}1906{
George Reid
George Reid Australian Democratic Union

Delivered at Sydney, NSW, October 23rd, 1906

The election was held on 12 December, 1906. Between 1903 and 1906 elections there had been three changes of prime minister without a federal election occurring. This instability was the outcome of the ‘three elevens’ party system where no one group had an outright majority.

This was the first election where all House of Representatives seats were voted for using the First-past-the-post system.

Deakin was the incumbent Prime Minister, having regained the prime ministership on 5 July, 1905. During the election campaign he attacked both the Free Traders and Labor, expressing an early concern about the Labor Party machine. The election results saw the Protectionists seats reduced to 16, while the Free Trade party increased to 27 seats and Labor to 26 seats.

George Reid, National Library Australia
George Reid, National Library Australia

George Houstoun Reid was born 25 February, 1845 and died 12 September, 1918. Reid was Prime Minister of Australia 18 August, 1904 to 5 July, 1905. He was the Leader of the Free Trade Party.

Elections contested

1901, 1903, and 1906

In addressing the electors of the Commonwealth may I pause for a moment to thank, with the utmost gratitude, those of you, who live in East Sydney, whose wonderful kindness and constant support have been my chief encouragement and reward through the whole of my long public career. Mr. Watson and the leagues that control him brand me as the leader of a “reactionary and conservative party.” This charge is a false one. (Cheers)

The Liberal and Democratic party

I am the leader of a party in New South Wales, and in Australia, too, the Liberal and democratic party, which is essentially liberal and democratic. (Hear, hear) Our policy has always been directed against monopoly and privilege in every shape or form. The greatest victory ever won in the Southern Hemisphere for the just rights of the people, in the way of lessening the burdens of the poor, and in the direction of making the wealthier classes contribute more fairly to the cost of Government, was won by our efforts in New South Wales. (Applause)

It is also said that the wealthy classes, who have always opposed me for so many years are helping our party now. I repeat what the Hon. Dugald Thomson, the treasurer of the Democratic Union, has said: We have neither asked nor received, in this great campaign, a single penny of financial support, from any of those great financial bodies to which reference has been made. (Applause)

High tariffists

So long as persons of that class act fairly and honorably they are just as much entitled to defend their industrial liberty as any private enterprise other person. Does Mr. Watson forget that his followers are straining every nerve to destroy high tariffists private enterprise? Does he forget that the high tariff manufacturers behind Mr. Deakin are fighting to increase the burdens of the people for their own personal advantage? The rich have nothing to expect from us that the poor have not. Not long ago an eminent personage, who sometimes alludes to controversial politics, gave us a more flattering notice. He saw in us, if not the broad and healthy characteristics of patriotic democrats like Mr. Watson and his party, at least a resemblance to one of the greatest and most valiant, if one of the most eccentric champions of poor and distressed humanity, Mr. Deakin and Sir George Turner and Mr. Reid Don Quixote. (Laughter)

So long as Mr. Deakin was in office he got on very well with the Labor Party. That was so from May, 1901, to April, I904. That was so from June, 1905, down to the present day. It was not so between April, 1904, and June, I905. Sir. Deakin was then out of office. He, with Sir George Turner, met me in conference in May, 1904. We then resolved to form a basis of coalition. He, however, refused to take his proper share of the burden. (Hear, hear)

Sir George, though stricken with a grievous illness, imperilled his health rather than allow me to be utterly fooled, and took on himself the duty Mr. Deakin would not. A year afterwards, Mr. Deakin made a speech which made our position intolerable. I adopted a certain course, which Mr. Deakin thinks “treachery and betrayal.” That course Sir George Turner and every other Minister fully concurred in. (Applause)

This imputation of treachery and betrayal represents all Sir George Turner has got from his old friend as a reward for keeping faith with me in Mr. Deakin's place. Sir George, one of the best and straightest and most useful public men Australia ever had, has not regained his health, and is compelled to retire from public life–I hope only for a time.

Who was the betrayer?

On Saturday, June 24, 1904, at the end of the recess, Mr. Deakin, at Ballarat, whilst in alliance with me, publicly asked the Labor Party to enter into an alliance with him. I point to that as the act of betrayal. (Cheers)

It took the heart and soul out of our compact of alliance. Even with every Deakinite with us, we had only a bare majority. One defaulter could have ousted us. That speech at Ballarat, every newspaper in Australia regarded as a “notice to quit.” Could I go hat in hand to Mr. Deakin, and ask if he really meant it? If he did not mean it, could he not have corrected the universal impression by one friendly word? That friendly word was never spoken.

The day before the speech, in a newspaper published 12,000 miles away, it was announced that Mr. Deakin in that speech would “reunite the protectionists and end the coalition.” Was the cablegram a spiritualistic freak? (Laughter)

Scarcely, for the correspondent of the London news-paper was, and is, a parliamentary hand on the staff of the Melbourne Age!

