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Wednesday, 12 October 1904


Mr ISAACS - Honorable members upon the other side of the House will presently begin to realize that the Labour Party is not a mere machine, and that it does not require everybody to become members of that machine. The supporters of the Government tell us in one moment that nothing can be done except by means of the machine, and that the majority are to coerce the minority. In the next breath they sneer at the statement in the alliance programme, that its members are to be at liberty to adhere to their former votes. If they do not realize the full significance of those words, perhaps they will allow me to explain them. When our agreement sets out that members of the alliance are at liberty to adhere to the votes which they have already given, it does not mean that they are to be coerced into repeating those votes without modification. It does not mean that we could not work together, and do what we should have tried to do had the Watson Government been allowed to take the Bill into Committee for the consideration of any modifications or suggestions.


Mr Conroy - That is the rub.


Mr ISAACS - The honorable and learned member for Werriwa does not often grace us with his presence, and when he does I hope that he will allow me to proceed without interruption. This clause is evidence that we are anxious and willing for honorable members to have the fullest opportunity to. place their most mature views on the subject before the country. The next point in the programme is -

2.   White Australia legislation. Maintain existing Acts in their integrity, and effectively support their intention by faithful administration.

I wish to contrast that with the avowed intention of the Prime Minister to break down the essential portion of the White Australia policy at the first opportunity. Then, in the agreement we also find -

3.   Navigation Bill. - Report of Royal Commission to be expedited, and subject to this Bill to provide for

(a)   The protection of Australian shipping from unfair competition.

We put in the forefront of our navigation proposals the protection of Australian shipping from unfair competition. Is there any proposal corresponding to that in the Government programme? The agreement then mentions the Trade Marks Bill, the Fraudulent Marks Bill, and the High Commissioner Bill. Why has the Government dropped the High Commissioner Bill? Is it because the alliance in this clause provides that the selection of a High Commissioner shall be subject to the prior consent of Parliament ? It is very singular that until this agreement appeared in the public press, there was no suggestion from the Ministry that they were not going on with the High Commissioner Bill. Then the. agreement goes on to deal with the Electoral Bill, the Papua Bill, and anti-trust legislation. Are my friends on the other side, who assume to be the friends of the people, prepared to pass this legislation? Or do they expect, in the event of an election, to have the weight and influence and money of the trusts behind them? I wonder if that is what they are looking for. Then we come to that part of the agreement which deals with the tobacco monopoly. I do not desire to anticipate any finding of a Royal Commission - I do not wish to say anything to prejudge the- matter - but there is sufficient ground for a very searching inquiry. And it will require a very searching inquiry to ascertain whether the tobacco monopolists of this country are, or are not, sweating the retail sellers.


Mr Conroy - The honorable and learned member voted for the big difference between . the excise and the duty.


Mr ISAACS - The honorable and learned member for Werriwa always says something irrelevant. The agreement then goes on to refer to the question of the Iron Bonus Bill. I do not think that the Minister of Trade and Customs quite apprehended what is meant by this paragraph, and my desire is to remove any misconception the honorable member is under. The paragraph in the agreement means that all the members of this alliance are in favour of the introduction of and passing of an Iron Bonus Bill under any circumstances. The method of control is not a political machine matter, but an individual liberty matter, and that, I think, is made evident to the country. Without discussing who is right and who is wrong, at this juncture, we recognise that some honorable members believe the industry should be undertaken by the State, while others like myself believe it should be undertaken by private enterprise, subject to any proper control Parliament may think fit to impose. When honorable members reflect for a moment - honorable members who refer to this as a socialistic proposal - they must see that, no matter what Bills on this subject are passed by this Parliament, we cannot force the States to start the industry. If a State does not choose, it need nottake advantage of the Bill, and cannot be compelled to do so. Therefore, it is not in the hands of this Parliament to introduce Socialism in that way. I desire to say distinctly - I do not wish any misunderstanding about the matter - that so far as I am concerned I am in favour of having the industry undertaken toy private enterprise, with such supervision and necessary control as Parliament may desire to secure the interests of the people. Then we come to paragraph 12, which refers to a standing committee on trade and commerce and agriculture. I desire to say a word or two on this point, because the Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the Government sympathetically view the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. I sympathetically viewed that pro-" posal three years ago, and then, as I have recently, gave the honorable and learned member my strongest support, as did also the honorable member for Gippsland. I should be very glad to see the proposal then made adopted; but I say that the question, when it was presented to the last Government, was regarded by them as involving great expense. While still supporting the proposal for an agricultural appropriation, I find in Canada a most beneficent system, under which there is a standing committee, consisting of members of Parliament. That committee has rendered the greatest possible service to Canada, not only in furthering the interests of agriculture, but in developing immigration, commerce, and trade generally. Why should we not have, without any expense to the country, a committee composed of members of this Chamber, who would be only too willing and anxious to further such a work? We s'hould then have a body which would be of the greatest assistance to the Government, to the producers, and to the commercial world generally. Unless the Ministry have determined not to adopt anything but what is suggested by one of their supporters, why do they set their faces against something which has proved to be beneficent and inexpensive, and which would help us from time to time in any inquiry we desired to make regarding, the Tariff, agriculture, commerce, and immigration in all its phases and forms ? We now come to that part of the agreement which provides -

