[Editor: An article about Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and federal politics. Published in the Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW), 24 May 1906.]
Mr. Deakin in Sydney.
The warm welcome which Mr. Deakin received in Sydney on Friday proves that our people are weary of all the clap-trap about socialism, of the charlatanry of Mr. Reid, and his dreary understudy, Mr. Cook, and that they have been longing for the fresh, crisp air of a higher political atmosphere. New South Wales is cursed with the most miserable crew of “Liberal” politicians that have ever appeared in this or any other country. From Senator Gray, that peculiar product of sectarianism and decayed politics, to Mr. Reid, the Dowie of Australian public life, there is scarcely a man of character amongst them. While they mouth “principle” and “liberalism,” they are unashamed place-hunters, the creatives of Orange Lodges and panderers to all that is contemptible and mean in human nature. Of patriotism they appear to know nothing.
What influence can we expect to have in Federal politics while we are represented by men like Reid, Wilks, Gray, Pulsford, Syd. Smith, Nield, Dugald Thomson (the latest Orange Lodge orator), Walker, Johnson, Bruce Smith, Lee, Cook and little Millen? Who would go to any of these men for an opinion on a great question of national concern? With the exception of Mr. Walker who is a harmless person, and Mr. Reid, who has ability without a shred of principle, they are men who have weight neither in a deliberative assembly nor on the platform. They are the products of machine politics. It would be a libel on the country to say that they represent the people. Apart from their political positions, they are nonentities, and the influence of their political positions in Parliament is limited by their voting power.
On the eve of a general election, their leader, Mr. Reid, has no policy to place before the country. He talks merely about “anti-socialism,” but what anti-socialism means beyond opposition to the Labour Party and a desire on Mr. Reid’s part to get office, he does not explain, and no one understands. He poses as the leader of a Federal Party, but his anti-socialistic cry has not even a sentimental significance outside this State. They know nothing of it in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. It is merely a personal cry addressed to a section by an individual who is well known to be merely anxious to secure the Premiership at any price. And it is a curious fact that the “socialists” whom he wishes to annihilate are really the most respected Federal representatives of New South Wales. There is no public man in the Commonwealth, for instance, who commands more respect from all classes than the so-called socialistic leader, Mr. J. C. Watson.
In one sense, Mr. Deakin scarcely deserved the enthusiastic greeting he received, for his visits to this State have been inexcusably rare. He has left the people whose Prime Minister he is to the mercy of bores and mountebanks, and has given almost exclusively to other States the benefit of his personal influence and eloquence, while no State was in more need of a leader to drag politics out of the gutter than New South Wales.
He rendered a great service by his speech on Friday night last. He cleared the atmosphere, and gave the people a clean-cut policy, about the principles and objects of which no one can be in doubt. In a few words, he swept away the wild-cat theories of Mr. Reid.
“What about socialism?” he was asked, and Mr. Deakin dealt with Mr. Reid’s position in his reply. “I have not used the word socialism, nor the word anti-socialism, here to-night, nor do I intend to,” he said.
A Voice: “Which side are you on?”
Mr. Deakin: “I am on the side of the Australian Party — (cheers) — and I do not intend to play with bogey-breeding epithets.”
“Australia for the Australians” was the sum and substance of his speech. “We have one watchword without qualification,” he said — “Australia for the Australians” — not as Mr. Bruce Smith and Mr. Reid would have it, Australia for the Chinese and the Jap, and the shoddy products of all the cheap labour markets of the world. “It is,” said Mr. Deakin amidst enthusiasm, “as much a part of our national duty to protect ourselves from industrial invasion as it is to protect ourselves from military invasion.” The policy which has built up Germany and the United States, and which has just been adopted by Japan, is the policy which will develop the immense possibilities of Australia and strengthen the national character. No side issues can be allowed to interfere with this national policy. “There will be no room for Yes-No on the question,” said the Prime Minister. “And the first step,” he added, “towards immigration is a protective tariff.” “In America,” he said in conclusion, “the first question the trader asks relates to his home trades and his home-trade people. They do not look to foreign people and foreign places for their supplies. Australia will never stand upon its feet until it is possible for Australians to trust in themselves, until they are proud to be Australians; and to prove they are Australians by placing in business, pleasure and politics Australia first and above all. If you are Australians, recognise at the very beginning the possibilities of this country, and that the only means of holding it, and the only means of making it a White Australia, is to adopt an Australian policy for an Australian people.” We feel sure these are sentiments which will touch a responsive chord in the breast of every patriotic citizen in the Commonwealth.
Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW), 24 May 1906, p. 18
bogey = an imagined cause for fear or alarm (may also refer to: someone or something which causes fear or alarm; a frightening or haunting specter, especially a “bogeyman”; an evil or mischievous spirit; a demon; the Devil)
Deakin = Alfred Deakin, Victorian parliamentarian 1879-1900, federal parliamentarian 1901-1913, and the second Prime Minister of Australia (he served for three separate terms as Prime Minister, 1903-1904, 1905-1908, and 1909-1910)
Dowie = John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907; born in Scotland, migrated to Australia with his family in 1860), ordained Minister of the Congregational Church; a faith healer, he was considered to be a religious eccentric (or possibly even a charlatan)
mountebank = someone who sells quack medicines, usually in a boastful and flamboyant manner; in general terms, it refers to a charlatan or an unscrupulous pretender
Reid = Sir George Reid (1845-1918), leader of the Free Traders in New South Wales, NSW parliamentarian (1880-1901), federal parliamentarian (1901-1909), and the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904-1905); he was often referred to as “Yes-No Reid” as he had been a supporter of the movement pushing for the federation of the Australian colonies, but when it came to the first referendum for federation he took an equivocal stance, neither supporting or opposing the vote, although he later campaigned for a “Yes” vote at the second referendum for federation
Yes-No = prevarication (may also be a reference to George Reid, known as “Yes-No Reid”, due to his two-way stand on the issue of Federation)
[Editor: Changed “West Australia” to “Western Australia”.]