Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 12 October 1904


Mr SPEAKER - I must ask honorable members on both sides of the House to avoid interrupting the honorable and learned member who is in possession of the Chair. The right of free speech demands that he or any other speaker shall be heard without interruption.


Mr DEAKIN - I do not think, sir, that honorable members were interrupting mc, but each other. Going over this clause as I have thought it my duty to do; reading - and many of mv sins should be forgiven for doing this - the debates over again with close attention, I have been, and I believe the political student will be, at a loss to discover why it was that the heat overcame the light to such an extent that we actually had a Ministerial crisis upon a question of such narrowness that a microscope is needed to discover the difference between the amendments about which we fought, and on which the Labour Ministry fell.


Mr King O'malley - We ought not to have gone out.


Mr SPEAKER - Order.


Mr DEAKIN - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was In error if he was referring to me, as from Hansard, at page 5121, it appears he was, when he said I had received a private intimation that this clause was going . to be made vital before the public were informed. If it does refer to me, it is incorrect. I knew nothing of the decision until I read the statement in the newspaper.


Mr Mauger - I do not think it did refer to the honorable and learned member.


Mr DEAKIN - If the honorable member for Bland, after he had made his unfortunate and uncalled for declaration that he would make his amendment of this clause vital, felt as he must have done that there was no excuse for taking such a stand, I could comprehend the heat and the exasperation afterwards, but I think he ought to be as generous as he often is in the House, and admit that the heat and exasperation were not due to us, but provoked by his own blunder in having made that unpardonable mistake.


Mr Watson - I do not think that I showed much exasperation over if.


Mr DEAKIN - But the honorable member afterwards fought for his alternative amendment as if it meant something different.


Mr Watson - So it did.


Mr DEAKIN - I venture to say, with all resp"ect to my honorable, friend, "that 56 meant nothing. Supposing that before any conflict on this question had arisen, the honorable member had come down with the amendment which he afterwards proposed, and had put that in the Bill, and that the honorable and learned member for Corinella had challenged it with his amendment; as far as 1 can throw my mind back, and put myself in an impartial position, I should say that the latter was distinctly better, because it stated exactly what it meant - majority rule. But if Mr. Watson's Government had put it in the Bill as he has explained it, and objected to its alteration, making that a vital question, certainly I could not have quarrelled with them about it. The reason why we could not go back was, first, because we believed in this principle, and, secondly, because we were asked to reverse a vote which would have meant a denial of that principle. That is a thing which we should not be asked to do except in the last resort, and upon a matter of the utmost magnitude.


Mr Watson - I should have preferred the Bill in this instance.


Mr DEAKIN - Possibly, but the honorable member, by his own statement, has very fairly admitted that the Bill, without any proviso, would have been interpreted by the Court practically in the same way as it will be now that the proviso is in. Was the whole Act to be imperilled and was industrial peace to be indefinitely postponed for a trifling inconsiderable imaginary distinction ? The whole proceeding was incomprehensible. Now, in relation to this Bill, there was another matter which was, and continues to be, a mystery, and that was the manner in which the Government dealt with the proposal with regard to seamen and the Navigation Bill. The right honorable member for Adelaide thought so much of the inclusionof the seamen, not only in the Bill, but without the delay of the recess which has passed, that at the end of last year it was the turning point which impelled him to leave Ministerial office and go practically into opposition. He was then supported by all the labour members who claim to speak for those affected by the Bill. They agreed with him that it was a question of the utmost moment which could not be postponed, and the Government of which I was a member was within an ace of being defeated because of the delay. Although we were within an ace of being defeated by them, because we made no provision last year for the seamen, yet a Government which included in its ranks members who believed that they specially represent these classes has now calmly laid aside the Bill for twelve months more by appointing a Royal Commission. It recently brought down a set of clauses which we were unable to accept. Although the Government had the votes of men, like myself, who believed that as drawn the clauses were utterly ineffective, but who thought so much of the possibility of the situation that they voted for them the Government then allowed the clauses to be struck out, without uttering a word of protest, because some of their own friends and associates could not find it in their hearts to vote for them. I do not say that this was not a legitimate concession to make to good supporters.


