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Thursday, 27 October 1904


Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I wish to deal with a matter arising out of certain remarks made by me in the course of the debate on the motion of censure which recently engaged the attention of the House. On that occasion I made a quotation from a newspaper report of an address by Mr. Stinson, the president of the People's Reform League, and it is to that matter that I desire specially to refer. During my visit to Sydney last week I met Mr. Stinson, and since my return to Melbourne have received a communication from him bearing upon this subject. I gathered as the result of my conversation with him that, whilst he did not take exception, on the score of want of accuracy, to the quotation in question, he considered that it might be misconstrued, and as I do not wish it to be said that any portion of my remarks were unfair or unwarranted, I take this opportunity to place before the House the full facts in relation to the matter. The remarks in question dealt with the opposition to the Labour Party on the ground that they are socialistically inclined, andin this connexion I was referring, not to the Reform League, but to a new association which is being largely supported by the Prime Minister and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and is known as the Farmers', Property Owners', and Producers' Association. The first plank of the platform of that Association provides for the complete sinking of the fiscal issue, which divides the free-traders and protectionists, making the battle-cry in the future opposition to Socialism, and particularly to the Labour Party. I should like to read the official report of my remarks, which is to be found on pages 5 191 and 5192 of Hansard. They were as follows : -

The combination is known as the Farmers', Property Owners', and Producers' Association of Victoria, and its first plank is that in all elections, whether Federal or State, where a Socialist candidate nominates, members of the association must sink all political differences and steadily support candidates to be selected by the association in opposition to the Socialists.


Mr Tudor - They must be an anti-labour organization.


Mr BROWN - That is just what it means. The other day a paper was readby Mr. Stinson, the chairman or leader of the People's Reform League of New South Wales, and in the newspaper report there occurred the following : -

Mr. Stinson, in the course of his papers, said the alleged decadence in the tone of our public life, and. in the calibre of our public men, is attributed to a number of causes - the payment of members, manhood suffrage, and apathy and indifference on the part of the electors, being amongst the principal."

If that indicates the stand-point of those who are fighting the Labour Party - if we are to take that as indicating the true lines of reform, and as denoting n better standard in political life, according to these gentlemen - thefirst object is to get rid of manhood suffrage, payment' of members, and similar reforms which have been brought about since the Labour Party found a place in political life.

Mr. Stinsonhas supplied me with a copy of his paper containing the quotation in question, and from its perusal I find that his purpose was the advocacy of the better education of the electors and the improved equipment of his organization to that end. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I shall read a letter which I have received from him on the subject - 28 Castlereagh-street,

Sydney, 17th October, 1904.

Dear Mr. Brown,

In the Federal Hansard, No. 2S, page 5192, when speaking on the want of confidence motion on the 4th inst., you referred to a newspaper report of a paper read by me. You apparently wished to illustrate the attitude of those who are lighting, the Labour Party, and for this purpose used the following : - " Mr. Stinson, in the course of his papers said the alleged decadence in the tone of our public life, and in the calibre of our public men, is attributed to a number of causes - the payment of members, manhood suffrage, and apathy and indifference on the part of the electors, being amongst the principal."

And you argue from this that the first object of the Reform Party is " to get rid of manhood suffrage, payment of members, and similar reforms which have been brought about since the Labour Party found a place in political life."

Now, however I may differ from your point of view in politics, I have always given you credit for being perfectly honest in the views you hold, as well as being honest in your defence or advocacy of them, as the case may be. I do not know what newspaper report you quoted from, but if you had quoted the whole sentence instead of a portion, you could not possibly have put upon it the construction you did. Let me supply the balance omitted by you, following on the word " principal," where you left off - "And whilst probably all these causes contribute in part to the general result, the primary cause is, in my opinion, the lack of information and of a knowledge of theprinciples of government on the part of the electors themselves."

My whole paper was in advocacy of a wider education for the people, not for a curtailment of their rights or privileges. For your fuller information, I send a copy of the paper, of which I invite your perusal.

In justice to the People's Reform League (as president of which I read the paper), I think you will see the propriety of publicly and suitably acknowledging the false impression your quotation would be likely fo convey.

I am, yours faithfully, (Sgd.) John Stinson.

I think that if Mr. Stinson looks carefully at the Hansard report, he will see that my reference was more particularly to the new Victorian Association than to his association; but, as it is possible that views antagonistic to manhood suffrage may be attributed to the People's Reform League, I take this opportunity to make their position clear, particularly as I gathered from my conversation with Mr. Stinson that neither he nor his league are opposed to the democratic principles in question, and do not wish to be associated with those who are.







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