I know now that the defeat of the Reid-McLean Government was arranged between the Labor Party and the Deakinites, or some of them, before Parliament met on the afternoon of June 28. Early in the morning of that day a Deakinite approached Sir Phillip Fysh, and asked if he would support a motion to defeat us. To his credit, “We've got them beaten” he refused. He was then told “We have got them beaten anyhow!” Sir Phillip Fysh will not tell me the name of the Deakinite, but I have reason to believe he is an influential member of the present Administration.

The expiring Parliament

Will Mr.Deakin ask Sir Phillip who it was? He might tell him. The results of the general election of 1903 made the position of parties worse - Mr. Deakin became more helpless, the caucus became more powerful. The position sickening Mr. Deakin, and he escaped from it. Having broken from the caucus he suddenly discovered that I was a good Liberal, with whom he could unite, and whom he could heartily support! The Labor Government went into office in April, 1904; he joined me in May. He then told the Labor Party and the Labor Leagues what he really thought of them. A more scathing political denunciation was never uttered in Australia. They were the “fatal enemies of Australian progress.” They threatened “the independence of the whole community.” They sought “to rush Australia over a precipice.” They were leading the Commonwealth “on a downward path to, perhaps, social slavery.” Yet within a few months he was again their most obedient servant! (Laughter)

The “social slavery” is not yet, but the “Ministerial slavery” began afresh.

The Reid-McLean government

Mr. Deakin's comments on that Administration are most unfair and inaccurate. We came into office in the middle of one session, and were strangled before another session could begin. Every day Parliament sat with the slenderest possible majority; we were met by the bitterest possible opposition. The difference between his term of office and mine was, we would not purchase a day's life at a sacrifice of self-respect. (Cheers)

What was his conduct? He rushed again into the arms of the very men whom he declared to be the enemies of their country.

Last session “a degrading alliance”

This degrading alliance enabled Mr. Deakin to count on a temporary, but for the time solid, acquiescent majority. Was it strange that a good deal of work was done? The quality of the work, however, will not bear criticism. There was always a strong selfish element working behind the scenes. Behind Mr. Deakin there were those who wanted something more from the taxpayers. (Hear, hear)

Behind Mr. Watson there was an army that wanted fresh advantages, and further means of coercing non-unionists. The political atmosphere was dense with self-interest. Under these conditions the Opposition had a constant, desperate, battle to maintain in defence of the public interests, and sound principles of legislation. Some of the measures of the Government included good objects, which the Opposition supported, but they nearly always went to extremes, which it was our duty to resist, or were full of defects it was our duty to correct. The able, indeed, the splendid work done by my deputy, Mr. Joseph Cook — cheers — during my absence, often on political business, as well as professional work, have been obvious to the whole community. That which Mr. Deakin calls “obstruction” most people will recognise as strenuous untiring efforts to protect the public welfare.

The Anti-Trust Act

The Anti-Trust Act is a conspicuous specimen of the faults I have mentioned. Efficient measures to prevent unfair practices by trade combinations all can support. But even Mr. Watson does not believe in the methods of this Act. Under cover of a good object, that is, a power over trusts to prevent wrongdoing, there was enacted a system of prohibitory protection which entangles in Sir William Lyne's net every single trader, whether British or Australian, who is engaged in ocean commerce with the Commonwealth!

The Price of Office

Before I came into office a bill of the previous Deakin Government, to prevent the piracy of trade marks, was twisted out of shape by a Labor amendment in the Senate, inserting a scheme of trade-union labels, of which there were none then in existence. We opposed this in the Senate, but the bill came down to the House, where we did not take it up. In Adelaide Mr. Deakin tried to connect me with the union label. Sir Josiah Symon exposed his unfairness. At Ballarat, on Wednesday last, Mr. Deakin, who knew so much better, repeated the same miserable tactics. After we came to office no Minister ever touched the union label provision except to try to get it omitted. The Deakin Government elaborately recast and supported the union label provisions, which are now law. It was part of the price they paid for office.

