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Thursday, 13 October 1904

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - After three weeks of debate I do not know that it is necessary for me to contribute any remarks. Enough has been said to " chuck out " half-a-dozen Governments. So far as I am concerned I only wish to let those on the other side know how I shall vote. I do not pretend to be like the honorable member for Wilmot ; but I believe that I am the last speaker in the debate, except the leader of the Opposition. I am rather reluctant to give a vote which might plunge the country into an expenditure of ,£60,000. That is not so much on account of the other States - it is my own State I feel for. We know ' that since Queensland joined the Federation she has had deficits every year. Therefore I do not desire that my State should be involved in an extra expenditure of ;£ 1 0,000 or j£i 2,000 on account of a general election. But at- the same time I must cast my vote against this iniquitous Government. I do not hesitate to say how I am gong to vote, as the harlequin from Tasmania did. It appears now that the present Government is to remain in office for some time longer. The present position of affairs has been brought about largely by the action of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. He was anxious, as he explained, to do away with a state of ' things which left us with " three elevens in the field. " Well, there are two parties in politics now. He has succeeded to that extent. The liberal protectionists have come over to the side of progress and liberty, and he has left the fiscal-issue-sinking protectionists with the free-trade supporters of the Government. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is responsible for the present situation in more senses than one. When he went out of office he put the Labour Party into power through his own action. He .told us last night that he expected either the Labour Party or the Free-trade Party to make overtures to him in order that, a coalition Government might be formed. But that was not done, and the result was that the Labour Party were driven out of office, and the present Government came into power. The Arbitration Bill has already wrecked two Governments, and may wreck a third. The object of that measure is to put an end to such disastrous industrial conflicts as have occurred in the past. We are aware of the strikes which took place in 1891 and 1894, and cost Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds. But in consequence of the action of the traitors on the Government side, who pretended to be the friends of the workers, the Bill has been made absolutely ineffective. I have nothing to say against the Prime Minister personally. As a private gentleman I do not think there is a better man in the Australian States. But I oppose him politically. I regret the language which he used concerning the Honorable and learned member for Corio, which was a disgrace to the Commonwealth. Some of his language has been erased from Hansard, but I heard it myself, and I think that the leader of a great party holding the position that the right honorable gentleman occupies ought to set an example to the House and to the country in that respect. I am new to political life, but I must say that never before have I listened to such a lot of trash and rubbish as has been trotted out by honorable members on both sides of the House in the course of this debate.

Mr Crouch - On the Ministerial side?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I say by honorable members on both sides advisedly. I do not condemn the Ministerial side only in this respect. I do not think that some of the language that has been used, was becoming in honorable members of long experience. Much has been said concerning protection and free-trade in the course of the debate. The honorable member tor Macquarie and the honorable member for North Sydney have not spoken during this debate for fear that they should make some mistake in connexion with the protectionist supporters of the Government. The Labour Party have been classified as " fiscal atheists." It has been said that we have no fiscal faith. That cannot be said of me. I stand as a protectionist to-day, and intend to use every opportunity that occurs to forward the cause of protection. But, at the same time, I am a labour man first, and a protectionist second. I believe that protection is the natural policy for labour to pursue. Without protection wages cannot be kept up, nor can hours of labour be kept down. The policy of the trade unions in this country is to keep up wages and to keep down hours of work. That is what they are formed for. If we are not prepared to protect the workers of this country against the cheap manufactures and the cheap labour of other countries, it is of no use to have trade unions. We have passed an Act prohibiting the immigration of coloured aliens. What is the use of passing such measures if the goods produced by coloured aliens in other parts of the world can be dumped down in Australia and be sold here in competition with goods produced by trade union labour ? But while our position is a consistent one, it is difficult to understand the position of the sup.porters of the Government. For instance, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is, in my view, a free-trade fanatic. Yet he supports a Government whose Minister of Customs has imposed a 40 per cent, duty on harvesters imported into Australia. Why does not the honorable and learned member ask the Minister a question on that subject ?

Mr Conroy - Surely that is not correct. The honorable member would not allow the Minister .to break the law ?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - It is correct. I intend to cast my vote on all occasions to increase protection" on Australian industries. It shall never be said that I am a fiscal atheist. Throughout my election campaign I said that I was a protectionist, and I stand on that platform to-day.

Mr Johnson - What, then, becomes of the alliance?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - We are charged with being Socialists. I did not know that I was a Socialist .until, as a member of the Labour Party, I was recently taxed with it. If Socialism is going to benefit the people, and to .do what the Labour Party is endeavouring to do, I am a Socialist right down to the ground. Further, I have no hesitation in saying that nearly every man in this country is a Socialist. When they advocate State railways, schools, water conservation, and fifty other similar things, there can be no doubt that they are Socialists. I am content to be called a Socialist. Honorable members opposite may, if they please, tack that name on to me, and I am prepared to carry it anywhere in Australia. When reference is made to the alliance on this side, I must say that the protectionist members on the opposite side look as lonely as a bandicoot on a burnt ridge. I have no doubt that the vituperative speeches which have been made by some of them, and by free-trade members on the other side, have done more to solidify the alliance with the liberalprotectionists than anything else that could be mentioned. Protectionist members opposite cannot any longer hope that those on this side will join them. They will certainly have to come over to this side, after the speeches which have been made bv the freetraders and free-trade-protectionists on the other side. My great objection to honorable members opposite arises from the opposition they have shown to the Labour Party. They have, at bun scrambles and social ,'gatherings, availed themselves of every opportunity to denounce the Labour Party. They have said that we are going to destroy the trade and commerce of Australia. That is the way in which they talk to people who know no better. It is a scandalous misstatement, and, unfortunately, the men who make it, know that it is not true. Our object is to make the country better than it is. We are told that we have no stake in the country. What do honorable members opposite mean when they say that we have no stake in the country ? I can speak for myself ; I have a wife and ten children, and I consider that they represent a greater stake in the country than all the money in the banks, and all the shares and property in Australia. Human beings are of more importance than wealth. The stake of honorable members opposite is wealth, whilst our stake in the country is human beings. The anxiety displayed by honorable members opposite at the progress of the Labour Party is 'due to their belief that it may re sult in decreased dividends. That is what they have in mind. That is just the cry that was raised in olden times by the people who. were sweaters of human beings, who worked women and little children in coalmines, and in insanitary factories. When the first steps were taken to alter the conditions of the people in those times, the cry was raised that those who employed them were going to be ruined. Sympathetic legislators, however, were successful in carrying laws which improved the conditions of the workers, and no matter what honorable members opposite may strive to do, they will be unable to sweep back the tide of progress. The onward march of Socialism cannot be checked bv the right honorable member for East Sydney, or by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. The people of Australia are determined to improve the conditions of the workers. The great anxiety on the other side is that the workers' conditions will be improved, and that they will in future get more of what they produce than they have hitherto received. I say, in conclusion, that in my opinion the time is not far distant when honorable members opposite will be cast into oblivion by the votes of the people.

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