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21. Chapter XXI. Victoria.

IN the very compact little colony of Victoria the separation of the people politically into two hostile camps took place very early. The first Labor member, Charles Jardine Don, was elected for Collingwood August 26th, 1859, and worked at his trade as a stonemason all day and attended Parliament at night. He was defeated by Graham Berry in August, 1861, by only 46 votes. At a later date Wilson Gray was also looked upon as a Labor man, and the diggers of Ballarat paid the expenses of Duncan Gillies, who afterwards turned out so conservative. In the days of Sir Henry Barkly—1856 to 1863—democratic advance was made, as State-aid to religion was abolished, property qualification for the Assembly was done away with, and manhood suffrage and vote by ballot were introduced. The most exciting time, however, began under Sir Charles Darling—1863 to 1866. The fiscal question had been raised into prominence, and mainly through the continuous and vigorous efforts of the late David Syme in the “Age” newspaper, the mass of the people had adopted Protection as the policy of the colony. Right on until the coming into power of the Coalition Government under James Service in March, 1883, we had exciting times and


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active political thought. The first Factories Act was passed in that period.

The squatters had secured the freehold of their huge estates by various methods of dummying, and joined with the rich importers in fighting democracy. The gold diggers had ever been opposed to the land monopolist, and, as they had now become wage-workers under mining companies, they readily took up the cry for Protection to native industries with the desire that an avenue of employment should be found which would keep their children out of the unhealthy and dangerous mines. The wealthy class were revenue tariffists. They called themselves “Freetraders,” but as they were, and are still, opposed to direct taxation they were not prepared to accept free ports.

Entrenched in the Legislative Council the rich minority resisted the masses in every step taken in legislation. As employers they used the boycott at every opportunity. In 1879 I was president of the Creswick Branch of the National Reform and Protection League, and Mr. W. Hogg was secretary. Mr. Hogg made his living as a carrier of goods from the railway to the mines. The chairman of the leading mines in the Creswick district, together with the legal manager, went to Ballarat and called upon all the foundries and other business people with whom they had dealings, and instructed them not to consign any goods through Mr. Hogg. Thus they intended to starve him out of the district because he honestly differed in political opinion from the class of men dominating the mines. Many similar


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cases could be quoted. The ukase was only withdrawn when the A.M.A. took up the case and threatened strike.

Old residents of Victoria will remember “Black Wednesday,” January 8, 1878. Graham Berry had included £18,000 for payment of members in the Appropriation Bill in order to force the Council to pass it. The Council rejected the Bill, and there were no funds to pay the “curled darlings,” as the late Higinbotham termed the Civil Service officials of the day. The Government sacked the heads of departments, the judges, police magistrates, Crown prosecutors, etc., and there was much lamentation in the land. The poor wage-slaves may be discharged by the thousand, but not a word of sympathy is accorded them; but a terrific storm arose over putting the well-paid out of office and employment.

The history of that period is highly interesting, but space forbids more than touching on it. Sir Charles Darling was recalled in 1866 over the fight with the Council. Berry came in in 1877, and after his struggle with the House of political fossils he and Pearson were sent to England to ask for an amendment of the Constitution. They were reminded that Victoria was a self-governing colony, and must work out its own salvation, politically and otherwise. The Upper House still sits as an incubus on democratic government.

The Liberal Party of the seventies was the Labor Party of that period insofar as class feeling and class interests dominated. Mr. Berry organized


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leagues all over Victoria prior to the election of 1877. The great and important difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party of to-day lies in the fact that the Liberal policy and platform were and are made by politicians, whilst those of the Labor Party are made by the organized unions and leagues at an annual conference. Reform is initiated by the people in the case of Labor, but is kept in the control of politicians in the case of the Liberal Party. The fact that there is practically no difference between the two old parties is proved by the way they have come together whenever there has been a domocratic awakening of the people. This coming together has always been against the welfare of the masses and in favor of the classes.

The idea of the workers selecting their own mates and sending them to Parliament was slow in evolving. In 1880 we selected the general secretary of the A.M.A. (Mr. Henry Taylor) to run for Creswick and Clunes, the workers undertaking his expenses. I put in a fortnight's work and a fortnight's wages to help, but we failed to secure his election. March, 1883, brought in the Coalition under James Service. It came because of sectarianism, one of the great curses with which the masses are still afflicted. The plea was that it was necessary to combine to prevent the Catholics getting a separate grant for their schools.

When politicians want to do a thing they always find an excuse. The cry of “The Education Act in danger” served as well or better in that case than any other. It diverted attention from the real issues


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which were ripe for settlement, calmed down political excitement, and incidentally, of course, enabled leading politicians to secure a lengthy tenure of office at good pay and under easy, peaceful conditions. Service held office till February, 1886, when the Gillies Coalition Government took charge, and they hung on until 5th November, 1890.

Alfred Deakin was called for by the country when Gillies took office, and effort was made to revive the old Liberal Party, but he took the easy way and joined the continuous Government, whose motto was three P's—Peace, Progress, and Prosperity. What irony lay under that motto was soon to come to the people in the shock, misery, and ruin of the financial disaster of 1893, which followed the land boom. The three P's suited the gamblers finely, as it gave the people confidence, lulled them into security, and enabled the swindlers to work the confidence game to the tune of millions. It was a period of capitalism run mad without let or hindrance. The Gillies-Deakin crew ran the show during the maritime trouble. Being great lovers of peace and comfort they got so scared because a few trade unionists arranged for a public meeting that they called nearly the whole military forces out, as detailed elsewhere.