13.   Preferential trade to be discussed by the joint parties at an early date.

On that point, however, I shall reserve what I have to say until a later stage, when I am dealing with the proposals of the Government. The next clause is one which has excited varied degrees of attention from my friends opposite -

14.   Legislation (including Tariff legislation) shown to be necessary -

1.   To develop Australian resources;

2.   To preserve, encourage, and benefit Australian industries, primary and secondary;

3.   To secure fair conditions of labour for all engaged in every form of industrial enterprise, and to advance their interests and well-being without distinction of class or social status.

I wish to make our , meaning ' perfectly clear as to this clause- of the agreement.


Mr Reid - I ask the honorable and learned member to explain the words "shown to be necessary?"


Mr ISAACS - I think that when I have completed what I have to say. the right honorable gentleman will have no reason to complain that I have failed to make my meaning as clear as I can. We know that the party led by the right honorable gentleman look at any proposals for the development of -industry or the encouragement of manufactures from one stand-point. They ask themselves the one question - " Is this a protective suggestion? If it is, we shall not look at it any further - there is an end of it. We do not look into the evidence," they say, " to see whether it will be of benefit in the circumstances of the particular industry or not; we do not regard it from the point of view of whether it is going to help labour - we do not regard the effect it will have on the industries of the country, primary or secondary - it is branded protection,' and, therefore, it is anathema." This paragraph of the agreement distinctly states that if any legislation - whether in connexion with the Tariff or otherwise - can be suggested and shown to be necessary for any of the purposes mentioned, the members of the alliance, whether they be free-traders or protectionists, will give it their honest, careful and unbiased attention - that they will not reject it merely because it is protectionist. They will deal with it on its own basis. Thev will see whether it will benefit labour, whether it will benefit industries, whether it will encourage production, and if it will, they will give it their support. I come now to what have been called the provisos. What is there wrong with them?


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are very necessary.


Mr ISAACS - I shall tell the House what they are. They grant and secure to every member of the alliance the same rights that every member of the - Protectionist Party claims in regard to any protectionist suggestion. They say, in effect, that each member of the alliance, while loyally abiding by the compact that I have just mentioned, may do one of two things. Let us suppose, far example, that a pro tectionist proposal is made. Each member of the Labour Party will judge of it for himself ; he will judge of the evidence for this specific proposal, and if it will benefit an industry, if it will send, say, 500 men back to their work, if it will give employment he will vote for it. On the other hand1, he may say, " I shall discuss it with my brethren jointly. I will take the assembled sense of the party, and if the majority think that this proposal will benefit labour, that it will advance the cause of industry, I will not oppose my individual opinion, which may be wrong, to the general sense of the whole of my party."


Mr McLean - He may do the opposite.


Mr ISAACS - He may, of course, choose to exercise his own individual judgment. There is no qualification whatever in these provisos - no withdrawal or abridgment of anything that has gone before - but a clear indication to the people of the country, and more particularly to the constituents of the various members of the alliance of that which they have frankly and openly determined to do.


Sir John Forrest - Industries, in some instances, have been removed from one State to another.


Mr ISAACS - Quite so ; and my right honorable friend will not help us to alter the Tariff to restore those industries.


Sir John Forrest - Industries have gone from Western Australia to Victoria.


Mr ISAACS - The next paragraph in the programme provides for -

Old-age pensions on a basis fair and equitable to the several States, and to individuals.

I intend, a little later, to deal with that question, but I should like now to ask my honorable friends opposite, and particularly those who charge the protectionist members of the alliance with having given everything away, what is there in this programme to which they object ? I pass over the little Hibernianism of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who first told us that we had given away everything under paragraphs a and b, and then said he rejoiced that there was nothing further in the alphabet, for we should then have given away the rest. I call upon honorable members opposite, who charge us with having given everything away, to tell us what there is in our programme to which they object. Does the Minister of Trade and Customs mean to tell the people of this country that he objects to it?


