2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister received any official information in regard to the Russian attack upon the British fishing fleet in the North Sea, which is reported in this morning’s newspapers? If so, is he in a position to make it public?
– I have received no official information on the subject.
– I desire to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister a question without notice. I wish to know if his attention has been directed to a letter from its London correspondent, published in the Melbourne Age of 21st October, in which the following passage occurs : -
There is a good deal of discontent among city men who have trade and financial relations with Australia over an extremely pessimistic article which Mr. G. D. Meudell, or Melbourne, has contributed to the Financial Times, dealing with political conditions and tendencies in the Commonwealth. He states that the Federation is a failure; that if the people had another opportunity to express their opinion on the question of union they would overwhelmingly oppose it; that, “ in fact, there is a large and growing party in favour of secession ; “ that the waste of money in the Commonwealth is notorious, and the excess of political machinery” ridiculous ; “ that under existing voting conditions the uncultured hold all the power, and “ the surplusage of lawyers in the Australian Parliaments is a menace to national safety;” that preferential trade will not be sanctioned unless it seems likely to pay the Australian workman; that “John Bull will be wise if he declines to lend any of the Australian States, and especially spendthrift New South Wales, any more money till they purge themselves of the disgrace of being governed on the lines of class animosity by one class, and that neither the best nor the most intelligent -and so on.
Will the Prime Minister favour the House by telling us whether this Mr. Meudell is the Mr. Meudell who was president or treasurer of the Kyabram Reform League?
An Honorable Member. - The treasurer.
– Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to reassure the people of England, and to rebut the libels and accusations which this person has disseminated.
-It is common knowledge that outrageous statements such as have been read have been published in some of the London journals, with reference to both the Commonwealth and the various States for many years past, I do not know the gentleman of whom the honorable member speaks.
– He is a great supporter of the right honorable gentleman.
– My attention has not been directed to the letter which the honorable member has read, and I deeply regret that he. should add to the circulation of such statements.
– Will the Prime Minister do something to repudiate them? That is the question.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the following statement in the Australasian of the 22nd October : -
Mr. Reid and Mr. McLean both denounced the action taken respecting the “six hatters” as a straining of the statute, and an application of it to purposes never intended. The obligation now rests on them to administer the clause in the spirit in which Parliament enacted it. The precedent of questioning all immigrants under contract has been set, and even if Ministers think it their duty to follow that course still, they need not forget that ample discretion is vested in the Minister. The law was passed by Parliament on the distinct understanding that it should only apply to immigration during a labour disturbance calculated to influence the result. The Prime Minister should let it be known that in all cases where exemption is applied for for artisans under contract it will be granted as a matter of course. We are certain Mr. Reid will not attempt to shelter himself under the plea, “ I must administer the Act as I find it.”
Does the Prime Minister intend to take his instructions from the press, or to administer the Act as it has been given to him to administer?
– I take no instructions from any one, but I am ready to listen to all.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper: -
Return to an order of the House, dated 10th August, 1904, giving statistics as to the New Hebrides.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Deputy Postmasters-General at Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane: -
Melbourne, 3924 hours (including meal times).
Brisbane, 39 hours.
Melbourne, 3.56 hours (for meals).
Brisbane, 3.66 hours.
Melbourne. - Yes.
Brisbane. - No ; the actual period of attendance is 42.66 hours per week each.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The following are the replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty a sum not exceeding£675,048 for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1905.
Unfortunately it is again necessary for me to ask for supply before an opportunity is presented to honorable members to fully discuss the Estimates. Upon this occasion I am asking honorable members to grant two months’ supply, which will be sufficient to carry us over the current month, and next month, and until towards the middle of December, so far as ordinary payments are concerned. I hope that in the meantime the Estimates will have been passed, and the Appropriation Act dealt with. I trust that honorable members will reserve any comments they may have to make, until we are dealing with the general Estimates, in order that the honorable and learned member for Indi may have an early opportunity to take the action which he contemplates. I have been through the schedule of the Bill, and I can assure honorable members that it embraces no matter that may notbe fairly included.
– Does the Treasurer ask us to expedite business in order that the honorable and learned member for Indi may have an opportunity of moving his motion ?
– I desire to dispose of the matter as quickly as possible.
– I should not lift a finger to accommodate the honorable and learned member.
– I am anxious to send the Bill on to the Senate to-morrow, so that it may be passed in sufficient time to enable us to make all the necessary payments before the end of the month. We do not care to make payments upon a Saturday, if we can avoid it, because it is a most inconvenient day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended, in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
In Committee of Ways and Means.
– I move -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1904, a sum not exceeding £675,048 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– I should like to know whether there has been any alteration in the method of submitting the Estimates, with the result that certain payments are being debited to the States upon a per capita basis, instead of in accordance with’ the practice hitherto followed.
– The items in regard to which changes have been made do not apply to the Estimates covered by the ‘ Bill which I am about to introduce.
– Do I understand that the payments to be made under that Bill are to be debited in the same manner as previously ?
– The payments are to be made in exactly the same manner as previously, so far as the Bill is concerned. The items to which the honorable member is referring are contained in a set of special Estimates, and can be fully discussed upon the item upon which the Budget was laid before honorable members..
– The Minister of Defence recently stated, in reply to a question put by me, that the Acting District Commandant of South Australia was performing the duties attached to that position without pay. I do not suppose that any provision is made in the Supply Bill about to be introduced for the payment of that officer. The Minister of Defence informed the House that he was following the precedent that had been established in Victoria, where the Acting District Commandant had performed the work of that office without remuneration. I would urge that that is a very bad precedent, and that any officer in the service’ of the Commonwealth who may be asked to do work, of the kind referred to should be paid for it. If pay is not to be granted, officers in humble circumstances will be precluded from temporarily assuming the position of District Commandant, and their promotion may thus be interfered with. I trust that the Government will pay the Acting District Commandants of Victoria and South Australia, or any other officer who may be placed in a similar position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Ordered - -
That Sir George Turner do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir George Turner, and passed through all its stages.
In Committee of Sup-ply: (Consideration resumed from 18th October, vide page 5676, on motion by Sir George Turner) -
That, including the sums already voted in this present session of Parliament for such services, the following sums be’ granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1904-5 for the several services hereunder specified, namely - The Senate, ^6,722.
– I rise for the purpose of submitting an amendment.
– I thought that all the members of the Opposition would cheer.
– I think, sir, that members upon this side of the House will be more disposed to cheer after the. next genera! election. In the meantime I move -
That the vote be reduced by is.
I should like to say that I wish this amendment could have been submitted upon the motion of some honorable member other than the Treasurer!
– We shall not quarrel over that.
– I am. sure that- we shall not. For the sake of old associations I very much regret that the amendment is not one upon the motion of some other honorable member. Nevertheless, we have to accept the position as we find it. The Government have chosen their own battleground, because when I asked the Prime
Minister the other day whether he would afford the House an early opportunity of discussing the substantive motion in favour of the appointment of a Tariff Commission, which I had placed upon the businesspaper, he made no direct reply, but stated that the Treasurer would give me an answer. That answer practically was that no time would be allowed for such a discussion, because the Government intend to give effect to a proposal of their own. Indeed we know that they intend, immediately this vote has been passed, to take steps to appoint a Tariff Commission upon the lines indicated in the Treasurer’s speech. Added to that answer there were certain declarations of intention by the Prime Minister, which appeared in ‘the public journals a day or two later. There is no doubt that in deciding to deny the House an opportunity to discuss my proposal upon its merits, the Government gain some advantage. They have a right to do so if they choose, but the fact remains that they gain /an advantage. That advantage is that they preclude this Chamber from hearing in detail, and with explicit reasons, the grounds upon which honorable members would like to support my proposal’. The Standing Orders preclude me from submitting as an amendment in so many words the proposal which stands in my name upon the business-paper and, according to the ruling of Mr. Speaker, which would doubtless be followed, and of which we cannot complain from the point of view of illegality, we shall not be permitted in the course of this discussion to enter into such a full, clear, and explicit consideration of the motion that I had placed upon the business-paper as I could wish. Having gained that advantage, the Government also secure an additional advantage by reason of their acceptance of my amendment as one involving a question of no confidence. By so doing they secure the support of any waverers from the beginning and strengthen the minds of those honorable members who might be disposed rb vote for my motion by informing them that it has a far more important aspect than would attach to the declaration of a straight opinion upon an important question. In other words, the Ministry say to their supporters - “ This is a no-confidence motion,” and of course honorable members feel that that is an additional reason which they should bear in mind in voting upon this question. But while that is the case the Government must also accept the disadvantages of the situation. Those disadvantages are that the amendment, .being necessarily of a general nature, allows every honorable member of the Committee, who is opposed to the Government, to register his vote against them. Although I and those more immediately associated with ji.e, intend at this juncture to lay special stress upon the Tariff question, whilst we do not forego any of the reasons for our want of confidence in the Ministry, which we advanced during the recent debate, there are other honorable members who lay more or less emphasis upon other considerations. My proposal will enable every honorable member, who is opposed to the Government for any reason whatever, to vote in favour of it. The Labour members are at perfect liberty to recollect that not very long ago the Prime Minister openly declared war against the party with which they are associated. The Liberal representatives and the protectionist members upon this side of the House may urge that they cannot forget that upon many questions of urgent import, and of great moment to Australia - questions upon which a Government should have a mind of its own - the Government has no corporate mind whatever. The protectionists who are in favour of preferential trade, upon protectionist lines, in accordance with the verdict of the country at the last election, will also find no difficulty whatever in registering their votes against the Government upon this amendment. Those who wish to remain loyal to the White Australia policy cannot support the Government.
– Is the honorable and learned .member going to trot out that gag again?
– I shall trot it out upon every conceivable occasion. I say that those who bear in mind the words of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that a “White Australia” means something more than a mere matter of complexion - that it signifies the establishment and maintenance in Australia of conditions under which white men and women ought to live - will find no difficulty whatever, whilst remaining true to that principle, in supporting the amendment which I have submitted To these considerations and to others, I wish to add upon this occasion more particularly the action of the Government in respect of the Tariff.
Although I recognise too we’ll the value of public time to repeat the various reasons that I advanced in this Chamber a few evenings ago why I have no confidence in the Ministry, I desire it to be clearly understood that by reference I adopt and incorporate every one of them in my speech to-day. Because I do not repeat- the wordsin which I actually couched1 my objections to the Government, it must not be imagined for a single instant that I limit those objections to the mere question of the appointment of a Tariff Commission. The question of preferential trade, which already figures upon the business-paper, is one which we shall be unable to consider in anything like detail.
– The’ honorable and learned member wishes to trench upon the privilege of the honorable member for Hume.
– I was just about to remark that the honorable member for Hume will himself deal with that question. I intimated that fact to the honorable member a few minutes ago. I wish to say to the Committee that none of us can understand the Government having no opinion whatever on this great question. None of us can understand their leaving Australia with no official tongue whatever in regard to it. When Federation was proposed it was said that it would enable us, amongst other things, to speak with one united voice to the mother country, and the Empire as a whole, on this and other great questions; but, whilst the individual States have been silenced, Australia has /found no voice. The details of this matter will be placed before the Chamber either now or at a later stage by the honorable member for Hume, to whom the duty has been delegated, and he will no doubt deal with it ably, and convince the country, if it needs to be further convinced, that the Government are sadly wanting in their duty to the Continent in not having any corporate mind on this subject. I wish to confine my observations at the present stage to the Tariff question, and to make them as brief as I can. The Government proposals relieve me and other honorable members of the alliance of a large portion of the task that would otherwise have been imposed upon us. In the extraordinary statement recently made by the Prime Minister to the representatives of the press, and published throughout Australia, an admission has been made that not only covers a large portion of the plea for investigation which we were persistently making, but is a direct declaration that the fiscal peace which he and those with him have so stoutly proclaimed is now nothing in his mind - -that he has no hesitation whatever in throwing the whole of this Continent, with the whole of its industrial enterprise, its trades, and its working population, into a fiscal turmoil which is to last for an indefinite period, without any distinct promise of an amendment of the Tariff at the close of it.
– That -is exactly what the honorable and learned member and his party are proposing to do.
– I shall be much obliged if the honorable member will wait until I have concluded my remarks, when he will have a full opportunity to criticise all that [ have said. The first position which the Government take up is this: They admit that the condition of at least some industries in Australia calls for immediate investigation and, possibly, for legislation during the life of this Parliament I venture to call the attention of the Committee to the extraordinary - and I feel that they are extraordinary - propositions made by the Prime Minister in the statements made by him to representatives of the press, and published in the Age and the Argus of the 20th inst. When those propositions are looked at, I think it will be seen that they present characteristics that will not bear the strain of even the slightest consideration, or the test of the most cursory examination. What does the right honorable gentleman say? H]e makes a proposal that at first sight catches the eye, although it does not appeal to the judgment. Departing from the position that he took up when he said that fiscal peace was the declaration of the country ; that during the life of this Parliament we were to leave the Tariff untouched - that we were to see how it would affect the industries of Australia in its fiscal workings, and to allow the people to peacefully pursue their various avocations without even a suggestion of interference on our part - he now turns round, and through the Treasurer makes the declaration that the Government are going to appoint a Commission to rip open the whole Tariff from beginning to end. In the statement published in the press, the Prime Minister went on to say that the Commission - shall be conducted on strict business lines, with the partisan element on either side strictly excluded.
– Then it will be of no service.
– The right honorable gentleman continued -
The Commission shall consist of an equal number of protectionists and free-traders.
Honorable members will bear in mind that it is not to be partisan, and is to be conducted on strict business lines. That being so, why does ,the right honorable gentleman propose that it shall consist of an equal number of protectionists and freetraders? If it is not to be a political body, why does he desire that it shall possess any political element?
– Surely there are such men who are not partisans?
– Let us test the statement a little further. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that the members of the Commission “ Shall be men of moderate stamp.” What is to be the test of their moderation? Who is to judge of their being men of a moderate stamp ? Are they to be of a moderate stamp, according to the gauge of the Prime Minister, or according to the opinion of the Minister of Trade and Customs, or of any other member of the Ministry? Who, I should like to ask, is to judge of their moderation? Are the Government to bring them up for examination before the Cabinet, and to say to them, “Are you in favour of 5 per cent, duties, of 10 per cent, duties, or of 15 per cent, duties ? What are your views on this subject, or on that “ ? The members of the Commission are to be business men who have never been before the country - and who, therefore, have never gained the confidence of .the country.
– They may have.
– A Judge would be in the same position.
– If they have been before the country, and their . views have found acceptance, they will be men whose opinions are fixed the same as ours are.
– Notwithstanding that fact, they surely may be moderate men..
– They may be, but I wish to know by what standard they are to be judged ?
– The standard of common sense.
– Then, according to the Prime Minister, the members of the Commission are to be men “ who are not engaged in political affairs.” This is the first time I have ever heard that Members of Parliament, who are returned by the country to represent the people as a whole, are to be disqualifiedby that fact from deciding a political question.
– We shall decide the question in this House.
– What about the Judge of the Arbitration Court?
– I am absolutely surprised at the suggestion made by my honorable and learned friend. Would the honorable and learned gentleman say that he would delegate the framing of a Tariff to the Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court? That is the logical consequence of his interjection.
– Then the Commission is to frame the Tariff - not the Parliament ?
-Letus consider this statement a little further. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that -
The Commissioners’ object will simply be, not to bring out evidence in favour of this or that theory, but to enable business men who have practical grievances against the Tariff and its working to come before a business-like body and state the facts on which they base their claim for consideration.
I do not intend to read the whole of this statement, as it is a very lengthy one, but further on the right honorable gentleman went on to say that it would not be limited to any particular trade or business; that any person would be allowed to bring his grievance before the Commission, and that he would be perfectly willing to have the fullest publicity given to its inquiries from day to day, but that the Commission would be left to make progress reports or not as it pleased. He explained that -
It would be left perfectly at liberty to do so if, in its opinion, any subject was of such importance as to be dealt with in that way. It would be untrammelled as to making any report at any time it liked.
– Or not at all, if it liked.
– That means a progress report, as the context shows.
– The object is to keep the investigation on for twenty years.
– During which the honorable member for Hume will be “out in the cold,” poor fellow !
– The right honorable gentleman will shortly find it “ pretty warm.”
– I hope we shall be able to make this debate an exception to the general rule, by avoiding personalities. We desire the question discussed without any revival of State feuds which the people have or ought to have forgotten long ago, and I propose to discuss it on its merits. The right honorable gentleman said -
I wish to repeat that the Government will not allow this Commission to be made the means of any free-trade or protectionist proclivities. The great value of the Report will be that it comes from a Commission constituted on the lines I have indicated.
– Hear, hear !
– This, to say, that, although the country has decided by an overwhelming majority that protection shall be the policy of the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister turns around and says that protection shall not be its policy - that we require a Commission based on such lines that the report shall have no regard to the verdict of the country. Will the country tolerate that? Will out protectionists friends on the other side support such a proposal ?
– Will the honorable and learned member’s free-trade friends support it?
– Hear, hear !
– I do not think that such a proposal will commend itself even to my free-trade friends.
– The free-trade friends of the honorable and learned member for Indi can do anything after what has been done by the honorable and learned member for Wannon.
– It would seem, in view of the remarks about “business men,” who shall be moderate according to somebody’s idea - we do not know whose idea - that any man who honestly and fully believes in protection, or honestly or fully believes in free-trade, is thereby disqualified. The position reminds me of a quotation from the Biglow Papers -
A genooine statesman should be on his guard, Ef he must hev beliefs, nut to b’lieve ‘em tu hard.
So long as men accommodate themselves to the circumstances of the moment, and allow the Government the opportunity to shunt the great question, principles, it seems, are useful. And then we have this extraordinary statement from the Prime Minister -
Whilst it seems to me perfectly clear that the Government could never consent to any violation of fiscal peace during the present Parliament, I don’t for a moment say that some anomalies might not be brought to light in the course of the investigations which both sides of the fiscal question could, with equal readiness, be prepared to deal with.
What, sir? When the country, according to the right honorable gentleman, has said that the Tariff shall not be touched for three years, he takes on himself to say that it shall be touched. Does that not bear out exactly what I said the other day in regard to the May coalition compact? I drew attention, both in the press and in the House, to the circumstance that, according to the compact, the Tariff was not t*o be touched during the life of the present Parliament without the consent of )oth parties in the Ministry ; and I was told that that did not mean the Tariff could not be touched without their consent, but that it could not be touched at all. Now, however, the Prime Minister says that if both parties agree, there is no verdict to the contrary - that the touching of the Tariff depends on the consent of both parties in the Ministry. If that be so, where is the justification for the protectionists joining the Ministry? The Prime Minister went on to say -
There may be - I don’t say there would be - some anomalies brought to light which the good sense of the Parliament would be only too ready to remedy, so long as the flames of fiscal controversy were not rekindled.
Does the honorable gentleman say that it is proposed to deal only with anomalies that are of no importance to the country ? Does the right honorable gentleman mean that, so long as the anomalies do not affect trade or commerce, or do not mean work for the unemployed, or the maintenance of a proper standard of life, they can be touched? Do we require a Commission, with all its expense and necessary annoyance to men in business, to “seek the removal of- anomalies which do not affect anybody - merely to correct the spelling and see to the crossing of a t or the dotting of . an i? That is not what the country wants. What is desired is the removal of anomalies which have crept into the Tariff - anomalies which mean that, although the country pronounced for revenue without destruction, we have destruction staring us in the face. If those anomalies are not to be touched, what is the meaning of the proposed Commission ? Yet the Prime Minister seeks to apply a coat of varnish, so that when he speaks of anomalies he means only such anomalies as we can or may. agree to if they can be discovered!, and which can be dealt with without, as he says, “ rekindling the flame of fiscal controversy.” That is nonsense ! The Prime Minister proceeds - . . it is all-important that the Commission should be a business Commission, without any pretence of political proclivities or connection with political parties.
The right honorable gentleman also pointed to my suggestion, and to this I shall refer before dealing .more closely with his own proposal, so that I may put the matter fairly before the House from his standpoint. The right honorable gentleman says : -
Mr. Isaacs’ suggestion that the Commission should be composed of members of Parliament seems to me objectionable,, because of the fact that every member of the Rouse is necessarily involved in the fiscal controversy, and has his opinions on it.
Is not that what we. were sent to the House for? Is not the fiscal question, perhaps, the greatest that this country has ever spoken on directly? Have not honorable members been sent here, on behalf of the whole community, to hold and express opinions, and, so far as they can, cast them in the form of statutory enactments? The Prime Minister, knowing that he is a beaten man - knowing that his side was worsted in the elections - turns round1 and, by some means, cajoles his protectionist friends in the Cabinet, to allow him to control this matter, to set aside the verdict of the country, and to have an investigation, not by members of the House, but by “ business men.”
– Hear, hear !
– I can understand the honorable member for Parramatta feeling uneasy, seeing that he has tried both sides of the fiscal question, and knows the practical! disadvantages of each. I ask the honorable member, however, to reserve his observations, if he can so far obey the Standing Orders, until I have finished, when he can say what he pleases.
– I was saying nothing.
– Listen to this, Mr. Chaim.an, as from the Prime Minister -
Reports coming i rom a political and partisan source-
That is the Parliament of the country.
– No, No!
– The newspaper report goes on : - could not possibly carry the same weight as reports from business men outside political interests.
In other words, we who are sent here by the people to do this work, tell the people that they have chosen men incapable or incapacitated from doing it, and that we, the elected, must choose others., of whom the people know nothing, and to whom they have given no confidence, to dictate the Tariff policy of the country.
– Terrible !
– Let me call the attention of honorable members to some of the inconsistencies of this statement of the right honorable gentleman. When I spoke in Parliament on the declaration of the Government’s policy, on the 8th September of this year, I said, as reported on page 4457 of Hansard -
I shall tell honorable members what that fiscal peace meant. It meant this - that the contest in Australia between the policy of free-trade on the one side, and the policy of protection on the other, was decided. There was to be no more struggling as to which policy was to be triumphant. We had erected the standard of protection, and that flag was to fly all over Australia. When the Prime Minister, in Sydney, taunted the protectionists of Australia, and said that they had that “tired feeling,” and that- they dared not raise the protectionist flag before the people of Australia, we dared to do so, and the people supported us. They declared that there should be a pause in the great struggle between the protectionists and the free-traders, and that the protectionist flag should still continue to wave. But they never said that in this declaration of peace between the two warring camps any details of protection should remain unattended to- They never said that in this protectionist domain, if wrong were done in any case, it should not be righted.
– The speech is full of “flags.”
– I do not know, Mr. Chairman, whether in filling your position in the chair, with, I beg leave to say, great ability, you can find a moment to pay some attention, in your medical capacity, to the honorable member for Parramatta. He seems very much disturbed; this afternoon. The Minister of Trade and Customs then said -
The honorable and learned member should turn to the galleries and not to the House with that story.
That is the story which the Prime Minister is telling the galleries to-day. He is telling the galleries that the Government are going to attend to some of the detail’s. Further on, in the course of that same speech of mine, the Minister for Defence interjected -
The country has already decided that the Tariff shall not be touched for three years.
Now the Government swerve right round from a strong and consistent position - though I did not agree with that position - and say that the Tariff may be touched during the three years in reference to anomalies, whatever “ anomalies “ may be. Then we come to the next question - about the appointment to the .Commission of business men. I seriously put this question, because it is vital to Australia. I should like to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister what he means by suggesting- a Commission of business men ? What business men ? They are to be impartial. They are not to have any interest in the matter. They are not to be partisans. They are to be protectionists or free-traders, provided they are moderate ; though we do not know who are to judge of their principles or their moderation. They are not to have any personal interest in the subject of the inquiry. Does the right honorable gentleman tell me - can he inform this Committee - what business men in this country are not interested in the Tariff? Can he tell me what business men who, having a practical knowledge of the trades and of the manufactures and of the importing industries affected, have no interest in Ahern ? Can he tell me of any Business men engaged in these enterprises who are not far more interested in the Tariff than are honorable members of this House? Does the right honorable gentleman mean to put on this Commission bankers or butter commission men, or stock-brokers?
– Or stoney brokers?
– Or men not engaged in the producing industries affected. Is he, for instance, going to put on the Commission members of the tobacco trust to decide what the duty on tobacco and cigars should be? Is he going to allow them to say what excise would best suit the tobacco trust as against the tobacco-growers of this country? Is he going to put on the Commission the importers of harvesters to say what will suit Mr. McKay’s Sunshine Works, at Ballarat? Is he going to put on the Commission the importers of whisky to say what duty will best suit Messrs. Joshua Bros.., with their hundreds of thousands of pound’s worth - as they allege - of machinery, which has lain idle for two years ?
– Is that the factory which is running the honorable and learned member ?