The Contract Immigrants Act

In its practical operation this power enables trade unions to force every non-unionist out of a factory. Indeed, if there were 500 unionists and five non-unionists in a factory, the 500 are not allowed by the law, even if willing, to give their label to the manufacturer so long as the five remain! This Contract Immigrants Act makes things really worse for the best sort of immigrants-those who come out, not as adventurers, but under engagement to do work waiting for them. Thanks to Mr. Dugald Thomson, not to the Government, a provision was inserted relieving our kinsmen in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from some of the odious conditions still attaching to other nations. Mr. Deakin and Mr. Watson would open the gates wide to “a farmer with a little capital.” They will not open the gates wide to a white agricultural laborer, whose capital is in his brain and sinews, and a definite offer of honest work. (Applause)

These men are called “slaves” or “chattels.” As if an engagement to labor left an Australian a free man, vet makes a European something less than a free man! Misguided, rampant self-interest is at the bottom of this, not patriotism. (Applause)

Throw open all your gates for white men who will help us build up a white Australia on something better than Acts of Parliament-human energy and enterprise. (Cheers)

The tribute to Queen Victoria

Yet Mr. Deakin, who backs the Labor party up in their “dog-in-the-manger” policy, puts £5000 on the estimates, and says he has converted a great immigration policy into an “actuality.” (Laughter)

All parts of the Empire joined in the project of an Imperial monument, in London, in honor of our late Sovereign, the best the world has ever seen. Our Government joined. If ever there was a project in which protectionists, free traders and Laborites could joyfully unite this was one. Yet the Labor party refused to join, suggesting a hospital. “Charity, how many meannesses are cloaked by thy name”.

The tariff commission

Shortly after the Coalition Government was formed, on the basis of a fiscal truce, the Isaacs-Lyne wing of the Opposition sought to embarrass us by a clamor for relief for the artisans of Melbourne, who were alleged to be starving, and the industries of Melbourne, which were alleged to be ruined. Mr. Isaacs, now happily removed from mundane troubles — (laughter) — shed tears of anxious sympathy over the missing “Christmas dinner” of these unhappy victims. Our Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the work of the tariff and its effects on Australian industries. I courted the fullest investigation. I knew there might well be anomalies that called for redress, and hardships that ought to be removed. But I felt sure that the pictures of misery were sham pictures, and that the “ruin” was bogus so far as the effect of the tariff was concerned. Mr. Deakin did not object to the appointment of the commission, indeed I conferred with him as to its composition. The evidence published from day to day revealed many unblushing attempts to fleece the public, but few cases in which the tariff had been the genuine cause of genuine distress. It was shown in some cases that those who begged for “more protection” had already an amount of duty which not only covered “the difference between Australian wages and the low wages of other countries,” but actually amounted to a higher proportion of value than all the money spent in wages!

The farmers appeared before the commissioners to beg that the duties should not be increased. At the present time the manufacturers of Victoria are prospering beyond previous experience, and are pushing their wares all over Australia. The men who clamored most, the two McKays, of the “Sunshine harvesters,” were found to be making a profit of many thousands a year. A special Act to make them better off at the expense of the struggling Australian farmer has been triumphantly passed. (Cries of 'shame.')

Yet the hands employed in agricultural implement works in Victoria have doubled in the past two or three years! This simply means that the McKavs will make a magnificent haul out of a sham crisis!

Preferential trade

The treaty with South Africa was a good one, easily accomplished. That with New Zealand has miscarried. But in reference to the scheme of preferential trade with England, the Prime Minister has covered himself with ridicule, both as the founder of a policy and as its pilot through Parliament. (Hear, hear)

The only conceivable shape in which the Mother-country could give us any preference worth having would be in the form of duties on food and raw materials, the bulk of the British imports from Australia. The only conceivable way in which the British people could be induced to change their present feeling would be by a genuine preference and real advantage, given to the British manufacturers, in the markets of Australia.

A sham offer

Better far to do nothing than make a sham offer, which could only strengthen the opponents and discourage the champions of preference in the Mother-country. Yet that is what the Government have done. Not a single duty was reduced in favor of Great Britain, and the duties raised against the rest of the Empire and foreign countries covered only a few hundred thousand pounds worth of foreign trade! Our import of apparel and textiles is £9,500,000 a year. Our import of piece goods, including woollens, is £6,250,000 a year. Our import of metals and machinery is £6,350,000. With two exceptions, covering £20,000 of foreign trade, there is not one line of reference to the Mother-country in any shape or form touching the £22,000,000 worth of trade under those headings!

If Mr. Deakin's measure was a sham, his piloting of the measure was even worse. He allowed an amendment to stand, as to the color of the crews and cabin boys on British ships carrying the goods, which makes acceptance of that bill by the British Government impossible. The amendment was carried in a thin House by a majority of one. I happened to be there. (Laughter)

I implored the Prime Minister to try for its recission. He refused. The end of it all was that the Board of Trade reminded him of a number of Treaties by which we are bound, and the poor man in his desperation actually made use of a Governor-General's message in order to set a bill right, not in a matter of form, but of substance. The Senate properly refused to allow the Government to introduce the King's representative into the sphere of politics in order to cure the foolishness of his Ministers. (Loud cheers)

