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Wednesday, 12 May 1915

Mr WATT (Balaclava) .- I understand, from the very brief explanation of the Treasurer, that this is a Supply Bill to enable him to meet the midmonthly payments, and that the Supply will stretch to the 31st May.

Mr Fisher - Yes.

Mr WATT - If we vote this Supply, we shall have afterwards to vote Supply for one more month before the close of the year. There is, however, one question I would like to deal with at once. I do not know whether I would consult the convenience of the Treasurer in dealing with it now, or in discussing it later on the Bill.

Mr Fisher - I would prefer the discussion to take place now.

Mr WATT - The question deals with the recrudescence of the Deakin-Mahon controversy. I do not know whether the Minister of External Affairs is interested in vindicating his character before an outraged public.

Mr Fisher - He is not at all well; but if you want to raise the question, take your own course.

Mr WATT - I should think that the Minister of External Affairs would not be well after what he has been doing lately. He has certainly not been well mentally or politically; but I am sorry to hear that physically he is unwell. I considered - pending his arrival in the Chamber - that the old trouble, which arose before the departure of Mr. Deakin to San Francisco, should have been ventilated in the House. It was only out of consideration for the feelings of the exPrime Minister that a number of honorable members on this side did not proceed to lay bare the secret history of that struggle. We were all hopeful that as the Cabinet had turned down the Minister of External Affairs, and had seen things with a larger gaze, we would not have had any attempt at vindictive treatment by the Minister of External Affairs of the late honorable member for Ballarat, once the leader of a Government in this country.

Mr Fisher - There is no evidence of it.

Mr WATT - The right honorable gentleman means in the recent case?

Mr Fisher - So far as I can see.

Mr WATT - I am sure that the right honorable gentleman cannot say that there was no evidence of it in the earlier case.

Mr Fisher - I speak of what I know.

Mr WATT - If the right honorable gentleman speaks of what he knows, has read the correspondence of which the Government have made a parliamentary paper, and circulated, and agrees with the tactics of the Minister in relation to the criticism of Mr. Deakin prior to his departure for San Francisco, then, like the peace of God, he passes understanding. I have read the correspondence.

Mr Fisher - I have not.

Mr WATT - I think that Mr. Deakin showed that he was not the man he used to be.

Mr McGrath - The Prime Minister was in New Zealand while the correspondence was proceeding.

Mr WATT - I thought that in all probability the right honorable gentleman would take the correspondence as a bit of comic reading to lighten his sleepless hours.

Mr Mahon - It evidently disagrees with you.

Mr WATT - I am sorry that the correspondence was made a public document, because it portrays the Minister of External Affairs in the worst possible attitude before the public of Australia. It shows him to be a small, bitter, narrow, prejudiced, revengeful man, against a big, broad man, whose shoe latchets he is not worthy to unloose. I hope that the honorable member will not mind me making these gentle remarks across the table. Some of us did not suspect that he would be guilty of this conduct. We thought that he would prove worthy of his position, having leaped twice into the shoes of a dead man. But, instead of that, as soon as he gained power he took a hold of this fallen giant, this stricken man, who for the third of a century had served this country, and whose name is honoured throughout its length and breadth, and endeavoured to humiliate him in a way quite unparalleled, thank God! in the history of Australia. I did not intend to refer to that matter, because I was hopeful that the Government would have been sufficiently ashamed of their conduct after the disgraceful episode to which I refer, and that it would not be repeated. They showed their worth at that particular time by turning the Minister of External Affairs down in the Cabinet.

Mr Mahon - How do you know that?

Mr WATT - The Cabinet marked their disapproval of the Minister's pennyaline journalism at the expense of an ex-Prime Minister. His colleagues said, "Look here, Mahon, you have made a fool of yourself. Deakin must represent Australia," and Mahon was quietly turned down in the Cabinet in that way. Mahon did not resign.

Mr Mahon - A high-minded man like you would resign.

Mr WATT - Even the Austrian Minister of War, at that particular time, who had a collision with his sovereign, resigned, but Mahon did not. Any man with a degree of self-respect, having been turned over by his colleagues, would undoubtedly have left the Cabinet.

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