2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Somereturnswere ordered by the House to show the imports under various headings affected by the preferential trade proposals of the Government. In the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I wish to know from thePrimeMinisteriftheyareyet ready ?
– Similar information was furnished in New Zealand at the time that the schedule of new duties was made public.
– The returns relating to the New Zealand proposals are now on the table, or will be here shortly, and the other returns will follow them very soon.
– Can the Prime Minister tell us when it is proposed to proceed with the consideration of the Estimates, which, as they contain many contentious matters, will occupy a long time?
– Next week, I hope. There is nothing in them which should be regarded as contentious.
– As I cannot obtain the information from the noticepaper, I wish to know what place in the business of the session the capital site question is to occupy?
– I understand that arrangements are being made for honorable members who haveexpressed a wish to do so, to visit another proposed site at the end off next week.
– The Premier of New South Wales has invited us to visit several sites.
– Pending these visits, it is uncertain when the House will be prepared to deal with the question.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has the question of the adoption by the Commonwealth of a decimal system of coinage and currency, in accordance with the report of a Select Committee, adopted in the first session of this House, and indorsed by the existing House, received Cabinet consideration, as promised by him on the 19th October, 1905 (vide Hansard, p. 3755).
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Treasurer, on his recent visit to London, by authority of the Government, conferred with the Imperial authorities in regard to silver coinage and decimal currency, and, on his return, communicated the result of his conferences in the terms which were set out at length in the Budget, on 31st July, and appear on page 2107 of the Hansard report. In accordance with the above, both these questions will be dealt with at the Imperial Conference to be held in London early next year.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
South Australian Marine Board and of shipping companies in respect to such means of communication ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of. Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he specifically state, with reference to the Lands Acquisition Bill -
– The answers to the honorable . member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Do the following statements made by the Treasurer in an interview with the Argus (as reported in its issue of yesterday) represent the views of the Government : - “What I desired to show was that, however much protection might be given to encourage increased production and to enable our producers to command the home market, that protection would not avail them in the least degree with regard to production, which is in excess of Australian requirements. Last year this excess production amounted in value to £54,000,000. In disposing of it we have to compete with the markets of the world. Unless the means of transit, on the most reasonable and economical scale, were provided it would be impossible for us to compete with the products of other countries, where there is cheap labour and a standard of living different to our own. Therefore, in saying that I was a ‘ free-trader at sea ‘ I wished it to be clearly understood that any obstacle placed in the way of obtaining the quickest, cheapest, and best means of transit would be a tax upon the producers of this country, and would prevent them obtaining the reward of theirlabour, which is the object we all have in view ?”
– The question is perhaps irregular, and certainly unprofitable. The views of the Government in this respect will be set forth fully in their manifesto.
Mr. W. P. HALLAM.
Motion (by Mr. G. B. Edwards) agreed to-
That there be laid upon the table of the House a return showing the nature and extent of any special services rendered by William P. Hallam, telegraph operator at Hobart, in connexion with -
The telephone system of Western Australia;
the telephone system of Queensland; also what recognition these services have received in promotion or otherwise.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting of the House on each Wednesday and Thursday for the remainder of the session shall be half-past ten o’clock in the morning.
– I am not in accord with this proposition. I see no necessity for it, and I do not think that the passing of the motion will contribute to the better conduct of business. I am prepared to sit here an adequate number of hours, and the Opposition cannot be charged this session with having attempted to obstruct. The Government having allowed three months to be frittered and loitered away, now ask us to do more work in two weeks than has been done in that period. They invite us to what is to be neither more nor less than a legislative debauch. The transaction of business is not to be characterized by deliberation, reflection, and thought, but an attempt is to be made to turn out Bills as sausages are rolled out of a machine. Such legislation must always be unsatisfactory. We can already perceive the results of hasty legislation in the past in the many proposals for remedying defects in existing laws. For instance, there are on the notice-paper a Bill to amend the Pacific Island Labourers Act for, I think, the third time, an amending Copyright Bill, and several similar measures. Such legislation as cannot be compassed within reasonable hours ought to be left over until an opportunity occurs for its proper consideration. If the motion is passed, instead of being a deliberative assembly we shall find ourselves divided into two sections, one of which: will try to bludgeon legislation through, no matter what the consequences or effects. I protest against that’ kind of thing. The Prime Minister should have gone through his programme with a view to see what measures might well be left over until a more convenient season. The Lands Acquisition’ Bill is such a measure. All the States are up in arms against it. I think some of the criticism of it is unreasonable. But time should be given for further reflection and investigation, which may assist us in passing the Bill later on. There are other measures on the paper which are not urgent. Altogether, there are twelve items on our notice-paper and six or seven on the noticepaper of the Senate. Among these is the Estimates, which, as the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, will take a considerable time to pass; while, 10 addition, there is the Capital Sites question. It is the piecemeal fashion in which the Government have,- dealt with their business that has contributed to this congestion. Last night, for instance, we advanced the Constitution Alteration (Special Duties) Bill some distance in Committee, and now it is set aside to permit of the consideration of the proposals for preferential trade with New Zealand and the mother country. Originally we were told that the discussion of these! proposals would follow immediately upon the discussion of the first Tariff proposals of the Government; but the Bills for the alteration of the Constitution were interpolated. These are now in their turn being set aside. All the measures on the business-paper have been dealt with to a greater or (ess degree, but at present there is no prospect of finality being reached in regard to any of them. The best way in which to deal with the business of the country is to take, up a measure and carry it to completion with reasonable promptitude, instead of partial lv dealing with it, and then taking up other measures which honorable members are not in a position to properly consider. I also have to complain of the attitude assumed bv the Prime Minister in relation to much of the business before us. We sat all night on Thursday last to consider certain Tariff resolutions. I spoke to the Prime Minister early in the evening) and promised him that if he would permit us to go home at the usual hour we should do our best to put through the whole schedule of duties upon the following day. He would not agree to my suggestion, and we sat throughout Thursday night and on until the usual hour for adjournment on Friday.
– How could the honorable member give any guarantee in view of the long “ stone-walling “ speech made by the honorable member for Moira?
– We should have done our best. Every one knows that when honorable members are called upon to sit all night, they become garrulous, and that was the result on Thursday night. The whole of my contributions to that debate did not occupy a whole page of Hansard, and other members1 on this side of the House refrained from talking. Gradually, however, the debate developed, and proceeded until the usual hour for adjournment next day. In my opinion, the allnight sitting was imposed upon the House without the slightest provocation, and without in any way facilitating business. At 6 o’clock on the Friday morning the Minister of Trade and Customs proposed to take a course very similar to that I suggested to the Prime Minister at 10 o’clock on the previous evening. If the business of the country is to be transacted with celerity and good feeling - and we all wish to close the session as speedily as possible - the Government should make an effort to lighten the load of work that is now imposed upon us. It will be impossible to deal with all the business on the paper with ,that deliberation and care that we should devote to our legislation. Some of the proposals included’ in -the ! Government programme might very well be left over for the consideration of the .next Parliament. Although the Government might not in such a case have quite as lengthy a placard of legislation to lay before the electors, that, after all, is not the supreme test of the value of the work done by the Parliament. I suggest that the Prime Minister should see if he cannot cut down his programme, so as to obviate the necessity for sitting longer hours than we have hitherto done. I protest strongly against honorable members being called upon to sit here for such long hours that thev will have no time left for reflection, inquiry, and research concerning the measures which they will be called upon to consider. If such an arrangement be carried out it can only result disastrously to the country, and prove derogatory to the dignity of Parliament. I hope that the Prime Minister will not press his proposal. I have assured him that if he is content to transact the business of the House within ordinary hours, members of the Opposition will assist him to transart the business before us within a reasonable time.