Victoria's practical start came in 1891. A vacancy occurred in Collingwood owing to the death of Mr. Langridge, and one of the leading unionists in connection with the Trades Hall was asked to run for the seat. A short Platform was drawn up by the local committee, and on April 17, 1891, Mr. John


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Hancock was elected by a big majority. It was then resolved that a Labor political organization should be formed, representing the whole colony. The following met on May 30:—Trades Hall Council, Messrs. Winter and Wylie; Ballarat Trades Council, Messrs. Hurdsfield and Wilson; Bendigo Trades Council, Messrs. Thomas and Egan; Geelong Trades Council, Messrs. Shepherd and Redmond; Shearers' Union, Messrs. Temple and Slattery; Amalgamated Miners' Association, Messrs. Lawn and Hunter; Social Democratic Federation, Mr. Flinn. The Knights of Labor asked for representation, but were refused on account of being a secret society. Mr. Joseph Winter acted as chairman, and Mr. D. Bennett as secretary. They sat for three days, and agreed upon the formation of an organization to be called the “Progressive Political League.” The annual subscription was fixed at not less than one shilling, and seventeen rules were drafted for its government. The platform consisted of four planks.

This Platform was approved and adopted by the Trades Hall Council on June 1, 1891. On being submitted to the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Miners' Association, that body would not adopt it as drafted, but added a plank, “Maintenance of the Education Act,” which, of course, put the A.M.A. outside the political Labor movement—where it remained till 1909, owing to the conservatism of its leaders. Such a plank was unnecessary in the first place, and would have led to disunion in the A.M.A. and other unions. But for the action of the narrow-minded bigots on the executive of the A.M.A.


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at that time, Labor would have been in a much stronger position to-day in Victoria, and, incidentally, many lives of miners would have been saved, as better mining legislation would have been secured. It is only recently that the country electorates have returned Labor members, and that fact is due, not to the A.M.A., but to the A.W.U.

The Parliament of 1889 contained two members who could be classed as Labor men, Dr. Maloney and W. A. Trenwith. Mr. Beazley was also a member, and he joined in the new movement. Mr. Hancock (the first member elected on a straight-out Labor platform) was added in 1891, and in the elections of April 20, 1892, the following were elected under the new Platform:—W. D. Beazley, Collingwood; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; J. B. Burton, Stawell; W. T. Carter, Williamstown; W. Maloney, Melbourne West; J. Murray, Warrnambool; S. Samuel, Dundas; W. A. Trenwith, Richmond; J. Winter, Melbourne South; D. R. Wylie, Melbourne North. This made ten in a House of 90. Samuel died on July 28, and his seat was lost. Mr. Trenwith was appointed leader of the party, and Mr. Bromley secretary. The party and the movement lost a splendid man in D. R. Wylie, who died on May 10, 1893.

The elections turned largely on the subjects set out in the Labor Platform. Mr. Shiels practically jumped the Platform, and the country sent him back with a very large majority. He was like most of the politicians of the old school—great in talk, but very forgetful after the elections were over. Shiels took office in February, 1892, but did nothing to carry out his promises, and in January, 1893, the Patterson


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Government came in. The result of the policy of the three P's party was evidenced by a statement made by Mr. Patterson that on January 23, 1893, 15,857 persons were registered as unemployed.

This was the time everything was booming, according to the land gamblers. On a want of confidence motion moved by Mr. G. Turner being carried against him, Patterson secured a dissolution, went to the country, and lost. At this election, September 20, 1894, Labor secured sixteen seats, as follows:—J. G. Barrett, Carlton South; W. D. Beazley, Collingwood; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; J. N. Hume Cook, East Brunswick Boroughs; W. A. Hamilton, Sandhurst; J. Hancock, Footscray; J. Murray, Warrnambool; G. M. Prendergast, Melbourne North; G. Sangster, Port Melbourne; T. Smith, Emerald Hill; J. Styles, Williamstown; W. A. Trenwith, Richmond; E. Wilkins, Collingwood; J. Winter, Melbourne South; J. B. Burton, Stawell; W. Maloney, Melbourne West.

The sixteenth Parliament opened on October 4, 1894, Mr. (now Sir) George Turner having taken office on September 27. This was the great retrenchment Government, and it started its policy with fifteen Ministers—ten with portfolios, and five without. The seven years of political peace had brought on the land boom. The land boom had produced the bank and other smashes and ruined things generally, and now, to complete things, the Turner Government cut salaries and stopped increments of the poorly paid, and started on the job with fifteen Ministers for the Government of a


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million people. They tried to cut members' allowances down to £200, but the House, on the casting vote of the Chair, made it £240. By sweating the public servants and letting public works stand still Turner made ends meet, and got the name of being a great Treasurer.