Mr Watson - To only one, not to some.


Mr DEAKIN - I am speaking from memory, and referring to members of the alliance as well as members of the Labour Party. It was extraordinary 'that just at the very 'time when this infinitesimal difference about preference was being made a vital question, other proposals which had nearly wrecked the preceding Government were set aside calmly for a year. The seamen were left in" the lurch outside the Arbitration Bill, and the clauses were withdrawn without a word of protest. I am not saying that the Government were not quite right. I am not acquainted with the reasons for their action. All I say is that at the time when they were open-minded enough to deal with such important clauses in that way, it is extraordinary that they should put up their backs on this particular matter. I am not going to speculate as to what is going to become of either of those Bills under the terms of the alliance. I have studied1 the question as to adherence to votes, and the situation as it is likely to present itself, and, speaking candidly. I do not know where it would lead us. I am unable to say what the "Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would be like under the terms of that alliance. I am equally unable to say what the Navigation Bill would be like. I am making no complaint, except that as they are put in the forefront of the agreement, it is highly essential that we should knowwhat thev mean. But, working out the votes which have been given, and the effect of the retention of those votes, even with the possibility which has' been indicated to us today, that honorable members mav reverse or modify them, it gives us no present indication of what either Bill would be like.


Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member gave very little indication in his second -reading speech as to the shape he desired the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill finally to take. It was no criterion as to his attitude later on.


Mr DEAKIN - Speaking from memory, there were sixteen divisions' on the Bill. I voted for the Bill on fourteen occasions. I voted against the Bill as far as I can remember on only two occasions, which I have explained at length. One was with reference to the political element in unions, and, by the way, I am indebted to the honorable member for Moira for reminding me that I did give a clear indication on the second reading during the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth. When he intimated that possibly under the Bill an organization might be used for political purposes, I assured him that there was no such intention in my mind, and that it would be made perfectly clear. That leaves me with only one vote qualifying the Bill, as it stood, which was not indicated in my secondreading speech. As I told the House when the subject was under discussion, until we came to close quarters on that question, I had not realized its magnitude. But if any one will read the Arbitration Bill through, and weigh it in the light of the discussions and the divisions we have had - I have studied it, in the light of the speeches of the honorable member for Darling and others - and if they will consider the greatness of the subject, the novelty of the Federal ' situation, and the perplexities with which we had to deal, they may well be amazed to find that on only one occasion did I vote to amend the Bill, and that when I did so, the question involved was not vital. I gave my vote when the question was not vital, and when I had no expectation that it would be vital ; and that vote was not cast against anything in the Bill, but simply to put in a proviso clearly stating what honorable members opposite admitted would, in the vast majority of cases, be read into the measure by the Court itself. I venture! to say that there are few Ministers who have kept so closely to Bills of which they have been in charge. But the members of the late Government., as I have shown, laid sacrilegious hands on the work of my late colleague and their great exemplar in a variety of serious matters. Fortunately we were able to prevent those attempts to impair it, and usually prevented them without a division. But honorable members opposite when they take credit for the moderation which they assumed in regard to that and other matters, have to re collect that in a House consisting of three parties, whichever party is in power has to study moderation. When labour members opposite and their colleagues sat upon these benches they were doomed to moderation beforehand, because they' had only a minority of their own party behind them. In fact, it was not moderation, it was minority-ration, that ruled. This checked honorable members opposite, and checked them not only in connexion with the Arbitration Bill. I am free to admit that, so far as the leader of the late Government and his colleagues were concerned, without exception they exhibited a fair spirit and showed a good grasp of the situation. But, as we have reason to know, £Hat moderation, if they had behind them a majority of their own party, would not have been allowed to have the free play which it obtained under the then existing circumstances. Leaving that part of the subject, I have no new contention with my honorable friends' opposite, but feel it to be necessary to put myself right in regard to objections which I have always maintained on some points in the constitution and methods of the Labour Party, which promise ill for their future, and, as they become more powerful, will promise ill for the future of the country. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney - whom I am pleased to see in his place - was not in the Chamber when I was alluding to his utterances at Ballarat; and1 I wish to say now that in those utterances - if permitted to say so, with all respect - in my opinion^ he caricatured rather than criticised the speech which I delivered in that city shortly before. It may have been under the pressure of those caricatures that I permitted to myself a rather flippant remark, which I learn has been somewhat misunderstood. I made a " tart " reply to the honorable . and learned member, but wish to say that if it is supposed that any personal reflection was intended in that remark the supposition is utterly incorrect. It was merely a political retort. I recognise the honorable and le'arned member's achievements, and honour him for them. He started where I did, as a teacher. He earned his living as I did by that means. He has now joined the' profession to which I am proud to belong; and any man who could achieve his present position under the difficulties which he had to surmount is entitled to the respect of every honorable member in this House. But I venture to say that he did not deal fairly with my complaint against the Labour Party; and, as a consequence, it has not been fairly presented by many other critics in this House, including the honorable member for Kennedy last night. I criticised the machinery of the Labour Party, but commenced by saying that admittedly every party had machinery, and that other parties had abused their machinery. What I was criticising was not the use of party machinery, but its abuse when the machine became the master, instead of being controlled by men who were using it for proper purposes. I think that this criticism has been fully justified by subsequent events. For instance, I pointed out that every political organization, to be effective, must have local committees; but I also pointed out that in the Labour Party - not in all cases, I was careful to say, but in some cases - a mere handful of men, without any standing out of their own party, or perhaps in if, without any knowledge outside their own particular localities, were exercising authority over the choice of candidates, and stepping in between candidates for Parliament and the people, in a way which ought not to be permitted to bodies of that kind. Now, I find that the late Prime Minister has lately confirmed - not intentionally, of course - that statement. The honorable member said - '