Mr McLean - I say that there is nothing in it. There was a little stuffing, but it was taken out by paragraphs a and b.


Mr ISAACS - My honorable friend said that we had given everything away, and he now declares that there is nothing in the programme.


Mr Conroy - Does it mean high duties or low duties ? That is what the country desires to know.


Mr ISAACS - I rejoice at the robustness of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, but I wish that he would not concentrate all his energies into a few moments. We protectionists set great store by the clause in our programme with regard to legislation, including Tariff legislation, and I feel that a great work has been done for this country in embodying it in the alliance programme. We protectionists - or, at all events, those of us who have maintained our position as protectionists - feel that protection cannot be eliminated from a truly Liberal programme. We hold that protection to labour implies complete protection against unfair conditions. Whatever those conditions may be, and whenever they arise, although they may spring from any distance, if they reach and affect the worker, he ought to be relieved from them. If a man be attacked by disease, it is immaterial to him whether it has sprung up alongside him at his work or has reached him from thousands of miles away ; if it infects him, his peril is the same in either case, and I would ask whether we are to stop when we have protected the workers of this country by means of Conciliation and Arbitration Acts and other measures, and to leave the gates of the Customs House open in order that they may be injured by the goods that enter through those gates? Is not Milton's great question entirely apposite 10 the present situation -

What boots it at one gate to make defence,

And at another to let in the foe?

I hold that it is impossible to maintain Conciliation and Arbitration Acts or Factory Acts in their integrity if goods, which the Prime Minister admits are the products of underpaid and sweated labour, are to enter our territory, and e'ther tame down the worker to the required degree of docility or abolish his occupation altogether. It is a part, and an essential part, of our policy that we shall not, either by the personal contiguity of the sweated labourer or by the unrestricted admission of his sweated goods, leave the workers on our soil to the wild mercy of unreasoning competition - competition that knows no point at which to stop in the process of paring down wages save that at which the human machine is just able to subsist and move. No part of the Ballarat speech delivered by the then Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, aroused more enthusiasm than that which related to his programme for a White Australia. I should like to rea3 it to the House, because it is essential to understand the attitude in which my honorable friends opposite find themselves today -

You probably believe that a White Australia is secure. I hope it is, but it will not be secure unless a vigilant watch is kept upon proposals to tamper with it. None of a serious character has been put forward by anybody in a responsible position, but there are indications that we may have to defend the principle yet. So far as this Government is concerned, it will be ready for the emergency. (Cheers.) A White Australia does not by any means mean only the preservation of the complexion of the people of this country. It means the multiplying of their homes, so that we may be able to occupy, use, and defend every part of our continent; it means the maintenance of conditions of life fit for white men and white women ; it means equal laws and opportunities for all ; it means protection against the underpaid labour of other lands. It means social justice, so far as we can establish it, including just trading and the payment of fair wages. (Cheers.) A White Australia means a civilization whose foundations are built upon healthy lines, lived in honest toil, under circumstances which imply no degradation. Fiscally, a White Australia means protection. We protect ourselves against armed aggression, why not against aggression by commercial means? We protect ourselves against undesirable aliens, why not against the products of undesirable alien labour? (Cheers.) A White Australia is not a surface, but it is a reasoned policy which goes down to the roots of national life, and by which the whole of our social, industrial, and political organization is governed.

I have listened to and have read many speeches by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, but I confess that nothing I have ever heard from the honorable and learned gentleman has surpassed, for solid truth and glowing eloquence, the passage I have just read. What is the position of the present Governmentin relation to it? For this is the keystone of our liberal policy. We have been told that there is a fiscal truce. Is there a White Australia truce ? No. Indeed, the declaration of intention we have had from the present Prime Minister is that he is seeking to secure a majority to repeal an essential part of that White Australia policy.


Mr McCay - That is entirely incorrect.


Mr ISAACS - The right honorable gentleman undoubtedly said the other day that he was prepared, as soon as he could secure a majority, to repeal that section of the Alien Immigration Restriction Act which prohibits the introduction of contract labour.


Mr McCay - Good or bad, what has that contract labour section to do with a White Australia?