Photograph facing p.312. G.M.PRENDERGAST, M.L.A., Leader of Victorian Labor Party



The right thing for Governments to do is to spend public money and carry out public works in times when private enterprise is in a bad way and unemployed are numerous, but all our Governments hitherto have reversed that method. When there are hard times, they make it worse by curtailing the purchasing power of the public service, and by discharging all the hands they can struggle along without. It is entirely a capitalistic method, and will go on until the people are wise enough to put in a Government whose training has been of the opposite kind.

The elections of October 14, 1897, returned the following direct Labor members:—W. D. Beazley and E. Wilkins, Collingwood; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; J. B. Burton, Stawell; J. Hancock, Footscray; W. Maloney, Melbourne West; J. Murray, Warrnambool; G. Sangster, Port Melbourne; T. Smith, Emerald Hill; J. Styles, Williamstown; W. A. Trenwith, Richmond; J.B. Tucker, Melbourne South; W. A. Hamilton, Sandhurst. Mr. Beazley was Chairman of Committees from 1897 until 1903, when he was elected Speaker, a position he held until June, 1904. One of the staunchest fighters and most popular of men died on November 22, 1899, in the person of Jack Hancock.




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The eighteenth Parliament was elected on November 1, 1900, and Labor secured the following seats:—W. D. Beazley, Collingwood; J. B. Billson, Fitzroy; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; J. B. Burton, Stawell; E. Findley, Melbourne; Dr. W. Maloney, Melbourne West; G. M. Prendergast, Melbourne North; G. Sangster, Port Melbourne; T. Smith, Emerald Hill; W. A. Trenwith, Richmond; J. B. Tucker, Melbourne South; E. Warde, Essendon and Flemington; E. Wilkins, Collingwood. The temptations of office proved stronger than Labor principles in the case of two members, as Messrs. Trenwith and Burton both left the party and joined the Turner Ministry. They also helped to oust Mr. Findley on June 25, 1901—an act which shows how quickly men become degraded under an evil environment. Mr. Bromley was appointed leader and Mr. Billson secretary of the party.

Turner kept the Treasury benches for five years and seventy days. McLean then squeezed him out for eleven months, but he came back again on November 15, 1900. When Sir Geo. Turner went to the Federal Parliament, Peacock, who had been in both Turner's Ministries, took the Premiership in February, 1901. During the reign of Peacock an incident occurred worth more than passing notice.

One of the most noticeable characteristics of the wealthy classes in Australia is their snobbishness. They have the slave's instincts strongly developed. They would crawl in the dust if royalty, or aristocracy, would only condescend to look at them. Behind this snobbishness lies faith in force and


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coercion to curb the masses. The slightest criticism of anybody in authority or high position is utter blasphemy and disloyalty. Remarks about royalty which would be taken no notice of in England by anybody will render the person uttering them in Australia liable to severe penalty if the snobs can only move the authorities.

“The Irish People” had published an article adversely criticising royalty. The writer and proprietor was a member of the mother of Parliaments—the House of Commons. The attention of the authorities was called to the article, and they seized the unsold copies found in the office of the paper. The Government at the head of the Empire saw no occasion to go farther. Copies of “The Irish People” came to Australia. The article was reprinted in the “Southern Cross,” of Adelaide. With a view of hitting at the manager (Mr. J. V. O'Loghlin, M.L.C.), a Liberal, some busybody sent a copy to the Governor, but he took no action, and nothing was done.

In Melbourne, a small Labor paper called the “Tocsin” had been struggling along under difficulties. It did not have a wide circle of readers, and was certainly not powerful enough to burst up the British Empire. It had various editors at this time. In its issue of June 20, 1901, appeared the article from “The Irish People,” with comments severely condemning the article in question, and showing how wrong and foolish that sort of writing was. Late that evening a man from the conservative organ of Victoria, the “Argus,” waited on the


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Premier (Sir A. J. Peacock) and called his attention to the fact that the article had been published, and that the imprint on the paper showed that the name of Mr. E. Findley, who had just before been elected to the Assembly for Melbourne as a Labor man, appeared as owner of the “Tocsin.”

Sir Aleck said he would see his legal advisers as to what could be done. Having been decorated by a bit of ribbon and secured a handle to his name, he was simply bursting with what he imagined was loyalty, but which another term would more correctly express. He urged the “Argus” to say nothing until he moved. This did not suit the organ of the classes, however, and next morning it called attention to the article, and people who had never heard of the little “Tocsin” rushed around to buy a copy. Mr. Findley first knew of the article by reading of it in the “Argus,” and at once stopped the further circulation of the “Tocsin.” Newsagents had sent in for copies. As much as a shilling had been offered for a single copy, as people thought it must be very wicked, and wanted to read it. Neither the “Argus” nor anybody else outside a few of the snobocracy were much troubled or affected by anything the “Tocsin” might say, but they were curious.

Poor Sir Aleck! He was not able to sleep. He felt that something awful would happen to the King if he did not do something. The Empire was in danger, and he cabled at once to Joe Chamberlain. Whether this was for advice or contained an assurance that he would defend the King with his heart's blood did not appear. Chamberlain was duly stirred,


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and cabled his reply, which, though marked “secret and confidential,” Sir Aleck was willing to let his friends see privately if they wished. He was willing to show everything privately, but would not give the House the benefit of it, which was a curious way to treat a thing marked “secret and confidential.”