.-!’ support the position taken up by the honorable member for Parramatta. If we are called upon to sit here during the mornings we shall have taken from us the few hours left to us for dealing with our correspondence and for giving proper consideration to the measures submitted to us. The proposal is most unfair, and should meet with the opposition of all those who believe that in this country eight hours’ work is sufficient in any one day. I am a strong advocate of the eight hours principle, and unless it can be shown that it is absolutely necessary to adopt the extreme course now proposed by the Prime Minister, I shall, in the interest of decorous legislation, oppose the motion.
.- Whatever force there may be in the arguments of the deputy leader of the Opposition with regard to the amount of business on the paper, no reasonable objection can be urged to our being called upon to meet earlier in the day. It is the duty of honorable members to come here and perform their work in the day time as far as possible.
– Does the honorable member believe in working for sixteen hours per day?
– - There is no reason why we should not work for that length of time, if the necessity arises. We are not labouring for our daily bread, and honorable members can always avoid the necessity of sitting here continuously for fifteen or sixteen hours. If any body of members have reason to complain of the proposal to sit for longer hours, it is the Ministers, who have an enormous amount of work to do, irrespective of that performed by them in the Chamber.
– So have other honorable members.
– If Ministers are prepared to come here and perform legislative work in the mornings they will set a. good example, which I hope will be followed by the next Parliament. I should be glad to see our meetings commence at 10.30 in the morning, and concluded, if possible, by the dinner hour.
.- I quite agree with the Prime Minister that, owing to the amount of talk, indulged in bv honorable members opposite, it is absolutely necessary that something should be done to expedite business. I think, how ever, that he might extend a little consideration to honorable members at meal times. If we met at 10.30 in the morning, and worked on till 1 o’clock, he might permit us to ‘have an extra half-hour at the luncheon adjournment. Then the House could meet at 2.30 p.m. and work on till 6.30 p.m. I think that four hours would be sufficiently long for the House to sit continuously.
– Especially in the atmosphere of this Chamber.
– Yes. I was about to remark that the atmosphere of the Chamber is not very good after a sitting extending over several hours. I think we might reasonably adjourn for an hour and a half at dinner time also. I feel quite certain that if my suggestion is adopted, the business will be transacted quite as rapidly as if the extra half-hour per day were devoted to work.
.- I am aware that every Government endeavours to rush through business towards the close of the session, especially when a general election is looming ahead. It was recently stated, in what was’ apparently an inspired newspaper paragraph, that the Prime Minister proposed to ask honorable members to sit on Mondays and to continue Fridays’ sittings during the evening. I suggested, however, that we should meet on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, but I never expected that we should have placed before us such a menu as that now presented. I think that the reference to sausages by the honorable member for Parramatta was a most appropriate one. The business-paper bears a very close resemblance to the menu of some cheap restaurants, most of the items upon which are really “ off,” but are retained in order to attract the public eye.
– Which of the items on the business-paper are “off”?
– The whole of the measures relating to the amendment of the Constitution might very well be thrown on one side. The honorable member for Wide Bay suggested that we should sit here every morning, but I would point out that it would not be fair to expect us to study the proposals placed before us whilst we are on the march. It would be impossible for honorable members to give serious consideration, to the measures brought before them if they were required to sit here during the whole of their waking hours. The
Prime Minister, like all those who have occupied a similar position, is trying to put up a record. Ha wishes to be able to tell the people that this has been a glorious session, and that a great number of enactments have been placed on the .statutebook. I do not believe in records of that kind. I do not think it is right to fool the people by telling them that a large number of Bills have been passed, and, at the same time, throw upon the succeeding Parliament the necessity of devoting most of its time to making the inevitable amendments. The honorable member for Parramatta mentioned, as one case in point, that of the Pacific Islands Labourers Act, which has been amended for the third time, and the Copyright Act, which has also been subjected to some alterations. I had hoped that the Federal Parliament would be noted for the effective character of its legislation. I shall support the proposal of the Prime Minister to meet at 10.30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but merely as an alternative to our sitting on Mondays and extending our working hours on Fridays. The Government cannot complain that the Opposition have adopted obstructive tactics during this session. The allnight sitting last week was occupied for the most part by direct supporters of the Government, or by members of the Labour Party, including the honorable members for Wide Bay, Grey, Moira, and Bland. I do not say that they were stone-walling.
– I spoke for only twenty minutes.
– Yes, but the heat displayed by the honorable member led to a discussion which occupied fully two hours. The Government seem to me to be sending up a balloon for advertising purposes, and I would ask them now to throw out some of the ballast and to retain only that material which can be converted’ to profitable use. One measure which is entitled to serious attention is that which relates to the settlement of the Capital Site question. To-day we were treated to a most frivolous reply with regard to that matter. There is no indication whatever of a desire on the part of the Government to reach’ finality. This conduct is manifestly unjust to the people of New South Wales. In my judgment, the honorable member for Bland ought to insist that some other measures upon the businesspaper shall be abandoned in order to permit of this question being definitely settled.
– Does the honorable member think that the supporters of the Dalgety site are in a fit frame of mind to vote upon it?
– In my opinion they were not in a proper state of mind when they selected that site. They were never cornpas mentis.
– The site has been selected, and it will require an earthquake to remove it.
– An earthquake nearly removed it the” other day. The people of New South Wales are anxious that finality shall be reached in this matter, and yet no mention of it is made in the Government programme. Surely the consideration of the Copyright Bill and of the Lands Acquisition Bill might be deferred until next Parliament to enable this important matter to be dealt with. I would remind honorable members that nearly a whole week was occupied in discussing the Preferential Ballot Bill, which was afterwards thrown under the table. The measure which we were considering last night will probably share a similar fate. Whilst I am extremely desirous of concluding the session at the earliest possible moment, I cannot agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay that we should meet in the morning at half-past 10 o’clock and continue sitting until the ordinary hour of adjournment.
– It is sweating.
– Apa)rt5 from that consideration, does the honorable member really think that he can study measures whilst debate upon them is, proceeding? I have not the studious nature of the honorable member for Lang, and of other honorable members. Probably if I had, I should never cease speaking. I ask the Prime Minister,” in all seriousness, whether he cannot jettison some of the “ show ballast “ included in the Government programme with a view to facilitating practical legislation and the settlement of the Federal Capital Site question? I hope that the honorable member for Bland, who is now about to contest a city electorate, will insist upon that matter being finally determined.
– If the honorable member can assure me that we have the numbers, I am willing to consider it to-morrow.
– I am ready to take a division upon it at any time.
– I believe that the honorable member for Bland can command the necessary numbers to secure a reversal of the selection which has already been made by this Parliament. I trust that he will push this matter to the front, and that we shall speedily dispose of the remaining business of the session, so that honorable members may get to the country.
.- I trust that before this Parliament closes, the Prime Minister will do something to settle the important constitutional question of the Capital Site which has just been raised, and in a way which will give effect to the spirit of the Constitution. We are now asked to meet early, and to sit all day for the purpose of carrying a number of measures, no less than four of which relate to an amendment of the Constitution, notwithstanding that our first constitutional duty remains undischarged. For that reason I hope that a most earnest effort will be made to give effect to the spirit of the pre-Federal compact which was entered into between the Commonwealth and New South Wales.
– This Parliament has already settled that question.
– Not according to the spirit of the Constitution.
– Who is to interpret the spirit of the Constitution?
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– The fact that some honorable members have, onthis account, reversed their previous judgments indicates that the matter is well worthy of the attention of this House. I cordially indorse the utterances of the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Lang, concerning the wisdom of unloading the businesspaper. I trust also that the Prime Minister will do what he can to afford honorable members information upon the Bills demanding their attention before those measures come up for consideration. I hold in my hand a paper which has only just been circulated, and which relates to the business that we shall be asked to discuss this afternoon. It contains information the . digestion of which would occupy a whole afternoon.