– There is no factory, or trust that is running me ; and, as a protectionist, I shall take care that a freetrade Prime Minister does not run me either. I have no personal care for any of these factories, but I know that the owners of them are making statements that require the careful attention of the Parliament ‘of this country. They) are the very worst men to put on a Commission to judge of their own case, but they have as much right to be there as have any of their rivals. I would no more put the importers of whisky on the Commission, to judge of the rights of Messrs. Joshua Bros., than I would put there Messrs. Joshua Bros, to judge of the rights of the importers. Mv contention is that none of them should be put on- the Commission. But we know that Joshua Bros, are alleging - rightly or wrongly, I do not know - that for two years they have not made a single gallon of whisky in consequence of the Tariff. That statement may be right, or it may be wrong. I do not pretend to know. I would not allow myself to form any opinion on the statements made.
– One industry named, at last ! The whisky industry.
– I suppose I cannot be expected to name them all at once. The right honorable gentleman must not forget that he has taken the course of “ gagging “ this House. He has taken the course of stopping discussion upon my motion.
– The honorable and learned member knows better. He could have taken his motion off the notice-paper temporarily. He knows that well. He is blocking himself. He could have removed his notice from the notice-paper, we could have discussed the question on the Budget, and he could have put the notice back on the noticepaper afterwards. He knows that well enough.
– The right honorable gentleman must not make a statement .of that kind. He knows perfectly well the misunderstanding that would have arisen if I had done so.
– The honorable and learned member gagged himself.
– The right honorable gentleman overlooks the fact that I asked him to afford an opportunity to discuss the motion. He might have said “Yes “ at once.
– Why should he? Who is the honorable and learned member that the Prime Minister should say that ?
– I am referring to the Prime Minister, not to the honorable and learned member for Parramatta, and I say that it is nonsense - absolute nonsense - for the right honorable gentleman to say that any honorable member who has put a notice upon the business-paper should withdraw it to suit him.
– No, to suit the honorable and learned member himself.
– The right honorable gentleman had not the courage to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to my question. He put up the right honorable the Treasurer tomake an answer so as to evade a motion for the adjournment, and would not take the matter into his own hands and say “ Yes ‘’ or “No.” Upon that occasion he felt that he was treading upon delicate ground. But it is too much to ask’ the honorable member for Hume to withdraw his motion on preferential trade, or to ask me to withdraw my motion with respect to *he operation of the Tariff, which I have had upon the paper for a considerable time. And as for the right honorable gentleman’s statement that the motion was only put on the paper with a certain motive, I reply that we have a right to ask him to afford time to discuss so important a question - a question quite as important as the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, for which time was given.
– The honorable and learned member did not help us very much. He did not rally to the protectionist cause on that Bill.
– I did not rally to the protectionist cause on that Bill ? What has happened to justify that statement? The right honorable gentleman has no right to say that, because he knows what took place between us.
– I do not know what he means. He knows that I wished to get a pair for that Bill, and that I asked him to pair with me.
– I offered the honorable and learned member another pair instead of mine. He cannot command my pair if I give him another one.
– I am aware of that.
– The Government whip paired with the honorable and learned member.
– I was much obliged to him. but I took good care that my vote was provided for.
– I thought the honorable and learned member would have helped protection with a little more than his vote.
– A good deal of conversation is going on, and many inter.jections have been made across the Chamber. I ask honorable members to allow the honorable and learned member for Indi to make his speech without interrup- tion. They are aware that in Committee any honorable member is at libertyto speak as frequently as he pleases.
– For a moment the Prime Minister had interrupted the course of my remarks. I was about to ask how he justifies putting business men on the Commission to judge of the interests of other business men ? Would he put on the Commission a hat importer to judge of the amount of duty that is necessary in the interests of the Denton Hat Mills, or vice versa? Would he put a woollen importer on the Commission to judge whether the Tariff is right from the point of view of the Ballarat Woollen Mills, or vice versa?
– He might if he were a simpleton.
– Would he put a representative of the Ballarat Woollen Mills on to say what tariff should be imposed on ready-made clothing? Would he put a manufacturer of ready-made clothing on to decide the tariff which should be imposed on sewing machines? Would he put a boot manufacturer on to judge what should be the duty on leather? Would he put a representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company on to judge what should be the duty or excise on sugar? Would he put an ironfounder on to decide the duties to’ be imposed on importations of machinery, or an importer of machinery to judge of the rates of duty which should be imposed for the Austral Otis Company? Would he put a representative of that company on the Commission to say whether they are right or wrong in their alleged reduction of men in consequence of the existing Tariff, from 700 to 200? When they say that they have£100,000 worth of capital lying idle, is that a true statement or an untrue statement? And will their opponents and their rivals in trade, or will their own representatives, for that matter, be put on the Commission to decide as to the truth of that contention? The circumstances connected with these and many other trades have to be considered’, and have, been ably dealt with in the press, notably in the Age, which has given to this country a considerable fund of information which appears to have been most carefully compiled, and which, if true, or anything like true, demands that the most careful, and most impartial investigation should be made - but not by the persons interested. That is the point I desire to make.
– Hear, hear; by this House.
– By this House, or by members of this House. A Commission composed of persons interested in theTariff is what we cannot have. I think I can appeal to the good sense of our honorable friends opposite, who, although they are not on the same side with us in politics, will appreciate my argument when I ask them whether any tradesman, manufacturer, or importer who might be on the Commission might not be free from investigation as to his own business, whilst the business of his rivals might be investigated to the last farthing?
– We know that they would not sanction any hole-and-corner business.
– The honorable member for Lang seems to have a great attachment for hole-and-corner business. We are not talking of any hole-and-corner investigation, but of an investigation held in the light of day by men appointed by this House in the light of day, and not in the hole and corner of the Cabinet. It is for that we are asking. I ask what men are to be appointed on this Commission? Are they to be men in a large or in a small way of business?
– The moderate men.
– I should like to ask this, too. When this Commission is constituted of men who will not nominally have protectionist or free-trade tendencies - for they must not be genuine protectionists or freetraders - I suppose they will be expected to deal with the matter referred to them on strictly business lines. They will, I suppose, have to ascertain what is the very lowest price to which labour can be ground down in order to get work done. Working upon strictly business lines, they will have to say what is the lowest point to which labour wages can go, to justify the cutting down of the Tariff.
– The honorable and learned member has a fine imagination.
– Who says that?
– Are they to take into consideration the Arbitration Acts, and the Factories Acts? Are they to determine whether a particular enterprise has failed because the Tariff is too low, or because the factorv rate of wages is too high, or because a Judge of the New South Wales Arbitration Court has fixed wages in the industry at too high a figure? What are they to consider? They are not to be political partisans. They are to be capitalists,
I suppose, and will be asked to judge of the rates of wages to be given for labour. What are they to do?
– Labour is not to be represented on the Commission.
– There has, so far, not been the slightest suggestion that labour is to be represented on the Commission. It is to be composed of business men, who are to conduct their investigations on strictly business lines, and, so far as we have yet heard, labour is not to be represented.
– Do no labour men understand1 business; is that the contention?
– What we ask for is a tribunal constituted of members of the Federal Parliament, who are not engaged in any one business, but in the business of the whole community, and who, whatever their fiscal proclivities may be, will, I trust, in the public interest, look with an equal eye upon the rights and wrongs of the whole community. Then, to go a little further, the Tariff, we were told’, was to be one of revenue without destruction. Are the members of the Commission to have an eye to the public revenue? Are these business men to consider the requirements of the Commonwealth and of the States, or are the interests of the States to be utterly ignored? Are they to look only to the particular enterprise in which they are concerned, without regard to the people amongst whom they live, or the States that compose the Commonwealth? I protest against this. The proposal is for the appointment of Commissioners to investigate these weighty matters, and to look at them only with a single eye to what may be got out of their own businesses, and then, when they come forward with a recommendation to this Parliament, we shall be told, if we venture to depart from it, that we are a partisan and prejudiced body and are setting aside the report of an impartial Commission. What are we to do ? I was surprised to hear this proposal made. I was very much surprised to learn that yesterday my honorable friend the Minister of Trade and Customs told a deputation of workmen who waited upon him that they had only to wait until a body of practical men had been appointed who would make their recommendations - recommendations, mark you, sir, for the alteration of the Tariff. What did the workmen tell the honorable gentleman? A working jeweller in the deputation said - “ Then I suppose we have got to tighten our belts in the meantime?” I suppose that is what the men in every industry will have to do.
– I doubt whether the honorable and learned member will, have them on his list. They would have to wait a good deal longer for relief from him.
– If the honorable gentleman would only give us a chance, we should convince him as to whether they would or not. I should put on the list every one who had a fair case for examination.
– Then the honorable and learned member should come over here.
– I should put on the list every one who had a fair case for examination, but I should not give men a roving commission to go up and down this Commonwealth making trouble and inviting dissension.
– It is merely to waste time.
– It would be a waste of time and money. I approve of business men being consulted, but let them be consulted as witnesses, and not as judges.’ Let them bring forward their complaints before a Committee of the members of this Parliament, clothed for the purposes of this investigation with the higher legal powers and rights under the sanction of a Royal Commission, but practically still a Select Committee of the two Houses of the Federal Parliament. I cannot understand why the whole Tariff is to be considered.
– It is only another political dodge.
– It is only for the purpose of delay. It merely means keeping the Government in office a little longer.
– That is the trouble.
– Is it not for the purpose of retribution? I am sorry that I have not the extract here; but it was reported in the newspapers of, I think, the 23rd August that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he was at Ballarat with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, said that the protectionists had gained a victory, and that the Tariff was to be left to work in peace for three ‘years, and that then - not now - we were to see what the results were. He pointed out that freetraders were seeking the earliest opportunity of ripping up the Tariff, but the protectionists felt that time would fight on their side, and that they wanted the full operation of that period before making any investigations. What is the good of doing it now? Why begin the investigations at the present moment, before that time has gone by ? We ought to recognise that the country has proclaimed a fiscal peace. But where manifestly the verdict of the country has not been carried out, where, instead of revenue without destruction of industries, we are getting revenue, or perhaps want of revenue, with destruction of industries, where a palpable error has been committed, we should lose no time in investigating those matters in which that destruction is plainly on the surface. And we ought to do no more than that. While preserving or respecting fiscal peace in other matters, we should refer those matters in which destruction is pretty plain on the surface to the consideration of a Royal Commission, and determine, if necessary, to correct the mistakes in the early part of next session. I object to ripping up the whole Tariff. I object to this unnecessary waste of time, energy, and enterprise.
– How are we to arrive at these individual cases? How is Parliament going to do it?
– The cases are well known, and may be numbered on the fingers of both hands.
– Let the honorable and learned member number a few of them on his fingers.
– I think that if the right honorable member had given me an opportunity to get at the notice of motion standing in my name, there would have been no delay in convincing the country that a revision of the Tariff is necessary.
– Who is stopping the honorable and learned member. Let him give a list of the cases. He must have known them bv heart for months.
Mr.ISAACS.- If the right honorable gentleman will say that he will go back upon his refusal ; if he will say now that he will give us an early opportunity to discuss a notice of motion, I shall undertake to defer my remarks.
– The honorable and learned member has an opportunity now.
– Let the honorable and learned member make out a case.
– I am a little too old a bird to be caught by chaff of that kind.
– The honorable and learned member’s case is chaff, is it?
– I do not wish to take up a moment more than is necessary. We ask for the correction of palpable errors.
– Mention them.
– We ask not for destruction, but for preservation of revenue. We wish to stop the destruction which is staring in the face many industries ; but we do not wish to see a number of gentlemen who are specially interested in the matter, or, indeed, any gentlemen travelling about the country, and raising trouble unnecessarily.
– Oh, dear !
– It is an extraordinary thing that the Prime Minister should say. that this is not a political question, when he proposes to put an equal number of protectionists and free-traders on a Royal Commission. Business men are to decide either on their own business or on the businesses of their rivals, or if not on one or other, then, on businesses of which they have no knowledge. They may if they choose keep secret the whole of their proceedings, it may be for ten years. They may, if they like, choose any portion of the Tariff to begin with. They may refuse to consider any other portion. They may, if they choose, disclose the progress of their proceedings from day to day. They may, by doing that, not only disclose the business secrets of their rivals, but throw the whole community into a state of turmoil, with no guarantee at the end that anything will be done. What will that avail ? If we ask why this Ministry proposethis, the answer is that they have no mind on these great questions. They are formed upon the basis of sinking the fiscal question, and now they are taking a step which will sink everybody connected with it. If we ask what are the principles which guide the Government in disorganizing industry, dislocating enterprise, stopping the avenues of employment, throwing everybody into a state of turmoil, and casting the whole Tariff into the crucible, I think that the question may be best answered with a slight alteration of the lines of our friend, Hosea Biglow -
Ez to princerples, we glory
In hevin’ nothin’ o’ the sort.
We air not protectionists nor free-traders;
We air just a Ministry in short.
– The proposed vote for the Senate was put as a whole, but perhaps it will be more convenient if the amendment be attached to the first item of the first subdivision.
– My. amendment is to re duce the proposed vote of£6,047 for salaries bv the sum of is.
– Honorable members will understand that this amendment will not preclude them from moving any amendment they may desire to any item in the first subdivision under the head of the Senate.
– The honorable and learned member for,. Indi has been perfectly sensible in the amount of the reduction which he has proposed, because I think it will more than cover the whole of the value of his present movement. The simple fact remains - and it is only too painfully known throughout the length and breadth of Australia - that the position of the Government was challenged recently while the notice of motion to which the honorable and learned member has referred was on the business paper. The Government were tried on that notice of motion, other proposals which were on the notice-paper, and the direct motion of no-confidence. A solid month was taken up in order to give honorable members a full opportunity to make up their minds on the subject, and the Government remained with the majority with which they started.
– They were condemned bv the only man who keeps them on the Treasury bench.
– I should like my democratic friends opposite to stay for a little while, not their hunger, but their impatience, and to remember that they are great believers in majorities. “Majority rule” is a sacred principle with them, but they do not like to be bound by it when it prevents them from crossing the floor of the House; it then becomes an abomination to them. I do not wish to take up much time with the amendment. It. is, after all, only a squib, and, like the other squib which the honorable and learned member fired, it is quite stale and harmless. But I do invite the attention of the House and the country to the extraordinary method he has adopted for suppressing discussion upon the matter which he has submitted. I think that there is no freer or fuller opportunity, for honorable members to discuss matters of public importance than is afforded by the motion of my right honorable friend the Treasurer on this occasion. It gives absolute liberty to discuss every matter of public importance, and’ the honorable and learned member for Indi, who has been in Parliament for a very long time, although, in spite of his great ability, he still occupies a secondary position, knows the rules probably as well as any of us do. He confesses to knowing that he had only to withdraw his notice of motion to-day in order not to free us, but to, free himself, from the slightest embarrassment in stating his complaint against the action of the Government. I do not expect any honorable member who is opposed to me to facilitate the business of the Government by withdrawing a motion which he has put on the businesspaper; but when he has a subject which he wishes to ventilate freely and honestly before the people of Australia. I expect him to remove an obstacle which it is entirely within his power to remove, so that honorable members generally may fully discuss it.
– That is too thin.
– The honorable and learned member is and always has been too slim, but slim as he may be-: -
– Oh !
– Well, I cannot take him for an apostle yet. The honorable and learned member - I do not say in any large way, but within the range of his powers - is one of the most astute and clever men in the public life of this country in one respect, in his ability to remove, obstacles from his own path. On this occasion he had only one little obstacle in his path to prevent him from freely discussing this great national matter, as he puts it, and yet ‘he has deliberately kept his notice of motion on the business-paper, so that he may not fully discuss his complaint against the Government. If he has the overwhelming current of the milk of human kindness in his nature, which we are all proud to see even in distinguished legal luminaries, one would have thought that this impulse of tenderness for starving industries would have led him to remove the obstacle which prevents him from telling us about them, and from making an appeal, not on account of this or that catchword in party politics, but on the honest merits of his case, the hardships which these industries are suffering. I suppose that whatever our fiscal faith may be, we have not become so entirely hardened that we can listen to genuine tales of hardship and distress in a callous spirit. The marvellous thing about this little, manufactured, tin-pot crisis in the corner is that, if there is any real human distress behind it, no one has had the courage to mention one of the suffering industries. If there are starving working men clamouring for relief, why has not some honorable member opposite had the courage to put his finger on the industry which is suffering?
– A partisan member?
– I was going to say that the honorable and learned member is not a partisan, but I cannot honestly say that. May I suggest, however, that even if a member is a partisan, there is nothing to prevent him from telling us, in the interests of suffering humanity, about the industries which are being starved?
– The iron industry has been mentioned.
– I am not asking the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, I know, is full of suffering industries j I am asking the honorable and learned .member for Indi, whose heart has been distended almost to bursting for some weeks past, in fact, from the precise moment that I came into office. It is a marvellous thing that he sat like a dove on the ark during every Ministerial deluge, placidly nestling by the side of the Prime Minister of the day. Notwithstanding his acute intellect, he did not see any reason for differing from any man who might happen to be Prime Minister. For four years he acted like the joint of a tail in conformity with the wishes of the animal which wags it. But when some one came in who knows not Joseph-
– Who knows not Isaacs !
– When some one takes office who seems to be not quite in sympathy with the honorable and learned gentleman, politically - I am happy to say that we have never had any personal differences - from that very instant he is changed from the harmless acquiescent dove on the Ministerial hen-roost, to a sort of political ourang-outang, for whom there is no sort of rest anywhere, from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head. Everything is wrong. Everything calls for some enormous effort on the part of one gifted politician. He is the one man who will put everything right. A White Australia is in danger because I should like to see obstacles removed from the path of my fellow-men beyond the seas, in England, Ireland, and Scotland- our own kith and kin. That is regarded as an innovation, and dangerous to the principle of a White Australia.
– Hear, hear. We do not want slaves to be landed here.
– Let me direct public attention to the jargon which a competent legal authority can employ under certain circumstances outside a court of justice. It appears that if a man happens to be under contract, he is a slave. That is the socialistic talk which this legal luminary is learning now. The honorable and learned member for Indi thinks that every man who is under a contract to earn wages is a slave. The honorable member for Bland has called such a man a chattel ; the honorable and learned member for Indi calls him a slave. I have always thought that the men of this country who were working under contract for wages are not slaves. If that is not so, there are large numbers of slaves in the trade unions of Australia.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that that is a fair way to put it ?
– Yes, on the question of a White Australia, it is fair enough. That is the only point I am on.
– Is the right honorable member against Factory and Arbitration Acts ?
– I mention what the honorable and learned member has said only to show my intense disgust for one in his position. The traditions of persecution in all the lands of the earth ought to have burnt into his blood some sort of sympathy for men who are under unequal laws.
– The right honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– That is very disgraceful.
– It is only the persecution by those who hold the tenets of the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable and learned member seeks to apply my remarks to the colour line, which the party with which I was associated in New South Wales was the first to draw. When that colour line is made to apply against the white men of England, Ireland, and Scotland, I may be allowed to feel some degree of indignation. I may be wrong, ‘but I wish my honorable and learned friend to remember the reasons for my indignation. That is the view which I wish to put strongly before him. I wish now to come to the honorable and learned member’s notice of motion.
– The right honorable gentleman has not answered my point yet.
– I wish to point out this simple fact: When it is desired that a Government should exercise the prerogative of the Crown by appointing a Royal Commission, as the matter is of considerable’ importance, and necessarily under the most economic arrangements in a case of this sort means great expense, the rule is that the honorable member who seeks to put the prerogative in motion must lay a case before Parliament which will warrant the step being taken. The honorable and learned gentleman has not directly mentioned one Australian industry.
– The right honorable gentleman will not allow us to do so; he will not give us the opportunity.
– When the honorable and learned gentleman shuts his own mouth-
– Could any one but the honorable and learned member have withdrawn his notice of motion? Could any one but he himself have taken it off the’businesspaper? Furthermore, does not the honorable and learned member know, and has he not admitted, that he could himself have taken it off the business-paper ?
– Does not the right honorable gentleman admit, by his policy, more than we claim by ours ?
– No, certainly not. I wish to answer the question in this way.
– In the right honorable gentleman’s own way.
– I hope that my honorable friend will allow me that liberty.
– The right honorable gentleman will answer it in his usual way.
– There are some persons too weak to smite. The honorable and learned member for Indi does not seem to recognise the difference between an inquiry such as he proposes, and a general inquiry into the working of the Tariff. An inquiry has been going on in some shape or other, but not in the complete way that it would be conducted by a Royal Commission, ever since the Tariff was established. The Treasurer, when he was formerly in office, was keeping up, as far as he co’uld, an inquiry into the working of the Tariff. An inquiry, whether by Royal Commission or by the Minister and the Department, is one of the ordinary experiences in connexion with a new Tariff at all times. Therefore, there is no novelty in that. I have not the slightest difficulty, neither have my colleagues, in connexion with that matter.
– The Treasurer was shaping his inquiries with a view to discover the effect of the Tariff upon the finances.
– I wish my honorable and learned friend would permit me to proceed without interruption. We have wasted one month, and I do not now wish to make serious inroads upon another. The honorable and learned member for Indi was commendably brief in his speech, and I desire to imitate him. I wish to point out that the inquiry he proposes is objectionable because he proposes to shut out suffering persons from coming before the Commission unless this House has selected as a subject for inquiry the industry which happens to include them.
– Hear, hear.
– I say that there has never been a Royal Commission in the history of any country upon a subject like that of the’ Tariff which has shut out any man who has a grievance from coming before it, ‘ and giving expression to his complaint. There is a radical difference between the two methods, which makes the honorable and learned member’s proposal repugnant to every fair-minded man who wishes to do some good by appointing such a Commission. What would be the use of such a Commission, if persons having a number of grievances were actuallv debarred from coming before it? Suppose that the Commission sat during tha recess, and fifty men in different parts of Australia, who had grievances arising out of the Tariff, made their appearances before it, at the public expense, for the purpose of ventilating those grievances, and one after the other was told, “You are not on our list. A list has been handed to us by the wise men in Parliament wEo can foresee everything, and who know even every man in the Commonwealth who has a grievance. They, by virtue of their own parliamentary inspiration, have forecasted all grievances, and, unfortunately, you have been left out.”
– That is not the whole of the proposal. If the right honorable gentleman reads my motion, he will see that that is provided for.
– The honorable and learned member proposes that a Commission shall be appointed to inquire and report as to the injurious effect produced by the Tariff upon certain Australian industries, which are to be soecifically referred to such Commission, after determination by this House.
– Hear, hear.
– ls that not a wonderful way of inviting a dead-lock between the two Houses?
– How can there be a deadlock? Why the two Houses?
– Will the honorable and learned member allow me to explain? He is as uneasy as an old lady upon receiving her first proposal. The motion provides that both Houses shall be represented in thepersonnel of the Commission. The honorable and learned member recognises that the two Houses have rights in connexion with the Tariff, that the Senate has the right to be consulted as to the persons who shall constitute the Commission, but when it comes to the matter of specifying the industries this House only is to have a voice. The motion refers in the first place to “ a Royal Commission consisting of Members of Parliament selected by the respective Houses,” but when it comes to the vital point as to the industries Avhich are to be specifically referred to such Commission, they are to be so referred “ after determination by this House.” I say that that in itself is enough to condemn the motion at once. I might have expected an honorable member new to the House, however intelligent and gifted-
– The right honorable gentleman is not discussing the motion.
– The honorable and learned member is very ready with his little legal points. . The brightest man, if he were new to the House, might slip into a mistake of this kind, but my honorable friend, who slept upon this matter for weeks before it was put on the business-paper, cannot be accused of carelessness. He introduces the very apple of discord between the two Houses - by recognising the right of the Senate to have a voice in the selection of the Commission, and, at the same time, providing that the scope of the Commission and the selection of the industries to be made the subject of inquiry shall be left to the determination of this House only. I am the first to recognise the power of this House in every sense, and I should never be one to curtail it. But with the fullest recognition of the powers of the House,
Ave must all be fully aware that certain acts are clearly within the sphere of the executive power as distinct from that of the legislative power, and one of these is the appointment of Commissions. Commissions are appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of its advisers. I recog nise that the House is fully competent to recommend the appointment of a Commission ; but what I should like first to point out is that if the members of the Commis-. sion are to be chosen by the two Houses, and if we are then to enter upon a debate as to the industries to be referred to it, we should probably be sitting here for fully three months after the beginning of next year fighting over our points of difference. We might gag a Commission, but we could not gag members of this House, who would be entitled to propose an inquiry into every line of the Tariff. If we once entered upon a debate as to the portions of the Tariff to be submitted to the Commission for inquiry, we shouldlaunch ourselves upon another general Tariff discussion. That would involve a great waste of time. My honorable and learned friend would not permit that if he could help it. He would like to bring up his little list and say - “ That is my list, that settles it.” He must remember, however, that other members have a perfect right to present their little lists, and that whilst he would probably remember all the industries about Melbourne, other honorable members, familiar with other parts of the Commonwealth, would want to bring in their industries. Therefore, by the time we had finished fighting about the Commission, we should have spent perhaps more time than would be ocupied in a general revision of the Tariff. I quite admit that, whatever method may be adopted, there are difficulties with regard to the appointment of a Commission of this kind; but I venture to say that a discussion such as must take place if the motion were carried would not be calculated to inspire public confidence in the Commission. I never knew of a case of this kind, but as a rule balloting is resorted to whenever such appointments are made by the House. Let us suppose that there was a ballot, and let us further suppose - as has been stated - that there are forty-one protectionists in this House and thirty-three revenue tariffists. The forty-one protectionists would.be in a position to appoint every member of the Commission.