The House met on June 18, 1901. So soon as the preliminaries were over, Sir Aleck arose and made a statement about the matter. He had the resolution ready for the expulsion of Findley, but before it was moved someone hinted it might be as well to hear what the culprit had to say. Findley was allowed to make a statement, and he told them of the fact that he had nothing to do with the article. He did not know it was published until he saw it in the “Argus.” He did not approve of it, and at once stopped the issue. He could do no more than that, and expressed his regret and apologised for its appearance. Less than that would have satisfied the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but the snobbish majority of the Victorian Parliament was lost to all sense of justice or common sense. Sir Aleck moved the following resolution:—

“That the honorable member for Melbourne, Mr. Edward Findley, being the printer and publisher of a newspaper known as the ‘Tocsin,’ in the issue of which on the 20th inst. there is published a seditious libel regarding His Majesty the King, is guilty of disloyalty to His Majesty, and committed an act discreditable to the honor of Parliament, and that he therefore be expelled this House.”


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It was all rigged up beforehand. It was a shocking thing for the heart of Melbourne City to be represented by a Labor man. It was made doubly bad when the Labor man was a Catholic in religion. If he could be got rid of there was no chance of his re-election, as at a by-election the property-owners, by their plural voting, could simply swamp the residential votes and put in the chosen of the “Argus.” This was the plot, and Peacock was a pliant tool in the hands of the conservatives. It was appropriate that Sir Sam. Gillott, since exposed for another matter, seconded the motion, and in view of later developments it was not surprising that Mr. Irvine strongly supported. He spoke bitterly, and Mr. Prendergast interjected, “And you are a relative of John Mitchell.”

Findley had been turned out of the House during the debates. Amendments less drastic were suggested, such as a week's suspension, but nothing less than capital punishment would suit the hypocritical snobs who, under pretence of extreme loyalty to the King, tried to hide the fact that their real desire was to get rid of a Labor member. An amendment suspending Findley for the session was lost, 17 voting for it and 64 against. Amongst those who perpetrated this gross injustice were the two Labor rats, Trenwith and Burton, who were members of the Peacock Ministry.

Findley was expelled, and a good conservative elected in his place. To the credit of the Victorian people, however, they elected Mr. Findley to the Commonwealth Senate at the first opportunity, a


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position he fills with credit and ability. Had Peacock not expelled Findley it is pretty certain that he would not have lost the Premiership when Iceberg Irvine moved his no confidence motion the following year, as the Labor Party voted with him. Mr. Boyd, who took Findley's seat for Melbourne, voted with the Tory Irvine, and the motion was only carried by three votes.

If Sir A. J. Peacock was sincere in his desire to uphold the honor of Parliament in the case of the “Tocsin” he has sadly degenerated since, as his recent connection with bribery and mining swindles proves. He has been exposed in the House and in the Courts; but he did not resign, nor did the Premier take any action to have him expelled. It all goes to show that there must not be even the semblance of evil on the part of a Labor member, but members of the other parties may do anything without its being considered a disgrace.

About this time the great agitation took place for reform of Parliament. All Peacock's Ministers, with one exception, had placed their resignations in his hands so that he could cut out some of the Ministers. It turned out, however, that they had post-dated their resignations five months ahead. W. H. Irvine, since known as “Iceberg Irvine,” secured control of Victorian affairs on June 3, 1902. He became famous—and in some quarters infamous—for his Coercion Bill to put down the railway men who went on strike in his reign. The engine-drivers had in vain appealed to have their just grievances considered, and at last resorted to the good old industrial weapon of a strike. They decided to stop


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the wheels from going round, and to leave the people to walk if they desired to travel.

Irvine posed as the cool, strong man, able to put down insurrection. He was as cold as a Russian despot, and took the world-old method of the tyrant-minded—that of force. The Trades Hall Council of Melbourne is technically simply a committee to look after the affairs of the hall as a place of meeting with rooms to let. In practice it takes up industrial matters in an advisory way, but has no real power to make an organization do anything. In the railway service of the State there were a number of organizations, and these had been affiliated with the Trades Hall for about seventeen years. No complaint had been made or trouble caused by this connection. There had been unrest in the service owing to several causes. Heavy retrenchment by the Turner Government was one thing, and there were many grievances which ought to have been adjusted.

Instead of providing a remedy for the grievances, the Irvine-Bent Ministry issued a decree that every union of railway men affiliated with the Trades Hall Council must at once withdraw from same, under penalty of dismissal from the service. No reason was assigned, and the several executives declined to accede to the order. Mr. Irvine met them, but was unable to point out any justification for the order. He gave them a night to think it over. His Ministry gave them five days' grace, but the men not only refused to give up their freedom, but on May 8, 1903, the locomotive drivers came out on strike. Of course there was excitement. The public—who forget that their lives depend upon the


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character and ability of the man on the engine, and who howled for cutting his wages so as to save their pockets—then kicked because they were put to inconvenience by the act of a tyrannical Government.

Every effort was made to keep the trains going. Old drivers who had been discharged for drunkenness and incapacity were put on, with the promise of a permanent job. All sorts were raked up—in short, the usual scum which turns up when a few pounds can be got by doing any sort of mean and dirty work. The Government offered all sorts of bribes—even double pay and a £50 bonus—to influence men to go to work, but failed to get many. In a state of panic the “strong man” called Parliament together. His Attorney-General and himself had raked the laws of the world for ideas sufficiently drastic to satisfy the minds of those who hate a trade union worse than poison, and who would prefer to have all workers slaves without any liberty.