The capital site

The bungling of the Government over this important matter has been mainly caused by the duel between two Ministers, Sir Wm. Lyne and Mr. Chapman, for their respective sites — (hear, hear) — and the desire of the Victorian members of the Cabinet to go very slow. If the selection of the site involved a huge expenditure as often alleged, one could not wonder at opposition. But the expenditure need not run into large figures, until the population runs into many millions. A capital in Sydney, or Melbourne, would cost ever so much more than a capital in the interior. Every representative in New South Wales should be bound down to a demand for an immediate settlement of this matter. (Applause)

There was a wonderful struggle to add to the revenues of the harvester makers-if one-tenth of that had been devoted to the question of the capital site It would have been chosen long ago. (Cheers)

Queensland sugar industry

I joined with those who were prepared to repatriate the Kanakas, and this, of course, exposed that great industry to a period of anxiety and crisis. Every proof that the ruin predicted will not follow I notice with great pleasure. If the white labor in Australia cannot, or will not, save the cane fields from desolation the industry must be reinforced by white labor from abroad. But, so far, no necessity has been shown for extraordinary measures.

Transcontinental railways

Various great projects are “in the air” for railway systems across the continent from and to various points. Such projects must, some day, be carried out. But I, speaking for myself, regard a railway extension through South Australia to West Australia as one which ought certainly to be carried out, unless the proposed survev shows it to be impracticable. I regard the bill for a survey of the line, not as a concession, but as the least possible thing we can do in justice to the grand State, and the enterprising people, of Western Australia. (Cheers)

Closer touch between that vast area and the sister States will be of signal service to all. I know there is much opposition to this by members of all the political parties, but I have never altered my views as expressed from the first.

Home Rule

One of the saddest mistakes the dying Parliament has made was its abuse of its proper authority displayed in an Address to the King on the subject of Home Rule for Ireland. I appealed to the House to leave that vexed and burning question to the ordinary fields of free public discussion, instead of using the name of the whole Parliament and people without any warrant from the constituencies. Our Federal Parliament has troubles, and fights, and duties enough without advising other Parliaments-equally independent-how they can improve their legislative machinery. If a separate Parliament for Ireland would be a good thing, I am satisfied the good sense of the people of the United Kingdom will bring it about. (Cheers)

The wish of every admirer of the illustrious Irish race is that the memory of their ancient wrongs may be entirely effaced by every possible measure of generous redress. Public opinion on the subject of Home Rule is greatly divided. Many support it because they believe it will make the United Kingdom more united still. Others believe the movement to be inspired by a desire to break up the United Kingdom and dismember the British Empire. (Cheers)

The Federal Parliament should not have forced the controversy on Australian politics.

The present situation

Leaving this review of the past, I now come to the present situation. The Parliament will soon be dissolved, and its Ministry and its members are approaching that one eventful day on which you, and not they, are the masters of the State. You, ladies and gentlemen, the electors of the whole Commonwealth, must judge between us. The Government comes before you not with a majority, but as a remnant of a body whose majority has disappeared. That solid phalanx of 45, which got on so comfortably together, making laws as if they really believed in one another, is now broken into two. One fragment is driven to the painful task of exterminating the other. The other fragment fills the air with curses aimed at the “machine,” whose pliant tool it was a few short days ago. (Prolonged applause)

Such is the deplorable state to which responsible government and parliamentary institutions have been reduced. How pitiful the present fate of that Constitution, which Mr. Deakin in his better days used to hold up to your enraptured imagination, “strong as a fortress, sacred as a shrine!”

The Deakin remnant

I am going now to give you the numbers of the respective parties in the House:

  Ministerial Party, House and Senate. Other Parties, House and Senate.
New South Wales 4 28
Victoria 11 16*
Queensland 1 14
South Australia 2 11
West Australia 1 10
Tasmania 2 9

*Two vacancies

Nine Ministers and twelve supporters! What satire more stinging than these plain figures could be invented? (Cheers)

And what appeal does this diminutive remnant make for a fresh lease of power and leadership in Australia? Clearly, its only chance of living as a Government depends upon another miserable term of Servitude to the Socialist “machine” and the Labor caucus. Alone, it can do nothing but injure the Liberal cause and advance lhe Socialist cause. And yet every Minister but one is an Anti-Socialist! And that one is a political conundrum. (Laughter, and cry of 'Sir William Lyne.')

Surely the electors will restore Australian politics to some higher level in which great principles range men into sympathetic groups!

