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Thursday, 29 April 1915

Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- Just a few words by way of benediction. My friend, the Attorney-General, did me the honour to say a few words about me, and to refer to my marvellous imagination. What envy! What jealousy I Never was Ananias more envious of Sapphira than is the Attorney-General of the honorable member for Bourke. What is the qualification of the AttorneyGeneral, if it is not his fertile imagination? What is it but his imagination that makes him grasp at the air? The honorable gentleman accuses me, not of stating facts, but of talking fiction, apparently envious of any one who may excel him. in this regard. Can the honorable gentleman not at least admire a competitor in the art of fiction?

Mr Hughes - Let us get on with the business.

Mr ANSTEY - Let me say only a few kind words. Other honorable members have spoken severely about me, but never, in my most despondent moments, did I think that one such word would come from the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman in the course of his remarks said that he had not dwelt or touched on the subject of the war; but, as a matter of fact, he did.

Mr Hughes - I dealt with the Bill.

Mr ANSTEY - So did I. I dealt with the powers that are contained in the Bill. The honorable member for Flinders asked the Attorney-General what powers were given by the measure; and I tried to show how far those powers are instrumentalities for the realization of the principles for which our movement stands. The Attorney-General talked of the Sansculottes, for whom Christ spoke.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member would have spoken in the same way about representative government, religion, morality, or anything else.

Mr ANSTEY - Do not let us talk of morality - in politics. It has been said that in politics there are no morals and no principles, but only expediency; and those of us who lead the life well know that.

Mr Watt - You are opening the door to the charnel-house now!

Mr ANSTEY - It is well for us that sometimes we should open the door. The Attorney-General talked of the Sansculottes; but why did we come here if not to speak for the Sansculottes ? Who constitute the nations of the world if it is not the Sansculottes ? The AttorneyGeneral was kind enough to remind honorable members, the ladies and gentlemen in the audience, the press, and the country generally, that the honorable member for Bourke had, at the beginning of the war, said something about the Belgian Fund, the inference, of course, being that that honorable member is less English and less patriotic and less a lover of his race than is the Attorney-General.

Mr Hughes - I never said any of these things. That is all your-

Mr ANSTEY - Imagination, I suppose. Do not let envy run away with you. I am saying all this to the AttorneyGeneral in a kindly spirit.

Mr Hughes - You take a worm and make a sea-serpent out of it.

Mr ANSTEY - We have both done it. Wherein lies the honorable gentleman's excellence if not in his capacity to do that very thing? My honorable friend was pleased to remind the country and my friends on this side - and especially those friends of mine on the other side who have on occasions fought against me - that on one occasion I spoke against the grant of £100,000 to the Belgians. I deplore the miseries of the Belgians. I recognise the struggle they have put up, but I based my objection to the grant on the ground that if any Parliament governed by a Labour party could vote £100,000 to the miserables of Belgium they could at least grant something to relieve the desolation in their awn midst. Those are the grounds upon which I stood, and upon those grounds I still stand, and I have no need to retreat from them. Then my honorable friend talks of the greatness of the war, the misery and desolation it has caused, and the duty devolving upon us to maintain civil liberty. He says that if the enemy conquers civil liberty will disappear. Is civil liberty to be maintained in a community by a measure of this kind ? Do we preserve civil liberty by providing ourselves with weapons against it? Do we further the cause of civil liberty by destroying it at the very beginning of the struggle? There is no necessity whatever to destroy one iota of the civil liberties which have been secured in Australia to-day in order to preserve our race. Will the honorable member allow me to remind him that Disraeli, in the forties, wrote a book designated The Two Nations, which afterwards became the foundation of the dissemination of the Socialistic doctrine in nearly every part of the world? He laid it down that every country that existed Under one flag was not one nationality, but twothe oppressors on the one hand, and the oppressed on the other. Let me ask my honorable friend, who is an exponent of the principles of the Labour party, for what does our party stand if it is not for the acquisition of civil and religious and political liberty, and the preservation of the rights of the great mass of the working classes, and the instrumentalities by which the great bulk of the community have risen out of the dens and caves of savagery to their present standard ? These things have been secured, not by wars upon men of other nationali ties, but by depriving of acquired rights and exclusive privileges some minority of men within our own nation. Prom what sprang the civil liberties of the British race; upon which we pride ourselves? They are not inherent in the race; they are not the; exclusive property of the British people; they do not belong to us and attach to us exclusively, nor did they grow up with us. They were born in the very blood and fibre, and were secured by the unselfish sacrifices of the great proletariat of the world. England has been made great by the struggles of the masses of the poor and obscure. It is they who have made her glorious in political, religious, and civil liberty. Against whom have the English working classes warred 1 It has not been against the Germans or against conquerors of foreign extraction, but against tyrants of their own race and creed. We have risen superior to the tyrannies of the past by slow and agonizing steps, by sacrifices, by tragedies on the gallows and in the dungeons of our country ; and those members of the British race who left their country because they were not prepared to barter their principles and their political rights have helped to make the British Empire the pride and glory of the world. Yet we talk of civil liberty as if it were a mere birthright inherited by us. The British race has been made great by those who suffered upon her gallows, who are buried in nameless graves, by that glorious and unnumbered army of the dead and forgotten, who fought first for religious liberty, and secondly for political liberty and the rights of the nation. From this mighty army of the unnumbered dead have come the great traditions which have made our nation what it is. Are we to sacrifice these glories, these liberties, and these traditions, when we can turn round and say to-day that under our flag there are monsters who call themselves Britishers, who enjoy civil and religious protection under the flag, and who yet, while men are drawn from th© mine, the mill, and the factory to go forth to battle and die upon the fields of Belgium and of France to uphold the glory of the Empire, are making profits out of the necessities of their fellow men? Do you believe that?

