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Tuesday, 25 October 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) (Minister of External Affairs) . - The honorable and learned member for,. Indi has been perfectly sensible in the amount of the reduction which he has proposed, because I think it will more than cover the whole of the value of his present movement. The simple fact remains - and it is only too painfully known throughout the length and breadth of Australia - that the position of the Government was challenged recently while the notice of motion to which the honorable and learned member has referred was on the business paper. The Government were tried on that notice of motion, other proposals which were on the notice-paper, and the direct motion of no-confidence. A solid month was taken up in order to give honorable members a full opportunity to make up their minds on the subject, and the Government remained with the majority with which they started.

Mr Hutchison - They were condemned bv the only man who keeps them on the Treasury bench.

Mr REID - I should like my democratic friends opposite to stay for a little while, not their hunger, but their impatience, and to remember that they are great believers in majorities. "Majority rule" is a sacred principle with them, but they do not like to be bound by it when it prevents them from crossing the floor of the House; it then becomes an abomination to them. I do not wish to take up much time with the amendment. It. is, after all, only a squib, and, like the other squib which the honorable and learned member fired, it is quite stale and harmless. But I do invite the attention of the House and the country to the extraordinary method he has adopted for suppressing discussion upon the matter which he has submitted. I think that there is no freer or fuller opportunity, for honorable members to discuss matters of public importance than is afforded by the motion of my right honorable friend the Treasurer on this occasion. It gives absolute liberty to discuss every matter of public importance, and' the honorable and learned member for Indi, who has been in Parliament for a very long time, although, in spite of his great ability, he still occupies a secondary position, knows the rules probably as well as any of us do. He confesses to knowing that he had only to withdraw his notice of motion to-day in order not to free us, but to, free himself, from the slightest embarrassment in stating his complaint against the action of the Government. I do not expect any honorable member who is opposed to me to facilitate the business of the Government by withdrawing a motion which he has put on the businesspaper; but when he has a subject which he wishes to ventilate freely and honestly before the people of Australia. I expect him to remove an obstacle which it is entirely within his power to remove, so that honorable members generally may fully discuss it.

Mr Isaacs - That is too thin.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member is and always has been too slim, but slim as he may be-: -

Mr Isaacs - Oh !

Mr REID - Well, I cannot take him for an apostle yet. The honorable and learned member - I do not say in any large way, but within the range of his powers - is one of the most astute and clever men in the public life of this country in one respect, in his ability to remove, obstacles from his own path. On this occasion he had only one little obstacle in his path to prevent him from freely discussing this great national matter, as he puts it, and yet 'he has deliberately kept his notice of motion on the business-paper, so that he may not fully discuss his complaint against the Government. If he has the overwhelming current of the milk of human kindness in his nature, which we are all proud to see even in distinguished legal luminaries, one would have thought that this impulse of tenderness for starving industries would have led him to remove the obstacle which prevents him from telling us about them, and from making an appeal, not on account of this or that catchword in party politics, but on the honest merits of his case, the hardships which these industries are suffering. I suppose that whatever our fiscal faith may be, we have not become so entirely hardened that we can listen to genuine tales of hardship and distress in a callous spirit. The marvellous thing about this little, manufactured, tin-pot crisis in the corner is that, if there is any real human distress behind it, no one has had the courage to mention one of the suffering industries. If there are starving working men clamouring for relief, why has not some honorable member opposite had the courage to put his finger on the industry which is suffering?

Mr Isaacs - A partisan member?

Mr REID - I was going to say that the honorable and learned member is not a partisan, but I cannot honestly say that. May I suggest, however, that even if a member is a partisan, there is nothing to prevent him from telling us, in the interests of suffering humanity, about the industries which are being starved?

Mr Mauger - The iron industry has been mentioned.