– Honorable members do not usually act in that way.
– I should hope not. I am merely following, out the argument of my honorable and learned friend, who conjured up all sorts of absurdities. I am conjuring up something which is not an absurdity.
– If honorable members did that sort of thing, they would defeat their own ends.
– I should hope they would. That, however, is not a question of morals so much as it is one of retribution. After all, we merely represent the public in this matter. We must recognise that. We must all recognise that it is the public which must be satisfied first as to the impartiality of this Commission, and secondly as to its powers. If the public are not satisfied, all our labour will be in vain. When this Commission is constituted, we all hope that it will commence its inquiries under such conditions that all ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth wall say, “ We are satisfied that the men who have been chosen will address themselves to this task in a fair and impartial way.” If, on the other hand, we make it a political fight to the death as to who shall be appointed to that Commission, we shall begin badly. I should like to say that, in my opinion, half the value of this inquiry will arise from the fact that no member who has been fighting the fiscal question in this House will be upon that tribunal.
– That is utter rubbish.
– If honorable members wish to put advocates, instead of investigators, upon the bench, I should be perfectly willing to allow two of our most red-hot freetraders to sit with two ted-hot protectionists.
– Where would the labourites come in ?
– The labourite is only a human being after all. There is no special brand of humanity about him. Moreover, there are both free-trade and protectionist members of the Labour Party - at least, I believe there are some of them left.
– I understand there were some.
– I will just illustrate what I mean in this connexion. Let us suppose that, as the result of a ballot in the House consisting of fortyone protectionists and thirty-three revenue tariffists, we appoint to the proposed Commission the honorable member for Hume, as its president, the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable and learned member for Corio.
– Order. I would draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that he is now debating the constitution of a Commission which may be appointed under a resolution of this House.
– That is so. But I wish to point out who is responsible for that difficulty.
– It is the Prime Minister himself.
– Only one honorable member is responsible for it, and that is the gentleman who is compelling us to deal with this matter with that clog upon our freedom of discussion. The honorable and learned member for Indi must recollect that the Government are not here merely to obey his commands. We owe him no allegiance, and if we differ from his methods, whilst approving of his main object - and there is no dispute upon the main question as to the desirableness of appointing a Commission of Inquiry-
– But we are concerned with its effectiveness.
– That is a fair matter for discussion. My idea was that this question should be threshed out in a friendly way - a,s it could have been in this Committee - that I should listen to the suggestions of honorable members from every part of the House, and suspend Ministerial action until we could be helped by the advice which we could obtain in a friendly discussion across the Chamber. But as the leader of the House - since we are bound to have a Budget debate -I was specially charged with conserving the public time. Consequently, I wished to adopt a course which would facilitate free discussion without raising any party considerations whatever. My honorable and learned friend knows that as the Government were opposed to his methods, if we had had a discussion upon his motion, that discussion must have assumed a party complexion, because we should have been at issue. But in this Committee honorable members are not tied as they are in ordinary party conflicts, and it must be recollected that it was possible for him to remove his motion from the notice-paper, because he could have restored it at any moment. By removing it from the businesspaper he could not have placed himself in any worse position than he now occupies. We should then have been able, without the introduction of any party bitterness, to enter into a friendly discussion with a view to arriving at a ground of common agreement, and if we could have achieved that object, surely it would have been a better settlement of this vexed question. Surely the public would prefer that we should settle important matters affecting them free from party attacks. The course which I desired to follow would have landed us in a friendly discussion, and not in a party fight.
– How can the discussion of the fiscal question be anything but a party fight? The Prime Minister is talking nonsense.
– Surely the appointment of a Royal Commission - a proposal to get a judicial investigation into the grievances of the public - ought not to be a party fight? Cannot we put aside our party fights to gain that end? It is a most degrading view of the duties of a Royal Commission upon a great subject of national importance, to insist upon giving that body a party complexion’.
– Do not come that humbug with me. It is the purest humbug.
– The honorable member cannot rise above wallowing in the filth of party strife.
– It is the Prime Minister’s filthy humbug. That is what it is. He is always wallowing in it.
– I rise to order.
– The honorable member had better not do that, because I do not w;ish to advertise the vulgarity of the honorable member for Hume.
– The Prime Minister has advertised his own vulgarity in this House many times.
– The honorable member wishes to enjoy a monopoly in the matteI of making offensive .statements. Surely after his outburst here, not long ago, I may be allowed to differ from him mildly upon a matter of public importance.
– I have never had anything struck out of Hansard.
– I hope that we can get on with the transaction of public business. No doubt the honorable member has sustained a keen disappointment, but we must all learn to conquer the feelings which arise out of such reverses. Whatever side of the House honorable members may sit upon, I am anxious that we shall address ourselves earnestly to the transaction of public business. I desire to remind the House of the history of this question to some extent. When the Tariff was being framed, were we not told that the duties which were then fixed, would lead to the ruin of many industries ? Was not the Com.mittee deliberately informed from this table by the Ministers who were in charge of the Tariff, that if it reduced this item, or that, to the extent that it desired, it would ruin certain industries? In spite of those statements of risk the House, in its wisdom - because we must remember that the majority decided-
– But this is a new House.
– I shall come to that position presently. I am dealing now with the attitude taken up by the last Parliament. The Committee of this House, in its wisdom, fixed certain duties, and then a new complication was introduced by the action of the Senate. Honorable members will recollect that after we had reduced the duties suggested by the protectionists, another place came on the scene and still further reduced them. Let me take, by way of illustration, the item of machinery, as it has been mentioned in this House, in some unofficial way, that those engaged in the manufacture of machinery are being subjected to great suffering. We decided that there should be a duty of 15 per cent, on this item, but another place insisted that it should be lowered to 10 per cent., and at last a duty of 12^ per cent, was fixed by way of compromise. That was done with the statement before us that a reduction of the duties would injuriously affect certain industries. I believe that the duty on machinery under the Victorian Tariff was 25 per cent., and no one needs to be told that, at all events, from the point of view of the protectionists, the reduction of the duty by one-half would not appear to be calculated to help the industry. From their stand-point, it would be a serious blow.
– Who were the assassins?
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to follow me ; I wish to speak only for myself. I would point out that with all these statements before us the two Houses of the last Parliament fixed the Tariff as it stands to-day. But this is only a preliminary. What is the next point? The then Government might have gone to the electors of Australia and have said, “ We accept the challenge which the leader of the Opposition has thrown out, for we consider that the duties fixed by the Federal Tariff are ruinous Even at the date of the last genial election the Tariff was said to be doing great injury to some industries, and the Government of the day might have come forward and said to the people, “ The leader of the Opposition is right. We must at once fight out this question, in order to enable the protectionist power of Australia to register its majority and remedy these hardships.” They might have adopted that course, but neither they nor their supporters did so. It was open to their supporters to go to the electors and say, “ We differ altogether from the policy of the Government. We say that Mr. Reid is right. We must fight out this question.” But, instead of doing so, they ‘followed the Ministerial policy with absolutely slavish submission.
– They wanted a rest.
– The honorable member ought to speak for himself. He was not then a member of the Parliament.
– But I was alive.
– The honorable member is merely wasting time in speaking of what others then desired. The point is that the white flag of truce, instead of the flag of war, was elevated by the Ministry of the day, and that all these honorable members walked beneath the white flag as soldiers in the train of their commander-in-chief. What is the complexion which this legal luminary, the honorable and learned member for Indi, places upon that action? The electors of the Commonwealth having heard the leaders of both parties, said, “ We think the Deakin Government are right. We shall not fight this question out.” Under that settlement, free-traders could vote for the supporters of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat time after .time ; and as a matter of fact five honorable members who belonged to my party supported the Deakin Government on that point.
– Where did the freetraders do that? In Victoria?
– I am speaking of five honorable members of ray party who represent Victorian constituencies. Victoria is still in the Commonwealth, and five honorable members make a big difference nowadays. These honorable members, although revenue tariffists and supporters of my own, sitting on my side of the House, followed the protectionist leader on that point, and said, “ We agree with. Mr. Deakin, and not with Mr. Reid, that we should have some fiscal peace.”
– One of the five honorable members in question is a protectionist. I allude to Mr. Wilson, who now represents Corangamite.
– Then I shall say that four members of my party - and that is double my present majority - took up that position. Four revenue tariffists walked under the banner of the protectionist leader so far as the question of fiscal truce is concerned.
– We fought the men the honorable member mentions.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports revealed his view of this strategy on the part of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. He applauded it because if the honorable and learned member supported a revision of the Tariff, with a view to the imposition of higher ‘duties, he would have been defeated.
– We fought the honorable members to whom the right honorable gentleman has referred.
– I do not care about that. I know that the honorable member fights only those whom he cannot help fighting.
– We all do that.
– Yes ; but some do it to a greater extent than do others. However, that was the issue put to the electors, and they said, “ We accept the invitation of the leader of the Protectionist Party. We shall suspend our final judgment in regard to the fiscal fight, and return men to take no part in that fight during the life of the new Parliament.” The honorable and learned member for Indi, however, says that the verdict on that issue was that the flag of protection floated triumphantly all over Australia. He forgets the other flag which was hoisted beside it - the flag of a fiscal truce. We must not have any of these Boer tactics here. The flag of protection might have been raised by itself, but it was not ; the flag of protection was elevated with the white flag of fiscal truce.
– And the right honorable gentleman fired on it.
– No; I appealed to the electors of Australia to haul down the white flag. They did not do so, and now that they have left it up I am going to respect it, and to see that every one else respects it.
– The right honorable gentleman will do a lot.
– For how long is the right honorable member going to respect it?
– As long as I have any power in this House. I have no sort of trouble with honorable (members who honorably recollect their pledges to their constituents; I have no trouble with honorable members who are prepared to respect their pledges and the policy which they submitted to the electors. Even the present leader of the Opposition practically said at the general election, and again after our return to this House, “ What a blessing it is that this fiscal question is to be out of the road for this Parliament !”
– He said that on the 12th August.
– That was later still. In March last the honorable member for Bland rejoiced in the fact that this thorn in the path of himself and many of his friends had been plucked out of the foot of the Labour Party, at all events during the life of one Parliament. He said, in effect, “We may now transact matters of high national concern, free from this fiscal strife.”
– But the honorable and learned member for Indi does not accept that.
M.r. REID. - He would accept anything as long as he was not asked to put his acceptance of it into writing. He enjoys the advantage of the men who did not write anything on this question. He gained one advantage by holding his tongue when others spoke on this matter. If, when the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the leader of the Labour Party, at the beginning of this Parliament, stood up and registered the decision of the electors, stating that their verdict was that the Tariff should not be re-opened during this Parliament, the honorable and learned member for Indi had shown a gleam of independence, by rising and saying - “ I differ from these honorable and responsible leaders, I say that there is no fiscal truce, I say that that is not the verdict of the electors,” his position would be very different from what it is to-day. The man who, as a responsible representative of the people, hears such a statement made by responsible leaders, and remains silent, is either assenting to their statement, or is lying low.
– I would not make a statement one week, and contradict it the next.
-I do not know that; it would depend exactly on the honorable and learned member’s brief.
– Personalities again !
– I do not at all complain.
– That remark arose out of the irritation of retort, and I must beg my honorable and learned friend’s pardon. I am very sorry I made a remark of that kind in the heat of the moment, because I know the complexion that could be placed upon it. What I am in earnest about is that if the honorable and learned member then took the view he now takes as to the verdict of the electors, he owed it to the House and the country to contradict the statements made by the two honorable members I have mentioned and myself. I joined in the admission, recognising that I must bow to the verdict of the constituencies. Those statements were made by the three leaders of the House, and were never questioned by one honorable member in the corner. It is only now that the present Government have come into office that there is this sudden feverish desire to re-open the fiscal question.
– This is the first Government who have been opposed to protectionist views.
– What were those other Governments doing?
– They were not free-trade Governments.
– The honorable and learned member now says that the other Governments were not opposed to protection. If there were a number of industries in dire distress, and workmen out of employment month after month, does not the honorable and learned member think that, while those other Governments were in power, he might have risen in his place and called the attention of the House and the country to the sufferings of those unhappy men.
-That was done.
– The honorable member certainly on one occasion drew attention to the unemployed.
– I drew attention to the working of the Tariff, and moved the adjournment of the House in order ‘to do so.
– I am now speaking of the honorable and learned member for Indi, who at that time stood for himself- he was not associated specially with those honorable members who are now his followers.
– The honorable member for Bourke moved his resolution only after there had been some difficulty.
– I do not want to enter into any controversy with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports or the honorable member for Bourke.
– I have had a motion on the notice-paper for a long time.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi could sit in this House without allowing the sufferings in those distressed industries to stir him to the extent of asking a question.
– They were getting worse.
– Do ‘not let the honorable and learned member say that the distress occurred exactly on the 17th August - do not let him stretch public credulity so far ! This human misery and starvation had, it appears, to get worse before the honorable and learned member would rise in his place and ask a gentle question of his friends. He did not ask the late Prime Minister - who is his friend - to be good enough to take the distress of the artisans into consideration, and see what could be done. The honorable and learned member did not even take the physical trouble to stand up and ask a question of that kind, but sat nestling i’i the Ministerial dovecot as if everything was going on well.
– I was sitting on the Opposition side for many months.
– Exactly; but the honorable and learned member was voting the other way all the time - he was the biggest “ yesno “ in that respect I have ever known. When I’ am in Opposition, I do not want a friend who is always “ building bridges “ for the other side.
– That is the Prime Minister’s trouble ?
– I have no trouble at the present time.
– Where is the honorable member for Wilmot?
– My honorable friends opposite have courage now to say a word or two about the honorable member for’ Wilmot. How sleek and mild and docile were my honorable friends opposite to the honorable member for Wilmot until they found they could not get his vote.
– We did not dance attendance on the honorable member for Wilmot.
– A word against the honorable member for Wilmot and those raging agitators opposite-
Honorable Members. - Oh !
– I use the word “ agitators “ in the sense of freedom of expression. I do not mean the word in the vulgar sense. We are all agitators in our own cause; and the thought I wanted to convey was that members of the Opposition, who are so absolutely fearless in the expression of their opinion, bowed down in meek humility to the honorable member for Wilmot, until that gentleman announced his intention of voting with the present Government. Then my friends opposite began to doubt the intellectual equipment of the honorable member for Wilmot. I have no sort of doubt about honorable members opposite. They have one consuming idea all the time, and they are going to endeavour to carry out that idea at every opportunity. This is number two attempt on the Government, and I think that number three is on the notice-paper for Thursday, while there may may be something else on the horizon. After honorable members have exhausted their struggles, and have found that there is nothing to be gained, I hope they will condescend to consider the financial business of the country.
– How many motions of want of confidence did the right honorable gentleman move in twelve months?
– I moved one such motion on the Tariff, and never another.
– I mean in the State Parliament.
– The honorable member is digging up musty records of another Parliament - a proceeding which renders him virtuously indignant at any other time.
– The right honorable member moved thirteen such motions in New South Wales, did he not?
– If the honorable member for Bland makes that statement, I shall have to call it a rash one. The honorable member knows that the fact was nothing of the sort. All I can say is that I am delighted to find that I am to be the standard of propriety’ for the most advanced and patriotic party known to Australia; it is quite reassuring to me to find that on every occasion I am to be taken as the standard. I have never had, in the whole course of my political career, more of mv speeches quoted than I have lately, and I am bound to say that I never thought I could speak half so well.
– Those speeches were delivered in the right honorable gentleman’s prime.
– I hope the honorable member does not insinuate that I am past my prime.
– I mean politically.
– I want again to point out that our object in having this discussion is a perfectly legitimate one. We desire to see whether, in the course of a free inter- change of opinion, we cannot arrive at some basis which will give satisfaction to all. If that object be achieved, honorable members would regard it as much more satistory than a continuous fight over a matter of so much concern. I suppose I shall have the unanimous assent of honorable members when I say that if the proposed Commission is to do good, the less it is under the influence of party struggles the better. We must have a Commission
Of inquiry that is an impartial Commission. If it is a partisan Commission, it is absolutely out of place. We can do all the partisan work here. We do not expect Royal Commissions to do partisan work. They are sworn on a different basis altogether. They are sworn to act impartially. They are sworn to disabuse their minds of all the political and party influences of the day.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman think that honorable members would endeavour honestly to ascertain the facts?
– I have no doubt that they would, but if the four honorable members whom I have mentioned were appointed members of that Commission, would the honorable and learned member, as a man of candour, expect me to be satisfied with their report? My honorable and learned friend will see that we do not need to cast any reflection upon any honorable member of this House. All that I say is that honorable members, as men of fairness and candour, would not expect those who believe in a revenue Tariff to accept such a Commission with satisfaction. I know that if there were four free-trade members on the Commission, and there was no protectionist member, my honorable and learned friend would not accept that Commission with satisfaction. I am sure that my honorable and learned friend has no idea of having a larger number of one political complexion than of another on the Commission.
– It should be fairly constituted.
– What does “ fairly “ mean? Two and two?
– We cannot divest it of all political significance.
– I am only talking of what is meant by “fairly constituted.” Assuming the members of the Commission to be all independent and impartial, is the honorable and learned member opposed to the equal representation of revenue tariffists and1 protectionists on the Commission?
– I think that a fair thing would be to appoint the members in the proportion in which this House was elected.
– But the difficulty is that we were not sent to this Parliament on the fiscal issue.
– Oh !
– The honorable and learned member, when a witness is in the box, may endeavour to discredit, for good reasons, his truthfulness or his candour ; but when the exPrime Minister has publicly made the statement that the battle was fought on the basis of suspending the fight upon the Tariff, my honorable and learned friend would not say that that Prime Minister went to the country on the issue of free-trade and protection.
– I have stated what I think would be fair, but I do not think it is a vital thing that we should have a proportionate number of free-traders and protectionist’s, so long as they are members of this House.
– When the honorable and learned member gets down to figures he sees that there is a great difficulty. For instance, we are told that the numbers for protection and free-trade in this House are respectively forty-one and thirty-four.
– About four to three.
– Forty-one to thirty-four is not four to three.
– Very roughly- but that is not the proportion. Does the honorable and learned member for Indi want to have the Commission so composed that there will be one more member on the one side than on the other?
– Yes, because that is the policy of the country.
– Now we know exactly the difference between us. But the honorable and learned member for Indi says, very fairly, that that is not a vital matter.
– I have stated my preference. I do not think the matter vital.
– I am always prepared to have the larger number of the jury of my way of thinking if I can get it. But I am glad that the honorable and learned member is not diametrically opposed to me on that point. We narrow the issue down. The honorable and learned member is not strongly opposed to the view that there should be an equal number from both sides. Now, I want to give particularly my reasons for considering that Members of Parliament should not be on that Commission.
In the first place, the Commission has to report to Parliament. I desire honorable members to remember that. It has to report to Parliament, and the Members of the Parliament have to vote on the issues raised by the Commission. That is always the case if you have Members of Parliament on Royal Commissions. But we have never, as far as I remember, had Royal Commissions composed of Members of Parliament in the Commonwealth. I do not remember one single instance.
– What about the Navigation Bill Commission?
– Surely the honorable member can appreciate the difference between a burning question like the Tariff and the Navigation Bill. But in that case I think there was a Committee appointed in the first instance.
– No, there was in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, but not in regard to the Navigation Bill.
– However, that is not a matter for which I am responsible.
– Cannot the right honorable gentleman trust Members of Parliament ?
– Cannot we trust other persons besides Members of Parliament? To my mind it is like appointing men on the jury who have afterwards to sit on t ‘he bench and see that the inquiry is fairly conducted. That is the weakness of the proposal.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman propose tha; the litigants shall sit on the jury?
– The honorable and learned member has been compelled to raise a number of the wildest absurdities in the world. He assumes - and, of course, as he has no confidence in the Government, he is at liberty to assume - that we are capable of the wild absurdity of appointing to the Commission members who have an interest in the subject of inquiry. He imagines that we shall appoint persons who will be hopelessly blinded by self-interest and hopelessly incompetent. He is perfectly at liberty to imagine these things ; b’ut in my opinion it is possible to obtain the services of men, not in Parliament, who will be impartial and independent. This House consists of seventy-five members in a population of 4,000,000,’ and I have a vague idea that outside the seventy-five we might POSsibly find high-minded, competent, disinterested persons to sit on the Commission.
– Is not every one interested in the Tariff?
– In one sense.
– In every sense.
– We are all consumers; but there is a difference between the mild interest which a man may have as a consumer and his interest as a member of a fighting army, who wants one side to win. In my opinion there would not be the slightest difficulty in appointing members of the Commission who would be free from the objections referred to But you will never get Members of Parliament free from the objections that they go on the bench with a pre-judgment - that they go there as either revenue ta’riffists or protectionists, with a pre-judgment which would colour the whole inquiry. But it is possible to appoint men who have absolutely never taken any fighting part in the question one way or the other. All I insist on is that we cannot get men without political feelings on the one side or the other inside Parliament, and that therefore we have to get them outside. And if the Government of the day come to a wrong choice in respect of these Commissioners, we are subject to the censure of Parliament. We have to exercise executive power. In advising the ‘Crown we are subject to Parliament; and Parliament can - if we make any mistakes, Parliament will- very easily call us to account. But I do not want this Commission to be the subject of a great struggle in Parliament in respect to its choice, in the’ first place, and afterwards to its report. That would lead to a great waste of public time. We should never see the end of the session. My honorable friend, in submitting his motion, has not mentioned the industries that he wishes the Commission to inquire into. He says that he could not do it. But he might have tried to do it until he was stopped; there was nothing to prevent his mentioning halfadozen industries until he was stopped. But he insinuated one or two industries. He did not straightforwardly say, “I am the champion of the whisky distillers “ ; but, incidentally, by his remarks, he i;s the champion of a whisky trust in Australia.
– That is too thin.
– It looks very like it.
– The right honorable gentleman might as well say that I championed it.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is not at all in question.
– This is very poor.
– If the honorable and learned member is to be the judge, it always will be. If he only knew my opinion of his recent speeches - but I shall not inflict it upon the honorable and learned member. I desire to point outthat he did incidentally mention one or two industries. He spoke of Joshua Bros., and their troubles over whisky. He mentioned hats also. Does the honorable and learned member wish that there should be an increase ofthe 30 per cent, duty on hats? There is silence in the corner. What about hats? The honorable and learned member mentioned whisky, and he mentioned hats. He knows that there is a 30 per cent, duty on hats; does he wish to increase that duty ?
– Does not the right honorable gentleman wish to have any investigation in respect to hats?
– I am not shutting anything out; that is my position. I am prepared to let everything come before the Commission. I object to the whisky men having a preference, that is all. The honorable and learned member for Indi also incidentally mentioned the woollen mills. We know that when the item of woollens was under consideration, it was deliberately stated that if the duty were reduced to 15 per cent., it would involve the ruin of these woollen mills. Statements to that effect were made outside and inside this House, but in spite of them, the duty was reduced from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. Who voted for the reduction to 1 5 per cent. ? The leader of the Opposition. That honorable gentleman voted to reduce the proposed duty of 20 per cent, proposed on woollens to 15 per cent.
– How many honorable members on the opposite side did the same ?
– We did not object to the reduction. We on this side are not protectionists -
Mr.Isaacs. - Hear, hear.
– Those of us who voted for the reduction of that duty.
– I refer to protectionists on the oppositeside.
– The protectionists on this side probably voted to keep up the rate of duty. At any rate, I am not proposing to shut any of these things out. I wish to give a hearing to every one, hot only the big Melbourne factories, but also the factories in the other States. We intend that the people of the other States shall have a fair investigation of their grievances. How can we, sitting in this Chamber, arrogate to ourselves the power to exhaust a list of every industry that can possibly wish to appear before the Commission? It is only an honorable gentleman who is looking to industries very near him who thinks he can do it. No honorable member in this House, who takes a broad view of the whole indusr trial growth of Australia, will pretend that he is competent to do it, and if we are to leave any with their grievances uninquired into, our Commission becomes a delusion and a sham - a mere political move, instead of a national inquiry. The other day the jewellers waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs. In Victoria, before Federation, the duty on jewellery was 20 per cent., but the Commonwealth Parliament imposed a duty of 25 per cent., a higher rate than had previously been in force in Victoria.