The Labor-Socialist leagues are doing one good thing for Australian politics-they are striving to get rid of the system of three parties just as strenuously as we are. They have responded with scorn to the overtures for an alliance, not based on principle, but place and pay. They believe their party has a future. We know the Government has only a past. Unless you, ladies and gentlemen, respond either to the anpeal of the Opposition or the appeal of the Socialists, you will be the real authors of another miserable period of intrigue. (Loud applause)

What is the appeal the shattered Deakin Administration makes for a continuance of its humiliating career? What great, inspiring cry comes from Ballarat? Nothing but a wail over a distress which does not exist, in order to fill the pockets of a few men who already have enough out of the taxpayers. (A voice: 'too much.')

The Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers waited on the Chief Secretary a few days ago, and drew a sad picture, not of a deficiency of orders, but a deficiency of skilled labor. Last time Mr. Deakin was for “Fiscal peace” and “Preferential Trade.” Now he is for “Higher tariff” and “Preferential tariff.” The latter dual cry is almost a contradiction in terms, for Great Britain manufactures nearly all the things the additional duties are wanted for.

Will the Government specify the industries which are in distress? The Labor-Socialist Party, on the other hand, raises one - of the most momentous problems of the present dav. The issue which rises above all others, as a lofty mountains rise above a range of hills, is that involved in the socialistic “objective” of the Labor party. Is that to be the “beacon light” of the political destinies of Australia, or is it not. (Cries of 'no.')

That is the great question beside which all others are insignificant. That great question divides two great parties. What says the party hanging on our flanks? If it is against Socialism, why is it fighting us? If it is for Socialism, why is it fighting the Socialists?

The future

Now I come to the most important subject-to the future. Before dealing with the great, the vital issue, to which I have referred, I desire to point out the line of public policy which should in my opinion be followed upon some other public questions.

The caucus

One of the chief grounds on which I earnestly appeal to the electors to vote for my supporters is that I desire to see the supremacy of the secret caucus destroyed. The fate of policies now is decided in secret conclaves, which contain representatives bound hand and foot to vote as a majority decides, on all matters affecting the platform; and few things do not! If thirteen in the caucus say “Yes” and twelve say “No,” that whole twenty-five are compelled to say “Yes” in Parliament, twelve violating their judgment and the duty they owe to the Parliament and the the electors of Australia. (A voice: 'that's right,' and cheers)

And yet they call me yes-no. (Laughter)

Allies of the caucus

If you are opposed to the caucus, do not help the caucus by voting for the Deakin Cabinet, which is willing to do the work of the caucus again if a chance is offered.

Fiscal peace

I ask you to let the present protective tariff rest, adjusting anomalies and hardships which the reports of the Tariff Commission may bring to light. Personally I favor the suggestion for a referendum to the whole people, in order that the lamentable differences which divide Liberals without dividing Socialists, may be settled.

Bookkeeping clause

The bookkeeping clauses should be ended. The case of Western Australia can be equitably provided for.

The Braddon clause

The protection afforded by the Braddon clause to the finances of the State should be perpetually extended, but in a more flexible form.

Old-age pensions

The question of old-age pensions could be settled at once, as it ought to be, if Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, as I have pressed them to do, would fall into line with the other three States, which responded to my appeal. In South Australia and Queensland there are Labor Premiers. I regard a national system of old-age pensions as one of the essential features of Federal policy. (Hear, hear)

Preferential trade

If the people of Great Britain change their minds, and believe a preferential arrangement with Australia advisable, I would meet their wishes by an equitable arrangement. But I do not think the people of the Mother-country will ever agree to taxes on food, and their horror of such taxes is natural, and I think sensible, too. (Applause)

Unconditional preference

I support an unconditional preference, offered by Australia to the Mother country, but if any is offered it should not be a sham.

National defence

National defence I regard as a matter of supreme importance; but I do not favor universal and compulsory military service. (Hear, hear)

I would favor compulsory military drill in all public schools, and especially encourage the cadet movement. I think provision also for a continuous system of military training for some years after the boys leave school most desirable. In that way we will get nearest to universal training without universal conscription. Encouragement of volunteer forces open to the boys when they become men should be the leading feature of our military system. I thoroughly support efficiency of equipment. The highest, gravest want of all, is a militarv chief of acknowledged eminence in the art of war, and experience gained in commanding huge bodies of troops in actual warfare. (Cheers)

Acting on the ignoble cry of “Australia for Australians,” the Government have put in the supreme position an officer of high standing and ability, and a person of merit, but without either of these vital qualifications. If they did this in time of danger they would deserve to be impeached for high treason. (Applause)

Coast and harbor defences

Coastal and harbor defence is, I consider, even more vital than military defence, because sudden ocean raids are more likely dangers than attempts at a permanent landing. Whilst the British fleet is, and must for a long time to come, be our main line of naval defence, we owe to the Empire, as well as to ourselves, the duty of laying the foundation of an efficient system of port and coast defences, an “inner line” of naval defence, which is at present sadly neglected. The presence of an Australian navy on the high seas is an affair of the future.