Mr REID - I am not asking the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, I know, is full of suffering industries j I am asking the honorable and learned .member for Indi, whose heart has been distended almost to bursting for some weeks past, in fact, from the precise moment that I came into office. It is a marvellous thing that he sat like a dove on the ark during every Ministerial deluge, placidly nestling by the side of the Prime Minister of the day. Notwithstanding his acute intellect, he did not see any reason for differing from any man who might happen to be Prime Minister. For four years he acted like the joint of a tail in conformity with the wishes of the animal which wags it. But when some one came in who knows not Joseph-


Mr REID - When some one takes office who seems to be not quite in sympathy with the honorable and learned gentleman, politically - I am happy to say that we have never had any personal differences - from that very instant he is changed from the harmless acquiescent dove on the Ministerial hen-roost, to a sort of political ourang-outang, for whom there is no sort of rest anywhere, from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head. Everything is wrong. Everything calls for some enormous effort on the part of one gifted politician. He is the one man who will put everything right. A White Australia is in danger because I should like to see obstacles removed from the path of my fellow-men beyond the seas, in England, Ireland, and Scotland- our own kith and kin. That is regarded as an innovation, and dangerous to the principle of a White Australia.

Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear. We do not want slaves to be landed here.

Mr REID - Let me direct public attention to the jargon which a competent legal authority can employ under certain circumstances outside a court of justice. It appears that if a man happens to be under contract, he is a slave. That is the socialistic talk which this legal luminary is learning now. The honorable and learned member for Indi thinks that every man who is under a contract to earn wages is a slave. The honorable member for Bland has called such a man a chattel ; the honorable and learned member for Indi calls him a slave. I have always thought that the men of this country who were working under contract for wages are not slaves. If that is not so, there are large numbers of slaves in the trade unions of Australia.

Mr Isaacs - Does the right honorable gentleman think that that is a fair way to put it ?

Mr REID - Yes, on the question of a White Australia, it is fair enough. That is the only point I am on.

Mr Isaacs - Is the right honorable member against Factory and Arbitration Acts ?

Mr REID - I mention what the honorable and learned member has said only to show my intense disgust for one in his position. The traditions of persecution in all the lands of the earth ought to have burnt into his blood some sort of sympathy for men who are under unequal laws.

Mr Mahon - The right honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.

Sir William Lyne - That is very disgraceful.

Mr Isaacs - It is only the persecution by those who hold the tenets of the right honorable gentleman.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member seeks to apply my remarks to the colour line, which the party with which I was associated in New South Wales was the first to draw. When that colour line is made to apply against the white men of England, Ireland, and Scotland, I may be allowed to feel some degree of indignation. I may be wrong, 'but I wish my honorable and learned friend to remember the reasons for my indignation. That is the view which I wish to put strongly before him. I wish now to come to the honorable and learned member's notice of motion.

Mr Isaacs - The right honorable gentleman has not answered my point yet.

Mr REID - I wish to point out this simple fact: When it is desired that a Government should exercise the prerogative of the Crown by appointing a Royal Commission, as the matter is of considerable' importance, and necessarily under the most economic arrangements in a case of this sort means great expense, the rule is that the honorable member who seeks to put the prerogative in motion must lay a case before Parliament which will warrant the step being taken. The honorable and learned gentleman has not directly mentioned one Australian industry.

Mr Isaacs - The right honorable gentleman will not allow us to do so; he will not give us the opportunity.

Mr REID - When the honorable and learned gentleman shuts his own mouth-

Mr Isaacs - Oh!

Mr REID - Could any one but the honorable and learned member have withdrawn his notice of motion? Could any one but he himself have taken it off the'businesspaper? Furthermore, does not the honorable and learned member know, and has he not admitted, that he could himself have taken it off the business-paper ?

Mr Isaacs - Does not the right honorable gentleman admit, by his policy, more than we claim by ours ?

Mr REID - No, certainly not. I wish to answer the question in this way.

Mr Mahon - In the right honorable gentleman's own way.

Mr REID - I hope that my honorable friend will allow me that liberty.

Mr Hutchison - The right honorable gentleman will answer it in his usual way.

Mr REID - There are some persons too weak to smite. The honorable and learned member for Indi does not seem to recognise the difference between an inquiry such as he proposes, and a general inquiry into the working of the Tariff. An inquiry has been going on in some shape or other, but not in the complete way that it would be conducted by a Royal Commission, ever since the Tariff was established. The Treasurer, when he was formerly in office, was keeping up, as far as he co'uld, an inquiry into the working of the Tariff. An inquiry, whether by Royal Commission or by the Minister and the Department, is one of the ordinary experiences in connexion with a new Tariff at all times. Therefore, there is no novelty in that. I have not the slightest difficulty, neither have my colleagues, in connexion with that matter.