Mr Hughes - They ought to be shot.

Mr ANSTEY - So I say. Then why do we not do it?

Mr Hughes - Ought they to be shot by the slow and agonizing process of civil law?

Mr ANSTEY - No; but the honorable gentleman has no intention of shooting them. If there was any wholeheartedness, any " guts " in the Government to do it, I could support them; but they have no intention of doing it. The war has proceeded for nine months. Some of us have brothers there, some have left their wives and children in the slums of London, some are lying in unknown graves, all are offering up their blood and treasure for the glory and honour of the Empire, and the conditions which exist in London exist here, hut for nine months not one step has been taken here to remedy them. I will affirm to-night that whether the war lasts another three months or another three years, we who call ourselves a Labour party and a Labour Government, who are here by the will of the people, put here by the efforts of workingclass men, we who were once working men ourselves, we who have risen to it, will not be prepared to take our chance and our risk by using the power that has come into our hands. Once to every man, once to every nation, comes the great chance to take a risk ; once to every movement only comes this chance. That chance is now here for us, and we dare not take it, because we claim to be too respectable. We do not claim the adherence of the other side; we do not look for their support. They are honest in their convictions; they believe in upholding the existing social order; they do not want to transform it. But for what do we live? How have we grown ? We see the system under which we live condemning the great bulk of humanity to be mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. We said that once the working classes secured the power they would use it for the elevation of the great masses of the people. Yet here we, with the chance that comes only once in the whole history of the world, and that, if not taken, will disappear for ever, are not prepared to seize it. What has the Labour movement produced? Nothing. It has produced here a class of us who are drawing our salaries and are not prepared to utilize the instrumentalities of human government that we possess in order to push forward the common cause. What are we doing to protect the people against a rise in prices?

What will we do, as the honorable member for Wannon asked, to help the farmers who have had to shoot their horses and cattle because others have raised the price of fodder ? What are we doing under this Bill, in which we take the power to suppress the rights of every individual in the community, to take any civilian and order him before a court martial? We are not prepared to use our power to regulate the prices of which we have talked so much. Let us own and acknowledge that it is all one gigantic hypocrisy; and when we talk of civil rights and the shedding of blood, I will say once more, as I said at the beginning, as one who honours and glories in the men who offer up their lives in the forefront of battle, that at least it becomes our duty .and obligation to live up to our principles. I have had a week or two of this game on one subject and another, and probably this is the last that honorable members will hear of me for some time. I support the amendment, and whatever may be the result I take this opportunity, as a man growing up in years, exposed to the chances of wind and tide, to give expression to my honest convictions.

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