Immigration

I regard immigration as the greatest of our industrial and national needs. Not re-inforcements for our over-crowded cities, but a stream of white agricultural immigration. (Applause)

Farmers if you like, but agricultural laborers, too. The laws against white immigrants with definite employment before them, which Mr. Deakin and Mr. Watson defend, largely discount all their professions on this subject.

A Federal Department of Agriculture

A Federal Department of Agriculture would be one of the best of Federal developments.

Advertising Australia

Canada sets a brilliant example to Australia in the art of advertising her national resources, and attracting a desirable population.

Commercial enterprise

One of the greatest objects of Federal concern should be a practical and continuous effort to make known in the markets of the whole world the excellence and variety of our primary products. This work would return a more valuable result to the people than all the torrents of Parliamentary eloquence which flow over the endless pages of “Hansard”. (Laughter and applause)

Friendly relations with all nations

Without sacrificing the vital principle of racial integrity, we should set ourselves to develop the friendliest possible relations, not only with the islands of the Pacific, but with all nations.

New Guinea

New Guinea is a vast and populous territory, in which two great Federal obligations must not be allowed to clash. I mean our duty to promote and encourage white enterprise, and our duty to protect from wrong a vast black and defenceless population committed to our care. The present unnatural arrangement under which the produce of New Guinea is treated as if it came from a foreign country is indefensible.

Immigration laws

Subject to precautions against strike at wages below fair Australian rates, I am in favor of the repeal of all the provisions. Relating to white immigration, I have already expressed my strong view in favor of the bill for a survey of a line union label of railway to West Australia. For reasons already given I favor the repeal of the union label provision. (Cheers)

I did not oppose the Bounties Bill, although it was submitted in the crudest possible shape. I supported it because of the paramount importance of the object in view. New developments of agricultural enterprise increasing the range of private enterprise and pioneer settlement over this great undeveloped continent, are well worth trying. Every precaution must, however, be taken to avoid the disappointments, and prevent the abuses, with which such schemes have been so often associated.

The Northern Territory

The Northern territory must be federalised; civilised, and developed. That is one of the greatest and grandest tasks of the Commonwealth. In that task beyond most others there is room for boundless enterprise, and only by such means can Australia attain a defensive position. It is here that the objection to white immigrants under engagement, and the persistence by Mr. Deakin and Mr. Watson in laws which hamper them, become so astoundingly bereft of the faintest glimmer of statesmanship.

Capital and labor

Compulsory arbitration in Australia, so far, has not worked well, for either employer or employed, in many cases. Peace and harmony have certainly not been established. One voluntary agreement is worth a thousand settlements by force.

Wages boards

I would like to see the compulsory process of conciliation put more to the front. A comparison between the constitution and working of the Wages Boards of Victoria and the Arbitration Act of New South Wales as a means of securing the great objects of such laws—

  1. conciliation;
  2. fair wages; and
  3. if necessary, a compulsory settlement of differences

—seems to me to be all in favor of the Victorian system. (Hear, hear)

Preference to unionists

Although I submitted to the general sense of the House in the matter of preference to unionists, with the rider attached, I am personally opposed most strongly to any exercise of a power of preference for one worker against another, by a judge presiding over a tribunal of justice. (Cheers)

Any preference or advantage unionists gain for themselves they are entitled to, just as fully as any merchant is entitled to his products; but I think the law should stand neutral, and interfere with no man's right to earn his own living, whether he be unionist or non-unionist. (Prolonged applause)

Closer settlement

Whilst no man believes more strongly in the policy of closer settlement than I do, or would pursue a more vigorous policy of breaking up large estates in Australia than I would, I prefer the first of the two methods embodied in the “fighting platform” of the Political Labor League of New South Wales. In that platform one of the planks is “Resumption of land for closer settlement,” the other is a progressive land tax on all lands over £5,000 in value. The Federal party has adopted the second. It could not, if it would, adopt the first, because the Federal authority could not resume lands for closer settlement. What the Labor-Socialist Party cannot do directly it seeks to do by subterfuge, and by an invasion of State rights. (Hear, hear)

They have no more legal right to cut up land in a State by means of a tax than they have by means of a surveyor. Their project seeks to make all land-holdings, however, small, subject to the panics of a glutted market, in order to nationalise them whether large or small, which is the main object of their socialistic creed. One of the obvious advantages of the policy of State resumption is that the State can choose the best lands first. Under the progressive tax, the large estates would be reduced on the basis of getting rid of the worst land first.