– That information has already been published. I only received the paper at the same time as the honorable member, and I have already digested its contents.
– But the Prime Minister has a wonderful power of assimilation.
– We cannot possibly deal with the business upon the notice-paper unless we are to earn a reputation for slipshod legislation.
– It is impossible for us to do that while the honorable member for Lang is present.
– I think that the honorable member for Lang deserves the thanks of the House for the careful way in which he deals with all matters submitted to him. A curious contrast to our slipshod method of legislation is afforded by the method which is adopted in New Zealand. When the proposed reciprocal Tariff agreement with the Commonwealth was first announced to the New Zealand Parliament, the Premier, Sir Joseph Ward, gave honorable members the benefit of a mass of statistics relating to the effect of that agreement. Had the same course been followed here, we should have had at least a fortnight to appreciate the bearing upon the subject of the figures which have been circulated here to-day. I deeply regret that we seem to be so lost to the importance of national affairs that we are prepared to enact legislation without preliminary investigation.
– I think that the Government are adopting only a proper course. At this: period of the session, it is reasonable that honorable members should be called upon to sit on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. So long as we are apprised of the measures with which the Government intend to deal, we shall have a sufficient opportunity to study them upon the days when Parliament is not sitting. At the same time, I amstrongly of opinion that to occupy time in the discussion of measures which the Government know will be thrown under the table after they have been humiliated by their supporters is a course of procedure which is unworthy of them. Recently, the Government afforded honorable members anoppertunity of visiting certain localities in New South Wales which were considered eligible sites for the Federal Capital. Some of those sites we had visited years before. It seems to me that the Government are not in earnest in this matter. They regarded the occasion as one upon which they could indulge in a capital joke. , They viewed the trip in the light of a picnic to honorable members. If they were sincerely desirous of definitely determining this question, they would endeavour to meet the wishes of the Premier of New South Wales. I do not think that they are acting courteously to that gentleman
– The proposed trip was undertaken at his invitation.
– The Prime Minister was prepared to go through the farce of again allowing honorable members to visit what are regarded as eligible sites. I say that the. Government are playing fast and loose with this question. The people of New South Wales are not satisfied _with the selection which has been made. They declare that they are indifferent as to what site is chosen, but they claim certain rights under the Constitution. Consequently, I hold that a place should be found in the Government programme for the Capital Site question. The people of Sydney claim that the constitutional compact into which we entered should be carried out. They expect this Parliament to settle the question.
– We have.
– I am aware that it is settled so far as the honorable gentleman is concerned. A very strong protest has been made by the Premier of New South Wales, and the Government have recognised that protest by passing on to honorable members an invitation from the State authorities to visit other eligible sites with a view to selecting a more suitable one than that already determined upon. The Government are not in earnest. Reverting to the proposal that we should have morning sittings, I would remind the House that some months ago I made a similar proposition. Last week I took part in an all-night sitting. Not long before that I took part in another all-night sitting, but as soon as the early hours were reached, the Government began to grow weak in the knees and surrendered.
– There is a limit to physical endurance.
– That is the point to which I was about to refer. I hold that we should have morning sittings, and not sit after midnight. If I am returned to the next Parliament, I shall be quite prepared to agree to the House meeting at 6 a.m. if necessary, but shall refuse to sit here after midnight. On the occasion of the last all-night sitting, I watched the effect of the strain on honorable members, and I am satisfied that the Prime Minister would speedily collapse if the practice of having all-night sittings were continued. The only ‘ honorable members who did not seem to be greatly fatigued by one of the long sittings to which I refer were the Attorney-General and the leader of the Opposition. They alone appeared to be capable of vigorously carrying on the business of the House without any loss of temper.
– I believe in eight hours a day.
– So do I. When a man is fatigued, his animal propensities come to the front and his intellectual faculties become dimmed. I hope that in the next Parliament we shall not indulge in all-night sittings. I support the motion.
– One of the penalties of sitting behind a Government is that one is compelled on almost every occasion to hold one’s peace.
– Really ?
– The honorable member enjoyed such a privilege for only a brief period. When he has had a longer parliamentary experience, he will know that when one desires business to progress and waste of time to be avoided one has to be silent, and that, under certain circumstances, the lot of Government supporters is not always a happy one. I feel that the Opposition if they are not disingenuous, have been more than usually ungenerous in their remarks with regard to the business that we have or have not on the business-paper. Like all other honorable members, the Government, as long as they remain in office are bound to carry out their pledges. If honorable members feel disposed to reject measures which the Government consider important, they must accept the responsibility for their action. As to the amendments of the Constitution to which reference has been made, honorable members ought to be well seized of every point relating to them,, and should have made, up their minds long ago as to the necessity, for making them. No further time should be occupied in discussing them. Coming to the question of the site of the Federal Capital, I may say that as a representative of Victoria, I am content to wait until the representatives of New South Wales have made up their minds on the subject. They came to a decision some time ago, but now desire to mend their hand. It is said that an amendment of the Constitution will be necessary to enable us to make a second choice. I am prepared to-morrow to support a motion that a Bill providing for such an amendment be introduced.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is proceeding to discuss a question that is not before the Chair.
– I quite agree with you, sir, that the question is not before the Chair, but I am merely referring incidentally to the observations that have been made as to the desirableness of dealing with it. I would ask honorable members opposite to give Government supporters credit for a desire to see carried into effect measures which will tend to the well-being and progress of the Commonwealth, and also to recollect that they too have their responsibilities to face with regard, not only to legislation that is passed, but to proposed legislation which, as the result of their efforts, is for the time being defeated..
.- When the honorable member for Coolgardie suggested that the adjournments for luncheon and dinner should be extended by halfanhour in each case, I thought I saw the Prime Minister give an approving nod. I should like to point out to him that it is useless to gain two and a half hours by having morning sittings if we are to reduce that advantage by extending the adjournments for meals. It would be far better to meet at 11.30 or 12 noon than’ to adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member for Coolgardie. As it is, we have to waste a good deal of time in waiting about the House, and I fail to see why we should be asked to waste an additional hour every day.
– I am inclined to support the motion, but think that we should have some assurance that if it be carried the House will not be asked to sit after 10. -?o p.m. I join with those who have urged the Prime Minister to consider the desirableness_ of dealing before the prorogation with the question of the site of the Capital. In the course of one of the first speeches to which I listened on entering this House, I heard the statement made that the question had teen settled. That may have been correct so far as the decision of this Parliament was concerned, but that decision was not satisfactory to the Government of New South Wales, and we, in our wisdom or otherwise, decided to a view other sites. This Parliament should not be dissolved until we have taken action with a view to the determination of the question. The proposals which the Government intend to submit to the electors at the forthcoming election will receive scant consideration from the people of New South Wales, who feel that in respect to the Capital the Federal Parliament has not treated them fairly. I hope that the Prime Minister will consider the desirableness of dealing with the question without delay. It should not be necessary to ask for an amendment of the Constitution to enable a second’ choice to be made. All I say is that the spirit of the compact entered into with New South Wales should be carried out. The matter could be easily dealt with, and if it were settled a serious bone of contention would be removed.