Victoria has become so degenerate since the days of the Eureka fight that it had elected a Parliament the majority of which voted for the most drastic and extreme Coercion Act which could possibly be drafted. The House met on May 13. The Iceberg spoke first. Sir A. Peacock, leader of the Opposition, also spoke, and with bitterness against the men. He moved an amendment that Parliament pledge itself to remedy their grievances if they would give in and go back to work. This did not suit the hungry wolves behind the Iceberg. The amendment was defeated by 58 to 30. The debate went on, and a splendid fight for freedom was put


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up by Labor members. From a brilliant and impressive address delivered by Labor-member Frank Anstey, I quote the following:—

“I say beware before you let hatred and hostility carry you too far. Look well into the pages of history, and see how futile and trifling have been the results of the strong arm of authority. It has achieved nothing—realised nothing; it has left the sting of bitterness that years have not eradicated. The hand of fellowship and human love have done more than all the Coercion Acts that ever existed. You can achieve nothing by coercion. Spread throughout the country in every little hamlet there will be a man whose heart bears the sting, fearing to express himself, but feeling an intense hatred that nothing will ever be able to kill but years—long years. You do not govern your country well when you do these things!”

The debate continued until early on the morning of the 15th. It was then interrupted by the Premier making an announcement that he had received a communication from the executive of the union that they had called the strike off. There was apparently no longer any need for the Coercion Act, as the employees had given in to everything the Government had asked; but still Irvine went on with the measure, only changing it to meet future contingencies. The second reading was carried by 66 to 18. By 3 o'clock on the morning of May 19 the bill had passed. It was brought on again that afternoon, and another fight was put up by the Labor brigade, but the brutal majority passed it. It went to the Council, the members of which, true to


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their traditions where anything calculated to crush Labor is concerned, passed the measure through all its stages in an hour or two.

It is not worth while now discussing the wisdom or otherwise of the men coming out, nor of why they gave in so readily when they had gone on strike and were so well backed up outside. It is on occasions like these that we get a glimpse of the kind of men set up to govern us. They then come out in their true colors, and prove how tyrannically inclined they are towards organized Labor. In the past it has been quite common for employers to try to direct what their workmen shall do when off duty. A favorite plan is to try to control their political opinions. It is quite common for mining companies to use influence in this way, and in many cases they let it be known that only those who will vote as the board directs will get work. Sometimes a mine official will stand at the door of the pay office and collect cash from each man as he goes out to help the political campaign of the party supported by the capitalist. Every man knows that he will lose his job if he fails to drop in his shilling. Nothing is said, but men can read signs, and the foreman or someone allows it to leak out. They attempt also to control the workmen in other matters, such as how they spend their leisure, what shops they patronise, what lodge they belong to, and even their religion. In short, the tendency under the wage system is for employers to look upon the worker as being owned by them—as a slave who has no rights and no freedom. Governments have the same tendency.


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They refuse citizen rights to their employees. In a number of ways they control their actions when off duty. This is manifestly wrong. The workman enters into a contract with the State under certain promises of advance and increased pay, etc., and in return has specific duties to perform during specified hours and in specified places. His time off duty should be his own, like that of any other private citizen. If he wishes to join a union he should be at liberty to do so. If his union wishes to take part in any forward movement for the benefit of the masses generally, why should it be prevented? The State is only concerned in what requests it may make upon the department in which the members are employed.

Not content with humiliating the men and with forfeiting very large sums, due, some of them, as retiring allowance, the Irvine Government carried their bitterness so far as to place the whole public service of the State on a different footing to persons employed in any other capacity. They disfranchised the whole service, and in order to render them practically powerless allowed them separate representation—the railway men to elect two men to Parliament, the rest of the public service one. It is satisfactory to know that this only lasted for one Parliament. Irvine retired on February 16, 1904, and Mr. Thomas Bent took charge. Since then Irvine disappeared from the State Parliament, his Act regarding special representation has been repealed, and the railway and public service employees put on the same footing as ordinary citizens. His name will ever be associated with coercion, and


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in the hearts of railway men and others the bitterness engendered by him will remain, as Anstey foretold, for “years—long years.”

Public opinion was so strongly against the treatment meted out to the Victorian railway men that when a strike took place recently in New South Wales, where the whole State-owned tramway service went out, the capitalistic Government under Mr. Wade dared not go so far as to talk of a Coercion Act. The strike there was treated in the same way as if it had been under a private company.

The 1902 elections took place on October 1, and resulted as follows:—F. Anstey, East Bourke Boroughs; W. D. Beazley and E. Wilkins, Collingwood; J. W. Billson, Fitzroy; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; G. A. Elmslie, Albert Park; Dr. W. Maloney, Melbourne West; T. Smith, Emerald Hill; G. M. Prendergast, Melbourne North; J. B. Tucker, Melbourne South; E. C. Warde, Essendon and Flemington. Dr. Maloney retired and went to the Commonwealth Parliament on November 16, 1903, and Mr. T. Tunnecliffe took his place on December 21. Mr. G. E. Roberts was elected for Richmond on the same date.