It was true that the labour members of Parliament were the result of organizations, were governed by the rules of organizations, worked by a platform prepared by organizations, and had to abide by decisions in caucus.

So far so good.


Mr Watson - I said more than that.


Mr DEAKIN - That is a statement which in itself shows how dangerous the possession of such great power is in the hands of any body of men who are not numerous enough to be thoroughly representative of the constituencies to which they profess tq hold the right to open or close the door.


Mr Watson - I said also that once they entered Parliament labour members were the sole interpreters of the platform under which the party was elected.


Mr DEAKIN - Exactly ; I will come to that in a minute. ' My complaint is not against the local committees of the Labour Party. A .large number of them are representative,' and speak'for a large body of constituents. But the power lodged in them is a dangerous one, and when, as I have known instances, thirty or forty men gathered together in one constituency arrogate to themselves the right to say who shall stand, and who shall not, the organization deserves the criticism which it has received.


Mr Mahon - What about a single newspaper not merely nominating candidates, but dictating the policy of a country ?


Mr DEAKIN - That is just as objectionable from the public point of view. I have said that every party uses political machinery, and that in connexion with nearly every party there have been abuses, but that the great strength of the organization of the Labour Party, and1 the small number of men by whom it is controlled in particular districts, make it exceptionally dangerous.


Mr Fowler - There is no arbitrary limitation upon the size of the local organizations. They are open to all.


Mr DEAKIN - Yes, but all do not choose to join them. If every one joined them, the difficulty would be settled. The leader of the Opposition went on to say -

In regard to none of these things did the alli ance in the Slightest degree ' infringe upon the authority which the organizations undoubtedly possess. The labour members of the Federal Parliament had agreed to use their influence towards securing to those who were members of the alliance immunity from opposition. If an organization desired to put forward a candidate in opposition to those who were combining with the Labour Party, there was nothing to prevent them doing so ; but if a man who, by some means, was technically kept outside of their movement, though voting straight with them, had the best chance of winning the seat, in his view of the case, it would be suicidal to oppose him.


Mr King O'malley - Hear, hear.


Mr DEAKIN - The applause comes very properly from those who are safe inside the party. The allies of the party, if they cannot be beaten, are to be regarded as good friends, but if they can be beaten, the party is entitled to beat them.


Mr Watson - What the honorable and learned member has read is only an abridged newspaper report. It does not contain all that was said.