.– I intend to support the motion, and, like the honorable member for. Parramatta, I believe in the eight hours principle. I should prefer the House to meet at 10.30 a.m., to see the usual adjournments for lunch and dinner slightly extended, as suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and our proceedings close at a reasonable hour. The honorable member for Wide Bay remarked privately a few moments ago that oftentimes an adjournment enables differences of opinion to be settled in an amicable way, and thus tends to shorten debate. If the dinner adjournment were extended over an hour and a half, instead of an hour as at present, I am sure that, quite apart from dietetic reasons, satisfactory results would accrue. It seems to me that the adoption of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wide Bay, that we should have day instead of night sittings, would tend to the passing of better legislation. The Legislature of ai country known as “ the school-house of Europe” - I refer to Switzerland - has two sessions every year. In the summer session it meets at 8 a.m., and in the winter session at 9 a.m., and it concludes its deliberations every evening at six o’clock. The Legislature of Switzerland, which has a population of 3,000,000, is able every year to transact its business in two sessions of six weeks each, and to transact it so well that it has earned the name to which I have referred. I feel perfectly certain that the deputy leader of the Opposition will appreciate the difficulties of transacting business in a Parliament like that of Switzerland, where three different languages are spoken, and where a speech delivered in German must, if desired, be translated for the benefit of those members who speak only French or Italian. If some of the long speeches delivered by the deputy leader of the Opposition had to be translated, as we proceeded, into two other languages, our debates would be unending. I daresay that the majority of us hope to see each other in the next. Parliament, and I trust that we shall then support a proposal to do away altogether with night sittings.
.- I should like to know why the Prime Minister does not propose that the House shall meet on Mondays and Saturdays. Those representing distant States have to remain here throughout the session, and surely those who are in the habit of returning to their homes every week-end should be prepared to remain here for the next two or three weeks, in order that the business yet to be dealt with may be speedily transacted. The proposal that we should sit on three days in the weekfrom 10.30 a.m. until 11.30 p.m. means rather too severe a taxon the physical endurance of honorable members. I think that it would be better to sit every day in the week, and to adjourn at a reasonable hour. I should like the Prime Minister to consider whether it would not be better to sit on Mondays and Saturdays, instead of to unduly prolong the sittings on other days of the week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following paper: -
Military financial and allowance regulations (compensation in case of permanent injury, or to family where death occurs), paragraphs 131 and 135, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 67.
Consideration resumed from 30th August (vide page 3709), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That, in order to give effect to an agreement entered into between the Governments of the Colony of New Zealand and of the Commonwealth of Australia, with the object of promoting trade and intercourse between their respective countries as a means of closer union, in lieu of the duties of Customs imposed by the Customs Tariff 1902, there shall be imposed from the 30th day of August, 1906, at 4.30 p.m. Victorian time, duties of Customs in accordance with the Schedule attached hereto (vide page 3705)…..
– I propose to detain the Committee very shortly, in order to direct the attention of honorable members to some of the unusual and significant features of this proposed treaty of reciprocity. It is the first which has been submitted to this or any Federal Parliament, and honorable members may therefore fail to appreciate the manner in which, it should be treated. As atreaty it must be accepted or rejected. It is not competent for us, without the consent’ of the other party, to add to or to take from these proposals. A similar obligation rests upon the New Zealand Parliament, before which the subject will come for discussion next week. The motion must, therefore, be submitted as a whole. If honorable members then desire that there shall be reconsideration in regard to particular items, we can add an expression of opinion to that effect as the basis for further consideration.
– Wemusttakethe schedule item by item.
– The alteration of any item would defeat the whole treaty unless it were put forward only to provide an opportunity for negotiation.
– Will the Government go on collecting duties which the Committee say should be reduced?
– A vote of the Committee altering a duty now being collected is another way in which the treaty would be defeated. If honorable members think that there are items in it so injurious to the Commonwealth that it should be set aside, they should defeat the treaty, or they might accept it only on the definite condition that certain alterations will be made. On the other hand, if the Committee accepts the treaty as a whole, but is of opinion that it is highly desirable, that alterations shall be made, if possible, in respect to particular items, they should beadded, in order that the Government may recommence negotiations in respect to them.
– Will not the reduction, and in some cases the abolition, of duties on primary produce be injurious to our primary producers?
– I am not at present dealing with the merits of any one item of the proposal; I am pointing out that, as this is a treaty, we do not possess the same freedom in dealing with it as we enjoy in regard to ordinary Customs proposals. This is the first treaty of the kind in the history of this country.
– Was not a similar treaty entered into by Tasmania?
– That proposition was laid before the Victorian Parliament, but not proceeded with. Naturally this agreement represents concessions by both parties. It is made, not in the interests of the Commonwealth alone, but in the reciprocal interests of the Commonwealth and New Zealand, and, therefore, it was essential that both parties should make some surrenders. The question for honorable members, both here and in New Zealand, is, do the gains on the whole balance the concessions ? The interjection of the honorable member for ‘Gippsland suggests that certain of these duties are viewed with apprehension by some as representing a concession on our part. They cannot be considered by themselves. We must regard the reciprocal nature of our concessions, and ask whether they are not outweighed, or, at all events, counterbalanced, by the advantages which we gain.
– Why were particular duties dealt with? Why was there not a general percentage concession?
– Because neither party was prepared for that.
– I do not see any reciprocal concession for the class which will be affected by the reductions to which I have referred.
– Could a treaty be devised in which, there would be surrenders and concessions by each class in’ regard to the same set of duties?
– It is the weakness of treaties of this kind that those who make the concessions; do not reap the gains.
– One party to a business arrangement generally gains more than the Other, but the trade of the world is carried on by such transactions.
– In this case both parties say that thev are losing.
– Yes. That seems a recommendation to the treaty. In negotiating with the late Prime Minister of New Zealand, we met a man exceptionally gifted, possessed of a complete and minute knowledge of the circumstances of his State, possessed of great force of character and capacity for bargaining. We do not pretend that we have won an advantage over the country which he represented. But the proposals contain a number of mutual concessions which should prove of the greatest value to that Colony and the Commonwealth. -I submit that the proposition is to be accepted or rejected as a whole ; that no one item can be dealt with as if it stood alone. If honorable members, having approved of the agreement, desire that it should be amended in any particular, we must take care that any request for a concession is coupled with an indication of what we are prepared to offer in exchange for it. We regard the treaty as fair to the interests of Australia as a whole. It contains concessions by the Commonwealth which will develop New Zealand’s trade with us, and concessions by New Zealand which will foster our trade with her. In this way we draw closer the ties of commercial union, and” encourage the extension and enlargement of opportunities for the interchange of commodities between us. If this agreement is accepted there will be openings to correct it. if necessary, and to heighten it. Even if honorable members thought the balance against the Commonwealth, they would follow a patriotic course in accepting the treaty. I use the word “ patriotic “ not only as embracing the interests of New Zealand but in the narrower sense which confines it to the interests of Australia. I do not believe that the balance is against us. I regard the arrangement as a fair one for both sides, and should not have set mv signature to it had I not been of that opinion. Having since had time for reflection, and having re-examined all its details with great care, I am well content to recommend it as an agreement which we ought to make, both for purely business reasons, and in the desire that the profits to be reaped from our sales and purchases shall go into the pockets of our own kith and kin. It is in every sense desirable that, so far as mav be consistent with, the development of our country, we shall give preference to those who are our nearest relations. To secure reciprocity certain reductions of imposts have been made in favour of New Zealand, and certain increases against other importers. Because the mother country is affected to some extent in some of these cases, we have submitted our proposals for preferential trade with her, which we hope will be discussed within a day or two. The English preferential trade proposals, however, form an independent part of our programme. While, in entering into ‘ reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand, we have altered some rates of duty in a manner which will affect imports from the mother country, we have offered to the latter advantages which will more than compensate. I have had an examination made by officers of the Customs Department in order to ascertain the probable effect of this agreement upon our revenue. As they point out, the question with which they have had to deal was more complex than usual. Allowance had to be made for certain reductions in the returns, not very considerable in themselves, likely to arise from increased imports to this country from New Zealand. On the other hand they had to take into account the increased revenue which will be derived from importations from other countries of the articles affected by the proposed increases. To the extent to which the trade now carried on with other countries is not transferred to New Zealand, our revenue will be increased. Then they had to pay regard to a third factor, viz., the possible development within our own borders of agricultural or pastoral production, or of an increased output from our manufactories. In this direction, we have to look forward to a decrease of the revenue. Setting one factor against the other in the way I have indicated, the officers have arrived at a tentative and experimental estimate, and conclude that in normal years there will be a considerable increase of revenue as a result of the adoption of this treaty. They consider that, for some time, the course of trade is not likely to undergo any great change. It will alter slowly, and the benefits to be derived will be gradual, and, in the meantime, we shall receive increased revenue.