Mr ISAACS - If the Minister of Defence says that, the honorable and learned gentleman disavows the words of his late leader that I have just read. The words of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat were, that a White Australia is not a matter of colour only, but of the conditions under which white men and white women ought to live. It stands for civilization and fair wages, and will the Minister of Defence tell me that he does not regard it as an essential part of the White Australia policy that we should not be inundated with labourers imported like chattels for any length of time, at any rate of wages ? I say that that is an essential part of the White Australia policy, and if that one gate is to be taken off its hinges, and cast down, then good-bye to our White Australia.


Mr McCay - I agree that it is an essential part of Australian policy not to import labourers like chattels, but it is an abuse of terms to say that that is contrary to the White Australia policy.


Mr ISAACS - Let the Minister of Defence apply his phrase, " an abuse of terms," to his late leader. I have read a passage from the speech of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat with which I thought we all agreed, and I now say that if the Minister is going to part company with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat on that vital subject, the sooner we know it the better.


Mr McCay - This is magnificently fair.


Mr Conroy - "Chattel"; it is a lawyer's term.


Mr ISAACS - I am not surprised at these ebullitions on the part of my honorable friends opposite. I feel that they are just beginning to awaken to a sense of their position. They are just beginning to understand to what their policy leads them, and I intend to bring it yet more fully home to them. The words of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, in the speech to which I have referred, re ceived remarkable corroboration a very few weeks ago from President Roosevelt. I wish to read to honorable members a few of the President's words on the memorable occasion when he received a notification at Sagamore Hill of his re-nomination for the Presidency of the "United States.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a man who is receiving the support of the trusts, if honorable members like.


Mr Mauger - The honorable member is wrong again, because the trusts are all against President Roosevelt.


Mr ISAACS - I suppose there is not a man in America who is more relentlessly pursued by the trusts than is President Roosevelt, the man who commanded his Attorney-General to put in force the AntiTrust Law, and succeeded in doing what we hope to be able to do - to insure^ so far as legislation and administration is concerned, that we shall have no monopolistic trusts in this country. President Roosevelt said, with regard to Tariff readjustment -

We have enacted a Tariff law, under which, during the past few years, the country has attained a height of material well-being never before reached. Wages are higher than ever before. That whenever the need arises there should be a re-adjustment of Tariff schedules is undoubted.

This has a remarkable application to our present conditions.

But such changes can, with safety, be made only by those whose devotion to the principle of a protective Tariff is beyond question.

My honorable friends on the other side would have us believe that they are willing to have a Commission appointed, and that they are willing to re-adjust the Tariff. Can we trus't them ? President Roosevelt adds -

For, otherwise, the changes would amount, not to re-adjustment, but to repeal. The readjustment when made must maintain and not destroy the protective principle.' To the farmer, the merchant, the manufacturer, this is vital. But, perhaps, no man is so much interested as the wage-worker in the maintenance of our present economic system, both as regards the finances and the Tariff. The standard of living of our wage-workers is higher than that of any other country, and it cannot so remain unless we have a protective Tariff which shall always keep as a minimum the rate of duty sufficient to cover the difference between the labour cost here and abroad.

Those are wise words, and bear very strongly upon our present position ; but at the very foundation of the Prime Minister's political thought, what do we find ? We find that doctrine of laissez faire - in plain English, a do-nothing policy. The right honorable gentleman says, " Let unassisted nature take its course." This is faith-healing - political Dowieism, if I may so call it. I wish to make some observations which some honorable' members may think rather strong, but which are entirely justified by the position in which we find ourselves, and I, therefore, wish to make it clear that I have no personal quarrel with the Prime Minister. I intend to confine my observations to the political aspect, and, perhaps, I may be permitted at this juncture to say that I join entirely with my honorable friends who preceded me in the deprecation of personalities in a debate of this nature, or, indeed, in any, debate. I think that the time is fast approaching when Parliament may be called upon to curb that which is known as parliamentary privilege, and which is sometimes used in order to suggest personal infamy, which perhaps only requires a most cursory examination to demonstrate has no foundation. In curbing that privilege. Parliament may find it necessary to devise some remedy sharper and more calculated to meet the occasion than the mere disapprobation or even contempt of honorable members. I enter into no personal quarrel with my right hon orable friend ; indeed, I do not disguise my admiration for his capacity and powers of leadership. Opposing him as we do - and as long as he retains his present political mode of thought, I always shall - none of us can deny his great capacity for, at all events, persuasion, an ability to seize and make the most of all opportunities, and a curious power of attracting to his side and enlisting in his support men who, up to that moment, were thought to be his avowed and constant opponents.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member is going to lodge some shots at him after that.