– Did we not put 15 per cent, on something else that reduced it?
– That, I am not aware of. I do not profess to know all these things, and that is why I wish this inquiry to be an open inquiry. I am not one of those self-opinionated statesmen who believe thev can think of everything. I have sense enough to know that I cannot think of everything, and I do not wish to shut any one out. That is the position I take up. Representatives of the working jewellers in Victoria came to the Minister of Trade and Customs, and expressed a desire for a duty cf 35 per cent, on jewellery. Some ot them wanted a duty of 60 per cent., as they have in the United States of America. I say to the representatives of all these industries - “ By no act of mine will I shut you out ; you shall have exactly the same opportunity as the representatives of every other industry ; you shall have no more and no less.”
– If the report of the Commission should be in. their favour, will the right honorable gentleman help them?
– I wish to point out, in reply to my honorable and learned friend, who commented upon a statement - and I do not know whether honorable members will credit me with the motive I wish to assign - that I publicly made that statement before the honorable and learned member took this action in the endeavour to see whether we could not arrive at some reasonable settlement of this matter. I have no wish to discount a vote of censure, or to avert from myself any blow which any honorable member in this House is able to inflict upon me, but in the position which members of the Government occupy lon these benches it is our duty to the public to do all that we can to minimize the difficulties in the way of the transaction of public business. I do not think that honorable members can complain of us on that score. I- put forward those views of mine, in order to see whether we could not come to some sort of an understanding which would elevate this question out of the region of a partyfight. One of the great objections urged to what is proposed by the Government is that, although this Commission might bring to light the existence of some terrible state of things, their mouths would be closed, and that for months we should never have any report from them. I met that in this way : I said I had not the slightest objection to the Commission making progress reports as often as they pleased.
An Honorable Member. - Will the right honorable gentleman instruct the Commission to do that ?
– I have no objection. I am prepared to instruct them to report at any time they think fit.
– Will the right honorable gentleman act upon their reports?
– The honorable member asks a public man to act upon some recommendation of a Commission that has not yet been appointed. I cannot say what I shall do. But I can say what I think is of more importance than anything else in my opinion : We desire to let the public as well as ourselves know the state of affairs. We are only trustees for the public, who have really to do with this matter ; and -what I say is that, instead of the secrecy of which the honorable and learned member for Indi spoke- ‘
– Not secrecy j, quite the reverse.
– The honorable and learned member suggested that the Commission might carry on their work in secrecy, but in my opinion the matter is of so much public importance that every sitting of the Commission should be open to the public and press of Australia. I think one-half the value of the Commission will consist in the fact that the public are enabled to follow its proceedings from time to time through the press, and that they can hear grievances and take evidence in the open light of day.
– That is common ground.
– I am glad to hear that there is some daylight in which we all are. We are all in favour of that, and I am not against progress reports. I am quite prepared to give the Commission the fullest power to report at any time.
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow Parliament to deal with those reports?
– Of course; I cannot possibly prevent it.
– At once?
– I suppose the honorable and learned member will admit that we cannot possibly expect to have a Commission appointed, and have reports from that Commission, before this session comes to a close.
– I suppose that every one will admit that. We. are now in the month of October, and no Estimates have been passed. I hope we have not yet developed a mania for sitting all the year round, as we have practically been doing for the last four years.
– We cannot get a report from the Commission this session.
– Very well; that is also common ground. What I wish to point out to my honorable friends opposite is that since they admit we cannot get a report this session - and common sense should recognise that-
– That is recognised in my motion.
– It must be dear that no action can be taken until this House meets next session. The whole of the proceedings of the Commission will be made public from day to day, and members of this House, when we meet at the close of the recess, will have just as much knowledge of the evidence which has come before the Commission as will members- of the Commission themselves. And if anything has been disclosed in the course of their investigations, which will have been open from day to day without secrecy- or concealment, which, in the’ opinion of any member’ of this House, calls for immediate action, the Government will be in this position : They will either take. the immediate action neces sary, or they will be in the hands of the House, and may be condemned for not doing so.
– That is nothing.
– Can the honorable and learned member expect us to be the mere clerks of honorable members opposite - to do what they tell us? I do not propose to assume any such attitude. The moment a majority of this House takes any course unfavorable to me I shall not be here long ; but so long as I am here I intend to preserve the dignity of the House of Representatives. One way in which to preserve it is by having a proper regard for my position. I have had good traditions from my predecessors, as I have always acknowledged, and I wish to occupy the same high position as they did. I ask this House> and the country, to consider what it is the honorable and learned member for Indi asks me to do. The honorable and learned member asks me to pledge myself to do something as the result of some inquiry which has not yet taken place. The request is preposterous. (The moment the House meets we shall be here to face honorable members. If, in the opinion of the House, anything has come out in the course of the investigation of the Commission which calls for immediate action, and the action desired by the majority of honorable members is not what we feel we can approve, the House has a very easy remedy. This House is able to change the Ministry if it thinks that they are not carrying on public affairs properly. But no Ministry will pledge itself to do anything on the report of a Commission which it is about to appoint. Surely no honorable member will ask the Government to do anything of that kind? Surely they will not ask us to charge ourselves with responsibility for certain action, as the result of evidence which has not yet been taken? It must be seen that the honorable and. learned member for Indi is asking a little too much. All I can say is that we’ shall give the fullest publicity to everything which the Royal Commission does. We shall take the responsibility of the way in which its members are appointed, and give them perfect leave to send in reports to us at any moment on any industry which -they think it necessary! to bring under our notice, and it will be for’ the House later on to say whether our conduct is worthy of its support. That is the plain issue. On the question of what is to be done afterwards, irresponsible men can give a promise, but 9 y 2 responsible men cannot. If I were sitting on the other side of the House, I might imitate my honorable friends, and make all sorts of exorbitant demands, but being in a position of responsibility, I cannot pledge myself in the dark to any course of action.
– If progress reports are made at all, it must be with a view of taking some sort of action, and all we wish to know is whether the Government will be prepared to take action thereon.
– It is absolutely absurd to ask a responsible Government to pledge itself to. a course of action, in the light of reports based on evidence which has not yet been taken.
– But the right honorable gentleman does not know what the honorable member for Wilmot is going to do.
– My honorable friend might give us a little rest. He had a few months in office. I have been there only three months, and, after all, it was more in my way than in his. I earned my turn, and I db not know that he did. I had been at the wheel in all weathers for nearly three years.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to have, but he was not.
– Like myself, my honorable and learned friend has to attend to a few other matters. These are the grounds on which we desire to shift this question from a party basis. These are the grounds on which, we desire that the Royal Commission shall have the approval -of the whole House, instead of- being made the subject of a party fight. If honorable members favour the process of - having a ballot, . or any other method of electing the Commissioners out of the- members of the House, and of naming a list of industries which cannot possibly be complete, let me ask them this question. “ Would any one send to a Royal Commission of that sort, with control over all the people and industries of Australia, an. arbitrary list without power to add to it?”
– Not without power to add to the list.
– No. I only wanted to get my honorable and learned friend’s admission.
– I have said that often.
– We now find that we are to appoint a Royal Commission to deal with a limited number of subjects, and to empower it to extend the list as much as it likes.
– What does my honorable and learned friend’s reply mean, then?
– I shall tell the right honorable gentleman, and it is only what I have repeatedly said publicly. We can refer the most urgent industries at once to a Royal Commission, and then, if we find any others which need reference to that body, we can refer them, too.
– So we are to have three or four Tariff fights while the Royal Commission is carrying on its inquiry.
– We are to have a fight over “one list ; and, if it breaks down, we are to have a fight over a second list, and, if a third list comes up, we are to have another fight. The answer of my honorable and learned friend shows his position to be one of which no intelligent person can approve. When we can empower the Royal Commission to take cases of grievance without coming back to us and causing another fight ; When we can give the Commission power without limit to begin the inquiry straight away, the honorable and learned member desires to put the Commissioners in a paddock. If they see in another paddock anything which they wish to inquire into, they must come to us for leave to go there, and when they get that leave and find something else in. the next paddock which, in their opinion, needs to be attended to, we ‘are to have another struggle in Parliament over that. I submit that if the Royal Commission is worth the expense it will entail, it should consist of men who will be allowed to inquire into every grievance which is brought before them. That is the view I take.
– Where is the right honorable gentleman’s fiscal peace?
– If there is to be no end to the grievances, there will be no end to the Commissior.
– Does the honorable and learned member for West Sydney wish to shut out anybody ? Is that a democratic idea? Are we going on the ground of taking care to let the big city industries get all their cases investigated, and then saying that there is no time to deal with distant industries? No. I stand here to see that no industry with a grievance, from Melbourne to Perth, or to Brisbane, is shut out of the inquiry. I trust to the common sense of the Royal Commission not to indulge in any wild goose chases. Will any honorable member say that it ought not to visit the chief towns of the six States? Will any one say that it ought to sit in Melbourne or Sydney without visiting the other States? Tam sure that he will not. What does that mean? The inquiry is not to be limited to any part of Australia, so that the grievance should not be limited to any industries.
– Do- not honorable mem.’ bers represent all Australia?
– I do not know much about business ; but I know that this question of the Tariff is one of the most difficult questions in the world. Let me put .a case. An industry comes before the Royal Commission with perhaps a real grievance which people can regard, and a recommendation as to how it should be remedied may affect another industry which previously was satisfied. The second industry has then to go before the Royal Commission to point out that, if the proposed alterations be made, its interests should also be regarded. It is only as the inquiry goes on that men will know whether they will have a grievance or not. Supposing, for instance, that the honorable’ member for Darwin was engaged in an industry which was hardly treated by the Tariff, and that he asked the Royal Commission for the imposition of a higher duty. In the course of that investigation a man engaged in another industry wHich is concerned in his industry, and which previously was satisfied with the Tariff as it was, may suddenly say, “ If you make that alteration, you should also make an alteration in my favour, as I am concerned in the industry in another way,” perhaps using an article in which my honorable friend is interested. I only make these simple observations which any man of business or otherwise can appreciate. If we do undertake this work, we do not wish the public to reproach us with the cost of a Royal Commission, which finds itself hampered at every turn in trying to do its best. I made a remark which my honorable and learned friend was fairly entitled to criticise. In endeavouring, as far as I could, to meet the views of honorable members opposite, I said - “ I can quite conceive of anomalies being brought to light by a Royal Commission which in no sense will involve a fiscal issue between them and myself.” It is perfectly conceivable that grievances may be brought to light which will not raise the fiscal question. There may be a case of hardship in respect to which both sides may be able to say, “ We admit that that does not come into the fight beween us, and we shall remedy it at once.”
– That is absolutely impossible.
– I do not think it is.
– Take the iron trade.
– My honorable friend will, I hope, enlighten us by-and-by on that trade. All I wish to say is that if it is possible to remedy any fair cases of hardship without breaking the pledges to which we on this side and honorable members on the other side are committed, I should not allow any fear of being upbraided with raising the fiscal question to interfere with doing justice. I can quite conceive of cases arising which will not raise the rag of fiscal controversy. But I must reserve my right to judge as to what action is necessary when the occasion arises. And if the House is out of sympathy with me on any occasion, and thinks that the Government are not acting properly, it has the power at all times to deal with them as it pleases. I hope that honorable members will not take these remarks to be dictated by any desire to minimize opposition of any kind. In a matter of this sort, it is my duty to put everything as fairly and reasonably as I can, and I earnestly ask honorable members if this Royal Commission is not to be a stone, but bread, that we shall try all we can to keep party complexion and party feeling out of the investigation.
– What would be the objection to a mixed Commission, consisting partly of Members of Parliament, and partly of private citizens?
– I do not see any objection, though I think the course I suggest the preferable one. I do not, however, regard. it as a matter of principle that there should, or should not, be Members of Parliament on the Commission.
– It has not been the practice hitherto to exclude Members of Parliament.
– My honorable friend will allow me to express my own opinion. I think that it will be better not to appoint Members of Parliament to the Commission, but I do not look upon that as a vital matter. Whatever we do, I am anxious that it shall be done in such a way that both sides shall be responsible for it, so that we shall not have to repudiate the whole thing.
– I would sooner have the Commission constituted entirely by free-traders, who were Members of Parliament, than appoint private citizens to if.
– If some members are appointed, that will be an admission that they are not partisans. Why, then, not constitute the Commission entirely of Members of Parliament ?
– I make no difficulty about my position . Personally I would prefer to have only private citizens on the Commission. Of course, it would be’ easy for me to say, “We reject all suggestions, we decline to listen to any arguments. The Government have taken up a certain position, and will stand by it.” But that would not be a reasonable attitude to take. The object in view is to secure the public interest by an inquiry which will meet with general confidence. My honorable and learned friend must allow me, as well as himself, to have a voice in this matter. He has put a notice on the business paper, and says, “ There is my motion. ‘ ‘
– What we ask is that the whole House shall have a voice.
– It would require a much greater amount of argument than I have yet heard to induce me to leave the appointment of the Commission to the House. I think that the act is one for which the Executive must be responsible.
– Then damage may be done. It is very much harder for the House to say, “ We have no confidence in the Commissioners,” and to procure the revocation of their commission, thus casting a slur upon them, than to object to the original appointments.
– There was no fighting in the House as to who should and who should not be appointed to the Navigation Bill Commission, and I think it would be most undesirable to have such fighting in connexion with the appointment of the proposed Commission. I shall be prepared to give fair consideration to the views of the Opposition as to the personnel of the Commission, expressed to me through its leader, but I think that the Executive must be careful not to hand over its duties to the House. My strongest objection to what the honorable and learned member for Indi suggests is that if the House balloted or voted for the constitution of the Commission, and forty-one members declared that certain gentlemen- should be appointed to it, while thirty-three other members voted against their appointment, the Commission would be the Commission, not of the House, but of the victorious majority.
– That might be said of every Act of Parliament.
– Yes; but this is not parliamentary work.
– I do not think there would be any practical difficulty in arriving at an agreement between the two sides of this House as to the personnel of the Commission.
– I absolutely refuse - and I ask my colleagues to allow me to act for them in this matter - to make the appointment of the Commission the subject of a parliamentary vote or contest. I am willing to meet the leader of the Opposition in a fair spirit as representing the protectionists. I think thathonorable members can trust his judgment, and he will have their advice. He will not be shut out from that. I am perfectly prepared to go into conference with him in reference to the personnel of the Commission, in order that it may be a national instead of a political one. If my honorable friend and I can arrive at a Commission with which both are satisfied
– A Commission consisting of members of Parliament?
– I do not wish to make it a vital matter that there shall be no members of Parliament on the Commission, but I make it vital that all the members of the Commission shall not be members of Parliament. I am willing to give way to this extent: The inquiry will be an expensive one, and therefore we do not wish to appoint too many Commissioners. If we had a Commission of four, we could easily appoint a member of Parliament from each side of the House, and two private citizens.
– More than four Commissioners would be required.
– Seven would be required.
– The number is a matter of detail, which I am quite willing to think out.
– There should be one labourite on the Commission.
– There would be sure to be a labourite on a Commission of seven, but he would be chosen, not because he was a labourite, but because he was a competent man.
– And because he understood the position of those who are employed.
– I do not wish the employes to lack consideration, and I think it is just as likely for men in that relation of life to be competent, as for any one else to be so.
– The Government will look at the matter from the. consumers’, as well as from the manufacturers’ point of view?
– And also from the workers’ point of view?
– I think I have said enough to show that my desire is to lift the matter out of the region of party controversy. If the leader of the Opposition and myself can come to an amicable understanding on the matter, I shall be onlv.too glad.
– The Prime Minister sought to meet this attack, ashe is accustomed to parry all thrusts of this character, by impugning the motives of his assailants. He commenced by saying that we, on this side, are so consumed with the desire to cross the floor, in order , to obtain possession of the Treasury benches, that everything else pales into insignificance in our eyes. He was reminded that, although as leader of the Opposition in this Parliament he did not move a great number of motions of no-confidence-
– Onlyone - on the Tariff. That was a fair occasion.
– Yes, but in his earlier political career he was continually engaged in moving motions of want of confidence.
– In New South Wales.
– I moved four in four years, and could have found occasion to move fully a hundred more.
– I do not deny that. But after the right honorable gentleman’s . challenge to this side of the House at Kyneton, Warragul, and at other places, how can he complain if we seize every honorable opportunity to thrust him from office? The right honorable gentleman has himself declared that a matter of principle divides honorable members on this side of the House, or, at any rate, the large proportion of them, from the Government and its supporters.
– But the honorable member would not move a vote of want of confidence every week?
– I shall come to that point presently. The honorable gentleman stated that the question dealt with in the motion of the honorable and learned mem-
– What else but this motion has created their anxiety for the appointment of a Commission?
– Nothing. The terms of the alliance were made public months ago, and from that time until now the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues have been carefully looking for some way out of this particular difficulty. The justification for the present course on the part of the Opposition is that, so far as the mo- tion of want of confidence is concerned, it dealt with a specific series of questions which the Government put forward. Now there is an altogether new development on the part of the Government, and we are entitled to express our opinion upon it.The right honorable gentleman stated, in the course of a newspaper interview the other day, and practically repeated the statement to-day, that if Tariff anomalies were proved to exist he was prepared to have them rectified, if an agreement could be arrived at. He. made that statement in three different ways in the course of the one interview. He stated -
I don’t for a moment say that some anomalies might not be brought to light in the course of the investigations, which both sides upon the fiscal question could with equal readiness be prepared to deal with.
On the 20th September the right honorable gentleman quoted the alliance programme, and pointed out that it proposed certain legislation, including Tariff legislation shown to be necessary. The right honorable gentleman went on to attack me for inconsistency in supporting a proposal of that sort, and told the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs that
– The honorable member is much more anxious to take the place of the Prime Minister than is the right honorable gentleman to remain where he is.
– I am anxious to see the right honorable gentleman and those with him dispossessed of office, because they themselves have declared that they are opposed to all the principles which I have advocated throughout my public life. What kind of person would I be if I allowed them to quietly remain on the Treasury benches after the declaration they have made. It is beyond contempt for the Minister to be continually reiterating his statement with regard to our anxiety to take possession of the Treasury benches. When the Barton Government were in office I was not in any way linked to them, but I do not think that I was as harsh or unkind a critic as was the Minister of Trade and Customs, although he was a professed supporter of the Government. It does not, therefore, befit him to talk about our anxiety to secure office.
– The honorable member for Bland showed that he would not hold office at the sacrifice of principle.
– The Barton Government were pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the Labour Party.
– I was not referring to the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who was an opponent of the Barton Government, and had a perfect right to oppose them whenever he chose, but to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who occupied a very different position.
– I thought the honorable member was justifying his own party in opposing them.
– I was a thoroughly independent member.
– The Minister was independent in this Chamber, but I did not see any great evidence of independence on his part at election time.
– I refrained from opposing the honorable member’s Administration because of its weakness.
– I can understand the magnanimity of the Minister, when he knew that he could not obtain the support of a sufficient number of honorable members in opposing the Government.
– The honorable member’s Government was in a minority the whole of. the time it occupied office.
-We never were. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo stated that on a general motion of censure he would not have voted”” against the Government of which I was the leader. That alone is sufficient to show that the Minister is not correct, and it is quite unlike him to make such a statement. He is allowing his feelings to get the better of his judgment, and is making statements which he will, in his calmer moments, acknowledge to be incorrect. In this connexion, it is perhaps worth while to remember that the Prime Minister mentioned that on the motion of want of confidence he had a majority, and that, after that fact had been demonstrated, we should have allowed matters to rest. The Minister of Trade and Customs taunted us with having . been in a minority when we occupied the Treasury benches, but I would sooner be in a minority than be dependent upon the , vote of one man, who showed such con- , tempt for me asthe honorable member for Wilmot expressed for the members of the Ministry. Ishould not have remained on the Treasury benches five minutes under the lash of the honorable member’s tongue. It seems to me that Ministers are lost to any sense of political decency, when they retain office under such conditions.
– If the honorable member had been able to obtain a majority of one upon the motion to go into Committee, in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, he would have remained in office. He would not have been concerned as to what member had given him his majority.
– I should not have done so if any of my supporters had used towards me language such as that addressedby the honorable member for Wilmot to the Government - not with regard to some small matter, but with reference to their general policy. With regard to the matter immediately at issue in the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Indi, it seems to me that the Commission should not be allowed to range over the whole gamut of the Tariff. I certainly do object to the adoption of that course. I am charged, amongst others, with being false to the pledge of fiscal peace which was given at the opening of the current session. It seems to me, however, that the proposal of the Government involves a greater disturbance of fiscal peace than any which has come from this side of the Chamber. The honorable and learned member for Indi has suggested that certain specific items selected by this House shall be referred to a Commission for report, and that legislative action shall subsequently be taken in regard to them if the adoption of that coursebe justified. On the other hand, the Government urgethat the Commission should be free to roam at large from Dan to Beersheba in connexion with Tariff matters. How long wouldits investigations occupy, and what would be the disturbance occasioned to every lineof industry whilst they were in progress ?
– And perhaps no action would be taken by the Government.
– I shouldnot advise the honorable member to assume the role of prophet, because it is extremely difficult to forecast what the present Government will do. To my mind, to allow this Commission to conduct its inquiries without any let or hindrance or curb whatever, would be one of the greatest possible errors.
– Who would sebct the items which it is suggested should be referred to the Commission for consideration ?
– The House.
– The House would not arrive at a decision within twelve months:
– No difficulty would heexperienced in that direction. If the Government would allow the matter to be discussed, there ought to be no difficulty in finishing the debate in a couple of nights.
– Twelve months would be absorbed in discussing the matter.
– Honorable members talk about a fiscal truce. What value is there in a fiscal truce unless it be to allow businesses to develop with some foreknow- ledge of the conditions likely to exist in regard to them ? If a Commission were sitting to investigate Tariff matters, and the possibility were ever present that it might submit progress reports from week to week, we should induce a condition of unrest which would affect every business and every business man in the Commonwealth.
– How can we deal with one item more than with another?
– The honorable member must be a political child to ask a question of that sort. Is he not aware that a Bill to alter one item of the Tariff could be introduced and passed through all its stages the same day ?
– It is hardly possible to select one item of the Tariff which is not interwoven with pthers.
– That is quite another question.
– It is a very important one.
– Everybody understands that if we referred a specific machine - say a harvester - to the Commission for report, that body would be bound to take into consideration the effect which a duty upon raw iron or angle plate iron would exercise upon that particular business. All the secondary effects would have to be considered. But in many instances there would be no secondary effects. Many industries occupy a position which is quite independent of others, and therefore could be treated in one or two lines of the Tariff. It does seem to me that the wisest course for us to a’dopt is to ascertain what industries are suffering, and to ask the Commission to specifically inquire into the conditions surrounding them, whilst allowing others to rest secure in the knowledge that they are not to be interfered with.
– Take the case of woollen mills, and made-up goods. Surely the one hangs upon the other?
-Undoubtedly. I have already said that there are a number of industries which, because they are of a primarv or secondary character, have others dependent upon them. But there are many industries which are not in the position.
– There are not many. The large industries depend upon each other.
– In the absence of ironworks in our midst, there would be no desire to impose a duty upon the raw material.
– Does not the honorable member recollect the big discussion which took place in this House to determine whether certain machines should be dutiable because of the effect which such a duty would exercise upon every other trade? A machine, to my mind, is about the worst instance that the honorable member could suggest.
– I think that the Treasurer’s remarks have reference to the free list, which is quite another question. I am satisfied that we shall create infinite dissatisfaction if we allow the whole of the Tariff to be ripped up with the uncertainty that will be engendered by progress reports on the part of the Commission, and by the fact that at any period the Prime Minister may introduce a Bill to give effect to its recommendations. That would produce a condition of things which is altogether undesirable. There is another feature in regard to the composition of the proposed Commission which calls for some comment. Thehonorable and learned member for Indi suggests that it should consist of Members of Parliament. To my mind the balance of advantage lies in that direction. At any rate, I appreciate the difficultv which exists in securing the services of men outside the House, who are possessed of the requisite knowledge to fill such a position, and who at the same time would be free from any personal interest in the matter at issue. It is all very well for the press to sneer - as it commonly does - at Members of Parliament; but there is no doubt that an individual who has been a Member of Parliament for some time does acquire a general knowledge which is open to very few in the community. He acquires a general acquaintance with social and industrial conditions that few other people obtain.
