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In such a situation on the one side, a party torn and discredited, its machine at a standstill because the extremists in control of the mechanism are at loggerheads with the mass of unionists who supply, or will not supply, the fuel; on the other, a coalition which has lost its reason for coalition (the war) and is constrained to follow the leader of its minority simply because its majority cannot provide a leader worth following-one finds some difficulty in describing the policy of either party. They are differentiated, as regards most of the immediately offered legislation, rather by methods than by objects. Both, that is, are avowedly hostile to profiteering, to delays in arbitration, to excessive expenditure; both promise (at election times) further bounty to returned soldiers; both
both propose to use Governmental instruments in the development of public and private wealth. Apart from the attempts of a certain section of Labour to substitute its own cliques and organisers for Parliament and its Ministries as the governing force in the Commonwealth, the most notable feature of the new Labour policy is its determination (on paper, at least) to isolate and unify Australia. The Senate,' said Mr Tudor in a recent policy speech, and the State Parliaments and Governorships shall be abolished. Local governmental powers shall be exercised by provincial legislatures and municipalities, constituted by and subordinate to the Commonwealth Parliament. The High Court shall become the final court of appeal in any Australian case. . . . All Bills passed by the Australian Parliament must receive assent on the advice of Australian Ministers only.' As for defence, he went on-having previously regretted that the terms of the recent Peace Treaty did not provide for the total disarmament of all nations'-a Labour Ministry would in its first session repeal all classes of the Defence Act providing for compulsory service and compulsory training, and enact that, except in
pursuance of an expressed vote of the people, no force to take part in an oversea war should be raised within the Commonwealth. This is the moderate leader speaking; the views of his more extreme followers may be judged from the latest utterance of a president of the Labour Council'— The Navy does not produce anything
of a productive nature, and the millions of pounds spent for its upkeep could be well spent elsewhere.'
The Ministerial policy, on the other hand, so far as Mr Hughes can shape it (and that is a grave qualification, for no one knows what his colleagues may be up to when the Prime Minister is away), is based on the fact that Australia cannot thus isolate herself. Defence against outside aggression is the purpose towards which every specific measure is directed. For defence of so vast an area a large population is indispensable; therefore immigration must be fostered (but, just because the object is defence, it must be immigration of British settlers), and larger families must be encouraged. The economic policy of this party ... must create conditions in their employment which will benefit the great mass of the people, and must encourage a large population to develop the resources of the country. Similarly measures to open up the irrigable lands of the Murray valley, and to provide a uniform gauge throughout the Australian trunk lines, are adopted because they have a high defensive value. As for the more technical forms of defence, naval and military, little progress can be made while the burden of war debt so severely cripples Australian finance; and the naval side, in particular, is apparently being allowed to slacken. But this is purely a matter of money and of the immediate crisis ; it would be unjust to assume, as some English critics appear already to have done, that Australia is reverting to the old policy of expecting Britain to defend her. We as a people,' said Mr Hughes the other day, 'have no right to throw our burdens on the other nations which comprise the British Empire, or to make their burdens any greater than they are.' But this policy, unfortunately, depends for its maintenance almost entirely on Mr Hughes. · Indeed, the most encouraging feature of the political situation is that everything depends on him. For reasons shortly to be discussed, there is not another man in the Ministerial party, friend or enemy, fit to take up his work and develop his ideas. And if they are not developed - whether the uninspired plodding of his colleagues or the windy vapourings of the Labour Council replace them- the future of Australia will be dark indeed.
The Conscription Referendum of October 1916 marks à turning-point in Australian Labour tactics. In the first place, the expulsions that followed it established for the first time a principle often previously advocated but never agreed to-that Labour members of Parliament were under the orders of the annual Trade Union Conference. The older pledge, in spite of many misrepresentations, was logical and consistent with Parliamentary duty. It provided that the adhering member should be bound by the fighting platform' on which he had been elected, and on all questions involving that platform should vote as the majority of his fellowmembers decided; but on matters with which the platform did not deal the member was free to use his own judgment. But the Conference was ill-content with this degree of subordination. The Federal fighting platform,' formulated at a special Conference held about halfway between dissolutions, was usually more than a year old before the elections, and therefore out of date by the time Parliament was sitting. So, when the Federal Labour Ministry in 1916 defied the extremist invaders and brought in a proposal for Conscription (which, not being considered in the 1914 fighting platform,' was avowedly a matter for each man's personal decision), the indignant Conference, completely mastered by its extremist section, asserted its power to dictate the Labour vote, and to expel from the party any member refusing to accept its orders. Every advocate of Conscription who refused to withdraw his declarations and admit his subordinate position was wiped off the list of Labour members, and ipso facto became the most hated of Labour's opponents.