– That will be a bad thing in itself.
– Not for those who receive the revenue.
– Who will pay the increased duties - the foreigner or the people of the Commonwealth?
– I should have to analyze the items before I could reply to the honorable member’s question. It is possible that we may at first receive increased revenue to the extent of £100,000 per annum. That, of course, is a tentative and experimental estimate, because of the new factors involved. The problem is one which has never previously been presented to the Customs officials, and can only be solved by experience. Looking, however, to the results which have followed elsewhere, the officials are quite clear that there will be an increase of £100,000, or even more, perhaps much more. The rate at which that increase will be diminished will depend upon the development of our trade with New Zealand, and that of our own production. The trade between our two countries has been affected very seriously during the last three years by the exceptional seasons through which we have passed, and we are only now reverting to normal conditions. Honorable members will find in the schedule before them that the figures previously placed at their disposal have been united with others in order to enable them to draw further comparisons in regard to particular items of the treaty as a whole. The details given in the various columns will, I am sure, prove extremely interesting. If honorable members will look at the foot of the series of columns headed “ Imports to Australia from New Zealand,” they will find that in 1905 articles affected bv this agreement to the value of £123,094 were imported from New Zealand. The “ imports of similar articles from the United Kingdom were valued at .£139,379, and from all other countries at £1,142,121. Therefore, our imports affected are those which, for the greater part, come neither from the United Kingdom nor from New Zealand. The total imports were valued at £1,404, 594. Although the figures relating to the imports from Australia into New Zealand are of less importance, they are still worthy of some scrutiny. The total imports into New Zealand of the articles affected by the agreement in 1905 as given in items were valued at £294,149. Of this amount the imports from Australia represented £134,434 J whilst the imports from the United Kingdom were valued at £74,406, and from all other countries at £85,309.
– That shows that they have a far larger margin to work upon than we have.
– Yes, if the two items mentioned at the foot of the page, namely, sugar and wine, are not included. Australian sugar is. to be admitted into New Zealand duty free, whilst a duty of A. per lb. is to be levied on sugars imported from other countries. The sugar imported into New Zealand annually is valued at between £500,000 and ,£600,000, and the duty upon that quantity at d. per lb. would amount to about £200,000. If the value of the sugar imports be added to the value of the articles enumerated in the schedule it will be found that the total imports into New Zealand of articles affected by the agreement reach a value of £900,000 or £1,000,000. Thus, in regard to the articles affected, the imports into New Zealand would not fall far short of the imports into the Commonwealth. Consequently the details, appear to show that an equitable arrangement is proposed. With regard to wine, we have always enjoyed a concession of is. per gallon, in New Zealand. That preference has now been doubled, standing at 2s., and., taking into account’ the great improvement that has been .brought about in the quality of Australian wine during recent years, the concession made under the proposed arrangement ought to prove of great advantage to us. Therefore, regarding these proposals in a general way, it would seem that the gross figures support the contention that a fair arrangement for both sides is being entered into, and that we may reasonably expect to reap a large increase of profitable trade for the Commonwealth as a whole. It only remains for me to remove one possible source of misapprehension. Honorable members will recognise that it is necessary to keep before their minds the agreement as published, as well as the schedule. The schedule, which is all that honorable members are being asked to vote upon, does not include the concessions which are being made by us to New Zealand or any. others which, do not involve changes in our Customs duties. If honorable members will refer to the full list of articles mentioned in the agreement, thev will see that it includes concessions with regard to apples, pears, and grapes. Of course, grapes may come from the States on the mainland, but apples and pears are very important articles of export from Tasmania. Then there is bottled fruit, eucalyptus and kerosene - when we produce it - laths, shingles, logs, palings, posts, rails, and sawn, undressed, as well as unenumerated, timber. These articles do not appear on our schedule, but are the subjects of an agreement with New Zealand under the agreement to preserve existing duties.
– Do we send much timber to New Zealand?
– Yes; we send a good deal of hardwood timber, and it is hoped that the export will increase. Last year we exported to New Zealand £73,000 worth of the class of timbers enumerated in the list.
– How much Oregon would be included in that?
– W do not export oregon as a rule, and I do not quite understand its inclusion in the list. If honorable members will read the two lists together - that contained in the schedule before them and that in the agreement - they will be able to obtain a clear idea of the concessions that are being made upon both sides.
– Would the item “ fresh fish “ include frozen fish ?
– My impression is that it does not.
– Then what is the use of including fresh fish in the schedule ?
– That item was included with others. So far as I am aware, the importation of fish from New Zealand to Australia has not assumed any proportions.
– Have we to accept every item in the schedule ?
– I have already explained that honorable members are being asked to adopt the treaty as a whole. The alteration of any part of it would be fatal to the whole treaty unless the other party would accept the amendment. I hope that honorable members will see their way clear to accept the treaty without any addition or alteration. ‘If any additions or omissions are desired, the proper course to pursue will be to accept the treaty as it stands, and to instruct the Government to make further overtures to the New Zealand Government, with a view to having the agreement modified in the direction desired. It must be understood, however, that if we make omissions or additions, the present concessions granted by New Zealand must be extended or restricted, in order to balance the bargain.
– Suppose that, instead of charging a duty of id. per lb. upon condensed milk, we proposed to admit it free, would not the New Zealand Government agree to that?
– No doubt they might, because such an amendment seems to be to their advantage. If, however, we made such a further concession, we should be entitled to ask that some additional advantage should be granted to us- The treaty is really a bargain, and concessions on one side must be balanced by advantages conceded on the other. As I have already stated, important as this treaty is in itself, its greatest significance lies in the fact that it marks the beginning of the establishment of closer trade relations with New Zealand, and also, probably, with other parts of the Empire. I am greatly disappointed that I was not able to lay upon the table, together with these proposals, schedules of reciprocal concessions in regard to Canada and South Africa. Negotiations with South Africa are still proceeding. If we were fortunate enough to receive a direct reply from them which we could accept, I should not hesitate - even at this stage of the session, despite the warnings that I have received - to lay it before ;t)his House, because I believe that the possibilities of developing trade in that direction are most important to the producers of Australia. I should be only too glad to link any result of the communications which have been passing, between us during the past nine or twelve months with these proposals. It would certainly complete the scheme that wel haw had in view from the first, namely, the fostering of trade arrangements with Canada/* South Africa, and New Zealand, with a preferential concession, by way of beginning, to the mother country.
– I find that New Zealand regards frozen fish as fresh fish, whereas we do not. In that case, to whose interpretation will effect be given?
– So far as imports into the Commonwealth are concerned, we abide by our own classification.
– Why are not frozen fish “fresh “fish?
– Frozen fish have to be subjected to a process-
– But if the weather happens to be cold they are regarded as fresh fish.
– That is perfectly true. But there are some distinctions drawn by the Customs authorities which are not easy to defend until one is familiar with all the details. Without further preliminary, and trusting that these remarks will assist honorable members to understand this treaty, I commend it to their earnest consideration as one of the most practical steps that we are able to take towards making Australian trade interests Australasian.