– He obtains a chance of learning how not to do it.
– He at least ascertains what to avoid, and that is something gained. Even allowing that honorable members did not possess that knowledge which, say, a manufacturer or an importer would have of his business, it is at least clear, to my mind, that they would know sufficient, at all events, about the general conduct of such businesses to enable them, as members of the Commission, to glean that information which the Parliament desires and the people expect. That is all, I think, we can anticipate. As to the report itself, I must confess that I, for one, am not prepared to say beforehand that T should abide by the report of any set of Commissioners, whether they were Members of Parliament or outside business men.I should be prepared, if necessary, to take action on the weight of evidence obtained by the Commission; but certainly not merely because a certain number of gentlemen had come to a particular conclusion in connexion with the inquiry. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be preferable in appointing the Commission, to keep away from business men, who, for the most part, have interests in one direction or another. It is true that Members of Parliament have their prejudices, but we are not in any material degree, if at all, interested in any of those businesses that are affected by the Tariff.
– Not directly interested.
– Exactly. We, of course, have that interest which every citizen is supposed to have, in the success of all the industries of the community; but beyond that I do not think that any of us are interested in the industries affected by the Tariff, and consequently, we, as members of the Commission, should be in a position to make a reasonable and impartial recommendation.
– In addition to that, we are trustees for the whole people.
– I was going to say that it must always be recollected that the Commission must be such as will command public confidence. That, to my mind, is the first consideration. If attention be paid to that consideration, it does not seem likely that any of those abuses that were indicated bv the Prime Minister will creep in. It is ridiculous to suggest that a majority of extremists from one side or the other might be made members of such a Commission, because, whoever carried their way in regard to. the selection of such a majority, would surely find, when the Parliament was called upon to take action on the report and recommendations of the Commission, that they had defeated their own ends.
– Does not the honorable member think that the public would have greater confidence in a mixed Commission?
– I do not know ; it would all’ depend upon who went to make . up the , other half of theshandygaff. I think that the country wouldhave every confidence in a Commission composed of honorable members of this House, assuming’ that a body of extremists were not selected. Personally, I should have no objection to the appointment of a couple of extremists - one on each side - for their presence on the Commission might lead tothe gaining of information which might not otherwise be elicited. If we had the honorable and learned member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the Commission, we could be quite sure of the facts on each side being brought out.
– The Prime Minister has made the Opposition an offer. Why not choose the honorable member for Melbourne Ports from the Opposition side of the. House ?
– So far as that is concerned, it seems to me that the Prime Minister has receded very materially from the. position that he at first took up. If the leader of any other Government had done that which he has done, I suppose that the Argus would have come out next morning’ with a statement that it was another evidence of the weakness of the position of the Government ! When I was in office, that journal seemed to find quite a number of instances, either real or alleged, in which the Government were accused of backing down because of their anxiety to preserve their position. I repeat that the Prime Minister, to “my mind, has receded very distinctly from the position that he took up only a few days ago.
– Why should he not do so if he thinks it is right ?
– I have no criticism to offer in that regard, except that I should certainly prefer to see a selection made by the House rather than by myself. I am not in a responsible position.
– The House would be sure to select a majority in one wav.
– Perhaps so.
– A selection made by the leaders would be generally accepted.
– It might.
– A selection of Members of Parliament.
– The Prime Minister said this afternoon that my attitude to-day was distinct from that which I assumed at the last general election. I admit that that is so. At. that election, I told the people that I desired to see fiscal peace preserved, and that, in my view, frequent disturbances of the Tariff were not in the interests of the community. I believe in the main, that it is well to suffer some little trouble in regard to the Tariff rather than haveit perpetually ripped up. I have held that view from the first, and I still say that it is desirable not to interfere too frequently with the Tariff. I admit that on 9th of August last, when speaking at Wagga, I stated that I did not see any probability of a demand for the re-opening of the Tariff being responded to during the present Parliament. But my position may besimply stated. As honorable members are aware, I have all through my public career held protectionist views.
– Down here the honorable member is a free-trader.
– That may be alleged, but I am always inclined to the protectionist side of the fiscal issue. If it can be demonstrated . that real hardships are being suffered, that injustice is being perpetrated, that injury is being inflicted upon certain branches of industry by the present Tariff, I am prepared, in spite of what I may have said at the last general election, to attempt to re. medy such difficulties and troubles. I do not think that any one of us should be prepared to close his ears to a cry of suffering simply because twelve months ago, on the information then available, we were satisfied to allow things to remain as they were. The Prime Minister spoke of my voting for a reduction of the duty on woollens from 20 per cent, to 15 per cent. And why did I do so? We were bringing in an experimental Tariff to apply to the conditions prevailing all over Australia, and it was impossible for any one to say exactly what rate of duty would be necessary to give our industries an opportunity to succeed against foreign competition. It was impossible for anyman, I contend, to accurately define the degree of help that the industries would require. I voted to bring down the duty on woollens from 20 per cent, to 15 per cent, because, in the first place, I thought 15 per cent, sufficient for this industry, and secondly, woollens are the raw material of another industry to which, I think, protection of only 20 per cent. or 25 per cent., is allowed.
– The duty is 25 per cent.
– Yes, I believe the duty on made-up clothing was left at 25 per cent. Consequently, there was no great difference between the duty on the made-up gooch, and the duty on the raw material - a difference of 10 per cent, at the outside. The Prime Minister, when he spoke, did not, at the same time, put forwardthe fact that, while I voted for a reduced duty on woollens, I voted to keep the duty on machinery at 15 per cent., although I ought to add that duty was reduced by the Senate to 12½ per cent. I only mention these facts incidentally, because the Prime Minister thought it necessary to refer to them. It does seem to me most extraordinary that the Prime Minister should upbraid every one on the Opposition side for breach of the fiscal truce, while he is prepared to do exactly what we are prepared to do, only in a larger degree, -and in another fashion.
– The Prime Minister not only lowers the flag, but he chops down the flag-staff.
– The Prime Minister has stated that he is prepared to remedy any hardship ; but he went further. He has “ no fear of being upbraided for raising the fiscal question “ in the face of his promise to the contrary, yet he spent a great deal of his time this afternoon in pointing out that I and others on this side are breaking our solemn understanding with the electors - that we are taking part in a ghastly deception, or an act of. treachery to the electors.
– The honorable member ought to be glad.
– I am certainly relieved to find that the situation has appealed to the Prime MSnister in spite of himself, and that he is inclined to do exactly as we propose to do. But it seems extraordinary that while doing so, the Prime Minister should, at the same time, upbraid us for proposing a similar step.
– Then where is the objection to the Government proposal ?
– The Prime Minister is proposing to do the same, only in a less efficient way than we propose - to a far larger degree, but in a less efficient way. The Prime Minister stated that the honorable and learned member for Indi should withdraw his motion to allow of a larger field of discussion in the present circumstances. I ask honorable members on this side - I do not suppose it is of any use asking honorable members on the Government side - to imagine the howl that would have arisen from the Government benches if any such course had been taken. Honorable members opposite would have said. “ What is the use of this motion of the honorable and learned member for Indi, seeing that when the people ask for bread he offers a stone, withdrawing his substantive motion, and putting forward a colourless, meaningless, formal motion to reduce the Estimates by a shilling?” We can just imagine the capital that would have been made, or would have been attempted to be made, out of that procedure. It is a little too thin for our friends opposite to attempt to put forward such a suggestion as in the nature of an argument.
– It would have been said that I was risking a substantial benefit on a no-confidence motion.
– Quite so. I do not wish to say anything more at the present time. I desire, as far as I am concerned, to bring a debate of this character to a conclusion at as early a time as possible.
– Suggest that the honorable and learned member for Indi withdraw his motion.
– Not at all ; although if we get a few more observations from the Prime Minister I do not know that there will be any great necessity to press the motion. In the meantime, it does not seem to me there is sufficient justification for the course suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta.. There has certainly been a considerable degree of backing down on the part of the leader of the Government, but not such a degree as to justify that course. I am not anxious to prolong this discussion. I feel that while we on this side are justified to the full in taking advantage of every opportunity to express the objection we have to the Government and its acts, it is not proper to take an undue length of time in arriving at a decision. I am quite prepared to go to a vote at any time on a question of this sort. But I feel that the attitude of the Government in itself more than justifies the stand taken by the Opposition in regard to the fiscal question. The right honorable member at the head of the Government contended that a sufficient case has not been made out by the honorable and. learned member for Indi. But, if so, why does the Prime Minister propose to appoint a Commission?
– And to inquire into everything?
– Why does the Prime Minister propose to appoint a Commission unless the Government are convinced there is a case? Is the Commission being appointed merely to close the mouths of honorable members on this side? If the Government are so convinced, surely they do not require reasons in justification of their own action in telling the public that a Commission is to be appointed. I trust that a majority of the House will disapprove of the proposal of the Government. I am afraid that that proposal will do a much greater injury to the fiscal truce, about which we have heard so much, than would the proposals which have been submitted from this side. Desiring to minimize the disturbance to industries and business men which must certainly follow any actionin regard to the Tariff, I trust that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Indi will commend itself to the House.
– The misfortune, or good fortune, has befallen me to lose four or five pencil notes which were intended to serve as the basis of any remarks I might offer this afternoon. But, so far as I have listened to the debate, it appears to me that the necessity for the use of those or any other notes has disappeared. So far as I can analyze the arguments which have been addressed to the House by the three honorable members who have preceded me - and they are all leaders - the bulk of their complaint about each other is as to the extent of their agreement. Each appears to resent most bitterly the approximation of the honorable member opposite towards his own ideas. Looking down from a somewhat impartial position, I am perfectly content to allow these arguments to cancel each other, and to admit that in point of compromise both parties have gone as near to throwing themselves into each other’s’ arms as they possibly could under the circumstances. As a matter of fact, the substance has gone out of the debate, and for that reason I rise for a few moments merely in order to indicate briefly why the discussion appears to have died away. The proposal before us stripped of all its trimmings, is for an inquiry into the Tariff as it affects the industries of Australia. That inquiry is indorsed from both sides of the House. Therefore, no useful purpose can be served, in my opinion, by further discussing the grounds on which it is sought. What arguments we have heard have not been whether an inquiry should be held - they have not even touched the nature of the inquiry - but related simply to the form it should take and the method which should be adopted, in order that we may be familiarized with all those circumstances necessary to enable us to judge if and to what extent we require to revise the Tariff assented to by the last Parliament. The size of the proposed Commission appears to have been agreed upon. The differences, so far as I can determine them, which still remain, are narrow, and only two in number. One is as to the constitution of the Commission; the next as to the method in which the Commission should deal with the subject remitted to it.
– There is one more, and that is whether we should deal in this’ Parliament with anything the necessity for which is shown.
– I take it that no honorable member can bind any other member in regard to that; and that none of us can say in advance until he has seen the particular report or reports of the Commission, or has studied the evidence, what course he will take. Nothing that we can say now will trammel our liberty then. If there be honorable members who at this moment are disinclined to undertake the task of touching the Tariff in any respect, it is perfectly open for them to be satisfied from evidence hereafter produced that it is wise to alter it in certain directions We cannot bind ourselves, and we cannot bind others in that regard. Where we appear to differ is, first of all, as to the personnel of the Commission. My honorable friends opposite contend that members of this House are best qualified to engage in such an inquiry, and they have offered substantial reasons for that opinion. On the other hand, the Prime Minister has contended that there are indisputable advantages in removing from an inquiry of that nature all party political complexion. Now, we ourselves are perfectly competent to determine the weight of the recommendations of any Commission. No matter what its composition may be, the whole decision will rest with us. Whether the Commission be composed of members of this House or not, we impose no restrictions upon our own freedom. Whatever type of Commission is chosen, we have nothing to fear any more than we have much to hope from that form. It appears to me that the Commission had better tie small in numbers ; and for my own part I doubt if it be small whether it will be wise to place Members of Parliament upon it. I think we gain much by be:.ng - each ‘and all of us: - absolutely free when its findings reach us, and am inclined to suppose that the Commission itself will gain a good deal by the exclusion of all merely political issues andi questions from its proceedings. As I take it, the matter to be submitted to the Commission is practical and industrial, not political.
We do not want any Commission to favouus with its views on our policies, or to suggest a policy. We are perfectly capable of developing policies for ourselves. All that we ask from any Commission is that it shall obtain what we cannot very well obtain for ourselves - trustworthy and complete information as to the condition of our industries now as compared with the condition of those industries when under different duties in the different States previous to the passing of the Fed ral Tariff, and any grounds for supposing that an -increase of duties would benefit those industries.
– Or a decrease would benefit the public.
– Or that a decrease would benefit other industries, or the public at large. Any Commission that is appointed must look at both sides of . the shield. The object of appointing such a Commission is to show us the facts, and only the facts. The Commission is asked to furnish this House with material for forming its own judgment, and no more; and if all the members of the Commission are satisfied that the needs of some industry would be best met by an increase of duties, that would not bind any single member of .this House to adopt the suggestion In fact, any recommendations of the Commission will be only useful summaries, ana” indices for the use of honorable members themselves. I take it that the members of the Commission will be simply students of the facts, and collectors of the facts, and that honorable members will go to the facts themselves, when they are found, to form their own judgment from them. For that reason, it appears to me to be quite a secondary question whether Members of Parliament, owing to their representative character, are better qualified than outside men for membership of the Commission. In any case we, as Members of Parliament, must hereafter deal with the whole of the facts. As to the mere collection and collation, the industrious and careful ascertainment of the data upon which we are to form our judgment, we ask the Commission to relieve us of an arduous, elaborate, a’nd careful piece of investigation. But we allow the Commission to do no more.
– That is not the view of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– I am relatively unconcerned whether that is any other person’s I view, but I am putting the situation as i; presents itself to me. It has been narrowed down. It has been brought within close limits. We are getting down to the only issue that is left to us, and that is the practical issue ; judged by ihat, it seems to me that in order to get the best evidence, it is not only unnecessary that members of Parliament should sit on the Commission, but that it is better that they should not. Still I hold no strong opinion that members of Parliament, as such, are disqualified, and if a mixed Commission were desired, should feel no compunction. The other question that has been raised is as to the method of the inquiry. It apears to me that a small Commission may well feel that the reasonable demand upon it is first to deal with the cases of apparently greatest necessity and apparently greatest injury. No one, I think - no matter what his opinions may be - would venture to suggest that the duty of such a Commission would be to approach this question in an alphabetical fashion, commencing with the first industry in the Tariff the name of which began with the letter A. On the contrary, what any body of reasonable men would necessarily do would be to sift, as far as they could, the various statements made to them, so as to pick out what were the most serious, the most extensive, and the most important grievances crying for redress. I should prefer - and very much prefer - to leave the selection of the most urgent cases to the Commission rather than attempt to decide them . in advance in this House on what must necessarily be most imperfect and impartial evidence. There are manufacturers- and others who consider themselves to have suffered serious injury in consequence of the duties having been lowered by the last Parliament. It would be almost impossible for us to determine either the order of their precedence, if we were to attempt that difficult task, or to brace ourselves up to the exclusion of any industry in Australia. Such a choice, in my opinion, could only be undertaken after a full and careful examination of the whole of the circumstances of that industry. At the same time it is in the highest degree unwise for us to attempt to close the door against inquiry into the circumstances of any industry in any part of the Commonwealth. I take it that the objections which have been raised to what is called “opening up the whole Tariff” do not obtain. It is not proposed to. open up the Tariff, except where grievances are alleged. There is no other necessity. No
Commission need be asked to enter upon the consideration of duties which are satisfactory,, or the circumstances of industries which are satisfied. The Commission will deal only with dissatisfied industries.
– But a large number of consumers challenge the whole Tariff.-
– It is perfectly open for them to do so, either through their representatives in Parliament or by bringing evidence before the Commission where any alteration is being proposed.
– A large section of manufacturers might ask for more.
– No doubt; but the proper method for us’ is not to take upon ourselves the ungrateful and arduous task of sifting out the various industries in order to discriminate between those which shall be at liberty to put forward grievances. That can safely be left to the persons directly interested. Then only those who feel themselves aggrieved will put forward protests. I venture to think that any reasonable Commission will naturally select first the cases which appear to present or to threaten the greatest hardships. When that is done, the Commission will doubtless find that, in order to equip itself at the earliest possible time for whatever recommendations it may make, and whatever collation of facts it may wish to present with regard to any industry, it will be essential to group various industries. In this respect I differ from the honorable leader of the Opposition, who believes that there are many ‘ industries now affected which can be spoken of as single industries, because they can be dealt with absolutely .by themselves. I think we shall find that they will fall naturally into groups. The industry which has been alluded to by interjection more than once, the iron industry, will be found to cover a group of industries, and affect many more.
– There are no very conflicting interests.
– I hestitate to make an affirmation of that kind, recollecting that the raw material of one branch of industry may be the manufactured product of another.
– It is not desired to impose duties on-the raw materials required for our industries.
-While the honorable member for Melbourne Ports may say what he desires, what we wish to know is what the industries desire. I take it that a Commission of reasonable men,’ such as would be appointed, would find: themselves naturally grouping the industries relating to those most affected, and would deal with them altogether, so far .as they could. Their progress reports, when, presented to the House, would deal in groups . with those which affected one another, and in regard to which all the circumstances would require to be considered before the duty proposed to be imposed in the interest of a particular branch could be finally determined. I did not desire to be drawn even into the amount of detail into which I find myself drifting. I wished to give reasons for the view I hold, and hold strongly, that the difference which now separates the two sides in this House is a formal, and not a real difference, and that this is above all a practical question which requires to be dealt with in a practical way. What we have to look at is npt the interest of any party iri this House, not even the maintenance of the Government, since we have passed from that question now - both sides having agreed to an inquiry. What we have to consider, the determining factor in the decision of this question, is what is best for the interests pf the industries of Australia. It cannot be disputed that it is best for them that we should have an inquiry as early as possible, and that it should be as impartial as possible, so as to command public confidence. It is to the public we shall have to appeal after the recommendations of the Commission are presented, and we have ranged ourselves fiscally on one side or the other. Above all things we have need pf a Commission which shall not be so unwieldy as to cause delay. It must not be too partisan, as the Prime Minister has very properly said, because that would transfer to the Commission those contests of theory and principle which properly belong to the floor of this House or the political platform outside. These, if introduced before the Commission, can only have the effect of retarding1 its progress, restricting its results, and casting suspicion on its conclusions. What we wish is to get at the data as thoroughly,. as comprehensively, and as fairly as possible, and to group them naturally, that they may be laid before Parliament for its decision as to how they shall be dealt with. It seems to me that in view of that great governing motive, the interests of Australian industries, we require a small Commission, a competent Commission of practical men; that will be able to move from place to place with rapidity ; an impartial Commission, charged simply with the taSk :Ot’ t unravelling :the relations of one industry with another, and of exposing the present circumstances of each industry, so as to discover whether any decline is due to a deficiency in the Tariff or to any other cause, to competition within Australia itself or from outside, and whether the competition to which it is subjected is fair or unfair. These facts being collated in respect to each industry, and the industries having been properly grouped, in my opinion the task of the Commission will be completed. It might be asked for recommendations, and, according to the abilities of the members of the Commission, we can give them weight and consideration. But they will bind no one; they will not bind us or the country; we shall remain masters of our own action. In my opinion, the heart and life has really been taken out of this debate, since there is no longer a dispute upon any question of substance. It is agreed that ‘the scope of thi inquiry should be widened, and there is an agreement as to the persons of whom it is to be constituted. The way in which the work of the Commission is to be done, and the method to be followed, I have already explained, but no difference in details of procedure should prevent agreement. The persons to constitute the Commission are to be agreed upon by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, each consulting his own party. In these circumstances), what is there to divide us or to prevent us from giving such an unanimous answer to the question as will prove to Australia that we are sensible of the seriousness of the present position of affairs, and are prepared to take the most immediate and businesslike steps to put am end to present conditions so far as legislative action can ? Having approached each other so closely on this question, it should not be difficult for us to prove that, as a Parliament, we recognise our supreme duty to the public bv proceeding to deal with this and the rest of the business of this session in a direct, practical, and common-sense’ fashion.
– I agree with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that a very remarkable change has taken place, and that those who have been urging that something should be done in the interests of our industries have gained a very signal victory in the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister.
– Honorable members opposite are welcome to any number at the same price.
– But the crux of the position has not been considered even by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. We are to have this Commission appointed, and, according to the honorable and learned member, they are to deal with cases as they appear to be urgent, but we have no indication as to the intention of the Prime Minister and his Government, and no assurance as to what shall be done with the recommendations of the Commission.
– Although they are urgent.
– Will not honorable members opposite allow us to get them first? Will they not allow me to have a look at them before I shall decide what I shall do?
– That is not the point.
– Surely the Prime Minister must recognise that this is a matter of policy.
– But this is an inquiry as to facts.
– It is for the Government to say whether they are appointing this Commission merely as a stop-gap to waste time, or whether thev intend that anything practical shall come of it.
– How can it be a waste of time if the Commission brins: out the facts ?
– The facts may be brought out, but the question is whether the Prime Minister is prepared to say that he will act upon the recommendations of the Commission at the earliest opportunity. I do not ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will’ invite this House to adopt every one of the recommendations of the Commission, but I do ask him whether he thinks it will be of any use to appoint such a Commission, and make it appear that it is appointed in order to relieve men who are now suffering from lack of employment, if the Government do not intend to act upon its report.
– This House will decide that.
– I quite recognise the force of that interjection. This House will decide it, but that does not relieve the Prime Minister of the responsibility which he owes to this House and to the country.
– Of deciding before I see the report ?
– So far as we can gather from the right honorable gentleman’s speech, his statement is that he will not open up this question in this Parliament. Is that the position of the Government ?
– That is the statement of all parties.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon; that just indicates the difference between us. The Opposition say that the Commission .should be appointed, and should report upon those industries which appear to be most seriously affected, and that it is the duty of the Government to immediately take .steps to carry those recommendations into- law.
– If they involve the re-opening of the Tariff, that cannot be done in the present condition of parties in this House.
– How can they do otherwise than involve the re-opening of the Tariff? How will it be possible to deal with the Commission’s report in any way that will not involve the re-opening of the Tariff?
– Then- it cannot be done.
– I say it can be done, and it shall be done if the Opposition can manage it. It should be done at the earliest possible moment. And the trades affected demand that it should be done. I wish to direct attention to the manner in which these important questions are dealt with in Canada. In dealing with anomalies in the Tariff, Mr. Fielding, the Treasurer, does not hesitate to do what the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes that this House should do, and that is to take the industries one by one, to state the position to Parliament, and propound a policy. He picks out the woollen and wool industry.
– The honorable member must not discuss the notice of motion standing in the name of the honorable and learned member for Indi on the businesspaper.
– I am not discussing, or even alluding to, the notice of motion ; I am referring to certain action in the Canadian Parliament.
– The honorable member will pardon me for saving that he distinctly mentioned the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Indi before he commenced to refer to the extract in his hand.
– It is interesting to note how a free-trade Treasurer in Canada deals with items in the Tariff and the duties which he proposes to levy. Dealing with the woollen and wool industry, Mr. Fielding says-“ From the information I have re- reived, I believe that defective machinery, improper organization, and inefficient management, have really more to do with the question than the application of the Tariff. But I amalso satisfied that the Canadian woollen industry is suffering from the dumping of English woollens into the Canadian market.”
– Preferential trade !
– That is preferential trade, I admit, and I shall show how Mr. Fielding proposes to act. He goes on to say - “While there may be cases of that kind, still the representations that have been made to us lead us to the belief that the woollen industry is suffering severely through competition, and we propose to deal by special items in the Tariff with that industry.’”’ How does he propose to deal with it? In Canada woollen goods are subject to a duty of 23½ per cent, when coming from Great Britain, and to a duty of 35 per cent, when coming from other countries. Mr. Fielding, a free-trade Treasurer, does not hesitate to come down to the House of Commons and propose an increase of the dutv on British woollen goods to 30 per cent., thus making the difference in duty between foreign goods and British goods only 5 per cent. He takes this course in the interests of an industry which is said to be declining under a duty which is 8½ per cent, more than ours.
– When there is a fixed trade arrangement with England thev will not be able to alter duties in that way.
– Is he a preferential trader?
– Mr. Fielding is known all over the world as a preferential trader.
– What brand of preferential trade does he advocate - higher or lower duties?
– The Canadian brand is advocated by a free-trade Treasurer.
– He is no free-trader.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. In this speech Mr. Fielding says he is. On the question of dumping, he made use of these remarks-
– Do the remarks refer to the amendment?
– Yes; I wish to show that it is necessary for us to take steps on the lines suggested by the amendment, in order to prevent the dumping of goods into Australia.