Land value taxation

I believe in land value taxation as a perfectly fair principle. (Applause)

I carried a land tax in New South Wales. But land value taxation, and closer settlement, and “bursting up the large estates,” are all questions just as entirely within the province of the State, and just as foreign to the jurisdiction of Federal politicians, as an attempt to “burst up” the public schools, or the public hospitals, would be. There are two ways of carrying out the great and beneficial work of closer settlement-one by an unconstitutional stratagem; the other by the simple, honest, method of resuming and paying. This course leaves land at its honest value whether held in 50 acres or 5,000. The other method involves all land values in chaos, ripe for that socialistic proposal, “nationalisation of land.”

Navigation laws

There are a number of changes in the navigation laws, which ought to be made, to promote the comfort and safety of sailors and passengers alike. But one of the aims of the Labor Party is to establish a “ring” of their own in the Australian shipping trade, by putting British ships under restrictions not yet attached to them. This is also one of the aims of the “shipping ring” which they denounce.

The public debts of the states

I am glad that the recent State conference has arrived at conclusions with reference to the public debts of the States, which bring the great advantage of Commonwealth control with measurable distance.

Commercial codes

I look upon Federal codes on the subject of banking, trading corporations, insurance, bankruptcy, and all other commercial matters included in the Constitution, as an important part of the practical benefits of Federation, to be realised at an early date.

Socialism

I now come, ladies and gentlemen, to the greatest of all the Federal issues - socialism. (Loud cheers)

Shall the policy of State Socialism be adopted as the national policy, or shall it be emphatically discarded and repudiated? This is no question of using the powers of the Commonwealth freely and fearlessly in redressing wrongs and suppressing abuses, or in advancing the general welfare. That policy began and flourished in Australia long before the Socialists were ever heard of, and will continue long after they have disappeared. (Cheers)

The Socialism which we will fight to the death is not the use of the powers of the State for the advancement of the people, but an attempt to enable the State to usurp the function of private enterprise and to destroy the industrial freedom of the masses in order to make them become servants of the State, whilst taking all the risks of a gigantic trading speculation managed by official “bosses”. The first demand of the Socialists is, “nationalise monopolies.” This issue really raises the whole question. If a tobacco monopoly, or a shipping monopoly, or a sugar monopoly, is to be run by the Commonwealth, why not nationalise all other industries? The “objective” of the socialists clearly in values that course. It covers “all producers”, therefore “all producing industries.”

If, as they say, capital is “exploiting” labor, I say the State would “exploit” labor, too, and with more effect. Private enterprise pays all its own losses, but the Socialistic State would cast all the losses of its stupendous undertakings on the workers, who would, when the scheme was complete, be the only shareholders of “Australia unlimited,” with a capital debt of £1,000,000,000, and an interest payment of £50,000,000 a year to provide for-equal to about £1 a week out of the pocket of each male worker-before the gigantic monopoly began to make a penny towards earning a bare subsistence for the people, to say nothing of profits.

What a mess the politicians-for they are the State in its active personality-have nearly always made of politics, for which they are supposed to be specially fitted! (A voice: 'that's right.')

But our blunders in politics would be fascinating, compared with the horrible tangle we would get the people into in trying to run all the town and country industries of Australia.

Industrial despotism

The first step essential to socialised industries would be the proclamation of industrial despotism-absolute suppression of private enterprise-absolute authority in the bosses-absolute subjection on the part of the men - absolutism everywhere! The workers would have to go where ordered, do what they were told, and take what they were paid! (Hear, hear)

At present they shift their political masters, then their masters, that is, the State; that is, the “bosses” would shift them!

Merit or equality?

Are the socialised workers to be paid according to merit? (A cry: 'no.')

That would mean an immensely costly audit, and universal discontent. (Hear, hear)

Are they to be paid the same all round? That would amount to a gigantic “exploitation” of labor on the part of the State, the weak and lazy enjoying dividends equal to those earned by the strong, the capable, and the industrious. Again, universal discontent. The horrors and miseries of that Socialistic experiment in Paraguay would spread over the whole continent. “Individualism” and “competition” instead of being suppressed, would assert themselves in far more unlovely and disastrous forms than ever, because there would be only one ladder of ambition left, at the foot of which a million of male workers would scramble for the best Government billet.

The terms “capital” and “capitalist” cover more than money. They include the few who have much money, the many who have some, and all who have none at all. The brains of a man, his physical strength, his frugal, indomitable spirit, all these are forms of “capital,” and all the men possessing them are “capitalists”. Almost every successful man Australia began life with no other capital. These qualities were translated by arduous labor and enterprise into money, just as the qualities of some other men translate themselves into failure and self-indulgence.

In seeking to destroy the motives which make men “capitalists,” you seek to destroy the motives which make men, and nations of men, successful. You do more. You sound the death-knell of personal liberty as well as contract the opportunities of personal ambition. The State industrial becomes one of a vast army. He is an elector, one day in three years-he is a shareholder-when calls have to be made-but a free agent, no, and never. A parental authority far from divine surrounds him, from which there is no escape, either in youth, manhood, or old age.

