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Wednesday, 19 October 1904


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have listened with some interest and amusement to the outburst of righteous indignation on the part of- the 'honorable member for Coolgardie.


Mr Thomas - Is he right in his statements, or is he wrong?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt that is a very important question - so important that I suggest to the honorable member that he should give notice of it. Then perhaps when we have nothing better to do, we shall be able to find an answer to it. In the meantime, I wish to say a few words relative to the question which has been raised by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I do not agree with the action of the Postmaster-General in this connexion, and I hope that we have seen the last of the granting of any preference by administrative act. I have previously expressed the opinion upon the floor of this House, that whatever is done in that respect ought to be done statutorily, and by a majority opinion of Parliament expressed in the proper way. At the same time, I would point out that so far nothing has been done which need cause any grave alarm. Nothing has been done which seems to portend any great menace to the Commonwealth consequent upon the action of the Postmaster-General. His action is to be regretted, but at the same time it is quite a small matter. I would suggest that before the honorable member for Coolgardie rises to play the part of a hard taskmaster in this connexion, he should look a little nearer home. It strikes me as a very peculiar proceeding that the very honorable member, who the other day insisted that this preference must be given, who asked the Minister time and again if he intended to grant it - I refer to the honorable member for Bourke - should to-day have supported the honorable member for Coolgardie, who complains of that preference.


Mr Mauger - When did the honorable member for Bourke support the honorable member for Coolgardie? The former has not yet spoken.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Bourke rose and supported the motion for the adjournment of the House, in order that the honorable member for Coolgardie might castigate the PostmasterGeneral. He helped to supply the means of castigating the Minister for doing that which he himself earnestly urged should be done. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports must restrain his mellifluous voice-


Mr Mauger - That is abuse and not argument.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member, I have no doubt, is a good judge of abuse. I am merely pointing out simple facts. The honorable member for Bourke, I repeat, who asked the Postmaster-General if he did not intend to continue to grant a preference to local tenderers, and who has already spoken approvingly of that policy, helped the honorable member for Coolgardie to obtain the means of castigating the honorable gentleman. That is all. In a series of carefully-prepared statements, the honorable member for Coolgardie has administered a very severe castigation to all and sundry upon this side of the House, who happen to profess free-trade principles. I say that such statements ought not to come from an honorable member in his position. He has complained - and I presume that his party is supporting him - that a preference, which represents about £60 in £1,600 has been extended to local contractors. Yet he himself is pledged in black and white to the granting of a preference amounting to . £340,000.


Mr Mahon - The honorable member is wrong.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member deny that?


Mr Mahon - I do most distinctly.


Mr Reid - But in a lower tone of voice this time.


Mr Mahon - I deny it in any tone which will please the right honorable gentleman.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should have denied it the other day. When speaking upon the proposal to grant a bonus upon the production of iron, the other day, the honorable member for Hume, said-


Mr McDonald - The honorable member must know that he will be out of order in reading from this session's Hansard.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will not quote the remarks of the honorable member for Hume, so that I shall not be out of order. I can assure the honorable member for Kennedy that they are indelibly engraved upon my memory, because I sat at the table and questioned the honorable member for Hume concerning his statements. He declared that every member of the alliance was pledged to vote for the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.


Mr Thomas - For its second reading.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should not be too quick in pointing his finger, because I have something more to add. When I asked the honorable member for Hume whether every member of the alliance was pledged to support this Bill he said "Yes." He added that they were pledged to vote for its second reading.


Mr McDonald - What is the honorable member's attitude upon it?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member will learn presently. The honorable member for Hume then proceeded to state, not only that the alliance was pledged to supoprt the second reading of the measure, but that, if its members could not obtain their way in Committee as regards the State control of the industry, they were pledged to vote for it in another form.


Mr Mahon - Is this in order, Mr. Speaker ? I hope that the honorable member will prove his statement that I am in favour of such a system.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When the honorable member for Hume made the statement to which I have referred, I interjected -

Does the statement of the honorable member refer to the whole of the alliance ?

I apprehend that the honorable member for Coolgardie is a member of the alliance. I have never heard him repudiate in this House the statement that he is. Sir William Lyne replied to my question in the affirmative, and went on to say -

If, however, they are defeated they are not to destroy the Bill, but are to assist in passing it in another form. Surely that constitutes a great advance ?