Mr ISAACS - I wish to make it perfectly clear that my quarrel with the right honorable gentleman is a purely political one. The reason why I oppose him is that he holds views which we, I think, as a united Opposition, must regard as fundamentally unsound, and as absolutely fatal to national progress. They are views which he as Prime Minister must of necessity impress upon the Government, and which, quite apart from any question of fiscal truce, touch so vitally on the general directive spirit of policy, that our acceptance of him as a leader is absolutely impossible. In order that we may judge of this, let us look round at this Continent, and ask ourselves what do we intend Australia to be? What will those who come after us demand of our memories ? Is Australia to be known for its square miles of desolation, or is it to be known as a hive of industry ? Are we to cultivate only the primary industries, knowing that they are subject to all the disadvantages which the varying seasons and other elements of chance must bring to a limited sphere of national operations, and to the expense and risk of complete dependence on foreign markets? Or are we to set about planting a busy population upon the land, both primary and secondary producers, one set winning the wealth above and below the soil, and the other set fashioning that wealth in every conceivable way into all the requirements of civilized man ? Are we not to start out and do our best to promote the diversification of employment and increase of population, to help the primary producers, not merely by encouraging production but by creating a home market - by giving them a better, quicker, safer, and cheaper outlet for their productions - and at the same time not to forget the secondary producers, affording them all the advantages of the material, the fuel, and the mineral which nature has bountifully placed within our reach, and which we have only to stretch out our hands to win ? That. I take it, is the ideal for Australia. Where we join issue with the Prime Minister is in this: He holds that, in spite of our sources of natural wealth, in spite of all our wool, tallow, hides, coal, and iron, Australia can never hope to be a great manufacturing country until - when? Until stress of competition has so lowered our wage rate as to bring it down, to the level of the pauper rate in other lands.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The same old gag.


Mr ISAACS - It is the same story which the right honorable gentleman has told before, and which I shall not cease to bring before the country until it is placed in the fullest possession of Australia. This is the cardinal feature of his faith. It is not his desire, but is his belief. He thinks that under free-trade what I have just said must be the iron rule which governs our industries. He thinks, too, that protection will not better affairs; in fact, he opposes protection, because he says the acceleration of these industries only hastens the introduction of the evils which lie declares are attendant upon them.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why do not the free-trade members of the Labour Party cheer that?.


Mr Page - Hear, hear; hear, hear.


Mr ISAACS - I should like at this juncture to prove what I have said as to the right honorable gentleman's policy. I referred to it before, and I am going to refer to it again. It has received no contradiction from him as a policy ; it can receive no explanation or, I think, extenuation. In his speech on the 31st October, 1901, reported on page 6800 of Hansard, he alluded to the proposal of the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, and the then Treasurer, Sir George Turner, to establish a woollen industry. If there is any industry in this community which could be established on a national basis is it not a woollen industry ? And if we cannot establish that industry what can we establish with advantage? The right honorable gentleman sneered at the proposal. He said -

It is a kind of policy that only a tyro in mercantile knowledge would venture to propound. . . We all hope that Australia will have a great woollen industry, but that will have to come when we are not so well off.

Of course, it is not his desire, but it is his belief that a time is coming when Australia will not be so well off. Is it not our duty toprevent that state of things from occurring? Is it not our mission to make Australia better off, not worse off? Then he says -

What is the hope of the great manufactures of Australia? How are we to manufacture cheaply or to compete with the cheap labour of other countries ?

And he goes on to show that we cannot have better machines, we cannot have better factories referring to British and German factories - and he says that the manufacturers of England and Germany can buy their raw material all over the world. Then he says this, and I commend it to my honorable friends who point out how much freetrade has done for England -

How arewe going to compete with these underpaid, sweated countries until our own labour is under-paid and sweated too ?


Mr Wilks - It was a protectionist country, Germany, that he referred to.


Mr ISAACS - He referred to Germany, but he admitted that labour is sweated and underpaid in England also. He says -

There is no magic about production. It seems to me that the prospect of growing these noxious weeds of sweated industries,

The woollen industry is, I suppose, a noxious weed - on this bright continent should cause a man associated with the interests of labour to shudder.

Then he says - and these lines are what I regard as the fundamental root of his anticipations of Australian manufacturing eminence -

In the plenitude of time, when our millions become tens of millions, we shall have a crop of misery which will solve the difficulty in regard to cheap manufactures.

Sir, Ishould like to ask


Mr Wilks - Read on.


