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Wednesday, 6 February 1929


Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- If it is true that the widow and family of the late Mr. Andrew Fisher are in need, I am sure the House will unanimously agree to make some provision so that the rest of their lives may be spent iri comfort. We very often say kind words of the dead, and, perhaps, to return in spirit and hear kind words said that were never heard during one's life is. one of the pleasures and consolations of being deceased. Yet I remember many years ago the honorable member for Ballarat and myself hearing a conversation in the gardens of Parliament House, when a certain gentleman, speaking of the late Mr. Fisher, said: "What can one do with him? Of course, he is honest, sincere and upright, but his brain is of the smallest, and his conceit immense." He did great work for his party. An outstanding characteristic was a grave and dignified appearance, which is a great asset. I should like to possess it myself. He had honesty of purpose; I would like that, too. I can admire in others what I do not possess myself, as I do when I look upon the gentlemen who sit upon the Government benches. They have assets which I do not possess.

I have before me a few notes to remind me of the difficulties against which the late Mr. Fisher and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had to fight. It has been said that he was an honest and upright man, with clear and definite principles, who worked for the good of the country, which time has verified; but others have said of him, as of the right honorable member for North Sydney, that he "waa a tergiversator; was a mountebank; a teetotum, a thing spun upon the fingers of the caucus. Of the late Mr. Fisher it was said that, "If he be as honest as his followers believe, it is clear that he is a very crude and a very ignorant man, who without knowing it promises things impossible of performance." But the things he performed were of great value to this country. The right honorable member for North Sydney has already referred to what he did in connexion with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. That is only one of his achievements.

In 1910, when the late Mr. Fisher was in office, one great newspaper said: " On three points - the proposed land tax, note issue, and banking scheme - the Labour party stands condemned in the mind of every reasonable thinking man." Yet it was these things that were established and which are at this hour monuments of his great work in this country. They have stood through all the years, and even our political opponents have not dared to interfere with them. It is true, as the right honorable member for North Sydney has said with regard to the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, that this country was the only part of the English speaking world that was able to keep its banking institutions open at the outbreak of war. The Commonwealth Bank was the only financial institution in Australia that did not close its doors. Even the Bank of England closed its doors in order that it might make the necessary financial arrangements to prepare the way in a great national crisis, and bring into existence a national note issue which this party had established years before for the purpose of peaceful production, and not for destruction. It was said at the time that the Labour party leaders were weak, pusillanimous men; that they were the victims of foreign doctrines. That is not a quotation of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) speaking to-day. It was also said that the Labour party leaders were the political jumping jacks of revolutionary wirepullers in the background. At the same time it was said that, if the Labour party won at the elections, religion and home life would be destroyed, marriage defiled, the country left defenceless, industries ruined, and iniquity and depravity would prevail. The late Mr. Deakin said in 1910- "If the Labour party succeeds under Andrew Fisher, then God help Australia! All I ask for is time to get out of it." Yet the Labour party won that election, and the policy which we put into effect contained measures which have since remained impregnable. The party remained three years in office, and then attacks were made on Mr. Fisher on the ground that he was crude and ignorant, and unfit to represent this country as Prime Minister. It was stated that Labour, in its term of office, had abused every democratic principle. To-day the same persons say that Labour, in 1913, was an honest and decent party. One might think that they were talking about Mr. Bruce. On May 26th, 1913, it was stated -

There is never any talk of loyalty, duty or efficiency to be heard from Labour platforms.

The Labour Government was defeated in the House by one vote, but we came back again with a large majority, which we retained until during the war, when the party was split. On May 30th, 1913, the day before the elections, this statement appeared -

Labour is unworthy of public confidence.

That was after it had been in office for three years, and had been responsible for much beneficial legislation which remains in force to the present day. The statement continues -

Its domestic administration is a travesty of democratic government.

This is not Mr. Bruce speaking. It was said long before he came on the map. It was said while he was an Englishman and before he became an Australian. The statement proceeds -

Labour has in the past stood for many great ideals.

It always has stood for many great ideals, out, according to its opponents, always in the past. They say now that Labour iu the past stood for fine ideals, but that was when somebody else was leading it. They now say that the party stood for great ideals when Mr. Hughes was there, and when Mr. Andrew Fisher was there, but at the time they said that the party, was against every democratic principle. In 1913 it was stated -

The Labour party stands for those evils most peculiarly offensive to enlightened patriotism. Every man and woman in the Commonwealth who desires Australia to remain a free country, and desires to remain a free citizen, must vote Labour out of office.

Well, they did not vote it out of office; they voted it back with a larger majority than ever. Years have gone by; the war has gone, and Andrew Fisher has gone. His brain crumbled under the work which he did for his country. But I am now showing what an odious and unclean thing the Labour party was stated by its opponents to be even when it was led by Mr. Fisher and William Morris Hughes. Of him they said :

He is a tergiversator. He ia a mountebank. He is a teetotum - a thing spun upon the lingers of the caucus.

Let us give honour to Andrew Fisher. He had a long political career, and apparently died almost in poverty in the old country. No matter what a man's party may have been, so long as he has served his country according to his lights, we should see that those who were dependent upon him are looked after just as if they were the dependants of a civil servant. They are entitled to such treatment. Andrew Fisher has gone; God rest his soul. His vices and his virtues will soon be forgotten; but the work which he did will remain long after he himself has ceased to be remembered.







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