– If the honorable member pursues that line of argument he will be trenching on the notice of motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Hume.
– I beg your pardon, sir. I admit that if I were referring to the question of preference, and dealing with dumping from Great Britain alone, I should be trenching on that notice of motion. But I am dealing with the general practice of dumping, and showing how the Canadian Treasurer proposes to deal with it, and I submit, with all due respect, that it comes within the scope of this discussion. Mr. Fielding says - “ This dumping itself is an evil, and we propose to deal with it. Perhaps it would not be too much to saythat 90 per cent, of the complaints which are made to us by the manufacturers is not that the Tariff is too low, but that these dumping and slaughtering conditions exist, and the Tariff under such conditions fails to give them the protection which they would desire.” Let me give an illustration of the evil as it is affecting Victoria to-day, and of course Australia.
– The honorable member had better say “Australia;” it sounds better.
– I agree to the correction. I saw the right honorable gentleman prick up his ears when I said “Victoria,” and 1 recognise that he is right in what he suggests to me. I wish to show how dumping is affecting Australia in connexion with a great natural industry, which I know lies dear to his heart. We are asked sometimes the question, “ How can we protect the farmers?” An interesting item has recently been brought under my notice by persons interested in agricultural pursuits. Last week there were landed at Port Melbourne 7,980 cases of flour, which had been shipped from Buffalo, in New York, to Liverpool, for transhipment into the Persic. and which are now awaiting distribution.
– Good flour?
– It mav be excellent flour ; but, surely, my honorable and learned friend will admit that to bring flour from Buffalo in New York, via Liverpool, to Port Melbourne, is very much like carrving coals to Newcastle.
– We are exporting flour.
– The fact that we are exporting flour does not alter my point in any wav, but strengthens it.
– Is it good or cheap flour? That is the question.
– We are essentially an agricultural community, and yet we are taking flour from America.
– Does not the honorable member wantpeople to have cheaper bread ?
– I am very much obliged to my honorable and learned friend for the interjection, because he is answered by Mr. Fielding, who says - “ I profess to be a free-trader, but I am a practical, not a theoretical free-trader. . I recognise that theoretical free-traders are out of court all the world over now, and because I am a practical free-trader “-
– There are a few left vet in England.
– There may be, but I am now quoting a gentleman who is Treasurer in a free-trade Government. There is a marked difference between the Canadian and the Australian Tariffs. At one time free-traders in Victoria used to point to the Canadian Tariff as an example of an ideal revenue Tariff, such as it would be well for Victoria to adopt. But) this Parliament has passed an even lower Tariff, and I venture to think that, if as the result of the proposed inquiry, the Commonwealth rates are raised to something approaching the Canadian rates, it will do much to resuscitate our industries.
– It would do good if our rates were reduced.
– That is a matter of opinion. My honorable friend is joined to his idols.
– To his idol - he has only one.
– The honorable member is such an unrelenting, uncompromising, and absolute theoretical free-trader, that I cannot hope to say anything that will change his opinions.
– I am a practical, and not a theoretical, free-trader.
– The honorable’ member does not say, “ These are my opinions, they can be altered,” but “these are my opinions, they are fixed and unalterableunder anychange of circumstance.” It wouldi, therefore, be a waste of time for me to try to convince him. But, notwithstanding that the Canadian Tariff is higher than the Australian Tariff, the free-trade Government of Canada has said through its Treasurer -
Changes in the Tariff on some items are urgently needed.
Did that Government! propose a Commission whose labours would be almost interminable, and whose report, when submitted, would contain no definite policy ? It pro mised the appointment of a Commission, but it recognised that its first duty was to relieve industries which were being injured by the Tariff. Therefore, its Treasurer said -
We desire to deal with certain things as they present themselves to us to-day ; we desire to deal with matters of urgency, reserving the question of a more general and more detailed Tariff revision until an early date.
That is just our position. The honorable gentleman could not) have stated it better had he been leading the Opposition in this House. We say that a number of industries, and notably those connected with the iron trade, are suffering intensely, because of the lowness of our duties, and, therefore, the Government, and especially the protectionist members of it, should at once take steps to bring about a change. It has been said in this Chamber that there will be no end to the difficulty of arriving at a satisfactory solution of this question; but in Canada the two parties are arrayed as they are here, and there is an interminable contest between free-traders and protectionists. Yet the Treasurer of that country had no difficulty in coming forward with direct proposals to afford relief. He said -
The wool industry is suffering.
– What are the Canadian rates on woollens?
– Twenty-three and a half per cent, against! Great Britain, and 35 per cent, against the world. But this loyal son of the Empire, although the Dominion set an example in regard to the giving of preference to the mother country, said rightly : - “ Our first duty is to our own people, and to our own industries. While we wish to assist the mother country, we must see that our own industries are not crushed out of existence.” He, therefore, proposed - and the proposition has been carried into effect since - that the duty on woollens should be raised from 23½ per cent, to 30 per cent, against Great Britain, and 35 per cent, against the Test of the world. ‘ Then, on twine and cordage, the Canadian duty is 25 per cent., subject to a deduction, to give a preference to British goods,which brings the rate down to162/3 per cent. When the Tariff was being considered here, it was urged that a duty of 25 per cent, would create a monopoly,and do great injury to the consumers by largely taxing the farming industry. Butsurely if there is a farming community in the world, ohe exists in Canada. Yet we find that the experiment of giving British goods the preference which I have just mentioned has proved so disastrous there that the Canadian Parliament last month agreed to make the duty 25 per cent, against Great Britain, and 30 per cent, against the rest of the world. They had no hesitation in increasing the duty in cases in which they found that the preference given to British imports was injuring their own industries. At a previous stage, I alluded to the dumping of imported goods upon our shores, to the detriment of our own manufacturers. The honorable and learned member for Parkes made a remark similar to one which was uttered in the Canadian Parliament. When I referred to the extent to which selfraising flour, from Buffalo, in the United States, was being dumped down here, the honorable member indicated that we could hot have too much flour, and that the importation was for the benefit of the consumer. The answer to the honorable member’s observation is supplied by a remark of the Canadian Treasurer, Mr. Fielding, who said that that would be all very well if we could feel assured that the goods would be made any cheaper to the consumers. He pointed out that the experience in Canada had been similar to that of Victoria. Frequently large lines of goods, consigned to importing houses at ridiculously low rates, have been placed on our market at prices which conferred little or no advantage upon the consumers. For instance, mantles from Berlin have been sent here invoiced at prices 100 per cent, below the ordinary rates, but the consumer has derived no benefit from that fact, because the importers have rigged the market, and have taken the fullest advantage of .the conditions.
– The local manufacturers would have no right to complain in that case.
– Yes, they would, because if the mantles had been made in Melbourne, instead of in Berlin, their machinery and capital would have been employed, and, above .all, our workmen would have found employment. These importations must operate to the disadvantage of Australian enterprise and Australian workers. Mr. Fielding also pointed to the fact that the effect of the dumping, so far as cheapness is concerned, was only temporary, and that wherever the importers had succeeded in capturing the market, after ruining the local manufacturers, they had immediately raised the prices. He said that the Government proposed to deal with the difficulty in a practical way. They recognised that dumping was an evil, and were fully determined to deal with it in a permanent and practical fashion.
– I wish they would dump something into my back yard.
– I suppose the honorable member would desire that, but if the importation of the goods meant starvation to himself and his children, he would view the matter differently. The honorable member expresses that desire merely because he selfishly thinks that it would be to his own advantage. Mr. Fielding said that the Canadian Government proposed to deal with the dumping evil by ascertaining the selling prices of the goods in the exporting country, and charging duty upon such prices, instead of upon the rates at which .the goods were invoiced. If that had been done here, our machinery and iron trades would have been in altogether a different condition to-day. We not only have to fight against the low duty of 12
– The invoice is not the only basis available to the. Customs authorities for assessing the. value upon which duty should be charged. They have the right to fix the value for themselves, and that course is often followed.
– That has not been done as- often as it should have been, and I am quite sure that the Treasurer will agree with me that there is every necessity for eternal vigilance in this regard. The class of importers to whom I refer have no scruples, their sole object being to secure the introduction of the goods at as low a price as possible, in order that they may capture the market. Imported reapers and binders are coming into competition with the machines and implements made by our own workers. The returns from the Customs House show that no less than ^158,666 worth of such goods were imported into the Commonwealth last vear. Then, again, there is no reason why sewing machines should not be manufactured in the Commonwealth. I am told by experts that, with the assistance of a reasonable duty, not only could the machines be manufactured here, but that the industry would afford profitable employment to our workers, and also confer ‘benefit upon the consumers. It is notorious that the profits derived by foreign manufacturers and their agents from the sale of sewing machines are enormous. Last vear our importations were valued at ^128,338, and our imports were below the average. ‘I could also refer to many other items of a similar character, but I am anxious to curtail my remarks as much as possible. I desire to briefly allude to the proposals of the Government in regard to the opening up of the whole of the Tariff. The honorable and learned mem ber for Indi proposes to deal with matters of the most pressing importance. We should be justified in immediately appointing a Commission to investigate the condition of affairs in the various branches of the iron trade alone.
– Who is to decide what are the most pressing cases ? ‘
– If my honorable friend has any perception at all he must recognise that, not only in Victoria, but also in New South Wales and Queensland, the employers and employes in the iron trade are complaining of present conditions. The manager of Mort’s Dock, in Sydney-
– The honorable member must not enter upon a discussion of that question. He will not be out of order if he makes merely incidental references to the matter, but he must not debate it.
– All I desire to do is to incidentally refer to the fact that every one who has exercised his perceptive faculties must admit that .the case of the iron trade is one which demands immediate inquiry, and that the request for such an inquiry comes not from Victoria alone, but from South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. It would be no more difficult for the Treasurer to cause an inquiry to be made into the condition of the great iron industry than it was for the Treasurer of Canada to take a similar course in the Dominion. What would a comprehensive inquiry into the effects of the Tariff generally involve? At different times in Victoria two Commissions have investigated the operation of the Tariff. The first was presided oer bv Mr. James Mirams.
– That was a parliamentary Commission ?
– Yes. It inquired into the working of the Victorian Tariff at atime when two-thirds of the electors of this State were admittedly protectionists. Although the scope of its inquiries was limited to Victoria, just upon three year* elapsed between the ‘late of its appointment and the period when it submitted it.? report. In view of that fact, I ask honorable members to contemplate the meaning of the proposal to appoint a Commission to” inquire into the working of the Tariff in all the States, from the extreme north of Queensland to the extreme south of Tasmania. If we remit to its consideration only twelve or fifteen specific industries, I shudder to think of the time that must necessarily be lost, and of the suffering which must be occasioned before its report can be presented to Parliament.
– How can the honorable member reconcile his position with a sense of justice or fair play ?
– My honorable friend has no more idea of justice or fair play in regard to Tariff matters, than has the bench upon which he is sitting. I cannot attempt to answer him by way of interjection.
– These interjectionsmust cease. The honorable member for Lang will have an opportunity of speaking, at a later stage.
– I repeat that the Victorian Commission to which I have referred occupied three years in preparing its report for Parliament, and nearly twelve month* elapsed before ihe Legislature of this State arrived at a decision in regard to that document. Under such circumstances.what period may be expected to expire if we allow the proposed Commission to conduct an exhaustive Tariff inquiry before; submitting its report ?
– How many Ministries will be formed in the meantime ?
– If four years elapsed before any results were obtained in Victoria, what period will be absorbed inthe case of an inquiry into the working of the Tariff in all the States? I cannot conceive how it would occupy less than five years. Of course, it might be urged- as was done by the honorable and learned’ member for Ballarat, in private conversation - that the Chairman of the Victorian. Commission was a terrible fighter, who consumed more time than circumstances- warranted. If that be so, I should like to refer to the next Commission which investigated Tariff matters, and which was presided over by the late Mr. A. L. Tucker. It cannot be argued for a moment that he was a waster of time. He was one of the quietest and most reserved members who ever sat in the Victorian Parliament - a cool-headed, shrewd, business man. That Commission was invested with restricted powers. It was not a Commis sion such as we propose to appoint to consider the operation of the Tariff throughout the Commonwealth, or to investigate its working in relation to every industry and intermediate interest. But although it was appointed on 9th October, 1893, it did not present its report until the 29th May, 1895.
– Did it not lapse between those dates? Was it not reconstituted ?
– A general election intervened.
– Does the honorable member anticipate that a general election will not intervene between the date of the appointment of the proposed Commission and the period when it presents its report? I am sure he does not contemplate that we shall conclude this inquiry without a general election intervening.
– Oh, yes.
– The honorable member suggests that a general election intervened. I think that he is wrong. I believe that a few months elapsed between the period when the Commission concluded its labours and the date upon which its report was presented to Parliament durinrr the following session. But admitting, for the sake’ of argument, that a general election did intervene, does he suppose that we shall receive the report of this Commission before a general election takes place?
– I hope that the Treasurer is right, but he is more sanguine than I am. Seeing that two Commissions, whose inquiries were confined to the operation of the Tariff in Victoria, occupied three . years and two years respectively in completing their investigations, how can we possibly hope for a report, in less than five years? In the meantime, what will happen? I say, without any hesitation, that the consequences of our inaction will be most serious. The iron trade, several branches of the wood trade, and a number of other industriesare suffering from the operation of the Tariff, and if the proposed Commission does not report to Parliament without delay, and if that report is not acted upon promptly, I shall regard the future with very great dismay. As the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has pointed out, we have ‘reached a position when there seems, to be very little difference of opinion between the two contending parties.
– Hear, hear ! The members of the Opposition merely want an honest inquiry.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but the crux of the situation is, “ What will be the effect of the proposed inquiry ? How will the Government act upon the report of the Commission?” We have been told by the Prime Minister that under the Tariff anomalies may exist, and that with the consent of both parties in the House these would immediately be dealt with. What does he mean by an “ anomaly “ ? It is an exceedingly indefinite term, and I should very much like to know what meaning he’ attaches to it.
– This Government is an anomaly.
– Unfortunately, we are notin a position to deal with it just now, and, consequently,must endure it. What does the Prime Minister mean by the term “ anomaly “ ? Does he mean that if the inquiries by the Commission conclusively prove that any specific trade is being disastrously affected by the operation of the Tariff he will take action to have that trade protected? I think that the Minister of Defence, as a protectionist, will admit that my question is a pertinent one, and one which demands an answer.
– It is disorderly to interject.
– If the investigations of the Commission conclusively demonstrate that any industry is being injured, will the Prime Minister be prepared to submit proposals to give it an additional measure of protection ?
– The honorable member had better ask him.
– I am asking the Minister who is’ at the table. Surely the Government know their own minds upon this question. Even if the Prime Minister does not, surely the protectionist members of the. Government do. I ask the Minister of Defence, as an avowed protectionist, whether he would be prepared to support a proposal to immediately deal with the report of the Commission if it were shown that any of these industries need further protection to save them from destruction ?
– I never give opinions until I have the facts before me.
– Order. The honorable member is not in order in delivering his speech, as he is doing at the present time.
– With all due respect, I contend that the question before the Chair-
– The honorable member is asking categorical questions of honorable members. He has no right to do that, and I ask him to continue his speech.
– I intended no disrespect whatever to the Chair, and to put myself in order I shall ask the Question through you, sir. Surely the Committee has a right to know what the Government proposals involve. Surely we have a right to know whether the Government are going to act on these proposals. The honorable member for Parramatta says that it is impossible for the Government to take action as long as it is constituted as at present. I wish the Government to say whether the Commission . will present progress reports, and, if so, whether they will act upon them ? As I cannot obtain an answer, I suppose I must conclude that they do not intend to do anything during the life of this Parliament. That will be disastrous.
– The progress reports of the Commission will be the property of the House, and honorable members will be able to take action at any time.
– I am aware of that, but a private member would have very little chance to do anything with the report.
– If the honorable member had a majority behind him he could soon take action.
– What Chance should I have to carry a motion urging the adoption of any particular recommendation made by the Commission ? I should be quite helpless unless the Government acquiesced in my proposal. This is so important a matter that I think it would be the duty of the Government to take action on the report of the Commission, and I fail to see why they should not disclose their policy in regard to it.
– What would be the use of obtaining a report if they would not take action upon it?
– Quite so. We have also to remember how dangerous it would be for them to fail to take action on the report of the Commission. If the Commission presented a report recommending increased duties on any given article, it would be naturally surmised that the Government or the House were going to act on the report.
– And if they recommended a reduced Tariff?
– In that case my argument would also apply. If the findings of the Commission became known, but were not acted upon toy the Government, the results to the industries of Australia would be even more disastrous than are those of the present Tariff.
– It would be a huge waste of public money.
– Yes; the Treasurer knows from his long experience that when the intentions of a Government in regard to any particular item in a Tariff happen to leak out, importers readily avail themselves of every facility to flood the bonded stores with the articles covered by it. That danger would be intensified if the Government failed to take action on such a report as would be furnished by this Commission. Take the possibility of a recommendation being made by the Commission that the duty on machinery should be increased to 25 per cent. It is reasonable to suppose that such a recommendation may be made. If that recommendation were allowed to hang over this Parliament for two or three years, do not honorable members see that there would be a danger of dumping of the very worst character? Do not honorable members see that importers, indent agents, and the exporters of other countries would flood the markets of Australia in anticipation of an increased duty, and would do their best to exploit our trade?.
– They do that now.
– But they would do so to a ten-fold’ degree if such a proposal as I have mentioned were made. I am confident - and I say this in no carping party spirit - that it would be infinitely better that the Commission should not present a report than that it should present one, and that the Government should not act upon it. Such a position would open up the whole Tariff; it would set the whole of the industries of Australia in a state of ferment; it would allow the importing houses to take advantage of our proposals, and the disasters which would follow would be infinitely worse than are the effects of the present Tariff. I am not going to detain the Committee, for I recognise that it is our duty to go to a division as early as possible ; but I also recognise that the Govern- ment will fail in their duty to the House if they do not indicate, before the close of this debate, what action they propose to take when the reports of the Commission are presented. I strongly urge that it would be infinitely better that the recommendations of the Commission should be a closed and sealed’ book until they are sub1 mitted to Parliament, and Parliament is prepared to act. I am confident that even if it meant a delay of five years it would be better that the recommendations of the Commission should not be made known unless they were to be acted upon by the Parliament. I repeat that I offer thesecriticisms in no carping spirit of antagonism to the Government.I am anxious, in the interests of our industries, that inquiry should be made, first of all, into the most pressing cases, and that those cases should be immediately dealt with. Even if the Commission be appointed as soon as this matter has been settled, and deals with only a few of the leading industries, two or three years are likely to elapse before we shall be able to hope for any practical result from its labours, and in view of the urgency of the case I hope that the Government will accept our proposal, and bring about a speedy settlement of the trouble.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).As I understand the two proposals before the Committee, it is a question between a kind of roving Commission and a limited inquiry. A roving Commission would extend its inquiries to all Tariff matters, and would mean indefinite delay in the presentation of a report and indefinite action. Onthe other hand, a limited Commission, with a limited scope of inquiry, would mean a fixed period for report and for definite action on the part of the Government. Any fair-minded man who desires to see. some advantage reaped from the appointment of the Commission must recognise that there is no alternative with regard to a choice of the proposals before us. We desire that there shall be a limited inquiry in regard to test cases, in which we can prove up to the hilt that the present Tariff is working, and is likely to continue to work, disaster to our native industries. Nothing could be fairer than the present proposition made by the honorable and learned member for Indi,that there shall be an inquiry which shall not lend itself to mere political trickery and lead to, the shelving of the report. . I wish to emphasize the very important point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in the closing words of his speech, that noticeof intention to revise certain lines in the Tariff would simply lead to the further packing and dumping of warehouses, which is already going on in anticipation of a rise in the Tariff . We are suffering not so much from the disastrous effects of the present Tariff as from the packing and the dumping which took place in anticipation of Federation. It was generally believed by importers that with the advent of Federation there would be a free-trade or protectionist regime; but theresult was a revenue Tariff, and they are now reaping the benefit of the packing and stuffing of bonded warehouses which took place in Victoria. I have held, all through my life, that what we want in Australia may not be so much a high as a fixed Tariff, because the absence of the latter leads to the exploiting of the Customs by importers, who seek to anticipate ahigh or a low Tariff. They endeavour, from time to time, to introduce goods free of duty, with a view of selling them at protective prices. These methods have worked disaster to local industries, and have brought into ridicule all theories and doctrines, both in regard to free-trade and protection. But the important point. which we wish to emphasize is that we desire a fair, honest, and impartial inquiry into the working of the present Tariff, being satisfied that it will open the minds of many men who have been indifferent as to the disastrous effects on native industries of a low free-trade or revenue Tariff. We must remember that at the present time we have neither more nor less than a revenue Tariff. Many of our opponents on the other side will admit that a logical free-trader and single-taxer must hold with Henry George that a revenue Tariff is the greatest absurdity and disaster with which a country can be inflicted. Under a revenue Tariff Henry George said he knew six millionaires in America who paid no more taxes than did a man earning $4 a week. The inquiry asked for is one as to the methods of the three systems, discussed over and over again, namely, protection, revenue Tariff, or free-trade. If the Commission is appointed to inquire into all matters in mass anddetail, it will, politically speaking, be doomsday before we get a report. Our proposal is to limit the inquiry to a few Well-defined prescribed lines, so that we may judge what effects the Tariff has on those lines. That is a rational and sane proposal. As to the personnel ofthe Commission, I think that, after our experience, we, in this House, may be said to be almost experts in fiscalism. Honorable members, especially those who have been in the two Parliaments, have been forced to devote themselves almost daily to discussions of fiscal matters ; and the House is quite able to supply a reliable Commission. It will be far better to have a Commission appointed from this House than to hand the inquiry over to interested manufacturers and importers. I hope that the outcome of our present discussion will be the appointment of. a Commission from this Chamber, and an inquiry on certain welldefined lines, which will result in a speedyreport as to the effects of the present Tariff, and that action will be taken early next session. I sincerely hope, that honorable members, especially those who call themselves protectionists, will see that an inquiry of the kind is urgently needed, and that they must not trifle with a sacred principle, or with their pledge to the electors to do what they can to rescue many of the industries, which are on the brink of destruction. All compromises are more or less wrong.
– Will the honorable member allow me one moment? I think I had better state, for the information i>f honorable members, the exact position in regard to the debate. The honorable member addressing the Committee has not yet, in my opinion, transgressed, but I have a very difficult duty to perform in keeping honorable members strictly within the Standing Orders. The position is that the Treasurer, in introducing his Budget, outlined the policy of the Government with regard to the Tariff. He pointed out, amongst other things, but principally, that a certain Commission was to be appointed by the Government; and that question, of course, is open for discussion. We have, ir, addition, a motion on the paper in the name of the honorable and learned member foi Indi, who seeks to attain a somewhat similar object, but he specially points out the injurious effects of the Tariff, and urges that a Commission be appointed to report with regard to the measure of relief to be given, and also refers to the time to be occupied in the inquiry. Under the Standing Orders, I cannot allow a detailed discussion - although I have allowed incidental references to details - on the subject. I shall be glad if honorable members will assist me in carrying out what I frankly admit is a very difficult duty.
– I. should like to say a word before this point is finally settled. I have listened very carefully to the debate, and we know that the Government regard the question before the House as a want ,of confidence motion. On such a motion .it has always been, the rule to allow ‘a wider range in the debate than under ordinary circumstances, and I may point out that the range permitted to the Prime Minister was fairly large. I submit that, in fairness to honorable members, the limits allowed to those who have pre,viously taken part in the debate, ought not to be further restricted. I know that technically, the Standing Orders would permit us to say but little on the matter which we are really discussing, but other speakers have been allowed to roam over a great extent of ground, and I submit that honorable members should be granted the privilege of reply, although they may not be strictly within the Standing Orders.
– J hope the honorable member for Hume has not misunderstood me. It is not my intention to limit the range of the debate, except with regard to the two notices of motion already placed on the paper for discussion. I can assure the honorable member, that if any honorable members desire it, they shall be allowed to reply to any statements which have been made, so long as they keep within legitimate limits. It is not my intention to limit any honorable member more than I limited honorable members who have spoken, but I thought it fair to point out at this particular juncture, that, in my opinion, we are getting rather nearer to the discussion of a certain motion on the notice-paper than we have hitherto been.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your guidance, and I also thank the honorable member for Hume for pointing out that under the circumstances honorable members ought to be entitled to a wider latitude. The Government have chosen to make the question vital to their existence, and, consequently, we know that the Government intend to stand or fall by their fiscal policy, if they have a fiscal, policy. Consequently, many different phases are opened out, and, to keep one rigidly to the terminology of the amendment, would be. to unduly limit the discussion.
– I have not hitherto limited the honorable member in that direction.