.- One of the difficulties in connexion with the ratification of treaties is the number of items which is sometimes put before honorable members. They will doubtless recollect that the items included in those treaties which have been accepted by various Parliaments have been exceedingly few. That fact to some extent overcame the difficulty which has been indicated by the Prime Minister of honorable members being called upon to accept the agreement which has been put before us. The moment that we commence to alter the items embodied in the resolutions, we practically reduce the chance of the treaty being accepted. That is the history of the many endeavours which have been made to ratify treaties, and of the few attempts which ha.ve been successful. I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not afford honorable members an earlier opportunity of studying the schedule which was circulated this afternoon, because, upon close examination, it may throw a light upon the prospective operation of these reciprocal duties.
– It only came into my own hands at half-past 2 o’clock to-day.
– Looking, at it hurriedly, one is certainly struck by the necessity which exists for a careful examination of the figures. It may be that this scheme of reciprocity is to a great extent a scheme to impose an increased measure of protection upon certain goods. That would be apparent if a restriction were imposed upon all imports except those from New Zealand ; the British Empire is included in this scheme. The conditions- of production in New Zealand may be such that it may take many years to make up the imports which will be shut out by a prohibitive duty. If the duties proposed are prohibitive - and I believe that in some cases they are - they will mean a great addition to local protection upon some lines, and an immense increase in the cost to the consumer of articles which continue to be imported. Honorable members have merely to look at a few of the items specified in the schedule to recognise the pertinence of my observations. For instance, the -imports of pre- served milk into Australia from all countries other than the United Kingdom are valued at £162,000 annually. Including the imports from the United Kingdom, their value is about £183,000, whereas the imports of preserved milk into New Zealand from all sources are valued at only £11,000. The preserved mil’k exported from New Zealand to all other countries is valued at only £16,000. Consequently, it is easy to see that for many years to come the proposed duty upon preserved milk must be a pretty stiff increase upon the cost of consumption. I do not wish to’ go through the schedule now ; but I have noticed several other items which indicate “that, under the guise of being a reciprocal treaty, the proposed agreement to a large extent extends an additional measure of protection to many articles.
– The late Prime Minister of New Zealand expected, as we expect, to witness a great development in this industry.
– Did the Prime Minister ever know of any individual who favoured the adoption) of a protective policy who did not ha.ve ‘ ‘ great expectations ‘ ‘ ?
– The late Mr.’ Seddon knew the conditions of his own country very intimately.
– With all the advantages enjoyed by New Zealand, and with the great expansion of agriculture which has taken place during the past ten years I cannot understand why her producers - with the moderate duties which were in operation in the various States prior to Federation - did not make better use of the Australian market. I say again, from a hurried glance at the schedule of duties, that it is excedingly likely the consumer will find that the proposed reciprocity upon certain lines is altogther of a one-sided character. The number of items included in the list of goods to which it is proposed to extend preferential treatment is to some extent a weakness of the treaty. If we find that many of those items require amendment it is rather a big contract for honorable members to be called upon to support the whole schedule, unless they are convinced that the millennium will be brought about as the result of the operation of the proposed agreement. Ali the instances in which treaties have been ratified with which I am familiar - and there Have not been many such treaties entered into between nations - have been based either upon a reduction or upon the complete abolition of the duties specified in the schedule. In the old days treaties of the character which is now proposed , were occasionally enforced. But they were found to be bad. They were condemned alike by statesmen and by political economists. The Government, however, seem to be falling back upon the treaties which were adopted in ancient times. Instead of proceeding upon the lines laid down at the middle of the last century, and of gradually reducing duties till an approach was made to a condition of freetrade between the countries which are parties to the agreement, they wish to proceed by way of increasing the existing duties. There are 33 or 34 items contained in this schedule, only 11 or 12 of which are upon the free list. Upon all the other items, the duties ‘have either been retained at the old rates, or they have been increased. In some instances they have been increased by 50 per cent., which addition to the old rates must practically amount to prohibition, or lead to a considerably diminished consumption. Though the proposed agreement is called a reciprocity treaty, it is really very one-sided in character. In addition to that, it constitutes a reversal of the policy which has been adopted in recent years. For instance, in 1786, a treaty was entered into by Pitt, which was extolled because it was the first treaty to which the British Government was a party in which the procedure adopted was a reduction of the duties upon imports. The earlier treaties, beginning with the Methuen treaty in the beginning of the eighteenth century, resembled that which is now under consideration, in that they were based upon an increase of duties upon the goods of those countries which were not parties to them. In nearly all cases these treaties led to pretty strong remonstrances and reprisals, and ultimately to their repeal. In referring to the fact that the earlier treaties were based upon the system to which I have alluded - the system which led to the general denunciation contained in a chapter devoted to commercial systems, which was written by Adam Smith - Mr. John Morley, in The Life of Richard Cobden, says -
The treaty with France was not like the famous Methuen treaty with Portugal (1703), an exclusive bargain, to the specified disadvantage of a nation outside of the compact. In 1703 we bound ourselves to keep our duties on French wines one-third higher than the duty on the wines of Portugal. This was the type of treaty which Adam Smith had in his mind when he wrote his chapter upon the subject.
Several attempts were made in the middle of the last century to secure treaties upon more sensible lines. Peel made four attempts, and failed. But in i860 the suggestion was accepted by Mr. Gladstone that a reciprocal treaty should be entered into with France - a treaty based upon the abolition of the duties upon all manufactured goods which still remained in the British Tariff, and upon a reduction in the imposts upon many British exports to France, with a still further reduction in a year or two. Mr. Gladstone said -
England engages with a limited number of exceptions which we propose to exercise only with regard te one or two articles, to abolish immediately and totally all duties on manufactured goods. There will be a sweep summary, entire, and absolute, of what are known as manufactured goods, from the face of the British. Tariff.
Upon the other hand, several articles of British export to France were to be brought under a gradually descending scale of duties from prohibition - the maximum being fixed at 30 per cent. - until the condition reached approximated to freedom of trade. But even treaties of that character have led to irritation. This brings home to us the futility of attempting to establish, even on a preferential . basis, a commercial treaty with the Empire. When the Colonies found that the duty upon French wines was to be reduced to the level of the duty upon the colonial article, they immediately complained. For several years they continued to make strong remonstrances, as also did Portugal, which had been previously favoured by the Methuen treaty. Although that treaty was based upon the system of duties which would gradually be reduced, it led to friction and irritation.
– What does it matter to the producer if the consumer pays the duty ?
– Australia, on behalf of her wine producers, protested against the reduction.
– It may be, but the fact remains that, as Gladstone points out, the duty was reduced from 16s. to the level of the colonial duty of 8s. 2d. per gallon, and that, as another writer’, Sir John Farrer, says, this reduction led to a remonstrance by, ,and to friction with, the Colonies. That treaty, however, was based on true methods, and had associated with it a promise that a similar system would be applied, as far as possible, to the other nations. Within a few years France extended that system. In i85i she applied it to Belgium; in 1862 to Italy and the Zollverein ; in 1862 to Switzerland and Norway; in 1865 to Spain; and in 1866 to Portugal and Austria. Summing up a chapter on the character ,of all these duties, a French writer says that “ the principle of them always operates in the direction of Tariff reduction, never by any possibility of aggravation.”
– Were they not rebates in respect of an exceedingly high Tariff?