Mr ISAACS - I am going to read more, but I should like to ask at this point - is it to be a crop of misery only that is going to solve the problem of our cheap manufactures? Are we not prepared to take some stand more worthy of men who have charge of a great continent like this? Surely, sir, that is a pessimistic doctrine that any man ought to fly from rather than acknowledge, bow. down to, and yield to in the way the Prime Minister does. Having said so much, he goes on to say -

Will the erection of a fence solve it? Never. We may run a ring round our own people, but we cannot bull-dose the markets of the world. When we come to compete with those markets, we shall have to do as all other nations do. That is why I have abhorred the policy of producing artificial industries, which belong to a period of human misery and over population.

He further says that he did not refer to all our industries.

I am not alluding to a large number of Australian industries, which are bound to come soon and be a source of prosperity to us.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How differently the honorable and learned member read that passage, from the way in which he read the other!


Mr ISAACS - If I had all the eloquence and sweetness of tone of the honorable member for Parramatta, nothing could take away from the force of the words themselves. The Prime Minister says, " As far as some natural industries are concerned, we can hope to do some good, but, as far as manufacturers are concerned, there is only one thing that I can see in the future, and that is cheap labour." Cheap labour, sir, never made a strong nation. Therefore, it is just this deadly policy that I oppose. Are we to accept as an ultimate fact in Australian economics, that our labour is doomed to pauperization? Is it to be regarded as our inescapable fate that until that moment of degradation comes Australia can never hope to attain any eminence as a manufacturing country ? If that is to be the goal of all our efforts, if we cannot rise to a higher level than that, then we have striven in vain. Where I join issue with my honorable friends opposite is this : 1 say that we shall have national industries, but that we shall not have the sweater's creed to rule them ; that we shall have national productions and manufactures, but that the brand of Cain shall not be their hall-mark. Unless we are determined, as, I believe, we are, to develop our industries, and unless we are prepared in developing them, at the same time to maintain and to raise the standard of life of those working in the ranks, unless we are prepared to raise and advance the cause of the workers in Australia - then I say without hesitation that -all this vast array of splendid Federal paraphernalia from the GovernorGeneral down to the humblest worker in the executive service of the country, is a hollow and a costly sham. And although it must be far from the personal desire of the Prime Minister, or of any honorable member who supports him, that this should be the result, yet,- I say without hesitation that such a deplorable eventuality is so necessarily the result of his creed, that his installation as the head of the Government of Australia is a direct violation of the best interests of this country. Passing away from the fatalistic beliefs of the Prime Minister to the officially declared programme of the Government, what do we find? The Minister of Trade and Customs objected the other night to the expression "sexless." as applied to the Government. Well, of course, that term was applied to their policy. And I should like to know what other conclusion can be drawn from the absolute sterility of their programme? What is there in their programme that can arouse any hope or any enlightenment or cheerfulness in Australia ? Take away the noncontentious matters, take away those that are common to us all, and what have we? Do they wish to tell us that their union did bring forth some promising infants ? If so. thev have been strangled in the Cabinet before they, reached the light of day. We have seen one poor child emerge from the Cabinet bruised, battered, and mutilated almost beyond recognition - preferential trade ; and one they have decently buried, as they think, the Arbitration Bill. They have gone as far as they could go with the Transcontinental Railway survey ; but what other great questions have they dealt with? They have referred to Old-Age Pensions, and I wish also to refer to the subject, in order to say this - that I dissent from the Government proposal, because it seems to me that they have endeavoured to shelve the question. What did they say? Thev are going to do something only in cooperation with the States. I have a double thing to say about that. First of. all, I do not agree with the Minister of Defence, when he said there was no possibility of doing anything in this matter federally without direct taxation. We know perfectly well that the difficulty standing in the way of such a national old-age pension law, as we should like as a Federal Parliament to impose, prevents us at the present moment from giving all we wish. But, at the same time, if it is the necessities of the States that are preventing us from doing that, how much further advanced shall we be from consultation with those States? Are the States which are unable to surrender any portion of their three-fourths at the present time more likely to be able to do it after consultation ?


Mr McCay - I did not say that. I said that it was the limitations of the Constitution which prevented us from appropriating more than one-fourth of the receipts from the Tariff.


Mr ISAACS - But what could be gained from consultation with the States? The Minister does not explain that.


Mr McCay - They may consent to give up more.


Mr ISAACS - - Which of the StatesVictoria and New South Wales, which do not miss it, or the impecunious States? What does the honorable and learned member mean? Does he mean that the States which are less able to bear the strain of extra taxation, which are, in fact, short of cash for this purpose, will say to the Federal Government, " We are ready to give up part of our three- fourths."


