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Wednesday, 12 October 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Order !

Mr DEAKIN - The express' agreement made iri this party, as I have stated over and over again, was that every member should have an absolutely free hand on the Arbitration Bill.

Mr Isaacs - On the Bill, yes. This is too transparent !

Mr McCay - It is not so transparent as other things we see.

Mr SPEAKER -I ask both die Minister and the honorable and learned member for Indi to refrain from conversing across the Chamber.

Mr DEAKIN - It seems to me that in this debate we have attached far too much importance to the mere conditions of trie Arbitration Bill, which has resulted in the removal of two Governments. As a member of one of those Governments, I have never been able to feel that what followed was anything but the natural and inevitable result of the circumstances under which we were returned with three equal parties. I hold that the removal of the Watson Government was equally inevitable when once they . determined to act as a Government representing a minority. If the right honorable member for East Sydney had not taken the lesson to heart, the same result would inevitably have followed in his case. But there is no reason why bitterness should prevail. Why should there be any resentment?

Mr King O'malley - There is no bitterness on this side.

Mr McColl - We have been attacked, and called traitors.

Mr DEAKIN - That was in a Pickwickian sense. There is no reason why animosity should be allowed to grow out of the results of the verdict of the electors. The present situation has not been brought about by intrigue or tactics, but is due to the fact that there are three equal parties in the House. I cannot sufficiently convince honorable members that there can be no security for constitutional government until we have a Government with a majority much bigger than that which the present Prime Minister has yet gained upon the questions to be submitted to the House.

Mr Reid - My majority is steady at the same number.

Mr DEAKIN - The Prime Minister has now the same opportunity which the late Prime Minister threw away - the opportunity to increase his majority by his policy an3 administration. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will be able to increase his majority. That is my hope, because I agree that we are no longer confronted, or ought no longer to be confronted, with merely contentious questions. Australia' is waiting for something from this Parliament which she has not yet received.. Our population is not increasing, but our States debts remain, and have grown larger, and very little has been done to advance settlement on the land. Nothing has been done to make us better known, or to draw more capital and enterprise to Australia, and nothing has been done to assist the producing interests.

Mr Poynton - The honorable and learned member himself made a promise.

Mr DEAKIN - We became involved in other important discussions at the time which, partly by my own fault, to-night, have been prolonged to undue length.

Mr Frazer - The honorable and learned member is rivalling .the achievement of the honorable member for Darling,

Mr DEAKIN - I confess to having made an inordinately long speech.

Mr Reid - It is a pity that the youngest member in this House should make such a remark.

Mr DEAKIN - I had many arrears to make up.

Mr Tudor - And a lot to explain away.

Mr DEAKIN - I have been the target for months for just the sort of heedless suggestion the honorable member for Yarra has been gracious enough to make. I had to speak at length, not because of merely personal interest, but because I held formerly a quasi official relation to one party, and had to justify the action which myself and others had taken. This has been done at great length, because of the infinite detail to be dealt with ; but I can assure the House that I have spent more days in the study of my facts and data than I have detained honorable members hours. I have spoken once and for all, and hope' that no more words relating to the matter will pass my lips. I have no concern with the dead past, as to which I feel no animosity, nor desire to preserve any recollection. ' I had, in justice, to put. my case for once, and plainly, and am anxious to get back to practical work - anxious to assist the Prime Minister as I should have assisted the late Prime Minister. This country may be over-governed instead of under-governed, but, if so, it is in regard to matters, many of which do not affect its vital interests. The immense importance o'f the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill I never undervalue. If by means of that Bill, as I hope, we obtain industrial peace, this Parliament will wear a chaplet all. its days, and long afterwards. Such a result is worth almost any .sacrifice. But, at the same time, there are all kinds of contingent interests - rivalries which spring up, and the ashes of a dead past blown about which ought to have been buried out of sight a long while ago. If this debate does nothing else, I hope it will serve as a cemetery in which the bid State personal controversies will be buried once and for all under tombstones not to be desecrated in the future. Let us be content to deal with Federal affairs and issues from Federal times. Our Constitution makes1 us a united people, but I am afraid that result has not been attained in spirit and in truth. Our Parliament is necessarily Federal in its operation, and yet, every day almost, there arises in it the spectre pf the conflicting interests of the States. Provincialism is rampant outside, its echoes are heard within these walls. Not until we get away from those considerations, and with "Australia facing the dawn " - to use the flowery phrase of a former Minister of Public Works in New South Wales - set ourselves to the business we were sent to do, ' will this Parliament succeed In justifying itself. I hope that we shall succeed in justifying it sufficiently to go to the country with a clear and unmistakable issue, for a clear and unmistakable verdict. Personally, I am prepared to bow to that verdict, whatever it may be, content so far as my pledges permit, to accept the Government principles and policy, which the electors choose, and to be satisfied with my own small share in the public life which helps in some measure to shape the great destinies of this new country. If. I can add ever so little to its progress, whether in office, out of office, or out of public life, I shall. seek no other and no nearer reward.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Bamford) adjourned.

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