– I have said that they were. I am not sure that a commercial treaty of this kind was ever in force between the Colonies prior to Federation, but South Australia made several unsuccessful attempts to secure one. In 1895, the right honorable member for Adelaide, on behalf of South Australia, entered into a treaty with New Zealand, and a motion for its adoption was submitted to the House of Assembly by Sir Frederick Holder in October of that year. The Government of the State wisely began bv including only a few items in the treaty, assuming that the risk of its rejection would thus be minimized. When items open to objection are included in a treaty with others that ought to be accepted, the risk of the whole being rejected is seriously increased. In the proposed South Australian treaty with New Zealand, provision was made for the free admission of New Zealand barley, oats, hops, and horses, whilst, on the other hand, New Zealand was to admit free of duty South Australian wine, fresh fruits, dried fruits, olive oil, and salt. The treaty was based on the true reciprocal principle of the abolition of duties upon the commodities dealt with. Mr. Kingston was a very strong supporter of the proposal. _ He threw the whole force of his enthusiastic nature into its advocacy, and at one meeting said that, if adopted, it would mean n.n increase of £100.000 per annum in the value of South Australia’s trade with New Zealand. So many difficulties were experienced in securing its acceptance, however, that, owing to the action of New Zealand, it was finally abandoned. Many attempts have been made to bring about treaties between the States. In 1881, for instance, an Intercolonial Conference was held, at which the question of reciprocal trade arrangements between the States was discussed. Mr. Mann, who represented South A.ustralia, tabled a motion that New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia should allow a free exchange of the wines of those Colonies. The representative of New South Wales went one better, and, practically anticipating Inter-State free-trade, proposed that there should be a free exchange of all their products. Unfortunately, the old fallacy that the abolition of duties would be injurious to the Colonies concerned, led to the rejection of both propositions. I think I am justified in saying that the treaty before us is contrary to the true principle upon which all such agreements of recent years have been attempted, or have been successfully carried out. In respect to many of the items included in the schedule, the proposal is that the duty shall be increased 50 per cent. According to the proposals submitted by the Prime Minister, the result of its adoption would be the displacement of £140,000 worth of British goods now annually entering our markets. The imports from the United Kingdom appear in the paper which has been circulated amongst honorable members. If the duties which New Zealand proposes to impose were successful, £74,000 of imports from the United Kingdom into that Colony would have to give way to the products of the Commonwealth, assuming that we could supply them. In these circumstances, therefore, this proposition, instead of being consistent with the preferential trade proposals associated with it in the speech made by the Prime Minister when he first submitted it to the House, is one that directly makes against the principle of a trade preference in favour of Great Britain. In many cases the duties upon, imports from Great Britain have been raised 50 per cent., and it has been conjectured in the press that those increased duties will prohibit the importation of most, if not all, of these lines from the United Kingdom. I fail to see how the Government can reconcile this motion for the adoption of a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand, with the proposition for preferential trade with Great Britain. I propose now to refer briefly to some of the items enumerated in the schedule. I think that under this agreement, the duty on candles imported into New Zealand from countries other than the Commonwealth is to be increased to the extent .of 50 per cent. Under the preferential treaty between New Zealand and Great Britain, a copy of which has been laid on the table of the House, a preference has hitherto been given by that Colony to candles imported from the United Kingdom ; but that preference has been abolished in order that we may be brought into line with New Zealand. Thus in connexion with an Imperial policy we find two propositions, one of which neutralizes the other. The New Zealand duty upon candles from a foreign country was 1½d. per lb., whilst those from the United Kingdom were subject to a duty of only id. per lb. Under the agreement before us. the duty on candles imported by that Colony from Australia will be id. per lb., whilstthose imported from all other countriesincluding the rest of the British Empire - will be dutiable at 2d. per lb.
-*- Will not the preference to candles from the United Kingdom still be allowed?
– I think not. We have only just received a copy of the treaty, and I have not been able to carefully examine it, but I think that my statement is correct. Two-thirds of the imports of candles into New Zealand come from the United Kingdom, India, and Burmah, and it has been stated in the public press that the additional duty will practically prohibit these imports. I do not wish to exhaust the list, but I should like to refer to another item which was brought under my notice in Adelaide. It is proposed that the duty on timber shall be raised in some cases from 6d. to is. 66. per 100 superficial feet, the object being to encourage the consumption of New Zealand kauri and white pine in Australia. Kauri in South Australia, at all events, is used chiefly by cabinetmakers and coachbuilders.
– It is not suitable for mining purposes.
– I am informed that it is not - that several trials have been made of New Zealand, and. I think, of Tasmanian and other timbers, but that the miners havebeen obliged to return to the use of Oregon, which they find is stronger and lighter than many other woods.
– Kauri is too expensive.
– I have been told that the miners do mot use it.
– Thev do not.
– Oregon is’ chiefly used by them, and the preference to the New Zealand kauri and white pine will not exclude the importation, of Oregon into Australia. The 0,11 V result will be to increase the cost to those who use that timber. The preference will not materially increase the consumption of New Zealand timbers in Australia. Their use will depend to a large extent upon the progressive development of the cabinetmaking coachbuilding, and other trades which, use them. I hare been provided with an estimate of the probable effect of the increased duty upon baltic boards, which has been raised from 3s. to 4s. per hundred feet. I believe that these boards are used chiefly for flooring and lining the cottages of farmers, and the working classes generally, and therefore the proposal to increase the duty should not appeal to the representatives of labour. Judging by the imports of baltic boards into Victoria, the effect of this proposal will be to largely increase the cost of flooring and lining houses. It is roughly estimated that the imports of timber into Victoria last year were valued f.o.b. at £300,000, and that dutv amounting to £65,000 was paid upon them. Ac. cording to the estimate with which I have been supplied, the additional impost would increase the duty paid on a like importation from .£65,000 to £100,000. I obtained these figures from a timber merchant in Adelaide, and I think that they will’ be found to be approximately correct. I have already mentioned that an examination of the items shows that whilst we may exclude products from other parts of the world we mav experience a difficulty in obtaining from New Zealand a sufficient supply to satisfy our wants. That too may be the experience of New Zealand in regard to importations from the Commonwealth. For instance, in 1905, hops of the value of ,£18,518 were imported into the Commonwealth from New Zealand, whilst £44,000 worth were imported from other countries, and it is exceedingly unlikely thi* New Zealand will be able for a considerable time to meet the demand created bv the displacement of imports from other parts of the Empire. I recognise, of course, that it is impossible, in introducing a treaty of this kind to make various allowances for its possible effect on trade. Strong complaints have been made that the existing contracts for hops to be supplied from Great Britain and America are affected bv this treaty, and that as they cannot be cancelled -a. very grave injustice will be done to some brewers. I fail to see. however, how we could remedy the anomaly. Such occurrences are incidental to all Tariff changes. I have mentioned the figures relating to the importations of milk as indicating that it ls impossible for New Zealand to meet our requirements, and I think honorable members will recognise that the treaty needs to be carefully examined. We should pause before deciding to accept it. because it is based on a wrong principle - the principle of increasing duties against the mother country and foreign lands, instead of a proposal being made to proceed by gradual reductions to an approximation to that InterState free-trade, the anticipation of which was, I believe, chiefly responsible for the rejection of the Kingston treaty of 1895. Two or three months ago a letter from Mr. Seddon was published in the Register, in which it was explained that the reason why the right honorable member for Adelaide did mot persevere with that treaty was that he expected that the Premiers’ Conference then sitting in Tasmania would successfully initiate Federation ; that ultimately New Zealand would join the Union, and that reciprocal trade on a free-trade basis would be established between the Commonwealth and that Colony. That was the view then held - that we should have reciprocal trade on a free-trade basis - and it is one by which we ought to test these proposals. I think that the application of that test will show that the treaty is one that should not be accepted without the verv closest scrutiny.
