BRISBANE, AUGUST 10, 1895.
The Editorial Mill.
Our Motto: “Socialism in our time.”
There is one lesson that Queensland Labour may learn from the late New South Wales general election: The Labour party is not going to capture the Treasury benches at the next general election. Indeed, had Labour cast its eyes round the world, it had no need to cherish for a moment the hope that the wave which washed its members into the cross benches in 1893 would return and carry them into the Treasury seats in 1896. Australian Labour parties, it would seem, are not going to make greater headway than the German and French Social Democratic parties of similar politics. With marked ability and with men of means these latter organisations find they can only win a few seats at a time. Admitted that extra-ordinary progress is being made both in Germany and France, and that as the years roll by the rate of progress will be accelerated, it would appear to be contrary to the law of evolution in politics for Labour to down at one fell swoop all the enemies of progress. Were the old political parties to continue unbending and stiff-necked, there can be no doubt the people would wipe them out of existence, and return to Parliament only Labour men; but the old political parties are too crafty to be stiff-necked and unbending. When the people become too noisy, and seem likely to carry out their threats, the old political parties grant a few concessions. The people are then silenced for a time. “The old politicians are not so bad after all!” And as the general public would rather have a patron than a patriot, provided he is willing to tread upon them without rubbing the mud in, the ranks of the real reform politicians are recruited by only a few at a time.
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Remarks of this nature may be disquieting and unpleasant to both reader and writer, but that they are well-timed calm, deliberation will make manifest. Taking too sanguine a view of the coming elections in this colony will surely lead to disappointment and vexation. That Labour will do exceedingly well at the next Parliamentary general elections in Queensland there is small doubt, providing the electors work hard to secure the return of Labour candidates. But hard work must be done. Every vote must be polled. A spirit of cocksureness means disaster as well as disgrace. Just now there is a proneness to open our mouths and shut our eyes, expecting the sweets of political and industrial freedom at the hands of the coming Parliament, and some workers evince a disposition to let everything slide for political action. The trade and Labour union – the hope and support of the wage-earners for a thousand long years – is, by some, to be thrown aside like an old garment; and even the political organisations are neglected in dreamy optimism that everything will be set right in the year of our Lord 1896. Let us beware of such shortsightedness. Both our industrial and our political unions must be fortified. And our industrial more than the political, for without the former the latter will turn out to be a considerable failure. In proportion to numbers, the Labour vote is stronger in Queensland than in any other colony, but Labour may deem itself very fortunate if it secures seven extra seats at the next elections. That is to say, if the Labour Party return to Parliament with twenty-four out of the seventy-two members of the Legislative Assembly, the Reform Party in Queensland will have done better than any other party in Australia. But given this happy result. What then? Does that abolish the competitive struggle for existence? Does that prevent the operation of the supply and demand law which, in the absence of the trade and labour union, brings wages down to less than starvation point? Not at all. The new Government will not be a Labour Government, and the Government will, therefore, only concede a portion of the Labour programme as a reward for support from the Labour Party. A couple of seats in the Ministry may even be offered to and accepted by Labour men, but their hands will be tied as Joe Cook's (N.S.W.) appear to be. Give us one adult one vote, all elections on one day; give us our Early Closing and Factories Acts, our Mines Acts, and our Machinery Acts – great and urgent as the reforms are, and our Labour union is still an imperative necessity.
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We would counsel wage-earners not to neglect this matter. If they do allow their organisations to become weak and feeble the employers will play havoc with their rate of wages. There is every probability that next year, between the successful labour and Opposition candidates, the Government of to-day will go down. Prosperity will then return to the colony. The workers will not share in that prosperity unless they have the unions at their back to demand a due proportion of the wealth their labour creates. The New Zealand Parliament have passed more radical legislation than we can hope to see law in Queensland for the next three years, yet the Labour unions of New Zealand have not been allowed to diminish. They are more active than ever they were, and are a source of assistance to the Minister for Labour, Mr. Reeves, who consults them when introducing Labour legislation. Let Queensland do her best to return Labour candidates and reliable opponents of the Government at the next election, but let her also still keep possession of the good old war-horse, Unionism, which has won many an industrial battle, and can claim the credit of doing more for the working classes than any other known factor in social economics.