Mr McCay - They might, if we gave them something in return.


Mr ISAACS - What are we to give them in return? Has any proposal been made? This is perhaps a new piece of patchwork on the Government proposal, a suggestion that has never before 'been made, and one ejaculated now, I think, only to cover a retreat. Of course, we cannot go into details on the matter at the present time, and I do not wish to do so; but it is within the competence of the Federal Government to do a great deal in the way of establishing some tentative old-age pensions law without imposing one penny of further taxation.

We know that there is a comparatively large surplus left to the Commonwealth out of our one-fourth. We know, too, that in New South Wales and Victoria old-age pensions are provided--


Mr McCay - But not in the States which are impecunious.


Mr ISAACS - No; but the impecunious States already spend a comparatively large amount of money for the relief of their poor and destitute and on their charities generally, which they would be saved under a Commonwealth old-age pensions law.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; that has not been the experience of New South Wales. The charities of that State cost just as much now as they did before old-age pensions were provided.


Sir John Forrest - Has it been the experience of Victoria?


Mr ISAACS - My proposal, if carried into effect, would foe of advantage to New South Wales and Victoria. Those States would incur no loss, if we spent exactly the same amount of money in providing Federal old-age pensions for them as they now spend in providing oldage pensions for themselves. They could abolish their own pensions, and thus save the money. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, in his Ballarat speech, said -

A Federal Old-Age Pension Bill will have to wait until the financial restraints of the Constitution have been removed.

I' do not agree with him in that -

The experience of the States will then have taught the Commonwealth what to provide and what to avoid.

I agree with the honorable and learned gentleman to this extent, that we cannot at present go so far as we should like to go to put the whole thing on a complete basis. But we could put it on a basis which would enable old men and old women who have to go from one part of the Commonwealth to another, to be sure of something as Australian citizens, notwithstanding their movement from State to State, and it would enable us to get much more valuable experience of the operation of a Federal OldAge Pensions Act. Where I do agree with the honorable and learned gentleman is in this statement -

Such a Bill will impose no new expenditure upon the people, but will simply transfer the State expenditure to one Federal system.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The experience of the two chief States of the Union is to the contrary. Their charity expenditure has not decreased since the passing of Old-Age Pensions Acts.


Mr ISAACS - That is entirely a matter for the States themselves. I do not wish to control the States in this matter ; but if we pass a Federal old-age pension law, the States will have it within their power to discontinue, frotanto, their internal expenditure on pensions or other relief, and, therefore, no direct taxation will be required, nor need there be any further expense of any kind.


Mr Robinson - Does not that involve differential old-age pensions?


Mr ISAACS - No. What I mean is that the Federal Government ought to consider for itself how far it can provide a tentative uniform old-age pensions system within the terms of the Constitution, one not involving, any additional taxation. If the Federal Government is not able to go to the full extent of some of the States, those States can continue to provide the difference between the amount now provided by them and that provided by the Federal law, and can save the latter amount. I do not wish to repeat what I have said, but I do not see why the Federal Government need act in co-operation with the States in this matter, and I wish to make some general observations on this portion of the polity of the present Government, because, if I understand it aright, it involves a great breach of the constitutional powers of the Federal Parliament. If we introduce an innovation into our Federal Government of the nature that is presaged by the policy of this Administration, we shall make a terrible mistake. We know perfectly well that the Prime Minister was one of the sturdiest fighters in the Convention for the representation of the people only. He was to a large extent adverse to the creation of a States' House, or, at all events, desired a general referendum. In any case, the Constitution today provides in the Senate the proper means of guarding State rights and State interests. If we are going to give way to the Governments of the States, which are responsible to totally different Legislatures, elected on a basis in many cases not the same as ours, we shall introduce a very dangerous principle. The Government of Victoria, for instance, is responsible to a Legislative Assembly elected on a franchise which excludes the women of Victoria, while the Legislative Council of the State has a still more restricted' franchise. Are we to say that, in addition to the responsibility of the Federal Government to this Chamber, and in another sense to the Senate, it must be responsible to the Legislatures of the various States as represented by their respective Governments? If we did so, we should introduce a great many serious clogs into the Federal machinery. Surely it is by the Senate, which is elected by the people of Australia, the smallest State having the same voice as the largest, that State interests and State rights are to be safeguarded. While I agree that we should, so far as national interests will admit, work in the most complete harmony with the States, we are not to subordinate the Federal action and national interest to the consideration whether the States Governments are prepared to concur.


Mr Fisher - Otherwise the Federation is unnecessary.