Today the Australian people are the masters of the State. Then, the State would become the immovable, eternal master of the people. These socialistic schemes have been tried everywhere, and have failed everywhere. They were conceived more than 2,000 years ago, and have never since then won the endorsement of a single statesman in any country. They transform the relations of human life and fetter human initiative at every point. They really require the re-creation of humanity; for force cannot reform the human soul. Love may, self-sacrifice may, but force never. (Cheers)

In place of all these mad, disastrous schemes, I have a few simple suggestions to offer.

If labor does not get its honest share in the great work of production, see that it does get justice. If monopolies become a nuisance or an injury, regulate or suppress them. But do not enslave all because some do wrong. Do not force industrial fetters on all because some are weak, or lag behind. Relieve the industrial cripples by some other methods than that of breeding a nation of industrial conscripts.

Not an election cry

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have fully opened my mind to you upon all the great questions of the day. Although I have criticised the present Administration, as I thought it my duty to do, I believe most of its members, and nearly all its adherents, will soon realise that I have not manufactured an election cry, but have discovered a real and increasing national danger, which must some day compel all Liberals, whether in one camp or the other, to bury their grievances and their differences, and rally their forces to free Parliament from the domination of the secret caucus, and to defend the industrial and political liberty of Australia from the attack of Socialism. (Loud cheers)

Last night, at Redfern, the innate ferocity of the socialistic tiger displayed itself. The night of public meeting, the right of free speech, the common fairness of allowing me, as one political leader, to reply to Mr. Watson, another political leader, on a public platform-all these were outraged; and considerations which appeal to every civilised intelligence and to the most rudimentary instinct of political liberty, were deliberately and persistently trampled under foot. The tiger cub of Australian Socialism in indeed beginning to feel its claws and to show its teeth.

I close this manifesto with the memorable words of the present Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, when he and I stood side by side in the political arena:

Instead, therefore, of taking the downward path that would lead to political servitude, and perhaps to social slavery, we want to rally to our flag those in favour of responsible government, to restore majority rule, and to maintain the priceless heritage which our forefathers have handed down to us, and which we should preserve or perish.

(Loud and prolonged applause)

Australia's Nine Greatest Needs

Mr. Reid indicates the Nine Greatest Needs of Australia as follows:-

  1. The rescue of national politics from the influence of class feeling and personal selfishness.
  2. The restoration of majority rule and parliamentary government.
  3. The overthrow of the secret political caucus which has captured the Federal Government and Federal Parliament.
  4. The cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a spirit of mutual fairness between employers and trades-unions and all other workers in the Commonwealth.
  5. White agricultural immigration the necessity of a white Australia.
  6. Systems of public instructions that teach those who can read and write something that is even more important-how to become skilled workers on the plains, in factories, and in the mines of Australia; and beyond that how to become enlightened men and women up to the highest range of their mental capacities.
  7. Agricultural settlement and scientific development of rural industries.
  8. Honest electoral boundaries.
  9. Pure and efficient electoral rolls, and, better still, electors who value the vote they are entitled to.

Australia's Nine Greatest Evils

Mr. Reid sums up Australia's Greatest Evils.

  1. Six overcrowded capitals in six sparsely-settled States.
  2. The ascendancy of a close corporation in politics-the Socialist Labour Party-based on political and industrial privilege, gained for some workers at the expense of others.
  3. A socialist movement that aims at the regeneration of humanity, not by Christian methods of love and self-sacrifice, but by the dismal sway of State compulsion, preceded by a war of classes, and the destruction of private enterprise and industrial liberty.
  4. The use of a noble, democratic name-that of labour-in support of the socialistic movement, inspired by hatred of personal liberty, which it denounces under the name of competition and individualism; the attempts socialists are making to represent the capitalised labour of the frugal and industrious as the robbery of the frugal and industrious.
  5. The substitution by the labour leagues of Australia of the socialistic ideal of compulsion for the democratic ideal of liberty.
  6. The attempt of Australian socialists to replace the democratic principle that the people are masters of the State by the socialistic principle that the State should be master of the people.
  7. The disgusting selfishness of those who would rather help the cause they denounce as a national danger than renounce the faint prospect of personal advantage by means of a higher tariff.
  8. The desperate and deplorable position of the present Government, who are anti-socialists to a man, but prefer to suppress their views, and remain in office as servants of socialists.
  9. The attempt the Deakin Government and the socialist party in alliance are making to depri:ve the anti-socialist forces of Australia of a magnificent triumph by means of a flank movement for a high tariff, which endangers the forces of the anti-socialists, and adds to the powers of the socialistic fiscal-atheist party.