Mr DEAKIN - My quotation contains all that was reported in the newspapers, because I have checked it with the newspaper reports. I am not speaking in hostility to the alliance. Far from it - its terms are not at all sufficient for me; but then I am not a member of it. I am simply pointing out that it is not what it ought to be, because of the, difficulty which must be confronted, to which I called attention at Ballarat. If a local organization chooses to exercise its right to run a candidate against an ally, it can do so, and the implication is that, if it can beat him, it has the right to do so. I believe that the members of the Labour Party in this House will render all the assistance they have promised to their allies, but if the organizations chooseto take a different view,, and a fight occurs between labour members fighting for their allies as against a local labour organization, a light will be let in upon the party which will presently expand and increase. My sympathies are with the members of the party in this House, who, with their better training and fuller knowledge of the circumstances, are aware that they can never seize and retain the keys of powei without the support of a majority, and know that the country will never give them that support unless moderate views prevail, and a practical programme is put before it, while at the same time fair play is extended to their allies. In educating their party to moderation they have a difficult task to perform, but I wish them well, because it is to the interests of their party, and of the country that they should succeed.


Mr Watson - Our enemies are not likelv to see such a fight.


Mr DEAKIN - If my honorable friend can accomplish' this, as he has accomplished so much in this House, by quiet suasion, we shall have even a better opinion of him than we have now.


Mr Reid - Let him begin on Mr. Anstey.


Mr DEAKIN - I have said enough to indicate where I discriminate between the proper and the improper power of local organizations, ' and point to other dangers which confront the party. In some places its organizations are so strong that they are entitled to speak for the party, but in other places they are merely parts of a machine. I regard the written pledge required by labour members as an unnecessary indignitv. There is no member of the Labour Party from whom, if we had relations with him, we would require a written pledge.


Mr Mahon - Do not all members sign a written pledge of loyalty when they enter the House?


Mr DEAKIN - That has nothing to do with our political opinions, and places no restriction upon our action here.


Mr Mahon - Why cannot our word be taken for our loyalty?


Mr DEAKIN - It is permissible to make an affirmation on entering Parliament. Then, as to the caucus control, the honorable member for Barrier put the whole situation in a nut-shell when he said that the caucus is the labour Cabinet. We, on this side, say that our system of government provides for only one Cabinet. We recognise that all Cabinets at times' demand difficult sacrifices of their members, but to impose Cabinet conditions upon men returned as representatives, who are without executive authority and responsibility, opens the way to an abuse of the Constitution.


Mr Carpenter - We do not do that.


Mr DEAKIN - The honorable member for Barrier says that it is done.


Mr Hughes - Each member of the caucus is responsible to his constituents, who can punish him if' he does not act as they wish.


Mr DEAKIN - That is no excuse for creating a second Cabinet. Of course, every member must observe his election pledges. If he does not, his constituents will deal with him. There. is no reason why a man who represents the people should be subject to the domination of a caucus Cabinet. Look at the effect of this machine control. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney supplied me with an illustration. When speaking of the support given by members of the Labour Party in New South Wales to the Prime Minister when he was Premier of that State, he said -

Mr. McGowenand Mr. Arthur Griffith, and other men who were solid protectionists, gave his Free-trade Administration for five years their consistent support . . . their faithful and unswerving support.


Mr Watson - Not under the compulsion of the caucus though.


Mr DEAKIN - Under what compulsion then?


Mr Watson - Under no compulsion.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, unquestionably they were under the compulsion of the caucus.


Mr Watson - No; the honorable member does not know as much about it as I do.


Mr Reid - If itwas under no compulsion I cannot understand those honorable members voting against their principles.


Mr Watson - A man must sometimes vote against some of his principles.


Mr DEAKIN - That is exactly my point. In New South Wales . a low protectionist Tariff was in existence, and the members referred to were returned as pledged protectionists.


Mr Watson - No; pledged to the Labour platform.


Mr DEAKIN - I refer to 'the pledge given to their constituents.


Mr Watson - The members mentioned were no't returned as anything but fiscal " sinkers."


Mr DEAKIN - That was on the second occasion, when they appealed to the country, but before that, when they were supporting the present Prime Minister, who, as a free-trader, was taking off all the duties, they were returned as pledged protectionists.


