[Editor: This article was published in The Examiner (Launceston, Tas.), 15 November 1907. It involves some amusing parliamentary repartee relating to the proposed policy of a free education for all children.]
Mr. Bird’s per se
There was one smart repartee in the Assembly on Wednesday night during the discussion on Mr. Bird’s free education motion. The “Mercury” reports one passage thus: —
Mr. Sadler (to Mr. Bird) — Are you now in favour of free education, or opposed to it. (Laughter.)
The Premier — Oh, with him it doesn’t matter. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bird — I would say ——
Mr. Long — ”Yes”-“No.” (More laughter.)
Mr. Bird — I would say I have never been opposed to free education per se.
Mr. Long — What’s the meaning of per se? (Laughter.)
An hon. member — Not opposed to it if there is a chance of getting into office over it. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bird — I had thought it right to oppose it for several years past.
An hon. member — Never voted for it, anyhow.
Mr. Bird — I opposed it on the ground that our financial conditions were such that we would not be justified in passing such a measure, involving such a large expenditure.
The Treasurer — Have you changed your opinion now?
Mr. Bird — Hon. members are very anxious to know my views.
The Premier — His views. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bird — When a Free Education Bill comes before this House members will learn what my position is.
An hon. member — Will you bring it in?
Mr. Bird — The hon. member wants to pin me down. My position is that if Ministers were in earnest they would have introduced the bill in this House this session.
Mr. Ogden — You want to force them to bring it in, and then you will vote against it. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bird, proceeding, said that free education was supposed to be one of the democratic planks of the Ministerial platform.
The Treasurer — And is, too.
Mr. Bird — But the Government have not taken steps to prove it. Continuing, he said he had doubts whether at the present juncture, in view of the increased financial responsibilities of the state, the introduction of free education, with its further increase of taxation, was opportune.
An hon. member — Why are you moving this motion?
The Premier — He wants to put the Government in a wrong position.
Mr. Bird — The Government has taken a wrong position by declaring for free education, and what I am asking is that they should be expected to carry out their policy. Ministers have, in the estimates, in a small way made provision for the increased cost of the department in consequence of the remission of fees.
An hon. member — You opposed free education then. What do you advocate now?
Mr. Bird — Under present circumstances, believing that the time has come, after Ministers have advocated it so warmly, and the House has, by a considerable majority, endorsed it, I consider it would be idle further to oppose free education.
Mr. Long — You are coming into line, then?
Mr. Bird — Ministers have shown their faith in the financial position of the country to be such that they have offered free education. The House has approved, and it would be improper on my part to offer further opposition.
The Treasurer — By this resolution?
Mr. Long — By per se. (Laughter.)
The Examiner (Launceston, Tas.), 15 November 1907, p. 5
1) “The free education question: Mr. Bird’s motion of censure a lively debate: Motion defeated by large majority”, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), 14 November 1907, p. 6
2) “The Ministry and Mr. Bird”, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), 14 November 1907, p. 4
Assembly = the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of parliament in the various states of Australia
hon. = an abbreviation of “honourable”, especially used as a style to refer to government ministers, or as a courtesy to members of parliament (as a style, it is commonly capitalised, e.g. “the Hon. Member”)
House = in a political context, a reference to Parliament House; also, in the context of Australian colonial or state politics, the Legislative Assembly (the House of Assembly); or, in the context of the Australian federal politics, the House of Representatives
per se = (Latin) by itself, in itself, of itself; commonly used to express the following: as such, by its very nature, essentially, in essence, intrinsically, taken alone (e.g. “These are not shorts per se, but rather are short trousers”; “I am not opposed to free education per se, but I believe that it would be too expensive”)