Mr Hughes - The Treasurer was shaping his inquiries with a view to discover the effect of the Tariff upon the finances.

Mr REID - I wish my honorable and learned friend would permit me to proceed without interruption. We have wasted one month, and I do not now wish to make serious inroads upon another. The honorable and learned member for Indi was commendably brief in his speech, and I desire to imitate him. I wish to point out that the inquiry he proposes is objectionable because he proposes to shut out suffering persons from coming before the Commission unless this House has selected as a subject for inquiry the industry which happens to include them.

Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - I say that there has never been a Royal Commission in the history of any country upon a subject like that of the' Tariff which has shut out any man who has a grievance from coming before it, ' and giving expression to his complaint. There is a radical difference between the two methods, which makes the honorable and learned member's proposal repugnant to every fair-minded man who wishes to do some good by appointing such a Commission. What would be the use of such a Commission, if persons having a number of grievances were actuallv debarred from coming before it? Suppose that the Commission sat during tha recess, and fifty men in different parts of Australia, who had grievances arising out of the Tariff, made their appearances before it, at the public expense, for the purpose of ventilating those grievances, and one after the other was told, "You are not on our list. A list has been handed to us by the wise men in Parliament wEo can foresee everything, and who know even every man in the Commonwealth who has a grievance. They, by virtue of their own parliamentary inspiration, have forecasted all grievances, and, unfortunately, you have been left out."

Mr Isaacs - That is not the whole of the proposal. If the right honorable gentleman reads my motion, he will see that that is provided for.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member proposes that a Commission shall be appointed to inquire and report as to the injurious effect produced by the Tariff upon certain Australian industries, which are to be soecifically referred to such Commission, after determination by this House.

Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear.

Mr REID - ls that not a wonderful way of inviting a dead-lock between the two Houses?

Mr Isaacs - How can there be a deadlock? Why the two Houses?

Mr REID - Will the honorable and learned member allow me to explain? He is as uneasy as an old lady upon receiving her first proposal. The motion provides that both Houses shall be represented in thepersonnel of the Commission. The honorable and learned member recognises that the two Houses have rights in connexion with the Tariff, that the Senate has the right to be consulted as to the persons who shall constitute the Commission, but when it comes to the matter of specifying the industries this House only is to have a voice. The motion refers in the first place to " a Royal Commission consisting of Members of Parliament selected by the respective Houses," but when it comes to the vital point as to the industries Avhich are to be specifically referred to such Commission, they are to be so referred " after determination by this House." I say that that in itself is enough to condemn the motion at once. I might have expected an honorable member new to the House, however intelligent and gifted-

Mr Isaacs - The right honorable gentleman is not discussing the motion.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member is very ready with his little legal points. . The brightest man, if he were new to the House, might slip into a mistake of this kind, but my honorable friend, who slept upon this matter for weeks before it was put on the business-paper, cannot be accused of carelessness. He introduces the very apple of discord between the two Houses - by recognising the right of the Senate to have a voice in the selection of the Commission, and, at the same time, providing that the scope of the Commission and the selection of the industries to be made the subject of inquiry shall be left to the determination of this House only. I am the first to recognise the power of this House in every sense, and I should never be one to curtail it. But with the fullest recognition of the powers of the House,