Mr Watson - They were not returned as pledged protectionists at any time.


Mr Reid - Yes, they were.


Mr DEAKIN - I am not sufficiently informed to be able to say what the position was, and shall not press the point any further if it is a matter of dispute. I do say, however, that this may happen any day in the Labour caucus.


Mr Hughes - No, it cannot happen.


Mr DEAKIN - If the present Prime Minister Had been able, during the last Parliament, to grant the requests preferred by the Labour Party, and to adopt their programme, they would have put him in power and compelled their protectionist members to sink their fiscal views, to assist in keeping the right honorable gentleman in office.


Mr Hughes - Thev could not do it.


Mr DEAKIN - They could do it, because the majority in the caucus have the power to compel the minority to do as they think best.


Mr Hughes - No, the honorable and learned member is quite in error.


Mr DEAKIN - When the platform is at stake. We have it recorded in Hansard. The honorable member for Canobolas read the State and Federal labour pledges, and contrasted them. He pointed out that the Federal labour pledge to submit to the caucus was binding upon members of the party only so far as their platform was concerned. If tha caucus considered that by sacrificing something else, they could secure the adoption of their programme, they would order that the something else should be sacrificed.


Mr Hughes - Oh, no.


Mr DEAKIN - At least there is nothing in the pledge to prevent the caucus from treating anything as being related to the platform. Honorable members are now indicating limitations of which I am only too delighted to hear, but which have not yet been under stood by the public. Therefore, even the pledge requires to be re-edited, and to have attached to it an explanatory footnote. Honorable members have admitted that they are absolutely in the hands of the caucus, so far as their programme is concerned.


Mr Hughes - Every member of every party should occupy a similar position.


Mr DEAKIN - He should be bound by his pledges to his constituents, and by nothing else.


Mr Hughes - Among the pledges to our constituents is one that upon all questions affecting our platform we shall vote together.


Mr DEAKIN - Exactly ; and that is a part of the pledge that has no right to be embodied in it. That is one of the things I am now challenging, because I hold that it interferes with the right of the individual to exercise his free judgment in regard to matters affecting the' relations between himself and his constituents. Even the fact that the constituents indorse the pledge affords no justification, because we are dealing with a matter which affects the basic principles of representation. Honorable members opposite will now recognise that I have not been engaging in any wholesale denunciation of the Labour Party. I have pointed out the relations which, in my opinion, should exist between representatives in this Parliament and their constituents. That is what I have done repeatedly in this House, as recorded in Hansard, and also at Ballarat. Months ago. in this Chamber, I laid down the lines of the criticism which I merely amplified when speaking at Ballarat. The speech addressed to my constituents did not contain a single new idea, but was merely an amplification of views which I had already expressed in this House. The objections I then indicated still hold good. I offer these criticisms in all sincerity, because it is my firm conviction that if the Labour Party amended their methods, they would be a stronger, and not a weaker power in the Commonwealth. They might have initial difficulties to overcome, because it would probably be far from easy for individuals to educate their constituents to such a point that they would be ready to adopt a higher view of the responsibilities of Members of Parliament. But if that were once done, the Labour Party would possess much greater power, not only in this House, but outside of it. Therefore, the criticisms I. am offering are not to be suspected of being designed to undermine the Labour

Party. I recognise that they represent a stratum of opinion in the community which is entitled to be represented here, and am anxious to see the representatives of that party joined with those who voice the opinions of other sections of the public in carrying on the business of the country in a constitutional manner. I believe that if this could be done it would prove of the greatest advantage to the party, and to the community generally. It would remove the obstacles which now bar the Labour Party's way to alliances with other parties, both inside and outside of the House. When reasonable criticism is offered, which discriminates between that which is commended, and that which is, rightly or wrongly, condemned, it should be clearly distinguished from wholesale tirades of abuse such as are sometimes indulged in. I am recognising the Labour Party as an integral element of the community, and am anxious that it should combine with other elements in carrying on the business of the country to the best advantage of all classes. The difficulty is that the mischief does not end with the Labour Party. The success of their organization and methods will lead to their adoption elsewhere. Just as intolerance on one side begets intolerance on the other, so one machine invites another. I have deprecated the formation of machines as rigid and inflexible as that of the Labour Party threatens to become. I do not desire- to bring about a condition of affairs in which we shall have machine fighting machine.