There and then the Australian Labour Party, as men had known it from its inception-the party of nondoctrinaire socialism, of sober practical legislative progress and cautious administration, of Watson and Fisher and Batchelor and Hughes, which the official Socialists' of Australia had always denounced as bourgeois-died and was buried. It lost its leaders and its organisation together with its character and its aims; and the party that stole its name and its machinery, and tried to assume its position in politics, was an imposture. It is true that it was on the whole an intelligent imposture,
for the new leaders did not lack brains-what they lacked was experience, and the resulting foresight, and their superabundant emotionalism did not compensato for it. But it was a strange new spirit usurping and misusing the old machinery; and no criticism or apprecia
; tion of Australian Labour that dates from before 1916 can be applied to the body now using that name.
The moral is trite enough, and concerns the tyrannical possibilities of machines. Representative systems in modern times must have certain machinery; without it the average citizen would be hopelessly at sea in elections; and the more inclined the citizens are to use their individual judgment, the more necessary is machinery that will supply materials on which it may be used. But, for that very reason, control of the machinery must be effective and continuous, and must at no momenthowever seemingly unimportant-be left to ill-informed or unbalanced engineers. In Australia, moreover, special conditions made dependence on mere mechanism exceptionally dangerous; for the national virtue of com. radeship lays stress on men more than on measures, and bases the Australian's attitude towards a policy rather on his opinion of the politician than on his views about the proposal. While Mr Hughes was in constant personal contact with the Unions, he was all-powerful, and much was done at his bidding that might not have been done on the average Unionist's judgment of its merits. Even when work in the Federal Parliament, and subsequently the duties of a Minister and the heavy burden of a Premier's responsibility, almost completely severed the personal contact, belief in 'Billy' still worked wonders. But the thread was wearing very thin. It seems probable that Mr Hughes' prolonged absence on his first London visit, emphasised by stupid cable messages about his reception in aristocratic circles in England, snapped it at last. A 'Billy' they never saw, who took tea with Duchesses and received compliments from Lords, was no longer the mate they had followed; they turned for advice to the men closer at hand, the Union secretaries and organisers who were more or less part of their daily life; and the advocacy of any measure by the man they had half-forgotten, and who (so they were told) had more than half-forgotten them, became as convincing an argument against the measure as, a year earlier, it would have been a recommendation. And if any superior person is moved to pity or despise men who could base their political opinions on considerations so insufficient (not to say irrelevant), let him bethink him how many millions accept their opinions from anonymous writers in journals directed by unknown forces and swayed by subterranean influences.
There is a further moral, hardly less trite. The machine in power demands submissive subordinates-i.e. men of identical or of negligible opinions. And the majority will be in the latter class. We may with reasonable security take the word of a Labour exSenator (one who was not expelled) as published in a Labour journal of some note-the Sydney Worker.' After describing the 'solidarity' pledge and the choice of a ticket' to fill all offices in the important Labour organisations, Mr Arthur Rae goes on :
They discussed the Conference business paper, and whatever they decided to support or oppose every delegate in the section" was pledged to vote solidly on in Conference, no matter what new facts or arguments might be adduced. The "section" also had a rule that its members must vote in “threes”-that is, that each member must after voting show his ballot-paper to two others.'
The Liberal machine, tyrannical enough at times, never attained this degree of stringency; nor, for that matter, does every Labour body exact such absolute obedience as the Industrial Section for securing Labour solidarity' with which Mr Rae was dealing. But in one form or another the demand for blind obedience has been put forward ; and as a result the quality of candidates on both sides has steadily declined from 1913 onwards. One Liberal member of great promise, who had been forced upon the unwilling machine by an independent constituency, deliberately refused re-election because of the company into which it would throw him. No others of a promising type have appeared. Labour (the new Labour, that is) has recruited from the State Parliament of Queensland one man with a certain power of leadership-but, as his successor in the Queensland premiership has discovered, with a still greater power of
Vol. 236.–No. 468.