Ave must all be fully aware that certain acts are clearly within the sphere of the executive power as distinct from that of the legislative power, and one of these is the appointment of Commissions. Commissions are appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of its advisers. I recog nise that the House is fully competent to recommend the appointment of a Commission ; but what I should like first to point out is that if the members of the Commis-. sion are to be chosen by the two Houses, and if we are then to enter upon a debate as to the industries to be referred to it, we should probably be sitting here for fully three months after the beginning of next year fighting over our points of difference. We might gag a Commission, but we could not gag members of this House, who would be entitled to propose an inquiry into every line of the Tariff. If we once entered upon a debate as to the portions of the Tariff to be submitted to the Commission for inquiry, we shouldlaunch ourselves upon another general Tariff discussion. That would involve a great waste of time. My honorable and learned friend would not permit that if he could help it. He would like to bring up his little list and say - " That is my list, that settles it." He must remember, however, that other members have a perfect right to present their little lists, and that whilst he would probably remember all the industries about Melbourne, other honorable members, familiar with other parts of the Commonwealth, would want to bring in their industries. Therefore, by the time we had finished fighting about the Commission, we should have spent perhaps more time than would be ocupied in a general revision of the Tariff. I quite admit that, whatever method may be adopted, there are difficulties with regard to the appointment of a Commission of this kind; but I venture to say that a discussion such as must take place if the motion were carried would not be calculated to inspire public confidence in the Commission. I never knew of a case of this kind, but as a rule balloting is resorted to whenever such appointments are made by the House. Let us suppose that there was a ballot, and let us further suppose - as has been stated - that there are forty-one protectionists in this House and thirty-three revenue tariffists. The forty-one protectionists in a position to appoint every member of the Commission.

Mr Watson - Honorable members do not usually act in that way.

Mr REID - I should hope not. I am merely following, out the argument of my honorable and learned friend, who conjured up all sorts of absurdities. I am conjuring up something which is not an absurdity.

Mr Hughes - If honorable members did that sort of thing, they would defeat their own ends.

Mr REID - I should hope they would. That, however, is not a question of morals so much as it is one of retribution. After all, we merely represent the public in this matter. We must recognise that. We must all recognise that it is the public which must be satisfied first as to the impartiality of this Commission, and secondly as to its powers. If the public are not satisfied, all our labour will be in vain. When this Commission is constituted, we all hope that it will commence its inquiries under such conditions that all ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth wall say, " We are satisfied that the men who have been chosen will address themselves to this task in a fair and impartial way." If, on the other hand, we make it a political fight to the death as to who shall be appointed to that Commission, we shall begin badly. I should like to say that, in my opinion, half the value of this inquiry will arise from the fact that no member who has been fighting the fiscal question in this House will be upon that tribunal.

Mr Poynton - That is utter rubbish.

Mr REID - If honorable members wish to put advocates, instead of investigators, upon the bench, I should be perfectly willing to allow two of our most red-hot freetraders to sit with two ted-hot protectionists.

Mr Webster - Where would the labourites come in ?

Mr REID - The labourite is only a human being after all. There is no special brand of humanity about him. Moreover, there are both free-trade and protectionist members of the Labour Party - at least, I believe there are some of them left.

Mr Hughes - I understand there were some.

Mr REID - I will just illustrate what I mean in this connexion. Let us suppose that, as the result of a ballot in the House consisting of fortyone protectionists and thirty-three revenue tariffists, we appoint to the proposed Commission the honorable member for Hume, as its president, the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable and learned member for Corio.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. I would draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that he is now debating the constitution of a Commission which may be appointed under a resolution of this House.

Mr REID - That is so. But I wish to point out who is responsible for that difficulty.

Mr Isaacs - It is the Prime Minister himself.

Mr REID - Only one honorable member is responsible for it, and that is the gentleman who is compelling us to deal with this matter with that clog upon our freedom of discussion. The honorable and learned member for Indi must recollect that the Government are not here merely to obey his commands. We owe him no allegiance, and if we differ from his methods, whilst approving of his main object - and there is no dispute upon the main question as to the desirableness of appointing a Commission of Inquiry-

Mr Webster - But we are concerned with its effectiveness.

