BRISBANE, JULY 6, 1895.
The Editorial Mill.
Our Motto: “Socialism in our time.”
The cartoon in last week's WORKER has fallen in for some adverse criticism at the hands of the COURIER. The cartoon in the left-hand top corner depicted the Premier riding towards the Estimates on a donkey, labelled “Queensland Political Association.” In the right-hand top corner appeared an unemployed man and his wife tramping in the rain along a muddy road. The lower portion of the cartoon showed Queensland as a woman pointing to the distressed with one hand and with the other hand to a number of stone blocks, labelled “Electoral Reform.” the cartoon was entitled “What to Do,” and Queensland was represented as saying to the figure of a man, called the Labour Party: “Now then, Labour Party, erect your stonewall. Block everything until you get electoral reform. It's the only way you will help the poor who are workless, hopeless, and voteless.” The COURIER considers that the Labour Party should help the Government to pass a programme which is of general interest to the country; that to stonewall everything would bring the Labour Party into discredit with the majority of the electors.
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After due consideration of the objections that have been raised to the stonewall, the WORKER is still of opinion that the advice contained in last week's cartoon is the best that could be offered to the Labour Party. The function of Parliament is to legislate in accordance with the wishes of a majority of the citizens. The present Parliament, as a whole, does not represent the majority of the people in Queensland, and has no moral right to remain a Parliament. Most of the members were elected by misrepresentation and property votes. The members of the present Ministry largely won their seats by raising “the red spectre,” and threatening that the banks would break if the Labour Party were returned to Parliament. The people have since discovered that the banks were only waiting until the election was over to close their doors no matter what party was elected. And, as a matter of fact, the Government and their supporters have themselves been doing a prolonged stonewall against the many reforms which the majority of the Queensland nation are ready for, and which were made law a generation ago in other lands.
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Presuming that the Government did intend to pass a liberal programme – which we have the very best of reasons for not believing – the WORKER denies the right of the Government to hold the reins of power any longer. There are some 50,000 white men in the colony who are not on the electoral roll, in a small degree owing to negligence; in the large majority of cases owing to what is rightly called “ an iniquitous electoral system,” and an electoral system which has been abandoned in all the colonies excepting chain-gang Tasmania and Forrest Family West Australia. Add to this 50,000 male adults the 70,000 female adults in the colony we have 120,000 grown persons expected to obey the laws although they have no voice in the selection of the representatives who make the laws. It is the WORKER'S belief that the majority of these 120,000 disfranchised citizens, together with the majority of the 70,000 electors (not including plural voters) on the Roll, would be in favour of the Labour Party stonewalling all business until Electoral Reform is granted by the present Ministry or an appeal is made to the country; and we believe if public meetings were held throughout the colony the same unanimous approval would meet the suggestion of a stonewall as was the case when Mr. Daniell's M.L.A., and another speaker in the Centennial Hall on July 16th, 1894, declared, amid ringing cheers, that the labour Party should block all business until electoral reform was obtained.
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Why should the Government receive support? What have they done to to deserve it? Are they not the same who, in 1891, sent to gaol for three years, under a vile old-world conspiracy law, thirteen union men who merely acted as the committee of a union out on strike against the soulless and accursed so-called freedom of contract? Are they not the same who objected to the reduction of Sir Samuel Griffith's huge salary of over £65 per week, or £3500 per year, but reduced the lower-paid Civil servants who were receiving less than £3 per week? Are they not the same gang who patronise the Q. N. Bank more than any other bank? Are they not of land-grab fame? Did they not, when they found the land-grab swindle would not work, attempt to introduce a Land Bill with a provision for selling the people's estate at the figure of 5s. per acre? - a bill, by-the-way, which they dropped when the Labour Party were likely to stonewall it. Are the present Ministry not the same band of hypocrites who agreed to a resolution by labour Member Fisher as to the necessity of conciliation and arbitration, and immediately afterwards talked and voted against a practical resolution by labour Member Glassey to settle the big bush strike that was then taking place? Did not the Ministry impose on the workers an increased burden in the shape of a £15,000 extra tobacco tax, and fail to tax the absentee land-lord and capitalist? Are they not the Coercion gang who abused their trust by thrusting from the Assembly seven of the people's representatives while they and their boodle friends passed a consolidation of the Irish coercion laws?
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Again we ask what has occurred that the COURIER'S advice to support the Government be taken in preference to the WORKER'S? A liberal programme, says the COURIER. Now in what respect is the Government programme likely to benefit the wage-earners in a manner that is worth growing enthusiastic about? There is a factories bill, an early closing bill, and a lien bill in the Government programme. But, as remarked last week, does anybody believe, knowing the record of the Government as above quoted, that the Government will allow real progressive measures to pass the Assembly. And if, through the nearness of a general election, progressive measures do pass the Assembly how can anyone hope for a moment that those measures will pass the Legislative Council?
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Of course the WORKER doesn't pretend to be infallible. We all make mistakes sometimes, and no doubt there will be differences of opinion to the end of the chapter. In fact, one of the chief causes of the slowness of reform is that while numbers of men can be found to be unanimous on a principle those very men are certain to have differences of opinion as soon as it is proposed to put the principle into practice. But this is how the question of policy presents itself to us: The Nelson Ministry have lately found on a tour through the country that the people are against them. The general election is near at hand, and to protect themselves from the wrath to come they must concede something. Acting under pressure, they have lately reduced the railway freights, although a year ago the Premier told deputation after deputation of farmers that the Ministry would not lower rates. The Government now think that if they make a pretence of passing one or two labour measures all their past sins will be forgiven and they will succeed in “dishing” the Labour Party at the next elections. We think that the all-important question of Electoral Reform – a reform which it was unanimously agreed should occupy first place in our platform, and a reform without which it is agreed the people are almost powerless – should be fought for during the current session. When Electoral Reform is obtained it will be an easy matter to get factory and other reforms of real benefit to the people. Therefore, we think the Government should be given no quarter whatever, and we were the more convinced that the measures of reform promised by the Government are only in view of the coming elections when only last week the Premier wolf threw off the sheep's clothing and in reply to Mr. Glassey said:
“To be a little more explicit, I would say that as far as the faction that is known as the Labour Party is concerned I would not work with them under any circumstances. I do not hide that fact. I do not hide my sentiments at all. I consider that men who stand up and advocate this innovation – this spurious Socialism – and principles such as are advocated by the Labour members are enemies to the commonwealth, and I would not upon any terms or under any consideration work with them.”
This speech, we consider, more than justifies the WORKER cartoon of last week, and more than justifies the Labour Party in blocking all legislation until sufficient electoral reform is granted to enable the people to elect something like a Parliament representative of public opinion.