Mr Webster - And yet the honorable member started a machine organization at Ballarat.


Mr DEAKIN - I pointed out that it was not to be a machine, but only machinery ; that every man should be free to leave the organization, and that it did not claim the sole right to nominate candidates, or to bind them to obey a majority of colleagues, or to sign their independence away, but that it should undertake the work of political education upon liberal lines.


Mr Watson - With the power to reject candidates.


Mr DEAKIN - Not at all. As I have previously pointed out, that organization had drafted its own programme, and had appointed its own officials without consulting me.


Mr Hughes - And the honorable member did not approve of all of \% I think.


Mr DEAKIN - I did not approve of. some words which were added to a mo tion that had been shown me, and which I had been asked to move. I refused to move that motion, with the addition of those words, because they were ambiguous and might be misleading. I wish now to glance for one moment at the programme which has been submitted by the alliance in opposition to that which has been presented by the Government.


Mr Watson - Let us hear something about the Government programme.


Mr DEAKIN - I notice, in the first? place, that the alliance programme has received great elaboration to-day at the hands nf the honorable and learned member for Indi. For himself, he has supplied a great many serious omissions, but I have yet to learn how far his individual views - with many of which I thoroughly concur - are shared bv those with whom he is associated. He said a good deal in reference to protection, bonuses, and preferential trade, but the references to these subjects in the programme of the alliance are as shadowy and unsubstantial as they well could be. For instance, he made very merry at the expense of the Government, because they are going to do something in reference to preferential trade-


Mr Isaacs - Because they are not going to do anything.


Mr DEAKIN - And because they are noc going to do it until a movement has been made abroad.


Mr Watson - And then in a most specific direction.


Mr DEAKIN - But what does the honorable and learned member offer as an alternative in the alliance programme? Preferential trade is to be " discussed " by the joint parties. That is least of all. There may be many discussions without agreement. We are conducting a discussion now, but, although discussion may have its uses as a practical step towards the adoption of a scheme of preferential trade, there is no advantage in that alone. So in regard to the other items of that programme. The only three great matters about which we were anxious to know the views of the alliance were protection, the iron bounty, and preferential trade. After the publication of the alliance programme wi'.h all its clauses, sub-clauses, qualifications, and disqualifications, we were just as much in the dark upon these three important subjects as we previously were. It was not that the honorable and learned member for Indi did not submit to the joint Committee proposals relating to them which might have proved satisfactory, but that when they came out of the wash into the authorized programme, all the colour, starch, and substance, had departed from them. They might have been very useful as they went into the wash, but they certainly came out of it in a form which was neither useful nor ornamental. Upon these subjects, the alliance programme is practically a blank. Further, I have not noticed any reference to a number of other important subjects, which should have been included in that programme. For example, there is no reference to the problem of how we may best attract population, or decrease our debt. No proposals have been submitted for dealing with the water rcources of the States, so far as they come within Federal authority, or for assisting in the settlement of disputes which approach' its jurisdiction. ,


Mr Isaacs - This is not a motion of want of confidence in the alliance.


Mr DEAKIN - It is. That is what it becomes. Of course, it may be said that in this respect the programme of the Ministry is not all precision and definiteness. The Government offer a programme of practical work for this session, which constitutes quite as much as we can do. Beyond and behind that programme, we have the Government itself, and I have no hesitation in saying that the four members of the Ministry who represent the party to which I have always belonged, possess our unqualified confidence. We know them, we have tried them, and we are quite content to trust to their loyalty to their principles. We could not find better men. And so of the four members headed by the Prime Minister - they are equally representative of their party, and rank as its very ablest men. We are satisfied that we can trust the Government. Further, we retain the right of free criticism of the Government which we sit behind. We do not move under any bond, shackle, or compact. All our engagements are known to the public. I am certain that the honorable and learned member for Indi, who has served with two out of the four protectionists in the Ministry, will admit that no more trustworthy men have ever represented us in Parliament, and certainly no men whose adherence to that policv has been stauncher. What better guarantee for its future can we obtain than their presence in the Cabinet? They are there to give effect to their pledges. When they cease to do that, it will be time enough for us to reconsider the situation. But I do not anticipate that any such occasion will arise. The other members of the Government represent the revenue Tariff doctrines as well as the protectionist members represent protectionist doctrines. There are no more competent men in this House. Consequently I claim that we have something to inspire us with confidence as to the future. We are not pledged, and we are not asked to pledge ourselves for an indefinite period, to proposals of which we know nothing. On the contrary, we have the assurance that whenever this Government takes an important step, or develops new principles, it will be with the approbation of the whole of the members sitting behind them.