Mr REID - That is a fair matter for discussion. My idea was that this question should be threshed out in a friendly way - a,s it could have been in this Committee - that I should listen to the suggestions of honorable members from every part of the House, and suspend Ministerial action until we could be helped by the advice which we could obtain in a friendly discussion across the Chamber. But as the leader of the House - since we are bound to have a Budget debate -I was specially charged with conserving the public time. Consequently, I wished to adopt a course which would facilitate free discussion without raising any party considerations whatever. My honorable and learned friend knows that as the Government were opposed to his methods, if we had had a discussion upon his motion, that discussion must have assumed a party complexion, because we should have been at issue. But in this Committee honorable members are not tied as they are in ordinary party conflicts, and it must be recollected that it was possible for him to remove his motion from the notice-paper, because he could have restored it at any moment. By removing it from the businesspaper he could not have placed himself in any worse position than he now occupies. We should then have been able, without the introduction of any party bitterness, to enter into a friendly discussion with a view to arriving at a ground of common agreement, and if we could have achieved that object, surely it would have been a better settlement of this vexed question. Surely the public would prefer that we should settle important matters affecting them free from party attacks. The course which I desired to follow would have landed us in a friendly discussion, and not in a party fight.

Sir William Lyne - How can the discussion of the fiscal question be anything but a party fight? The Prime Minister is talking nonsense.

Mr REID - Surely the appointment of a Royal Commission - a proposal to get a judicial investigation into the grievances of the public - ought not to be a party fight? Cannot we put aside our party fights to gain that end? It is a most degrading view of the duties of a Royal Commission upon a great subject of national importance, to insist upon giving that body a party complexion'.

Sir William Lyne - Do not come that humbug with me. It is the purest humbug.

Mr REID - The honorable member cannot rise above wallowing in the filth of party strife.

Sir William Lyne - It is the Prime Minister's filthy humbug. That is what it is. He is always wallowing in it.


Mr REID - The honorable member had better not do that, because I do not w;ish to advertise the vulgarity of the honorable member for Hume.

Sir William Lyne - The Prime Minister has advertised his own vulgarity in this House many times.

The CHAIRMAN - Order.

Mr REID - The honorable member wishes to enjoy a monopoly in the matteI of making offensive .statements. Surely after his outburst here, not long ago, I may be allowed to differ from him mildly upon a matter of public importance.

Sir William Lyne - I have never had anything struck out of Hansard.

Mr REID - I hope that we can get on with the transaction of public business. No doubt the honorable member has sustained a keen disappointment, but we must all learn to conquer the feelings which arise out of such reverses. Whatever side of the House honorable members may sit upon, I am anxious that we shall address ourselves earnestly to the transaction of public business. I desire to remind the House of the history of this question to some extent. When the Tariff was being framed, were we not told that the duties which were then fixed, would lead to the ruin of many industries ? Was not the Com.mittee deliberately informed from this table by the Ministers who were in charge of the Tariff, that if it reduced this item, or that, to the extent that it desired, it would ruin certain industries? In spite of those statements of risk the House, in its wisdom - because we must remember that the majority decided-

Mr Tudor - But this is a new House.

Mr REID - I shall come to that position presently. I am dealing now with the attitude taken up by the last Parliament. The Committee of this House, in its wisdom, fixed certain duties, and then a new complication was introduced by the action of the Senate. Honorable members will recollect that after we had reduced the duties suggested by the protectionists, another place came on the scene and still further reduced them. Let me take, by way of illustration, the item of machinery, as it has been mentioned in this House, in some unofficial way, that those engaged in the manufacture of machinery are being subjected to great suffering. We decided that there should be a duty of 15 per cent, on this item, but another place insisted that it should be lowered to 10 per cent., and at last a duty of 12^ per cent, was fixed by way of compromise. That was done with the statement before us that a reduction of the duties would injuriously affect certain industries. I believe that the duty on machinery under the Victorian Tariff was 25 per cent., and no one needs to be told that, at all events, from the point of view of the protectionists, the reduction of the duty by one-half would not appear to be calculated to help the industry. From their stand-point, it would be a serious blow.

Mr Webster - Who were the assassins?

Mr REID - The honorable member will have an opportunity to follow me ; I wish to speak only for myself. I would point out that with all these statements before us the two Houses of the last Parliament fixed the Tariff as it stands to-day. But this is only a preliminary. What is the next point? The then Government might have gone to the electors of Australia and have said, " We accept the challenge which the leader of the Opposition has thrown out, for we consider that the duties fixed by the Federal Tariff are ruinous Even at the date of the last genial election the Tariff was said to be doing great injury to some industries, and the Government of the day might have come forward and said to the people, " The leader of the Opposition is right. We must at once fight out this question, in order to enable the protectionist power of Australia to register its majority and remedy these hardships." They might have adopted that course, but neither they nor their supporters did so. It was open to their supporters to go to the electors and say, " We differ altogether from the policy of the Government. We say that Mr. Reid is right. We must fight out this question." But, instead of doing so, they 'followed the Ministerial policy with absolutely slavish submission.