– But the discussion must be very limited if strictly confined to the amendment. Wider issues are opened out, and certain consequences” may flow from the amendment, and, therefore, we are at liberty to deal with both of these aspects. I cannot see how any good can be expected from any Commission or inquiry initiated by the Government. This is a free-trade Government, and the report of any Commission would be coloured by their preconceived notions, and, perhaps, prejudiced in regard to the. treatment industries should receive. We cannot believe that in the matter of administration, any more than in the matter of legislation, the convinced free-trader can look with favour on any proposal to increase protectionist duties. There are almost no protectionist duties in the Tariff at the present time, and, consequently, we could expect nothing from the present Government except the continuance of a revenue Tariff with a free-trade incidence. In the early days of this Commonwealth our ideal was a revenue Tariff with a protectionist incidence. Those who have the cause of protection in Australia at heart must resist to the utmost any minimizing or whittling away of the protectionist incidence which is alleged to be in the Tariff at the present time, though, for my part, I could never see any protectionist incidence. Throughout I have seen nothing more in it than a revenue Tariff with a free-trade incidence, although the idea was to have revenue without destruction - that is to say, a revenue Tariff with a protectionist incidence. Instead, however, we have been saddled with a revenue Tariff with a free-trade incidence. That has completely altered the circumstances. Again, in regard to the scope of the inquiry, there is a great danger of having another interregnum, when there will be an expectation on the part of importers of a decrease or increase of duties. We should insist upon the inquiry being short, sharp, and decisive. A long-drawn-out inquiry, covering the whole of the items in the Tariff, would mean endless delay and a corresponding stuffing of warehouses and factories. The consequence will be that by the time the bookkeeping clauses have worked themselves out we shall for years be working off the results of the stuffing, and the Tariff will be brought into disrepute. We who are protectionists are particularly anxious to avoid Tariff manipulation, which works disastrously towards any protected policy. The inquiry can be accomplished within a limited time. A report can be produced, and action can be taken upon it early next session. Relief will thus be immediately given to those industries that are urgently in need of it. We should make the people appreciate that we are interested in their welfare, and not only in our own concerns and the existence of this or that Government. I trust that the Commission will be composed of carefully selected men, who have a practical knowledge of industry, and not merely of theorists. I do not approach the ‘Government in any carping spirit, nor do I desire to badger them into doing what is desired. I do not wish to take advantage of their present disorganized state so far as fiscal policy is concerned. Honorable members opposite are all “ fiscal atheists” nowadays, and I do not wish to throw the apple of discord into their midst. But the exigencies of our industries demand that action shall be taken immediately. It is a matter of preserving Australian industries under an Australian protectionist policy and of keeping out the cheap sweated labour of the world. As one who has taken an interest- in the disastrous effects of the present Tariff, I am perfectly confident that the result of the inquiry will be to show that protection is the salvation of our industries, and that they cannot exist without it. I am confident that unless we are prepared to assist them to a further degree the result will be disaster to handicrafts, and our skilled workmen will be reduced to mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.. The report will have to show the results to the various industries of the existing Tariff, the output, the amount of employment given, and the rates of wages paid since its introduction, as compared with the previous period. I am satisfied that a low Tariff is equal to no Tariff, and that the evil effects of a low Tariff are likely to work disaster to our industries. I can assure the Committee, from my own experience, that hundreds of carpenters, blacksmiths, and engineers have had to resort to wharf labouring and similar occupations because they could find no employment at their own trades. I am satisfied that the truth of that statement will be shown by the report of an impartial Commission. We should insist upon a report being furnished to Parliament within a reasonable time. If the results are as I have indicated, and if it is shown that higher duties will mean prosperity to industries that are now languishing. I am satisfied that this Parliament will not take shelter under the pretence of fiscal peace. Personally, I was never an advocate of fiscal peace, because I knew at the time that policy was being pressed that our industries were languishing and suffering. I said “ No.” I said that I would be prepared at once to rip the Tariff open, because I knew the disastrous effects it was bound to have throughout Victoria. I said that it could be seen that no good thing could come out of it, and the sooner we had either a free-trade policy out and out, or a protectionist policy worthy of the’ name, the better. The existing Tariff is neither fish, fowl,- nor good red herring. It can give no satisfaction to any man who has studied .the advantages of either protection or free-trade, and it suits only people who have no definite opinions on :the fiscal question. It suits the mixture of free-trade and protectionist members we find on the opposite side, because it is one’ “upon which .they can all agree, and agree’ to differ. On this side, we look for a logical Tariff. If we are to have as a puBlic policy, either free-trade or protection, let the policy adopted be consistent with itself, and not such a bundle of contradictions from beginning to end, as is the result of the compromise which suits the present Government, composed half of free-trade and half of protectionist members. I hope, above all things, that there will be no indefinite delay in dealing with this matter, and no hanging up of the question until next session, and from that until next Parliament. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and while we are wasting our time, and the time of the country, in discussing matters of no very vital importance, people outside are suffering, and in many cases are starving for lack of plain bread and butter, which would be at their command if our industries received reasonable protection against the slave _ and. sweated labour of other countries. I believe that the present Government will adhere to their “ do-noth-ing” policy, or will impose upon the Commission the consideration of matters which it will not be able to deal with. One does not care to be vulgar, but when it is suggested .that the proposed Commission should deal with the whole Tariff, I may perhaps be permitted to say that we must not bite off more than we can chew, otherwise we shall choke. We should limit the time within which the Commission shall make . its report, and we .should have a pledge from the Government that they will be prepared to take immediate action. Knowing the yeoman service which such honorable members as the Treasurer and the Minister of Trade and Customs have rendered to the protectionist cause, I should be very much surprised if they did not prove themselves prepared ,to take action the moment they were shown the disastrous effects which have resulted from the present Tariff. I have no fear that any evidence will be brought before the Commission which will be found to justify reductions in the Tariff. If we have a fair and impartial inquiry into its working. I have no doubt that all the evidence will show the necessity for further protection. . Protectionists have nothing to fear from any inquiry into the Tariff. I repeat that I hope a limit will be placed on ,the time within which the Commission is to make its report, that a limited number of questions will be inquired into, and that a promise that is meant to be kept will be given bv the Government to take immediate action on its being shown that relief is necessary in the way of protection for industries which are now languishing.
– I am led to the conclusion, already arrived at by some other honorable members, that to a very large extent the vim has been taken but of this debate by-
– The crawling policy of the Government.
– I was going to say by the policy of the Prime Minister in coming as near as he possibly could to the proposal submitted by the honorable and learned member for Indi. 1 wish to say, at the outset, that I am altogether opposed to this tinkering way of doing things. I believe the present Government will do nothing; that they are so constituted that they can do nothing in this matter. If honorable members consider for a moment they must come to the conclusion that no matter what report is submitted by any Tariff Commission, the present Government will be unable to take any action upon it. This action from beginning to end, so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, and so far, I am sorry to begin to think, as some of his Ministers are concerned, is but pure humbug. I do not care to say that the protectionist members of this free-trade Government - as I must call it, because it is a free-trade Government - have become traitors, but certainly if that were a parliamentary expres sion I should have to apply it to be truthful. I single out especially the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman has always been loud in proclaiming . that he has been a protectionist all his life, and is one now ; it astonishes me to think that he should have been swallowed by the free-trade Prime Minister who is at present his political chief. It says ill for the position which the honorable gentleman will hold in the country. The Government has been forced into the position which it now assumes. There was no thought whatever of the appointment of any Commission until whisperings were heard and paragraphs appeared in the press showing that it was probable some disturbance of the Tariff would be attempted.
– The Minister of Defence mentioned the matter a long time ago.
– The honorable member for Corangamite knows nothing about it. If the honorable member sticks to his profession, I shall be prepared to listen to him. He may be very clever in his profession, but he is not a politician. Until these whisperings were heard and these paragraphs appeared, we had no word from honorable members opposite concerning a Commission of any kind. It is only since then that the Prime Minister commenced, so far as possible, to shape his policy to meet the condition of things he has had to meet to-night. I hope that . honorable members have been edified by his action. No doubt, it has been a lesson to some honorable members who did not know him, but I am satisfied that there is nothing in politics which the right honorable gentleman will not be craven enough to do in order to hold his position. When he says he will not hold it unless with credit to himself, those who are aware of what he has Hone in the past know what he is likely to do in the future. It will take twenty teams of bullocks to haul him out of his position if there is any way of gliding to one side or wriggling. That is one reason why I have not the slightest faith in what the Government are proposing to do. If one could feel a little faith in the honesty of the proposal, one would only have to analyze the composition of the Government to see how impossible it is that anything effective can result therefrom. In the first place, it is a shandygaff Government. Supposing that a report, even a progress report, were brought in by the Royal Commission to the effect that there was too much protection on some items, would the protectionist half of the Government be prepared to act thereon? Or, supposing that a report were brought in to the effect that increased protection should be given all round, would the free-trade half of the Government be prepared to act thereon? The suggestion that they would is as monstrous as their composition, and when the Prime Minister wants to smooth everything over, and attempts to take this question out of party politics, and settle it in a nice kindly way so that every one shall be satisfied, does it not show the falsity of the man?
– Does it not show the falsity of the, man and of his supporters, when it is well known that the Tariff question cannot be taken out of the region of party politics ? If ever there was a question which must remain. a party one, it is that of the Tariff, which is of such great and grave importance to the people of this Federation. I have never favoured the idea of appointing a Royal Commission. Probably what will happen with this Commission is what happened with the Iron Bonus Commission. If it is composed of one-half free-traders, and one-half protectionists, we shall have a majority report, and a minority report, as we had in that case, and be just as wise as we were before.
– But we should have only one lot of evidence.
– I do not think that we need much evidence. Speaking as one who was in the Department of Trade and Customs for some time, I venture to say that the whole evidence required is in the hands of the Customs officers. All the important information would be obtained by any Commission from those officers.
– From the manufacturers’ point of view.
– How. about the general public who pay?
– All the evidence required could be obtained from the records in the Department. If the Government was properly constituted it could takeup this question as the Canadian Government has done, and not refer it to a Royal Commission, but assume the responsibility of dealing with it as any Government should do. It fs simply a waste of time to institute this sort of inquiry. It is a crawling policy on the part of the Government, shunting the responsibility from the shoulders that should bear it. So long as we have a Government composed as this one is, we shall get no settlement of any question which is of grave importance.
– Why did not the honorable member do something when he was Minister of Trade and Customs?
– Just to show how very easy it would be to find out what alterations are needed, I took the trouble, this afternoon, to get a few figures relating to half-a-dozen items in the Tariff. The information I have obtained comes from the Department, and it indicates where the trouble lies. Take, for instance, the value of the imports into Victoria in 1901, and compare them with the value of the imports of 1903. In that short period there has been an increase of over £50,000 in the value of the imports of agricultural implements, that is an. increase of nearly £60.000 over the amount which was collected in the last year’s operation of. the Victorian Tariff.
– In what State?
– In Victoria. I took that State this afternoon, because I could not get the information so easily for any other in the library. In that time the value of the imports of boots and shoes has increased from about , £23,000 to £80,000. The value of the imports of apparel and slops has increased by nearly £250,000. Of course, a proportion of these goods has been distributed among the other States; but so far as Victoria is concerned, the importation has practically doubled. Again, the value of the imports of furniture has increased by , £1o,ooo ; and this affects industries in which a great deal of distress exists. The value of the imports of hats and caps has increased by about £30,000, while the value of the imports of vehicles has increased by nearly . ‘“8,000.
– Is that the importation, or the duty paid?
– It is the value of the imports.
– It does not fol low that all the goods come into Australia.
– But they do come into Australia.
– A considerpart of them may be exported.
– No, I think not. If the honorable gentleman will take the trouble he can obtain full information from the Department of Trade and Customs. The first act of the Ministry should be to apply to that Department, and the increased importations of various items would direct them to where the distress exists. If they were to pick out some items in the first instance it would be very easy to follow details and deal with the question in a practical way, instead of hanging it up as is proposed. The idea of talking about a Royal Commission going over Australia to collect evidence, and returning with a report, even a progress report of any value in twelve months is simply absurd. In the meantime what is to become of these industries, and of the men who are walking about now looking for work in consequence of industries being closed up? The case of McKav’s harvester is one that should be dealt with. If we had what is known as division VI.a, we should be able to deal with strippers, and we should now deal with harvesters. This new implement has come much into use. It has been successfully made here, but manufacturers in other parts of the world are cribbing the patent, and very likely in the near future the industry will be ruined in consequence of there being no protection to the man who is closing Wis works.
– That was not the reason for closing up the works.
– It was known three years ago what would happen in regard to them.
– I do not know that the honorable member or any one else knew.
– I did.
– If the honorable member is as clever as he suggests he should have taken the matter up three years ago. The Sunshine harvester has not been to any extent in practical use for more than twelve months.
– Who told the honorable member that ?
– I represent the largest farming district in Australia, and I am speaking of it.
– The honorable member’s constituents ought to wake up, if they did not know of the existence of this harvester before that time.
– The first Sunshine harvesters that were considered better than the others were brought into use during the last harvest.
– Oh, no.
– But I happen to know. It was during the last, or the preceding harvest. It may be that in Victoria they were used before that time, but in my electorate and others in New South Wales they were not used then to the extent to which they are now used.
– The factory is in Ballarat, and it is more than three years ago since I saw the finished article.
– I do not say that that is not so.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members need not quack like ducks. I did not say when it was commenced to be manufactured. I spoke of the time when it came under public notice, and was first generally used.
– It was used here three or four years ago.
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is quite right, no doubt. The first harvester was made about three years ago, but it takes a long time for a farming community to understand what the improvement in connexion with a harvester is, and to give up the use of an old machine, such as the Massey-Harris. and others.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, two years ago, moved an amendment to try to protect them.
– I admit that I did not myself know the value of the “Sunshine Harvester” until last harvest, when I took the trouble to go a considerable distance to see one at work, and it did not take me ten minutes to see that it was infinitely superior to any other harvester I knew of. One of the’ makers, though not Mr. McKay himself, saw me about three weeks ago, and told me that in some parts of America the machines were being imitated ; but that thev could not prevent that, and a duty of only 12½ per cent, would practically put them out of the market.
– Then why did the Government of which the honorable member was a member accept that duty ?
– I, for one. did not know as much about the “ Sunshine Harvester” then as I know to-day. When honorable members know what sort of a machine it is, they will see the need for encouraging its manufacture here. I have casuallyreferred to half-a-dbzen items, which I picked from the Tariff this af ternoon, to show how easy it would be for the Government to determine what industries require immediate attention. In my opinion, the appointment of a Royal Commission will cause delay, and thus do harm instead of good, because if no Commission were appointed, the popular unrest would grow until it forced Parliament to do something. By appointing the Commission, the Government are practically sticking up a placard, on which they have printed, “ Do not disturb us; we are not ready to go out of office yet.” No doubt, Ministers will eke out a continued existence by this action, but they are injuring the community. I ask what has become of the statement of the Prime Minister, that his present mission in political life is to fight unionism and the Labour Party ? How can he do that by getting as quickly as possible into a long recess? He has been put into office by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and others with a view to creating two parties in the House, and having a straight-out fight with labour and unionism. But what he proposes to do is to sit quietly on the Treasury benches for as long as possible, and take no action. It is rumoured that Mr. Max Hirsch is to be a member of the proposed Commission. He would be a nice, unbiased Commissioner ! I do not, however, believe in appointing men who have no fiscal opinions, if it has to be done at all. I think the matter should be dealt with, not by outsiders, but by Members of Parliament. By continually appointing Commissions, we proclaim to the world our belief in our incompetence or dishonesty. We have been elected to deal with these matters on behalf of the people. Whenever I hear it said that Parliament cannot do this or that, I ask the person who makes the statement, if he has tried to get into Parliament, and whether those who have been chosen by the electors because of the principles which they have announced, are not the men to whom all these matters can best be relegated? Once the Tariff inquiry gets out of the hands of Parliament. Heaven knows what will become of it !
– That is its only chance.
– The honorable and learned member would like to get rid of Tariffs altogether. But I can say this for him, that he is about the only consistent free-trader in the House, there has been so much wobbling on the part of others. I am not composed of the putty of which some of these wobblers are. My composition is steel in comparison with theirs. Therefore, I could not do what the Prime Minister has done. I could not forsake my principles, and humiliate myself by swallowing my statements. I. do not believe in men who wobble so much as. to resemble jelly fish. I have fought many men in my political life, and no man harder than the late Sir Henry Parkes, but I always had an admiration for him.
– It was never expressed.
– When the late Sir Henry Parkes took up a position, there was no wobbling. He would stand with his back to the wall, and fight to the death. The late Sir Henry Parkes on one occasion christened the Prime Minister a cuckoo, because he had laid his eggs in his nest, and since that time the right honorable gentleman has laid his eggs in a great many other nests. In view of his present action, however, there is not much to be gained by continuing this debate. Alt I can do is to protest against the appointment of a Commission to ward off a blow which would otherwise fall on the Government. They are taking this action, not in the ‘ interests of the country, but to enable them to hold office longer. I do not give my adhesion to the proposal for the appointment of a Commission. I shall hold myself free to take any action I think proper at any time in regard to an industry which I believe to be suffering from the effects of the Tariff. It is nonsense to pretend that we can maintain our industries, whether they be secondary or primary, without protecting them. It would be impossible for our employers to pay the wages required under the awards of Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts unless they had protection. The Prime Minister blamed honorable members on this side of the House for having reduced the Tariff, but the right ‘honorable gentleman himself. and honorable members sitting behind him, were more to blame than any one else for bringing the duties down so low, and creating the present crop of dissatisfaction. If the Tariff be compared with the Canadian Tariff - which is not high contrasted with that of the United States- it will be found that Canada begins where we leave off.
– Our Tariff imposes higher duties than the 15 per cent, rate which the honorable member first suggested.
– I suggested about 16 per cent, duties.
– Ours is a 16 per cent. Tariff.
– It is-, in a sense, but it is not protective to the full extent of that percentage. It is a revenue Tariff to a very large degree.
– It is higher than the Dibbs Tariff which was introduced by the Government with which the honorable member was connected.
– It is not so high as the Dibbs Tariff was, because there were a number of specific duties in that Tariff, ranging as high as 25 and 30 per cent.
– There are specific duties as high as 100 per cent in our Tariff.
– There are no high duties on articles of importance, except those upon hats and caps, and boots and shoes, which run to about 130 per cent. Under the Dibbs Tariff we imposed ad valorem duties of from 10 to 15 per cent., which ranged over a large number of items ; and, taking it on the whole, the duties were higher than those imposed under the Commonwealth Tariff.
– The honorable member is losing sight of the wishes of the people of New South Wale’s, the majority of whom favour free-trade.
– The freetraders of New South Wales have not sent many representatives into this House. If honorable members were to conduct their election contests upon fiscal lines, apart from side issues, few free-traders would be returned, except perhaps by Sydney and suburban electorates. The great majority or representatives from that State are not here as free-traders, but have been returned upon- sectarian grounds. The sectarian issue - which should not have been introduced into politics at all - was raised in the most disgraceful way at the last election.
– Most of us were here before.
– Yes; and honorable members were returned upon sectarian lines previously. At the last election the sectarian issue played a more important part than before, owing to the way. in which the Prime Minister fanned the flame of religious prejudice. I do not know what the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes to do, but if the Prime Minister insists upon appointing a Commission upon the lines he has proposed, I do not think there is any use in going on with this debate. I cannot understand the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who has been a protectionist all his life, making such a speech as that which he delivered this evening in support of the Government. I can fully appreciate the position of the right honorable member for Swan, who was never a protectionist, but I am at a loss to conceive what prompted the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, for whom I have the highest regard, to acquiesce in the course proposed by the Government. I always regarded the Treasurer and the Minister Of Trade and Customs as among the great bulwarks of the protectionist cause, but in some way or other they have given way. They are now no longer protectionists, but, despite all they say to the contrary, are freetraders. They are shackled so far as their fiscal faith is concerned, and will not be able to assert their principles if we go to the country, as has been suggested, next autumn. Some honorable members state that the Government feel that the time is not ripe for an election at present; but large sums of money are being contributed to the organizations which are supporting them, and they hope to have all their forces organized by about next April or May, when they will be prepared for a dissolution. This statement is being made bv honorable members who are in the confidence of the Government. I do not believe in that kind of fighting. If we are going to fight, let us do so in earnest. The Government have a wobbling majority of two. and are dependent for their retention of office upon an honorable member who has made a severe attack upon them. I would not sit for a moment under such an attack, and no self-respecting Prime Minister or member of a Government would do so. The Ministry do not possess the confidence of the House, or of the country, and should not be allowed to remain in office. If I were leading the Opposition, they would have no rest.
– The honorable member hung on to office for three years on one vote.
– Yes ; but none of my supporters denounced the Government. They were all honorable and true men. The honorable member for Wilmot used, in regard to the present Government, language such as has never been employed by an honorable member occupying a similar position. The recognition of the present condition of affairs must sink deeply into the ‘ hearts of the people, as it Would have sunk deeply into the hearts of Ministers if they had had any respect for themselves. The Government do not possess the confidence of this House, and they certainly do not enjoy that of the country, or they would not be finding excuses for putting off the dissolution. They might be challenged 5,000 times, and they would sit glued to their seats all the time. I want to see a dissolution brought about when I am ready, and not when my enemy is ready. I am ready now. If the Government were to go to the country now, they would meet with a great rebuff at the hands of the people, and scarcely half . of the honorable members now sitting behind them would be re-elected. If the honorable member for Wilmot had acted upon his true feelings he would have voted against the Government, despite his dislike for the Opposition, to emphasize his contempt for those who occupy the Ministerial benches. I can recall one occasion upon which a much stronger Ministry was in power in New South Wales, and one which did not possess the confidence of the country. But although the members of the Opposition numbered only some seventeen or eighteen, we did not allow that Government to reign long. Similarly the Opposition in this House will be doing its duty by preventing the present Ministry, which does not possess the confidence of the country, from retaining office for one moment longer than is unavoidable. Let retribution fall upon the heads of those who are keeping them in their present position, by supporting a freetrade Ministry. When a dissolution takes place, what will happen?
– The honorable member will never come back.
– I should like to be opposed by about fifty midgets like the honorable member. I make bold to say that at the next election my majority will be increased by more than 1,000 vol es, and I do not care who opposes my return. Let the Prime Minister oppose me if he thinks that he will be successful. It is idle foi honorable members to assure me that I shall be defeated. I .have been told that tale for the past twenty years, but I have always been able to “wipe” my opponents a little harder each successive campaign. It is impossible to travel about the city, or to’ ride in the trains and trams without hearing a majority of people carping at the positionoccupied by the Government; expressing wonder how a Ministry with any self-respect can continue to hold office under existing conditions, and calling upon the Opposition to do its duty, by forcing an appeal to the country. I venture to say that when that appeal does take place, the issue of free-trade versus protection will be settled so definitely that we shall hear no more of this dodgery. The cry in respect of a fiscal truce has again been raised during this debate, Does any one imagine that it was possible to discover the weak spots in a new Tariff before we had had practical experience of its working? But when practical experience has demonstrated its anomalies, are we to sit quietly by - irrespective of what may have been said during the recent election campaign - whilst industries are being ruined, and people are being starved? Upon the hustings I stated that I was in favour of a fiscal truce, but I added, that when anomalies had been discovered in the Tariff, we should at once take action to rub off its rough knots. I do not wish an exhaustive inquiry to be instituted into each separate item of the Tariff, but I do desire to see anomalies conected in connexion with certain industries upon which we can place our fingers without any Trouble, through the Customs Department.. It is idle to urge that we are blind and cannot see. If the Minister of Trade and Customs chose to go honestly to work, he could tell us within a week the particular industries which require to be dealt with. In view of this state of things, we shall not be doing our duty unless we oppose the Government upon every possible opportunity. Personally I should not care ‘ if 1 stood alone in my attempt to block them. Only the other night tha Prime Minister had the audacity to declare that he has done more work during his occupancy of his present office than has anybody else.
– So he has.
– I should like to know what he has done. I should like also to be informed whether, in making that declaration, he is casting an aspersion upon the Treasurer. Is he vain enough to imagine that he has done more work than was performed by the Treasurer during the first two years of the existence of the Commonwealth ? During the first two sessionsof this Parliament, the work which it did was unprecedented, and for the right honorable gentleman - who never attended in this House when he could be absent - to declare that he has done more work than anybody else is in keeping with the whole of his political acts and with all his political humbug.
– More misrepresentation.