The twentieth Parliament was elected on June 1st, 1904. Labor came out as follows:—F. Anstey, Brunswick; H. E. Beard, Jika Jika; W. D. Beazley, Abbotsford; H. S. Bennett, Ballarat; G. A. Elmslie, Albert Park; J. W. Billson, Fitzroy; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; W. H. Colechin, Geelong; J. Lemmon, Williamstown; D. C. McGrath, Grenville; A. R. Outtrim, Maryborough; G. M. Prendergast, North Melbourne; D. Smith, Bendigo West; E. Wilkins,


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Collingwood; E. C. Warde, Flemington; M. Hannah and R. Solly, representing the railway men. D. Gaunson had been elected by the Public Service and had signed the platform, but failed to stick to his pledges. Mr. G. M. Prendergast was elected leader on June 7, 1904, and Mr. Elmslie secretary, positions still held by both. Prior to this election the number of members had been reduced from 95 to 68. Two seats were secured in the Legislative Council—Mr. W. J. Evans, representing the Public Service and Railways; and Mr. A. McLellan, who won a seat in the ordinary way.

For the twenty-first Parliament, elected March 15, 1907, fourteen seats were secured in the Assembly and two in the Council:—F. Anstey, Brunswick; W. D. Beazley, Abbotsford; J. W. Billson, Fitzroy; F. H. Bromley, Carlton; G. A. Elmslie, Albert Park; T. Glass, Bendigo East; J. Lemmon, Williamstown; D. C. McGrath, Grenville; A. R. Outtrim, Maryborough; G. M. Prendergast, North Melbourne; D. Smith, Bendigo West; G. Sangster, Port Melbourne; T. Tunnecliffe, Eaglehawk; E. C. Warde, Flemington. For the Council: W. J. Evans, Melbourne North; A. McLellan, Melbourne East. The striking out of the special representation clauses had reduced the numbers to 65 in the Assembly and 34 in the Council. The party was added to by Mr. Cotter winning Richmond on October 2, 1908. The party suffered a loss by the death of Mr. F. H. Bromley, but his seat was secured by Mr. R. Solly November 23, 1908.

When resigning the Premiership Mr. Irvine gave ill-health as the reason. The capitalistic section,


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known as the “Flinders Lane crowd,” who are mainly importers, led by Mr. Butler, raised a subscription of £2000, which they presented to Mrs. Irvine. This was in recognition of Irvine's great achievements in coercion and in trying to prevent any more wages boards being appointed; also that he had cut a shilling a week off the poor old age pensioners! He also lowered the sum upon which income tax could be collected, so as to cut into the workers' wages. “The Bacchus Marsh Express” said: “Every chapter in the history of the Irvine Government is a disgrace to the whole of Victoria.”

The six year period following the advent of Irvine will be found to correspond in many respects with that of the Continuous Government in Queensland. There is this difference, however. In Queensland the masses were denied votes, and were not a party to the corruption practised by Government. In Victoria the people have had votes for years, but have been apathetic, and so dominated by side issues that they have condoned anything. A State which could return a man like Bent with a majority has become degraded in its public life. Its standard of political morality has become so lowered as strongly to emphasise the need for as much watchfulness over the actions of Parliamentarians as over those of one's own children.

Tom Bent has been the laughing-stock of Victorians for some years. His erratic buffoonery and coarse vulgarity have been in evidence wherever he went, whilst his connection with various schemes of land speculation has been often exposed. When Minister for Railways in 1888 he declined to adopt


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the recommendation of the engineer to purchase outright the Kensington Hill. Earth was wanted for filling in at North Melbourne Station. He could have got the hill, a block of 160 acres, for £52,000, but refused. A syndicate secured it for £48,000, and Bent made the railway department pay £20,000 for the earth which was removed in cutting down the hill. The value of the land was increased to £74,250 by the removal of the hill. In a later case of purchase of gravel from land held by Mrs. Bent, a Select Committee was appointed to investigate. It whitewashed him at that time. His connection with other land purchases was not above suspicion.

The fact is that the capitalistic system has so saturated people with its immoral teaching and practices that to make money by using inside knowledge, and pulling the wires so as to produce favorable results for one's own pockets are considered smart and really creditable things. When reference is made to such conduct on the part of a public man you too often get the reply: “Oh, well, why shouldn't he make money when he gets the chance? They all do it if they get a show.” If Victoria does not wake up we shall soon have the worst evils of American “graft” ruling political life in the State. When Sir A. J. Peacock stood for election he said on the public platform that when a man came to speak of Bent he must put his hand to his nose—indicating the smellful nature of much of Bent's work—yet before the end of that Parliament he had turned round on his promises and joined Bent's Ministry. He had got so used to smellful jobs


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that he failed to notice any longer the disagreeable odor around his leader.

The history of Bentism, if ever written, will be interesting. I have space for a few points only. His was the continuous Government which began with Irvine and came out of the Kyabram alleged reform movement. Careless and ignorant as the people are, Bent could only cling to office by placating critics— by giving them billets. He fooled electors with promises which were never kept, and retained support by a distribution of favors. Of the eleven in his Ministry in 1904, only three beside himself remained at the end of 1908. The found-outs had been got rid of, and new men put in to keep them quiet.