Mr Webster - They wanted a rest.

Mr REID - The honorable member ought to speak for himself. He was not then a member of the Parliament.

Mr Webster - But I was alive.

Mr REID - The honorable member is merely wasting time in speaking of what others then desired. The point is that the white flag of truce, instead of the flag of war, was elevated by the Ministry of the day, and that all these honorable members walked beneath the white flag as soldiers in the train of their commander-in-chief. What is the complexion which this legal luminary, the honorable and learned member for Indi, places upon that action? The electors of the Commonwealth having heard the leaders of both parties, said, " We think the Deakin Government are right. We shall not fight this question out." Under that settlement, free-traders could vote for the supporters of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat time after .time ; and as a matter of fact five honorable members who belonged to my party supported the Deakin Government on that point.

Mr Watson - Where did the freetraders do that? In Victoria?

Mr REID - I am speaking of five honorable members of ray party who represent Victorian constituencies. Victoria is still in the Commonwealth, and five honorable members make a big difference nowadays. These honorable members, although revenue tariffists and supporters of my own, sitting on my side of the House, followed the protectionist leader on that point, and said, " We agree with. Mr. Deakin, and not with Mr. Reid, that we should have some fiscal peace."

Mr Watson - One of the five honorable members in question is a protectionist. I allude to Mr. Wilson, who now represents Corangamite.

Mr REID - Then I shall say that four members of my party - and that is double my present majority - took up that position. Four revenue tariffists walked under the banner of the protectionist leader so far as the question of fiscal truce is concerned.

Mr Mauger - We fought the men the honorable member mentions.

Mr REID - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports revealed his view of this strategy on the part of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. He applauded it because if the honorable and learned member supported a revision of the Tariff, with a view to the imposition of higher 'duties, he would have been defeated.

Mr Mauger - We fought the honorable members to whom the right honorable gentleman has referred.

Mr REID - I do not care about that. I know that the honorable member fights only those whom he cannot help fighting.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - We all do that.

Mr REID - Yes ; but some do it to a greater extent than do others. However, that was the issue put to the electors, and they said, " We accept the invitation of the leader of the Protectionist Party. We shall suspend our final judgment in regard to the fiscal fight, and return men to take no part in that fight during the life of the new Parliament." The honorable and learned member for Indi, however, says that the verdict on that issue was that the flag of protection floated triumphantly all over Australia. He forgets the other flag which was hoisted beside it - the flag of a fiscal truce. We must not have any of these Boer tactics here. The flag of protection might have been raised by itself, but it was not ; the flag of protection was elevated with the white flag of fiscal truce.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - And the right honorable gentleman fired on it.

Mr REID - No; I appealed to the electors of Australia to haul down the white flag. They did not do so, and now that they have left it up I am going to respect it, and to see that every one else respects it.

Sir William Lyne - The right honorable gentleman will do a lot.

Mr Mauger - For how long is the right honorable member going to respect it?

Mr REID - As long as I have any power in this House. I have no sort of trouble with honorable (members who honorably recollect their pledges to their constituents; I have no trouble with honorable members who are prepared to respect their pledges and the policy which they submitted to the electors. Even the present leader of the Opposition practically said at the general election, and again after our return to this House, " What a blessing it is that this fiscal question is to be out of the road for this Parliament !"

Mr Johnson - He said that on the 12th August.

Mr REID - That was later still. In March last the honorable member for Bland rejoiced in the fact that this thorn in the path of himself and many of his friends had been plucked out of the foot of the Labour Party, at all events during the life of one Parliament. He said, in effect, "We may now transact matters of high national concern, free from this fiscal strife."

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - But the honorable and learned member for Indi does not accept that.

