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Thursday, 4 October 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- I recognise that after the searching criticism to which Senator Pearce has been subjected, he ought to have a fair opportunity to reply. He asked me just now whether, if I was the last speaker, I would allow htm half-an-hour in which to reply. I intend to curtail my remarks, so that he mav have more than that time, because I think that it is due to him. I have not collated the voluminous evidence which is attached to the report of the Commission, and therefore I propose to speak only on general principles. I regard this as a most important occasion, because if the Bill were to become law the Labour Party would have placed upon the statute-book the very foundation of1 their policy. I suppose that sooner or later the issue will have to be put to the ' Commonwealth, whether it is to be governed on the principles of individualism or collectivism. We all approve of mild doses of Socialism, but we do not approve of " going the whole hog," and asking the Commonwealth Administration to become collectivism to take over monopolies one after another, and to govern on socialistic lines. It appears to me that in indulging in ultraSocialism the Labour Party are unmindful of their own history, and forgetting the very character of human nature. I have read in scores of books that, with human nature as it is constituted, and with our present degree of knowledge and education. it would be absolutely impossible, to run the Commonwealth on collectivist lines. Ever since the world began there has been a struggle for existence. Without such competition the progress of the world would not .come to a standstill, but would be greatly impaired. The members of the Labour Party seem to forget that there is a remedy for almost all the ills of which thev complain. It is not to be found in the passing of an Act of Parliament to do an impossibility, nor in a neglect to take cog"nizance of human nature, or the desire of men to go on. It is ethical. If we cannot educate ourselves into regarding men as our brothers, helping them, and passing proper laws, which would ameliorate their condition ; if we have not the courage or unselfishness to do that, then it -is of no use for us to fall back upon an Act of Parliament, and imagine that by taking over industries, and using a grand word like " nationalization," we shall do that good for human nature which we all desire to do. If we wish the State to flourish, individualism, and not collectivism, must be the foundation on which we build. A very clever aphorism was made about the Socialists by Bagehot, who said that they were a class of people who desired that no one should go barefooted, but that every one should have one boot. That is what it would come to if some of the schemes of my honorable friends opposite were carried out. If' this Bill were submitted to the electors, the result would be disaster. I defy any member of this Parliament to make people understand it when submitted to them mixed up with a number of other questions. Senator Pearce and his supporters desire to nationalize the tobacco industry. If they were successful in their efforts, the moment the Commonwealth, commenced to manufacture tobacco, it would come face to face with the " government stroke." Only a few hours ago, I read in a back number of the Times the report of the Royal Commission appointed in England to inquire into the War Office scandals regarding mismanagement in the supply of fodder and other army material during the South African campaign. The Commission reported that about .£750,000 was absolutely wasted, but that there was no actual corruption amongst the commissioned officers who had control. There .was a slight amount of corruption amongst a few junior non-commisioned officers ; but the £750,000 was absolutely lost in consequence of the " government stroke." The men who had charge were excited during the war about Mafeking, and Ladysmith, and did not trouble to adopt the right methods of administering the affairs committed to their charge. They simply pitched away the country's money, drawing their salaries regularly, and not troubling themselves about the interests of the taxpayer. If we were to nationalize this industry, we should have exactly the same sort of thing in connexion with it. Politicians who wish to keep abreast of the times must read the writings, not of the political economists of the old school, but those of modern thinkers. These men recognise that it is necessary to pass manysocalled socialistic laws: but, at the same time, thev point out that there cannot be any sudden change in the methods of in- dustrial life, and in the structure of human society. There has been more bloodshed over attempts to introduce sudden changes than over anything else in the history of the world. It takes a long time for the results of political changes to manifest themselves. We shall not see the consequences of the degeneracy of the Labour Party all at once. They are degenerating now in consequence of their machine politics. . 1 have no sympathy with public men ornewspapers who accuse the members of the Labour Party of being ignorant. SinceI have had the pleasure - and it has been a pleasure - to have personal relations with them,I have found that many of them are far better informed on some subjects than I am. But, so long as they are subject to machine politics, so long as they are governed by outside bodies to whom they are not, properly speaking, responsible, so long, as they go in for nationalizing monopolies for all they are worth, they must be a degenerating party. We may not see the evil consequences of their machine politics fully developed for a generation or two, but I maintain that men who stick to their machine politics, regardless of '-heir own consciences, their own judgment, their own knowledge, and their own experience, are degenerating, and cannot be otherwise described.

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator really believe what he is saying?

Senator DOBSON - I believe every word of it. I was astonished that Senator Trenwith - a man of great intelligence and ability and of considerable experience - should have made an interjection such as he has done in the course of the debate. Hesaid that if we nationalized the tobacco industry we could give people three meals a day. Is that the only argument he can furnish us with?

Senator Trenwith - I made a speech on a proposal to nationalize the sugar industry, in which the honorable senator might be interested if he took the trouble to read it. He will find more arguments in that speech.

Senator DOBSON - I shall be glad to read it, but I expected from a man of my honorable friend's experience something better than the argument to which I have alluded.I should never doubt the honesty and integrity ofmy honorable friend Senator Pearce, but there is no doubt that he. too, is degenerating by submitting to the politicalmachine. wehaveabsolute evidence in this case that he entered into the inquiry not only with his mind made up, but positively pledged. Hewent into it with a determination in favour of the nationalization of the tobacco industry rammed down his throat and written on his conscience. As Mr. Deakin pointed out at Ballarat, this system of machine-politics, if not checked, will drag us all over the precipice. It will drop the Labour Party over the precipice too, before its members are many years older. As a consequence of Senator Pearce entering the inquiry with preconceived convictions his report is not a fair and impartial summing up of the evidence, but a prejudiced document. Allusion has been made to the two learned counsel who have furnished an opinion with regard to the report. I happen to know both of them, and I know also that they took great care in the preparation of their opinion. They went into the country for ten days, reading every line of the evidence, analyzing it, making schedules of it, and thoroughly mastering every portion of it. Is it to' be supposed thatcounsel likethesewould take their 100 guineas., or whatevertheir fees were, for furnishing an opinion upon a document without reading it? It is the life work of such men to sum up evidence. Every brief that they read has to be studied from the point of view of whether a case can be made out. These men express, the opinion that many of the statements made by Senator Pearce in his report are not borne out by the evidence, and that the report itself is not justified. Therefore I think that my honest and honorable friend has made a mistake. He has allowed machine politics and his own prejudices to get the better of his judgment. I hope that if this question goes before the electors, and the whole matter has. to be explained to them, Senator Pearce will come to Tasmania. If he does, I will hire a hall for him, pay the expense of it myself, meet him fairly in debate on the question, and give him a good time while he is there.

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