Owing to a charge being made against the Minister for Lands on January 27, 1903, a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into Mr. McKenzie's conduct of that important department. They condemned his action, and he resigned his seat. McKenzie had taken office in June, 1902, and lost no time in looking after himself. He held some 14,000 acres of land, and wanted 7300 acres adjoining. He secured it, and immediately sublet 25,000 acres, including both areas, to a Mr. Hugh Ross for £1000 a year. McKenzie paid about £25 to the Crown. The sub-letting was contrary to the practice of the department, and in contravention of minutes issued by McKenzie himself. The Department always forfeited a lease if it was sublet. He also took up a lease of 10,200 acres under grazing license, and, as Minister, refused another applicant for the block. A colleague became aware of it and warned him


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against this, and so he gave up the block, but at once got a friend who was a law student to apply for the same block in his behalf. The Minister ordered it to be granted to his dummy.

Another block of 13,400 acres was refused to a man named Findley, though he was the only applicant so far as the officers of the Department knew. The Minister directed refusal, and said Findley's was not the highest offer. When the officer pointed out that he was the only applicant, the Minister said he had another application in his bag. This was from his own son. The block was let to a man who was only acting as agent for his son.

The Select Committee dealt very gently with McKenzie, although they could do no other than condemn him. In one clause they say, “Your committee finds that he has failed to realise his position as a trustee of the public lands for the people of the State.” Before the Committee, as also in his letter sending in his resignation, McKenzie claims to have been unconscious of wrong-doing, and asserts that he had no evil intent. His case is an example of the blunted moral perceptions resultant from our social environment. Trained to think it right to grab all he could get by slipping in before a competitor, he saw no wrong in using his position as Minister to feather his own nest at the expense of injustice to another man. Contrast the conduct of the Irvine-Bent-Peacock gang in Labor-member Findley's case with their action about one of their own Ministers. They refused even to censure the latter, but they expelled Findley for no offence at all.




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The Hon. Robert Reid, M.L.C., was one of the first Ministers who had to go because of his firm having been bowled out as the perpetrators of extensive frauds on the Commonwealth Customs. On December 4, 1906, Sir S. Gillott resigned his position in the Ministry. He had been Chief Secretary, and it was his business to see that all evil places such as brothels were put down. Instead, it was disclosed that he was lending money to a notorious madame who was head of a house of ill-fame. His idea of morality was that he had nothing to do with the character of those he lent money to so long as the security was all right. That is, of course, strictly correct according to commercial ethics.

Other Ministers were mixed up in things at least suspicious. The Government policy was supposed to be that of preference to Australian-made articles of all kinds. In the face of this we find the Minister of Education (Mr. Sachse, M.L.C.) giving a contract for German pianos when he could have obtained Australian at nearly the same cost. Swinburne, Minister for Water Supply, imported machinery when a better and more suitable plant could have been got in the State for £3000 less cost. It evidently suited the Minister to break away from the declared policy of the country, and the true reason of why it did may never come out. No sane person accepts the alleged explanations in either case. Bentism is commercialism. Self first—the people only as a means to an end.

Without giving the Closer Settlement Board a chance to look into it, Bent purchased the Werribee Estate for £301,781—23,214 acres at £13 per acre.


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It will probably cost £20 per acre to get it ready for irrigation. That was two years ago, and no new settlers have been put on it yet. He paid £8000 for 30 acres at Thornby, and £31,450 for Maribyrnong estate—in both cases more than what the Closer Settlement Board considered their value. He proposed to spend three or four millions in the purchase of a million acres in the western district. No wonder land values have gone up 30 per cent., and it is probably true, as asserted, that Bentism has put £20,000,000 into the pockets of the already rich big landowners of Victoria.

At last on 3rd December, 1908, a vote of want of confidence was carried by a majority of twelve, but that did not shift Bent. He asked the Governor for a dissolution, and, strange to say, he got it. The Parliament was young, and the House had not been tried. What sort of tale he narrated to the Governor it would be interesting to know. No supply had been granted, and so we had a repetition of Lord Chelmsford's action in Queensland when he sent to the country a Parliament in which there was a majority in favor of carrying on. Bent paid over £120,000 without authority.

The revelations which finally led to Bent's downfall should not have surprised those who had hitherto kept him in power. He had always been dabbling in land, buying under suspicious circumstances. He had taken over the Mont Park estate at £40 per acre, when land as good could be got for £25. The Chirnside estate was taken at £17 per acre, when it was valued for Land Tax purposes at £1. The thing they could not stand was when the truth


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came out about the construction of the electric tramline, St. Kilda to Brighton. In 1903 Bent tried to get Irvine to agree to the construction of the line, but without avail. He and a few friends had purchased 25 acres eight months previously, and knew how a line would raise prices. When Bent became Premier he brought in a Bill on 15th November, 1904, for the construction of a portion of the line.

All works costing over £20,000 have by law to go before the Standing Committee on Public Works. Bent got over this by doing the line in three jobs of £19,500, £8000, and £6500 respectively. Thus the law was actually broken, as the total cost was £34,000. While the bill was before the House the course of the line was changed, so that it eventually passed right through Bent's 25 acres. Bent paid £6562 for the land, and after the tramline came he asked £4 per foot for it, which, allowing for cutting up, gave him a profit of 200 per cent., or £13,670. When the bill was before the House he volunteered the statement that he had not a foot of land at the Red Bluff or near it. He thus deliberately misled the House as well as dodged the Act requiring all works over £20,000 to go before the Committee, and all this for personal gain.