M.r. REID. - He would accept anything as long as he was not asked to put his acceptance of it into writing. He enjoys the advantage of the men who did not write anything on this question. He gained one advantage by holding his tongue when others spoke on this matter. If, when the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the leader of the Labour Party, at the beginning of this Parliament, stood up and registered the decision of the electors, stating that their verdict was that the Tariff should not be re-opened during this Parliament, the honorable and learned member for Indi had shown a gleam of independence, by rising and saying - " I differ from these honorable and responsible leaders, I say that there is no fiscal truce, I say that that is not the verdict of the electors," his position would be very different from what it is to-day. The man who, as a responsible representative of the people, hears such a statement made by responsible leaders, and remains silent, is either assenting to their statement, or is lying low.

Mr Isaacs - I would not make a statement one week, and contradict it the next.

Mr REID -I do not know that; it would depend exactly on the honorable and learned member's brief.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Personalities again !

Mr Isaacs - I do not at all complain.

Mr REID - That remark arose out of the irritation of retort, and I must beg my honorable and learned friend's pardon. I am very sorry I made a remark of that kind in the heat of the moment, because I know the complexion that could be placed upon it. What I am in earnest about is that if the honorable and learned member then took the view he now takes as to the verdict of the electors, he owed it to the House and the country to contradict the statements made by the two honorable members I have mentioned and myself. I joined in the admission, recognising that I must bow to the verdict of the constituencies. Those statements were made by the three leaders of the House, and were never questioned by one honorable member in the corner. It is only now that the present Government have come into office that there is this sudden feverish desire to re-open the fiscal question.

Mr Isaacs - This is the first Government who have been opposed to protectionist views.

Mr REID - What were those other Governments doing?

Mr Isaacs - They were not free-trade Governments.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member now says that the other Governments were not opposed to protection. If there were a number of industries in dire distress, and workmen out of employment month after month, does not the honorable and learned member think that, while those other Governments were in power, he might have risen in his place and called the attention of the House and the country to the sufferings of those unhappy men.

Mr Mauger -That was done.

Mr REID - The honorable member certainly on one occasion drew attention to the unemployed.

Mr Mauger - I drew attention to the working of the Tariff, and moved the adjournment of the House in order 'to do so.

Mr REID - I am now speaking of the honorable and learned member for Indi, who at that time stood for himself- he was not associated specially with those honorable members who are now his followers.

Mr McCay - The honorable member for Bourke moved his resolution only after there had been some difficulty.

Mr REID - I do not want to enter into any controversy with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports or the honorable member for Bourke.

Mr Isaacs - I have had a motion on the notice-paper for a long time.

Mr REID - The honorable and learned member for Indi could sit in this House without allowing the sufferings in those distressed industries to stir him to the extent of asking a question.

Mr Isaacs - They were getting worse.

Mr REID - Do 'not let the honorable and learned member say that the distress occurred exactly on the 17th August - do not let him stretch public credulity so far ! This human misery and starvation had, it appears, to get worse before the honorable and learned member would rise in his place and ask a gentle question of his friends. He did not ask the late Prime Minister - who is his friend - to be good enough to take the distress of the artisans into consideration, and see what could be done. The honorable and learned member did not even take the physical trouble to stand up and ask a question of that kind, but sat nestling i'i the Ministerial dovecot as if everything was going on well.

Mr Isaacs - I was sitting on the Opposition side for many months.

Mr REID - Exactly; but the honorable and learned member was voting the other way all the time - he was the biggest " yesno " in that respect I have ever known. When I' am in Opposition, I do not want a friend who is always " building bridges " for the other side.

Mr Mahon - That is the Prime Minister's trouble ?

Mr REID - I have no trouble at the present time.

Mr Watson - Where is the honorable member for Wilmot?

Mr REID - My honorable friends opposite have courage now to say a word or two about the honorable member for' Wilmot. How sleek and mild and docile were my honorable friends opposite to the honorable member for Wilmot until they found they could not get his vote.

Mr Watson - We did not dance attendance on the honorable member for Wilmot.

Mr REID - A word against the honorable member for Wilmot and those raging agitators opposite-

Honorable Members. - Oh !

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