Mr Page - With the approbation of the honorable member for Wilmot.


Mr Kennedy - The honorable member's party was glad to get rid of him.


Mr DEAKIN - My late colleagues and myself occupy quite a paternal position in this House, because we may fairly claim - looking back to the Ballarat scheme - to be the fathers both of the policy of the late Government and of the present Administration. Both policies are carved out of that programme, but the one submitted by the present Government is more substantial than that which was offered by the late Government.


Mr Hutchison - We were united upon our programme.


Mr DEAKIN - The honorable member's party is bound to be united. Its members cannot help themselves.


Mr Page - That is the trouble with honorable members opposite.


Mr DEAKIN - I think that the honorable member's point is a good one. From my point of view his party is overorganized and over-united. Organization is a good thing until it. kills individuality, and unity is a good thing until it destroys personal initiative and freedom. The danger of the party to which the honorable member belongs is that it- will become overorganized and over-united. We, upon our part, suffer from an opposite complaint, and must endeavour to get more organization and more unity, but not too much. Then I wish to say a word or two upon the vexed question - because it still vexes some ' honorable members upon the other side of the House - of the motion which resulted in the defeat, of the late Government. They urge in the first place that it should not have taken the form that it did, because it amounted to wresting the control of business from the hands of the Government.

In my view that statement is incorrect. Certainly when I was first informed that the motion was to be submitted it did not for one instant strike me that it was equivalent to taking the business out of their hands. What is the meaning - in a parliamentary sense - properly attaching to that phrase? It is used only when an improper advantage is being taken of some colourless motion which forms part of the ordinary business of the House - and which has no meaning in itself except as one of the procedures of the House - to defeat a Government.. That has often been done in the States. Those were instances when the business was taken ou£ of the hands of a Government. In our case the circumstances were not the same. The proposal was not one of form only, but also of substance. It was not a question of what the House should do in order to proceed to business, but it was itself business - a reiteration of the principle of majority rule already embodied in the Bill. It was a perfectly legitimate motion, because it was not a question of form, but a question of substance, though associated with a question of form.


Mr Brown - Would the honorable member carry on under similar circumstances if he were Prime Minister?


Mr DEAKIN - I undertake to say that when the last Government permitted the navigation clauses to be struck out, they allowed the business of the House to be taken out of their hands.


Mr Hutchison - That does not answer the question.


Mr DEAKIN - There may have been good reason for what was done with those clauses, and I can offer no criticism, because I do not know the reason ; but it was a much more serious matter. Again, in taking a vote of want of confidence on a question of form, the unfairness lies in the fact that votes are given against the Government by members merely from a desire to remove the Government. But in the recent case the Opposition, instead of gaining votes, actually lost the vote of the honorable member for Barker.


Mr Poynton - But they gained the vote of the Chairman of Committees.


Mr DEAKIN - They gained the vote of the Chairman of Committees, but that did not balance the loss of a vote actually recorded against them.


Mr Poynton - No, it did not.


Mr DEAKIN - At all events the sting of the complaint about taking the business out of the hands of the Government,, lies in the fact that a vote' is given, not on a question of substance, but on a question of form. On .that occasion, however, it was a motion of substance and of form, and was fair to the Government, because it gave them the advantage of one vote ; and those two points ought to be taken into consideration. Every vote given, except one, in favour of the Government was on the merits of the proposal. That was not the case when my Government went out of office, and yet we did not complain. The late Government said that they were not challenged on a vote of want of confidence, on which they could not have been defeated. But my previous Government could say the same - the circumstances were precisely similar. I do not notice that there has been any requirement by either party in the new alliance for a written pledge.


Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear ! there is no " machine " about the alliance.


Mr DEAKIN - That is an excellent beginning, which has my entire approbation. The Labour Party are to be felicitated on having abandoned one of the cranks of the machine. The fiscal question was in the most noteworthy manner - in the most striking fashion - omitted from the speech of the leader of the Opposition in submitting this motion, and also from the speech of his first lieutenant, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.


Mr Reid - It was a studied omission.


Mr DEAKIN - The fiscal question has scarcely been touched on until now. I do not complain of that, because the honorable member for Bland spoke as the leader of his party, and, I presumed, was confined within the limits of its platform, though I had expected that some protectionists would have supplied the deficiency before to-night. I understand1 that the alliance gets a good deal of support outside, because it is supposed to be bringing the Labour Party gradually into the protectionist fold. If that be so, the effort has my hearty good wishes. But I fancy the alliance, in this connexion, has work before it, even with labour members who are called protectionists. I remember that after the Tariff had been dealt with, the present leader of the Opposition, when he visited his constituency, expressed his pride at having helped to reduce the duties to 15 per cent., and he was the recipient of congratulations from the present Prime

Minister on the service rendered by the Labour Party in Tariff reductions generally.


Mr Reid - Hear, hear '


Mr DEAKIN - There will have, to be a great improvement from the protectionist stand-point. The late Government, when in office, were, as it happened, fiscally in equal strength, but during their short term they managed to declare themselves very clearly on a number of points. There was to be no Tariff revision. There was to be no preferential trade . until an offer came from Great Britain - not even an Imperial Conference until a request came from the old country. There was to be no iron bountygranted except to the States, and in the Departments not even a little' preference to locally manufactured goods. That is fiscal atheism in excelsis. There could be nothing more colourless than the late Government was on the fiscal question, if we take colour to necessarily mean protectionist colour. Their policy was an absolute negation, so far as we are concerned, in point of administration and promises of legislation. Under the circumstances it is not surprising that the protectionist journal, the Melbourne Age. if my memory serves me right, on the very day of the division which decided the fate of the Government branded it as " hostile to protection," and asked how a protectionist could support it. That is a fiscal record which has to be outgrown.


Mr Page - We owe the Age nothing.


Mr DEAKIN - I think the honorable member owes the Age a great deal.


Mr Page - I owe the Age nothing.


Mr DEAKIN - I do not think the Age appreciates the honorable member as much as it ought to do, speaking generally. I am not jesting.


Mr Page - I want no sympathy from any newspaper.


Mr DEAKIN - What I mean is that the honorable member, though a consistent free-trader, is a free-trader with a heart, and he occasionally listens when we have a case to put before him. It is in that respect that I do not think the honorable member has been sufficiently appreciated. This fiscal atheism may not exist to the same extent in the new combination, but it does so very nearly. The alliance, as I understand it, in one of its many excellent aspects is a missionary enterprise. If it is not a missionary enterprise it is nothing. Under its active influence the leader of the Labour Party, who formerly spoke cheerfully about reducing the duties to 15 per cent., has turned to a white-hot protectionist. Speaking only the other evening, he referred to himself,

As one who has always been inclined to a protectionist Tariff when matters more important to the Labour Party's platform were not involved. . . .

That is the point to which the alliance has screwed up the leader of the Opposition at the present time. If there is nothing more important in hand the honorable member is going to be a protectionist - if there is something more important on hand he is not going to be a protectionist. What is baffling beyond all description is to find the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who is a protectionist par excellence, cheering and reiterating the views of the leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports frankly tells us that this motion is not merely a fiscal movement - not at all. He, like his leader, say that the movement is only fiscal when more important questions are not involved'.


Mr Mauger - I have not said that; but I believe there are more important questions.


Mr DEAKIN - Let me read what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said. The following is an extract from page 5129 of Hansard: -







Suggest corrections