How far other transactions brought gain or otherwise is hard to say, and may or may not be discovered, but it is clear that a State which could return such a man time after time has but a low state of public opinion. Its politics may be measured by the reply given by Labor rat Wilkins in Collingwood when asked why he voted for Bent. It was


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because he had given a railway to Collingwood, and removed the guarantee required against loss. Also he had given the money for the covering of a drain and granted land for a park. Thus is shameless bribery condoned, and gutter politics glorified. Meantime land monopoly increases and the unemployed multiply, but Ministers are too busy scheming to get into and hold on to office to do anything for the good of the people as a whole.

The only party with a programme or thought-out policy is that of Labor, but there is much educational work to be done ere the people realise that there are higher ideals than getting money out of the taxpayers' pocket to cover the dirty drains of their own neglected neighborhood. Property owners have hitherto ruled in city, town, and shire, and their policy is to tax the other fellow and improve their own property and its rent-producing powers by public funds or any other scheme which keeps their own incomes untouched. Governments like Bent's, which divide up the surplus revenue of good years as bribes to constituencies, are exactly the kind of Government they like. They look upon the Labor agitator as a public nuisance and a danger to the existing order of things. The Liberal who comes round with promises of largesse is the man for them.

The wage slave who is not an active member of a Labor League or affiliated Union is so mentally lazy that he either takes his cue from his boss or the press. He never attends a meeting of any kind, and sometimes does not know the difference between a State and Federal election. He can talk sport, but never reads a book on any intelligent subject, and


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never does any thinking. There are thousands in the big cities whom this description will fit, and it is not easy to reach them. They are conservative by instinct. Some of them are in Trade Unions, but do little beyond grumbling if the officers fail to secure advantages for them. About the only thing to wake them up a bit is to be out of employment. It gets into their thick skulls then that the existing order of things is not exactly going right. It takes a long time to educate such men to understand that the wage system is itself wrong, and must be abolished.

The elections took place on December 29th, 1908, and Labor came out with twenty-one members. All retiring members were re-elected and six additional: —F. Anstey, Brunswick; W. D. Beazley, Abbotsford; J. W. Billson, Fitzroy; E. J. Cotter, Richmond; G. A. Elmslie, Albert Park; T. Glass, Bendigo East; M. Hannah, Collingwood; J. Lemmon, Williamstown; D. C. McGrath, Grenville; A. N. McKissock, Ballarat West; J. W. McLachlan, Gippsland North; A. R. Outtrim, Maryborough; W. Plain, Geelong; G. M. Prendergast, North Melbourne; A. Rogers, Melbourne; G. Sangster, Port Melbourne; D. Smith, Bendigo West; R. H. Solly, Carlton; T. Tunnecliffe, Eaglehawk; J. Wall, Port Fairy; E. C. Warde, Flemington.

During the election but few would own up to being followers of Bent, and nominally there were three parties. In reality they are one outside of the Labor Party. Even the Press, though strongly antagonistic to Labor, admitted that the Labor Party was the only clean party and the only party with a programme. In their desperate efforts to keep


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Labor out of power the conservatives will swallow anything or anybody.

Bent resigned, and Murray was sent for. Meetings and negotiations followed, with the result that a strong conservative Government was formed. It is the same gang. It is Bentism without Bent as the boss leader, but there all the same. Laborites sit in direct Opposition, and keen watchdogs they are. Their time will soon come now, because the Victorian electors are just awakening to the fact that the gang calling themselves Liberals are in reality the rankest of Tories, and are but the agents of landlordism and boodle. They call themselves a coalition, but in all coalitions conservatism controls, and, as the Melbourne “Argus” said, “No one can breathe the atmosphere which surrounds Mr. Bent without being corrupted by it.” “Boodlewraith” in Queensland, “Carruthersism” in New South Wales, and “Bentism” in Victoria have become terms expressive of a kind of political immorality in which land grabs, land scandals, and the making use of political influence and power for private ends are only some of the sins.

It is not easy to present in a concrete form the work accomplished by the Labor Party in the House. What they have prevented is only known to those who closely follow “Hansard,” and by no means all of it then. There are things that Governments would dare smuggle through if the watchdogs were absent or asleep, but which never crystallise under present circumstances. The average elector has no conception of the many proposals made by the party or some of its members which are defeated.


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Taking one session at random I found twenty-two such. Their influence has secured much, and modified many measures, making them less severe against the masses. Here is a list of that kind:— Improved Tenancy Rights, Servants' Registry Office Regulation, Legitimation Laws, Opium Smoking Prohibition, Boilers Inspection, Lifts Regulation, Limitation of Garnishee of Wages, Reduction of Borrowing, Company Legislation, Water Conservation, Factory Legislation, Credit Foncier, Improved Small Holdings, Closer Settlement, Improvement of Franchise, Early Shop Closing, Minimum Wage, Pure Food Legislation, Dairy Supervision, Old-Age Pensions, Improved Mining Legislation.

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