Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 12 December 1930

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - As we are getting near the time when the- present sittings of this Parliament must draw to a close, and the period of peace and goodwill is about to dawn upon us, may I suggest that the

Government should take into its most earnest consideration the needs of the country at the present time. I am not overstating the case when I say that those who have studied the conditions of the country from varying viewpoints, are satisfied that it has not been in such a serious position for many a long day, if, indeed, it has ever been in such a position. That being the case, it is about time to muster the best talent available in the nation for the purpose of coping "with a situation which, in my opinion, has not yet reached its worst. We have only to look abroad to note on the one hand falling prices, and an inability to keep industries going, which, necessarily, must result in increased unemployment; and on the other hand, in the field of industry a want of co-operation - a sort of unwelcome desire to pull apart instead of together - the consequences of which must necessarily be serious, if not disastrous, to this our common country. When we know that our country is in jeopardy, or, at any rate, approaching danger, there is need for us to muster its best talents, its wisdom, and .its patriotism, if I may so call it, so that by a combined effort it may be steered through the troubled waters into which it has got. That is not possible while the party system is still rife, while we are given to the practice of waging political sham fights, as they really are compared with the more serious battle of righting the country's affairs. During the war we were forced to cast aside all party attachments, affiliations and predilections. We let them drop a thousand fathoms deep, because the necessities of the country demanded it. It is equally necessary that this should be done to-day with our country approaching an equally dangerous crisis. No matter what our ideas may be, the time has arrived for us to form a government from all parties with the determination to achieve the only thing that matters to-day, namely, the safety of the country. I do not know whether the Government will seriously regard my proposal or not, but if we could only overcome our party squabblings, our inclination to be at daggers drawn with each other over minor matters or mere shadows, our foolish sense of self-sufficiency - these things might be right at other times and places, but they are quite out of place now - if we could only look to the higher, the greater, the more commanding, nay, the imperious need for serving the nation first, forgetful of all party interests, much good would be accomplished. The idea is not novel. It has been mooted in different places, and by men who are by no means ciphers in the public life of this country. Months ago, in Western Australia, we discussed the need for dropping our party differences a thousand fathoms out of sight, and for getting together for the purpose of righting the ship of State. That is our first duty, to put the ship of State once more on an even keel, and thus be again in a position to hold our heads high and maintain our good name. Above all, must we restore that confidence in us which has been lost; otherwise the time will arrive when we shall be forced to take action, whether we like it or not. But it may" then be too late. There is nothing at present to give us heart or hope, unless in the makeup of our nation there still adheres that spirit of determination that our pioneers possessed - the spirit to buckle on our armour and determinedly face the miserable difficulties of the hour. If we continue fighting our political battles as we are doing, the ship of State must necessarily continue on an uneven keel, and be finally swamped. When a vessel is labouring for its life in a hurricane there is no dissension among its crew. I have been in such a crisis. Before that hurricane came down upon us we had our paltry disputations; there were dissensions between sections of the crew and between the crew and master, and even between the master and his officers; but when the hurricane struck the .ship all dissensions vanished, and, from the captain down to the cabin boy, all had to pull on the ropes to keep the ship afloat. Why? Because our common safety demanded it. In exactly the same way the people of Australia, whether they be Nationalist, Labour, or members of any other party, must all pull together. In order to save the country that is so dear and has been so kind to us for so many years, it is our duty to drop our attachments to party, and put our country before all else all the time, so that it may be pulled out of its besetting troubles.

We have accumulated liabilities on every hand in London and Australia. Where are the funds to meet them? They are not in sight and will not be, unless the spirit of the people is so improved that we will all pull together in the field of industry, make new wealth by our united efforts and so pay our way. l t is time we got outside of ourselves and paid less heed to party interests. The time has come for us to have regard, first of all, for a policy framed in the best interests of Australia, to which we owe so much. If all the members of this chamber and another place dropped dead to-morrow - which God forbid - they would be replaced by men who would be just as good in every respect. Therefore, let us recognize our nothingness, and, above all, the supreme obligation that rests upon us at this moment. In our position of responsibility, commissioned as we are to discharge duties involving high purpose, we should see to it that in all we do we place the welfare of our country first. Let us cast a reflective eye upon that country to which we owe so much. Let us, if we want to be sincere - sincerity requires but one test of its worth, namely, sacrifice - sacrifice our attention to contemptible trifles and centre it upon ways and means of saving the nation's good name. Let us for the time blot out all considerations of parties; let us forget party affiliations, which so blind us to the higher purposes of public life; let us work together in the true interests of the commonweal. Otherwise we shall continue to fight our sham battles here and elsewhere, and ignore the higher purpose of doing something to ensure the safety of our country.

