesitation in coming to that conclusion. Further, I know that the unionists are thoroughly organized. I know, on the contrary, that the liberalconservatives, with whom I have been associated so long, and the liberals themselves are not thoroughly organized. In the interests of fair play, and with a strong desire to see the best side win when the fight takes place, I shall vote on this occasion with the Government.







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