I should think it does constitute a great advance - for example, on the part of the honorable member for Coolgardie. Although we may regret the action of the Postmaster-General in conceding this preference - I have already freely expressed my opinion in regard to it - the honorable member who is prepared to vote away hundreds of thousands of pounds of the people's money by way of preference ought not to be so squeamish about a matter of £60. My honorable friend has also taken the free-trade members of the Government to task, and has denounced them as being ready to " 'vert " on the fiscal issue.


Mr Mahon - I shall also denounce them elsewhere.


Mr Reid - Terrible.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought that there was one honorable member on whom I should be able to rely - the honorable member who challenged me the other day to a free-trade propaganda.


Mr Mahon - I was anxious to find a free-trade leader ; that was my trouble.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wonder whether this is the honorable member who has placed in black and white his agreement to support -

Legislation, including Tariff legislation, shown to be necessary to develop Australian resources - and so on.


Mr Thomas - By Cabinet or by Parliament ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am dealing just now not with that point, but with the fact that the honorable member for Coolgardie denounced several honorable members for being prepared to " 'vert " on the fiscal question. He triumphantly pointed to the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister a day or two ago with reference to the export trade in fruit as a matter affecting Australia. All that I have to say as to the matter is that ever since I have understood anything about the principles of trade, it has been my one desire, having regard to the fact that we are at the antipodes of the markets of the world, to do everything in my power within the State to facilitate our exchanges with the other countries of the world. If that be protection, the honorable member may write me down as a protectionist. On the other hand, if this proposal to facilitate trade with other countries of the world-


Mr Watson - It is a good protectionist proposal.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is the very aim which we have in view in connexion with our fruidt and primary industries generally. If this be protection according to the honorable member for Coolgardie I am afraid that, as I have already said, he must write me down as a protectionist.


Mr Watson - I am afraid that the people will write down the honorable member as a Socialist if he goes on in this way.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am willing to be written down as a Socialist on those lines; but when I deal with Socialism and protection my view is entirely different from that of the honorable member. Had I been at the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon the other day-

Mrt SPEAKER. - Does the honorable member think that he is discussing the question before the Chair?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The whole question is one of preference, and I fail to see how we ca'n avoid branching off to the questions of State control, protection, and free-trade. However, I shall not further pursue this line of argument. I wish to reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Bland a few days ago, in which he drew a beautiful picture of socialistic schools and railways.


Mr Watson - What has that to do with the question?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member did not tell his audience that these institutions are buttressed by private capitalism, and are every day earning interest which has to be paid to private individuals who have lent us the money. I come back to the point-


Mr Watson - I should think so; that is a foolish statement.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a statement of fact. I shall refrain from dealing further with that branch of the question, solely for the reason that I should not be in order in doing so. When the honorable member talks about our asking that the fruit-growers of Australia shall be assisted to find markets for their produce as Socialism, he must be at a loss for an argument, more especially when he asserts that the giving of such assistance would be a species of protection, and denounces free-traders for being ready to " 'vert " to it. The honorable member, when next he sets out to cleanse the Augean Ministerial stables, should first take care to peruse the terms of the alliance. He did not attempt to clean out the Ministerial stables while he was in office. At all events, I never heard of his doing anything in that direction.


Mr Mahon - I never did any dirty work like that of which I complain, anyhow.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not dirty work. That is not the term to apply to it.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - The honorable member for Coolgardie is a good judge of that kind of thing.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - During his four months' occupancy of the office of PostmasterGeneral, I never heard of his reversing the rule of which he complains. I never heard of his writing a minute with the object of reversing it. He allowed the old system to continue. He took it up from his predecessor, and permitted it to be passed on to his successor in office.


Mr Mahon - But he did not give the preference.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; but the honorable member allowed tenders to be called while that rule of the Department remained in operation. It was his duty to obliterate that rule as soon as he had an opportunity to do so, if he was eager to put away the temptation to do such fiscal wrongs as he now denounces. But he did not do anything of the kind. He allowed the present Postmaster-General to fall into this fiscal trap with his connivance, and he now bitterly denounces him, and repudiates all that has been done. When next the honorable member sets out on a mission of this' kind, he should first take care to carefully peruse the terms of the alliance, which are in black and white, and which bind him to protection - he should look well at the decision of the alliance which binds him to support the giving of a bonus involving an expenditure of £340,000 of the public money. There may be honorable members of this House who might with the greatest propriety denounce the proposal of the Ministrv, but the honorable member for Coolgardie is not one of the number.







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