I again appeal to the Leader of the Senate and his colleagues to accept the suggestion which I have made. Let us dose up our ranks. Let us mobilize our strength. Let us stop grasping at the deceptive shadow and seize the vital substance. Let us cease idle speech and get to action, because it requires the most disinterested action, inspired by the highest motives, to surmount the fateful, if not fatal, difficulties pressing on our course

We have heard a great deal lately about the mobilization of resources. Suppose we mobilize the best talent of this country to meet the present crisis. Would not. that be an act of mobilization worthy of the name? Suppose we mobilized the patriotism of the people of Australia. Would not that, too, be a mobilization equally worthy of the name? Suppose, also, that we made an effort to mobilize the best spirit of our citizens in support of a non-party government to keep this country clear of its looming dangers. Would not that be the best act of mobilization it would be possible to conceive? Therefore, in all seriousness, I urge the Government to dp all these things, irrespective of the consequences to myself, as I have been prepared to do throughout my life. ] ask the Ministry to give this matter' its most thoughtful consideration during the recess upon which we arc about to enter, to see if something cannot be done to bridge the gulf that divides the parties in this Parliament. It can be done if only we have the will. This gulf has been bridged before by dint of urgent necessity. The need is urgent - never more so than how - and it is the duty of every member of this Parliament to come together and to make sacrifices in the interests of our country. What, after all, would be the sacrifice? We should be expected to sacrifice party political advantages, and I repeat that it is about time that we put the interests of Australia, now in sore need, before the interests of party which, in comparison, are quite ephemeral. It is high time that we did something to advance Australia, truly in the best sense of the word, by discarding some of our barren illusions and party attachments and working together in a spirit of unity for the good of Australia.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [3.24]. - I desire to say a few words on the subject which has been raised by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Lynch). I agree with him as to the necessity for prompt action to save this country; but I do not see eye to eye with him as to the manner in which this may be done. 1 personally do not believe that it is necessary to form a coalition government for that purpose. Nor do I think that that is advisable. In my opinion, co-operation can be secured without the formation of a coalition ministry. The circumstances in which the parties find themselves to-day indicate the urgent necessity for a strong effort being made to deal with the situation in the only way in which it will be possible to deal with it. if this country is to bo saved. T nin not blaming the Ministry for its apparent inaction. It is only natural that the party in power should hhesitate in a crisis like this. But while the Ministry has one eye on the possibility of party advantage and the other on the safety of the nation, the probability is that the party will gain at the expense of the country. In our judgment, this has already happened. I expect that honorable senators supporting the Government will agree with me on this point. I believe that, if f.hi3 state of affairs continues much longer, the position of Australia will become more dangerous than ever it has been. To get the country out of its present difficulties some things will have to be done for which no one party will take the responsibility. I do not blame the party occupying the treasury bench any more than I would blame my own* party. The probability is that, if we were in office, Ave should endeavour to avoid doing unpleasant things which might have to be done before this country can be put in a safe position. One cannot say the things which, in other circumstances, one would like to say as to the condition in which this country finds itself to-day. There are obvious reasons why it would be inadvisable to do so. I am quite sure that members of the Government know to what I am referring, but I doubt that many of their supporters do. The position of the Commonwealth is drifting dangerously, both overseas and in Australia. When is this drift going to stop ? Can it be urged that anything which this Parliament has done since it reassembled a few weeks ago will stop the drift? Do supporters of the Government really believe that any legislation which we have passed within the last few weeks will improve our position? 1 cannot see any hope of that. If anything, the latest legislative measures will only accentuate our difficulties. And what about our position overseas? Every one knows that it is steadily becoming worse. One has only to study the commercial barometer to see how serious is our position. Unless action is taken very soon, it will be too late. Wc cannot go on indefinitely as we are now. And who will be the principal sufferers? Clearly, those to suffer most will be the "mass of the people - those who are nearest the poverty line. In view of these facts is it not worth "while to make some sacrifice to avert that suffering, if it is possible? I believe it is possible. 