Mr ISAACS - Yes, and a costly luxury. With regard to the only other question of any importance upon which the Ministryhave vouchsafed any information, preferential trade, it is a great question from whatever stand-point we regard it. It is great from the stand-point of those who oppose it, and still greater from the stand-point of those who favour it. What a melancholy spectacle the Government present in regard to this question ! The alliance, we are told, with some derision, proposes to consider it. The Government have considered it, and the conclusion to which they have come is, to put it shortly, in relation to that subject, to erect a tombstone upon the grave of responsible government. The situation was very indefinite - quite indefinite enough - when the Prime Minister announced his policy ; it became ridiculous when the Minister of Trade and Customs added his quota, and when, in this debate, the Prime Minister concluded his statement of the Government position, the coping-stone of absurditywas placed upon it. What is the position, according to the Government? First of all, the Government will take up the subject : secondly, they will only do that if England asks for it. In other words, they are prepared to say, "Yes, Mr. Chamberlain." Next, England is not likely to ask, and next, therefore, the Government are not likely to take it up. Further, if the Government should by chance take up the question, they are absolutely resolved - to let each man go his own way. This is a strange commentary upon the criticism of the alliance. Upon that question, which, above all others, demands that corporate responsibility and a definite attitude should be taken on behalf of the people of Australia, the Government are hopelessly split up. Some of the members may support it, some of them may oppose it. Those who support it may advocate a reduction of duties, whilst others support an addition to duties. What a ridiculous spectacle is thus presented to the people of this country !


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Almost as ridiculous as that presented by the alliance upon that point.


Mr ISAACS - The final statement of the Prime Minister on this matter was that if the proposals clashed with his fiscal opinions, only one thing could happen, meaning that he would resign his position. I would ask whether that declaration does not sufficiently inform my protectionist friends in the Government, or, at all events, their protectionist supporters, that as long as the Prime Minister holds the reins of Government preferential trade is lost, because so long as the Government are allowed to sit on the Treasury benches, unable, as the Prime Minister has admitted, to speak in the name of Australia, so long will the people and public opinion of England be seriously influenced _ in the direction of believing that Australia is adverse to the proposal. Cannot the Government see that 'the pathway of preferential trade is the high-road to the greatest alliance into which we can ever hope to enter ? Foreign alliances are important, but even the friendly ties that stretch across to the great Republic of the West are only secondary in importance to the closer and firmer bonds that ought to unite firmly and inseparably all the white peoples of this Empire. The Empire, as we know it to-day, is new, but silently and unconsciously, though none the less surely and permanently, there has been growing up, all over the globe where the flag flies, an intense desire for closer inter-Imperial communication, for some tangible and material recognition of the sense of preservation, and of the sentiment of patriotism, and even of the more sordid considerations of profit that attach to us. I say that the Prime Minister is blind to these things, and I cannot understand his blindness. He is like the Bourbons. He neither learns nor forgets anything. In this regard he clings slavishly to an effete fiscal theory of free-trade, the same fiscal theory that led Cobden, the grand apostle of .that faith, to declare in his letter, which is to be found in Morley's Life of Cobden, that free-trade would " gradually and imperceptibly loosen the bonds " that bind Great Britain to her Colonies. That is the free-trade theory. That is the theory that is held by the Prime Minister and his free-trade followers. It was surprising to me when, the other night, he allowed such principles to dominate him even when he was considering the highest relations of our Empire. He refused to budge one single hair's-breadth from the policy of Eis fiscal belief, even though he had an opportunity to do the grandest work he could perform, ' namely, that of strengthening the crimson thread of kinship with the material ties of mutual benefit and development, and the enhancement of our common greatness. This is a subject which may well excite one's enthusiasm. To me it presents more than attractiveness; it has a fascination which no narrower line of policy could ever instil. Although I have not touched upon very many subjects to which I should have 'liked to allude, I have taken up more than my share of the public time. I think, however, that I have said a good many things to justify our opposition to the Government at this critical period of our history. I feel that the people of this country may at any moment, notwithstanding the humiliating position of the Ministry at the present time, be called upon to exercise what I consider to be the highest .function of citizenship, namely, to decide for themselves many of those great questions that govern our daily life. For our part, we shall welcome that moment. We are prepared to face the future without fear, and, certainly, without regret. We came into this Parliament members of a victorious party, and it is not for us to surrender or to capitulate. When we go before our masters and return the commission they placed in our hands, I feel that we can say with truth and honour, "We have fought the good fight, we have finished our course, and, above all, we have kept the faith."







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