– I am glad that honorable members opposite are getting a little dose of the Prime Minister. They will know him better in a short time. I have had a sufficient experience of him, and I do not hesitate to declare that I shall embrace every opportunity which presents itself to assist in displacing a Government which does not possess the confidence of this House or of the country.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Anybody who knows the honorable member who has just resumed his seat will believe every word of his closing sentence. They are aware that he will take steps, whether they lie right or wrong, legitimate or otherwise, to dispossess the Prime Minister of his position. The honorable member, however, is in error when he supposes that the whole of Australia is hanging upon his lips for words of wisdom within the legislative arena. I can assure him that there is a very strongfeeling in Australia that this Parliamentcould get onvery well without him. He has spoken of a wide-spread opinion to which expression is given in the trams and trains, concerning the iniquities of the present Government, and how important it is that they should be immediately hurled from power. At some time or other one hears expressions of that character regarding almost every member of the House. For instance, the very first letter which I opened this afternoon contained the following postscript: -
Things seem very much mixed over your way, but what can be expected when you have men like Lyne there?
The very first letter which I opened contained that postscript, and I showed it to an honorable member who was sitting near me.
– What did he say?
– He concurred in the statement, of course. I merely mention that incident to show what bad judgeswe are in matters upon which we hold party views.
– Does the honorable member take his judgment from his correspondence?
– Certainly not. I am merely pointing out how easy it is for us to delude ourselves into the belief that we represent the opinion of the entire country. But I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Hume upon one point at any rate, in that I am not in favour of the appointment of the proposed Commission. I cannot see the necessity for the appointment of a Commission either as the Government propose to constitute it, consisting of business men outside the Parliament, or, as the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes, consisting wholly of Members of Parliament. If there is to be a Commission at all, the appropriateness of appointing honorable members as well as persons outside this House as members of it should be recognised. I think that a mixed Commission should be appointed, as it would unquestionably give the best results.
– But the honorable member is opposed to the appointment of a Commission.
– Yes. I do not see the necessity for it ; but I oppose the proposal for a different reason from that urged by the honorable member for Hume. To my mind it is inevitable that, if such a Commission as that indicated by the Prime Minister or by the honorable and learned member for Indi be appointed, fiscal legislation must speedily follow its report, and that is why I am opposed to both propositions. I believe in respecting the contract which has been honorably entered intpby both sections of the Government. The verybasis of their coming together was that the fiscal question should not be raisecl during the life of the present Parliament, and that is what I had in mind when I made a certain interjection when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked whether the Prime Minister would take action if progress reports were presented. I say now that, even if those progress reports indicated the necessity for a general re-opening of the Tariff, no action could be taken bv the present Government unless they threw to the four winds of heaven all their solemn asseverations to the people of Australia.
– Then whv this mockery ?
– I do not know what the honorable member is referring to. I take it that the honorable and learned member for Indi is sincere in his proposal, and that the Government are equally sincere in that made by them. I do not know what their motives are. I am speaking for myself, and my opinion is that no Government could re-open the Tariff question during the present Parliament without breaking faith with the people of Australia and violating their assurances to this House. I hope that the time has not come when a Government are prepared to give their word to the House and to those who sit behind them, and then to deliberately break it on the slightest provocation. The honorable member for Lang reminds me of the precious motion of which notice has been given by the honorable and learned member for Indi. Of all the ridiculous phrasing that I have ever read I think that used in the motion is the most absurd. There is not another honorable member who, sitting down to frame a proposition of this kind, could not make a better fist of it, to put it vulgarly.
– The honorable member must not discuss that notice of motion.
– I do not desire to discuss it. I am simply referring to the object which the honorable and learned member has in view. I take it that his object in moving the amendment now before us is precisely that which he had in view in framing the motion to which I have referred. If that be so, I cannot understand what the honorable and learned member is seeking to achieve. For instance, he tells us that he desires a Commission to be appointed to inquire into the state of industries which have been affected injuriously by the present Tariff. If he can tell the Committee that, to his own knowledge, industries have already been affected injuriously by the working of the Tariff, why should we appoint a Commission to. inquire into their position? Then, again, the honorable and learned member so proposes to constitute the Commission as to make it absolutelv ineffective. I could not conceive of an honorable senator taking a seat on a Commission of the kind he suggests - of an honorable senator inquiring into issues which had been formulated solely by members of this House. It seems to me that it is an insult to members of another place to suggest that they should go on the Commission to inquire into issues, when the courtesy of asking them to assist in framing those issues has not even been extended to them. We are to frame the issues for them, and to tell them the specific industries which we desire them to investigate. How are we to know what industries should be singled out for inquiry? It has already been shown in the debate that industries are so interrelated that the moment we touch one we may adversely affect others. The moment we attempt to grant relief from the protectionist point of view to some industries we may absolutely crush others. The reason is obvious. It is well known that the finished product of one industry becomes the raw material of another, and, therefore, it is impossible for us to specify any particular industries, and to say that they, and they alone, shall be made the subject of investigation by a Commission of this kind.
– Would not the relation of two industries be disclosed when the matter was being investigated by the Commission ?
– It would, and the Commission would be powerless to deal with them.
– The members of the Commission would simply have to say, “ We have nothing to do with any other industry which has been adversely affected. We have been appointed under a certain Commission, and we must absolutely adhere to the terms of it.”This shows the folly of framing such proposals as that put forward by the honorable and learned member for Indi. It will be noticed also that he speaks of “ Australian industries “ in the motion of which he has given notice; but all the evidence that we have so far goes to show that he means “Victorian industries.” We all know that the whole of the present trouble has been brought about by a series of articles in the Age, upon what is called “The Strangling Tariff.” I venture “to say that honorable members can lay it down as an absolute rule of political conduct on the part of the honorable and learned member for Indi, that what the Age says in the morning will invariably be said by him in this House in the afternoon.
– And what the Sydney Daily Telegraph says the Prime Minister will repeat.
– The Age is a greater paper than is the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– No doubt- it is here, on the spot, all the time. Already we know what is the influence of the press on the Parliament of a country, wherever that
Parliament may happen to meet. There is no clearer testimony of that than this debate, and this crisis which has been brought about purely and simply by the articles in the Age, to which I have referred. The whole trouble has to do with a few industries which are affected, or supposed to be affected, in Victoria. It is not at all an Australian matter. If there is to be an inquiry of this kind should it not go further than has been suggested by the Opposition ? Take agricultural machinery, for instance - take mining machinery, which has been so much in evidence during this debate. Is it not fair that if an inquiry be held as to whether a further duty shall be imposed so as to raise the price in Melbourne to a profitable level for the local manufacturer, that the question of how many thousands of people away in the interior of Australia would be affected should also be considered? Does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ever stop to think that there are more agriculturists in this State alone than there are people engaged in manufactures? Does the honorable member know that there are more miners in Australia than there are people engaged in the manufacturing industries ? Does he know that only 25 per cent, of the total wealth annually produced by our staple industries is involved in the question which we have now under consideration? The whole of the products of the manufacturing industries of Australia represent a value of from £25,000,000 to £27,000,000 a year, while the total annual productions of Australia represent about £100,000,000.
– How much of that is represented by wool, which affords very little labour?
– So far as I remember, mining represents £25,000,000, or £26,000,000, while agriculture, dairying, and kindred industries represenF about £35,000,000. Therefore, I say that when we glibly talk about making dearer agricultural implements - no matter by whom those issues are raised - we have a right to look at the effects of those industrial enterprises which no Tariff can help in the slightest degree. There must be on this Commission men who represent the consumers of all the articles affected by the Tariff, and for that reason it would be advisable to have some outsiders appointed, and the scope of the inquiry made as wide as possible. At the same time, it would be of infinite advantage to the Commission if one or two
Members of Parliament were appointed. The best results would be obtained if there were a good partisan from either side, each of whom would take care that the inquiry was as searching as we desire it should be. I say, again, that having regard to the conditions under which the Government came into office, its composition, and the character of its following, I do not think that they are entitled to propose to reopen the Tariff question. There is no doubt that the appointment of a Commission of the kind means the re-opening of the whole issue. it is impossible .that when this Commission begins operations, and submits reports that the question can remain outside this House for one moment. What we are proposing would be a mockery and a farce, if nothing is “to be done to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission we deliberately appoint. For those reasons, and to keep faith with the House, and the solemn assurances and pledges already made to the people, I say that there ought to be no Commission appointed, at any rate, for the present.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).There is a good deal of excitement over this proposed Commission. The situation reminds me of an experience I once had in Western Texas. There was an old farmer there who bought some prize pigs from Europe,and he had them put into a beautiful pen. Next morning the best animal of the lot got away, and chased the farmer’s son, who was compelled ,to take refuge up a tree. Another son of the farmer was called in to assist, and he grabbed the pig by the tail, and after some terrible swinging around the yard, he called out to the youth up the tree, “For heaven’s sake, come down and help me to let this pig go.” The Government are in that position now ; the proposed Commission is the prize pig, and the Government dare not let it go - the Government must go up a tree, or the pig must be killed. We have been here for the last eight or nine months, meeting one day, and adjourning .the next, and we have not received as much for our work as a man would be paid in Western America for running a blast furnace for a couple of weeks. We have been coming here day after day, and listening to motions of want of confidence, until the whole business begins to look like bunco, or a thimblerigging trick. I do not know when this is going to end. My objection to this Commission is the proposal about obtaining the services of “business men.” What is a “ business man “ ? I want to know the essence and centre - the beginning and end of a “business man.”
– Butter-Commission chaps.
– I. want to know what is a “business man.” T have known smart men in America who never made a dollar, and, therefore, were never considered business men, while I have known other men who managed to get hold of a monopoly of the necessaries of life, and inside a couple of years become millionaires, and were, therefore, considered great “ business men.” Will this Commission be composed of men who have been a failure in the matter of making money, or will the appointments be made in the light of the number of dollars which they have amassed ? Jay Gould was a. business man–
– And so is the honorable member.
– I am; but what kind of business man? I have been successful at my own “ game,” and every man in the House has been a success at something. I do not desire that we should go outside this House for Commissioners, because to do so would be relegating the rights of this Chamber “to citizens who have no responsibility, and who, if they made a mistake, could not be driven out on to the mountain sides to eat grass like Nebuchadnezzar. I desire that a Commission shall be appointed, and I am prepared to trust the free-traders. T am absolutely prepared to accent the honorable and learned member for Parkes as Chairman, and the honorable and learned member for Angas as a member.
– Do not talk nonsense.
– I only desire to show what my feelings are as a member of this House ; I want to show that I am prepared to trust the free-traders. There is no honorable member whom I do not absolutely trust. Some honorable members would appear to be trying to represent this Parliament as something inferior to a Butter Commission. The members of the United States Congress would no more surrender their prerogatives, than they would bury themselves in Lee’s cemetery, outside Washington. Honorable members of this House have all been business men of some kind, and have made their own business successful. The very fact that they are in this House shows that they 9 z 2 have at least as much capacity as the men whom they defeated. They have the confidence of the country. I have had a wide experience in the United States, in Canada, and in old England, where there is a lot of good old piety, and of good old hypocrisy as well. It seems to me that the business men of Australia, and the people, and the politicians of Australia, are just as -straight as they are in any part of the world. A man’s word is just as good here as anywhere else. There is no kind of success that is so ephemeral as the success of a business man, the respect that he wins is often mixed with execration. The business man who is a great man this year will be hunted next year by the very people with whom he did business. The only ability that pays nowadays is not the ability which earns money, but the ability that annexes the earnings of other people. I trust that we shall not allow the proposed Commission to be constituted apart from the members of this House. We simply require a Commission to ascertain the facts. What are the facts that we desire to know ? Are there any . industries in Australia which are being strangled through the low Tariff? Are any men out of employment in consequence of the evil effects of the Tariff? Does it matter whether those appointed to answer those questions are free-traders or protectionists? There is not a man in the Commonwealth of Australia who is worth his salt who is not a partisan in politics. Whenever you find a man who is not a partisan, you may be sure that he belongs to the neuter gender. He is neither male nor female, and he is not fit to be on this Commission. That is my opinion. Suppose we appoint an outside Commission. We shall have to pay the members at least from three to five or six guineas per day each. Suppose there are eight or ten gentlemen on the Commission. If they are important business men, they will not sit for less than from twenty-five to (thirty guineas each per week. So that we shall incur an enormous expenditure to obtain what members of this House would do for their present starvation salary of ^400 per annum.
– Is it right that the members of this House should be asked to undertake the work on that salary ?
– Yes, because they have undertaken to do it for the ^400 a year. As they have agreed to do so, they must carry out the contract. Suppose we have seven Commissioners at thirty pounds a week each. That comes to .£210 a week. It could not be done for less, and the work will occupy five years. Yet the Government that makes this proposal is not prepared to give these poor hungry Members of Parliament another ^200 a year each ! I therefore oppose the proposal on the ground of expense. The Government is supposed to be economical. There is only one way to treat refractory ores, and that is to roast them. I am sorry to say that there is no doubt in the world that the present Government is a refractory Government. They have got into bad company. We have no right whatever to delegate the powers of this Parliament to outsiders. The present government is virtually an absolutism. Their action in being prepared to dispense with their own authority to outside persons shows, that they are an absolutism ; and under an absolutism, the carbuncles of stagnation develop and paralyze energy and efficiency. Not only that, but under an absolutism-, the officials seem to have no concern for the common good. They look after themselves only. I believe that the Prime Minister wishes to act conscientiously on this question. My ideas of the right honorable gentleman differ from those of some of my honorable friends. I believe he wishes to do what is right; but I am afraid that he cannot see the proper road to what is right. What we desire is that there shall be a complete re-adjustment of certain specific items of the Tariff. We believe that this re-adjustment ought to be made by the friends of protection, and not by its enemies, because we are afraid that if they are allowed to have a free hand we shall have not re-adjustment but repeal. We have reasons for not trusting the Prime Minister absolutely on this question. I trust him on many questions, but he is so great an oracle of free-trade, and has fought his battles so much on that question, that I do not think it would be fair to place him in such a position. With the single exception of the United States, the standard of living in the Commonwealth is the highest in the world,’ and in the re-adjustment or revision of the Tariff we should take into consideration the cost of labour power in the Commonwealth, with eight hours as a legal day’s work, and the cost of labour power in the cheapest country in the world with long hours.
– The business man would do that.
– The business man would never give it a thought. We have no desire to go into the whole question, but to take specific industries about which there can be no doubt. I discovered at Geelong the other day that a great many people who had been employed in the fellmongering industry were out of work. Men who have been engaged in the manufacture of mining machinery are also out of work, and what we require is that specific items in the Tariff shall be considered, and a progress report submitted in connexion with them. If that is done, we can meet next session and decide what we shall do to enable the men who have invested their money in manufacturing plant in this Commonwealth to give employment to labour. Men say to me that capital is but accumulated labour. That is quite true, but I have noticed that whilst the masses do the labouring, the classes do the accumulating. This Commission, as proposed by the Government, will be something like the Irrigation Commission in the United States. It may last one year, or fifty years. I believe that every man on the United States Commission to which I refer had died before any report was received from the Commission. I cannot be sure that any report was ever received. I believe that some years ago an expedition was sent out to look for the Commission in Western America, and it was years after the last man died that something was done in the matter. It is likely that it will be years after we have “planted” the last man on this proposed Tariff Commission before we shall commence to do anything in connexion with Tariff revision. If the Prime Minister will give us a guarantee that a progress report will be submitted in time for action in connexion with specific items next session, something will have been gained. Owners of property in Melbourne, and especially those owning small cottages, will be able to gauge the condition of things by the payment of rent. They will find, when they go .round lo collect the rent on the Monday morning, that men who used to be in good employment, and who paid their rent and their grocer every week, will be out of work, whilst the final notices from the municipal council will still have to be met, or a blue document will be sent to them. There are unemployed men to be found all over South. Melbourne, Prahran-
– And all over Toorak.
– I do no: know much about Toorak, and perhaps the less I know about it the better for myself.
– The worst blow the landlords ever got was when Members of Parliament took to living in tents.
– They refused me ground for my tent here. I think it was honorable on my part that I should try to live within my means. When I found that my pay as a member of this House did not allow me to live decently, except in a tent, I applied for leave to put up my tent, here, and I was refused. If one goes anywhere else, he has dogs after him. I have no doubt that the present Prime Minister, in all these battles, has shed more ink and less blood than any warrior since the days of Sancho Panza or Don Quixote. I confess that I have a great admiration for the right honorable gentleman, and I should be very sorry if there were any difficulty about giving him a show. Some time ago, because there were three parties in the House, I proposed that we should run ‘the Government on the buttygang system, and when the honorable member for Bland, in spite of my opposition, refused to retain possession of the Treasury bench, the present Prime Minister was allowed to go on to it. I can assure honorable members that I did my level best to keep the late Prime Minister where he was, and pointed out twelve thousand reasons why he should continue to sit there. Half my people came from Ireland, and they would not be so particular about leaving a good thing like that, but I thought a Scotchman, like the honorable member for Bland, would stick to it closer than an Irishman, Because the honorable gentleman was willing to give way without a battle, I can see no reason why the present- Prime Minister should do the same thing.
– I can see no reason, especially on a shilling amendment.
– I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that we have good business men in this House. I am prepared to trust the honorable members for Kooyong, Perth, Coolgardie, Swan. Flinders, or Bendigo. We need not leave this House for business men, we have them right here. If the present Prime Minister claims that he is going to run the Government on. economic lines, I can tell him that he will not get leading business men outside to touch this work for less than twenty-five or thirty pounds a week.
– Five years’ work.
– With ^200 a week going out for five years, what chance will there be for us to get our allowance raised ?
– After the very interesting address of the honorable member for Darwin I do not think it will be necessary for me to speak at any great length this evening. I wish to make a few observations upon the turn which events have taken since we assembled this afternoon. When we met we were under the impression that the Prime Minister had stated publicly how far he was prepared to go in the direction of having an inquiry made into the position of certain trades which are affected by the Tariff. But, in his speech this afternoon, he came down step by step from the position of merely asserting that he was prepared to grant a Commission of a moon-raking character, which would have no termination, and met the honorable and learned member for Indi with a statement implying that he is prepared to grant a Commission, not composed wholly of Members of Parliament, but composed partly of members of the two Houses, and partly of business men, and to have progress reports presented from time to time. He said that if the progress reports became public property, it followed, as a natural consequence that they must come into the House for discussion. He stopped there, and that is the point where he ceases to be effective. He is willing to give us the opportunity of discovering what industries are affected by the Tariff as indicated by various speakers, but when it comes to the point of giving relief to them he stops short.
– I stop short of considering a report until it comes into existence.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, who is sincere, states deliberately that if a report were made by such a Commission, and it presented certain conditions which required the attention of the House, the Government, constituted as it is, could not intervene without contravening every principle which its members have enunciated. He was merely stating a truism when he said that if the report indicated that certain industries should be given a further modicum of protection, the Government, in view of its pledges to the country, could not, without violating its principles, give effect to it.
– It is pledged not to re-open the Tariff.
– Where is the logic or effectiveness of the professions of the Prime Minister when he is prepared to carry the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Indi into effect right up to the point where effectiveness is assured, but is not prepared to take a course which would be absolutely beneficial to the industries concerned ? I believe that his statement is only intended to kill time, to defeat the objects which the honorable and learned member for Indi has in view. I do not suggest for a moment that what the honorable and learned member has indicated will be found to exist exactly as he has stated. With the honorable member for Hume, I believe that from the figures which the Treasurer has. been tabulating as to the effect of the Tariff on certain industries, he could practically tell us what industries are being materially or otherwise affected thereby. Why should we have a roving commission when we have sufficient facts to indicate what industries are suffering ? Speaking from a practical stand-point, I maintain that it will be found that the industries are suffering, not so much because of the Tariff as from the effects of the late droughts. In 1902, in the agricultural centres of New South Wales, and largely in those of Victoria, there was practically no harvest to reap, and, therefore, there was no demand for harvesting machinery. The operation of the law of supply and demand necessarily led to a slump in the production and sale of these machines. Let us be fair, and try to ascertain if we can the real cause for the anomalies which are represented as being the outcome of the Tariff.- There is another factor at work, and it is one which I have always expected would practically interfere with the working of the Tariff between the States. When the Prime Minister was opposing the acceptance of the. Commonwealth Bill at the first referendum, I was asked whether I thought that it would give a Constitution which would be acceptable to the people of, not only this generation, but generations to come. I replied, “ from the constitutional stand-point, no;” but when I was asked by men in New South Wales how it would affect them commercially, I answered, “(Commercially, you should vote for the Bill to a man, simply because it will afford to your country an opportunity for developing its resources.” We find that by reason of her coal seams New South Wales has all the advantages which will tend to make her the manufacturing centre of Australia. By degrees industries must naturally drift towards the coal seams, or to those centres where articles can be most economically produced. That factor is operating to-day. The other day I was speaking to Mr. Coghlan on this aspect of the operations of the Tariff, and he agreed that, to a very large extent, Victoria is being left in the .rear, because under a uniform Tariff the industries of New South Wales have now, for the first time, an equal opportunity of proving whether they can be successfully conducted While that extension is going on there we are in this difficult position that we cannot trace exactly .how the Tariff is operating in Victoria. This State has no statistical records as to the production of this year, or the increase or decrease in her production since the alteration of the Tariff, and therefore we shall have to rely on the information which we can obtain from the Federal Treasurer. I do not altogether object to the appointment of a Commission, if effect is to be given to its recommendations. The Prime Minister has promised to incur the large expenditure which the investigations of a Commission would entail, and I ask him to tell us further that he will give effect to its recommendations, and thus resuscitate some of the industries which his action and that of his supporters have so nearly strangled. He has admitted to-night that he refused to grant sufficient protection to industries which he was told would be destroyed by a reduction in the then existing Customs duties.
– When I am handed the report of the Commission, I shall be prepared to say what I intend to do. What I ask for is more daylight.
– I am afraid that it is impossible to get any binding promise from the Prime ‘ Minister. I, of course, sympathize with him because of his unfortunate position. With four Ministers at one end of the see-saw and four at the other, it would take very little to upset the equilibrium of the Government,
– The Prime Minister requires all the honorable member’s sympathy.
– He certainly requires sympathy for the manner in which he has been spoken to by his supporters, and for the words uttered by the honorable member for Wilmot. The right honorable gentle- . man, however, chose to remain in office under the stigma attached to his action by the utterances of the honorable member for Wilmot, rather than follow the example of the constitutional giants who have preceded him, and resign his position.
– Did not the Opposition want the vote of the honorable member for Wilmot very badly?
– During the noconfidence debate the honorable member for Wilmot was asked to play billiards by supporters of the Government more often than at “any other time since he entered this Parliament, and that was’ not done in order to beat him at the game. Some honorable members opposite were continually in his company. I do not say that it was because’ they wanted his vote.
– -When will the next motion of censure be moved?
– Possibly on Thursday next, in connexion with the preferential trade proposals. I am not going to stop until the people have an opportunity to say whether a Government so constituted as this is should hold office.
– The honorable member is most anxious to get to the people.
– I am not afraid of going to the people.
– No one is, so long as there is no crisis.
– The right honorable gentleman, at any rate, has exhibited no desire to go to the people. The words of the honorable_ member for Wilmot, when he stated that he voted for the shandygaff,joblot party on the Government benches, rather than for the Opposition, because the Labour Party is organized, whilst the others are not, are burning in his breast.
– We believe in majority rule.
– So do I. I obtained my position in public life by majority rule. The right honorable member, however, carries majority rule into effect only when it suits him to do so. He did not support, majority rule in regard- to the first Federal Constitution Bill referendum when he required a certain minimum vote to be given in favour of the Bill.
– That was not my proposal.
– The right honorable gentleman was Premier at the time, and. therefore must take the responsibility. That instance shows that when majority rule would not suit him he is not a supporter of it.
– I was entirely opposed to the
Bill, and had it made much better than it was previously.- If I had not done so, we should not have had Federation.
– The Prime Minister wishes us to believe that he is sincere in the expression of his desire to give relief to industries to which more protection is necessary, and has said that when the report of the Commission is presented action will be taken upon it. . But one of his supporters, who understands the position more accurately than any other member on that side, says that it will be impossible for them to make any change without proving traitors to their principles. If that is so, the whole thing is a farce. The Prime Minister might, at least, give us his assurance that when the report is presented, he will do something to relieve the sufferings of those whose employment is being affected by the Tariff.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - Minister of External Affairs). - I trust that honorable members will be prepared to assist the Government in bringing the debate to a conclusion to-morrow.
– I shall do my best to bring about that result.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That this House donow adjourn.
-I should like to know whether the Prime Minister will be prepared, in the event of the debate now proceeding being concluded to-morrow, to make a statement, as promised a few nights ago, with regard to the order of business. I think honorable members are entitled to be informed whether the Government intend to go on with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, or with the Budget debate.
– I shall make a statement with regard to the intentions of the Government when the debate on the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi is concluded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041025_reps_2_22/>.