1 believe that what is wanted in this country and overseas is a restoration of confidence. Political action will do this, although I do not suggest that political action can escape economic laws. At the moment there is a definite lack of confidence in the Commonwealth, overseas and in Australia. I believe that confidence can bc restored by strong, urgent and immediate political action, but "the consequences of such political action are such that I would not blame any one party for shirking the issue unsupported by other parties. The Leader of the Opposition in another place this week offered a suggestion, which, if the Government had been alive, not only to its own interests, but also to the interest of Australia, it would have grasped with both hands. Had the offer been accepted, action could have been taken to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of. this country. It is not yet too late. I urge the Government to give further consideration to the matter. I also urge the Labour party to re-consider its decision. L warn the Government and its supporters that, if they put party before the nation's interests, they may gain an immediate political advantage; but, in the long run, their policy will have a boomerang effect, which will be seen in the suffering that will come to the people of Australia. If we continue along the path down which we are now drifting, the consequences to the Labour party and its supporters will be more serious than to any other political party in this country. I warn them that in their own interests they would be wise to see that the action which must be taken in the immediate future is joint action, the responsibility for which would rest upon all parties in this Parliament. No political party would gain any advantage from joint action. Certainly the party which I have the honor to lead in this chamber would derive no political advantage from it. It we had regard only to the interests of our party, we should sit back and fill the role of critics, because, being in opposition, we have no responsibility for the governmental legislative proposals. The responsibility lies with the Government and the party which supports it. It is imperative, however, that something should be done immediately to bring about concerted action during the terrible times that are ahead of us. Have honorable members of the Government forgotten the recent political history of Australia ? Is it not a fact that, no matter what was its political colour, every government that has gone to the poll during the last few years has been defeated. Why? Because, in desperation, the suffering people have sought some scapegoat, and they blamed the Government, that was, for the time being, in power. That which has already happened will happen again to this Government when it presents itself to the electors. There is no political advantage to bo gained by the Opposition making this proposal, which is put forward in all sincerity. I do not urge that a coalition government is necessary or advisable. Its formation might even lend suspicion to the idea that the Opposition is trying to guin political advantage from the situation. Neither the Nationalist party nor the Country party desires any political advantage whatever from this offer. Neither party can see any possibility of deriving political advantage from it. On the contrary, it might result in the political disadvantage of each. Surely it is evident that from a purely political point of view it would be more advantageous to the Opposition to remain in the role of critics. I urge the Government to give the proposal the most, serious consideration.

Senator DUNN(New South Wales) [3.32 1 . - While the Government appreciates the words that have fallen from thu lips of Senator Pearce and Senator Lynch, it must be evident to all who are in close contact with the Labour movement politically that the idea of a coalition with the Opposition is quite impracticable. The Leaders of the National and

Country parties, both in another place and in this chamber, have seen fit to make public utterances on this subject for the edification of the community. I make it clear that this Government declines to accept the responsibility for the present unfortunate economic position of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) was a member of tory governments which occupied the treasury bench for fourteen years prior to the accession to office of the present Labour Government, and it is upon the right honorable senator and his colleagues that the responsibility for Australia's position must fall. Labour has assumed control of the destinies of the country at. a most vital moment in its history. Upon the termination of the world war, there followed it period of artificial prosperity, but profligate governments in this and other countries refused to read the writ; ing on the wall. Now wo are reaping the whirlwind. Australia, with other nations, has been caught in the vortex of the international financial maelstrom.. Depression and unemployment abound. So when the Leader of the Opposition inthe Senate and Senator Lynch give utter;,ance to proposals which are intended to. harass the Government at such a hazard-, ons time, they can receive but one reply, that of 'rejection!

Senator Lynch - Do not introduce party pettiness.

Suggest corrections