.- I do not propose to make any lengthy observations on these proposals, although they are of such a complicated nature that under other circumstances their submission would probably lead to a long debate. At this period of the session, however, it is desirable to compress one’s remarks as much as possible. I desire at the outset to say that I shall deal with the subject in as friendly and as kindly a spirit as I can. I applaud the underlying object of the agreement, which is the mutual benefit and’ advantage of the Commonwealth and New Zealand, and the promotion of friendly relations between the two countries. That being recognised, the arrangement is entitled to our most favorable regard. But as it was come to somewhat hurriedly, without prolonged consideration bv the negotiating parties, it is not surprising to find that a number of slips have been made. These are now being revealed both in NewZealand and’ here. They were inevitable under the circumstances, because a treatyinvolving business considerations and conflicting interests cannot be settled so rapidly as this was, without the making of mistakes. Still, there are a large number of advantages to be taken into account. If the present effort to arrive at a satisfactory reciprocal arrangement does not prove successful, it may lead to further negotiation and exchange of views which will ultimately produce a very desirable treaty. We should heartily recognise, arid not attempt to underestimate, the advantages which the Commonwealth is to gain. It would be undoubtedly a most substantial benefit to Australia for her sugar to be admitted into New Zealand duty free, and we should do our best to assist to bring that about. We should also receive a substantial benefit if olive oil, dried fruits, raisins, currants, and such fresh fruits as apples, pears, and grapes are admitted duty free. While I deem it my duty to draw attention to certain defects in the treaty, I hope that the Ministry will not be thereby discouraged, and that they will make another effort to arrive at a better agreement in regard to those matters concerning which mistakes have been made. I shall mention a few proposals with which I concur, and others which I cannot accept. In my opinion, the proposition cannot be taken as a whole, and its various items must be dealt with *seriatim. With regard to the items which I think can be accepted, the proposal to place aerated and mineral waters on the New Zealand free-list comes first. When the Tariff Commission visited Queensland, the request was made by those interested in valuable mineral springs there that the duty against the outside world should be increased. This treaty proposes that the duty shall remain as it is, but that aerated and mineral waters shall be admitted into New Zealand duty free. I have not heard of New Zealand mineral waters, but I apprehend that it will be of great advantage to the Queensland industry to have the concession which I have just mentioned. Whether there should be a higher rate against the outside world is a question upon which I am not prepared to pronounce, pending the recommendation of the Tariff Commission on the subject. I take no exception to the proposals in regard to bacon and ham, butter, cheese, eggs, fish, dried fruits, hops, linseed, linseed meal, linseed cake, malt, preserved milk, olive oil, onions, and potatoes. Candles and timber are what I may call very strong fighting lines. It is proposed that the duty on candles, so far as “New Zealand is concerned, shall remain at id. per lb., to be increased to 2d. per lb. against the outside world. The Tariff Commission investigated the candle-making industry throughout the States, and found that there is a strong conflict of opinion as to whether the duty on candles should be increased. The problem is a complex one, since it involves also stearine and paraffine wax. It has been exhaustively inquired into by the Committee, and a report in regard to it will hereafter be submitted. Consequently, I think it premature to deal with candles in this agreement, either by reducing or increasing the duty. Reductions are proposed in regard to the rates of duty on barley, beans, peas, maize, oats, bran, pollard, sharps, flour, and wheat. They are not very great, but they affect the only items in the Tariff benefiting the Australian farmers. It is true that the New Zealand farmers would get very little advantage by them. Indeed, it is only in times of drought, at intervals of five or ten years, that they would benefit at all. It is only then that the duties operate in favour of our own farmers.
– During the last drought the duties crushed the Australian farmers, benefiting only the middlemen.
– The farmers ask for a share of protection. It is true that the advantage which they derive from these duties is obtained only at long intervals, and that is gained only by those who are favorably situated at the time ; but if the duties were removed, the farmers would say that thev get no advantage from the Tariff, and might be inclined to vote for free-trade.
– The advantages which they get under these duties are obtained at the expense of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I am not prepared to take from the Australian farmers the small amount of protection which they now enjoy.
– The proposed reduction amounts to only 3d. in is. 6d.
– I object to the principle of it. With regard to the timber proposal, I may say that, until the Tariff Commission made its inquiries. I had never dreamt of the complicated ‘problems involved by duties on timber. The Tariff Commission took evidence on the subject in all the States, and when honorable members read it they will know how various are the phases of the question. I wish them well of the task. But we had to master the subject as well as we could, and I think that I know a little about it now. The present duty on sawn timber, undressed Oregon, 12 inches by 6 inches and over, is 6d. per 100 superficial feet, while the proposed duty against the outside world is is. 6d. I cannot understand - nor can any one connected with, the timber trade in this country conceive - why such a proposal should be made. How an increase of the duty upon Oregon baulks 12 in. x 6 in. and over, from 6d. to rs. 6d. could benefit New Zealand passes my comprehension?
– The representative of New Zealand thought that that was one of the most important items in the Tariff, so fa.r as the interests of New Zealand were concerned.
– He may have had imperfect information.
– He had his officers with him.
– Probably he thought that if the price of Oregon were increased, the consumption of New Zealand timbers would be increased.
– Then he must have acted under an entire misapprehension as to the uses to which Oregon timber is put. Kauri is used for coachbuilding, cabinet-making, and flooring purposes, whilst white pine is employed in making butter boxes. But neither of these timbers are used in the construction of great buildings or for mining purposes. Oregon baulks are used in the form of huge cross beams in buildings, and are also employed for timbering mines, and particularly at Broken Hill. Oregon does not compete with kauri and white pirie, and therefore I do not see why the duty should have been interfered with. Similar remarks would apply to other undressed timber in sizes 32 in. x”6 in., and over, the duty upon which is being raised from is. to 2s. The Other undressed timber includes what is known as baltic deals, red pine, Alaska pine, clear pine, and yellow pine. All these timbers are among the raw materials used in the building and other trades, and do not come into competition with New Zealand kauri and white pine. They are cheaper, and are used for more common purposes. Kauri and white pine are too valuable to lae used in the way that Oregonand other timbers are employed. I cannot think what the late Mr. Seddon was thinking of when he asked for a preference iti respect to these raw materials.
– He probably thought that he would be able to drive Oregon out of the market
– Kauri could not be used for the purposes for which Oregon is employed, because the price would be prohibitive. The late Mr. Seddon no doubt had a very great knowledge of some matters, but he evidently made a slip, or was incorrectly advised in this case.
– He had with him a great mass of materials which he frequently consulted, and he strongly urged that in New Zealand they had’ timbers which would take the place of those mentioned.
– No advantage that could be gained would justify us in imposing such a heavy duty upon the timbers I have mentioned. The proposed increase would involve a heavy tax upon the raw materials used in a number of trades and industries. The proposal to place an increased duty upon Oregon, in sizes 12 in. x 6 in., and over, and other similar timbers is in strange conflict with the suggestion submitted to the Tariff Commission by the Federated Saw Mill, Timber Yard, and Wood Workers’ Employes’ Association. The federal council of this body has its head office at the Trades’ Hall, Carlton, but the recommendations put for ward on its behalf are signed by Mr. A. E. Johns, New South Wales, president, and Mr. James Sutch, Victoria, secretary, and I understand that the organization is thoroughly representative of the trade throughout the Commonwealth. They recommend that Oregon 12 in. x 6 in. and over shall be absolutely free - not that the duty be increased to is. 6d. per 100 super feet. Thev also suggest that baltic deals 7 in. x 2. in. and over shall be free, because such timber is of importance as raw material in connexion with carpentering work. They also propose that red pine in sizes over 7 in. x 3 in. shall be admitted free ; and that American clear and yellow pine over 7 in. x 3 in. shall be admitted free. ATo doubt thev understand their business, although I do not say that I agree with all their proposals in detail, because in view of the fact that the Tariff Commission intend to report upon these items, it would not be prudent for me to commit myself.
– The suggestions made by the trade organization referred to were made in the interests of those who work in timber, and not in the interests of the colonial timber industry.
– My attention has Also been directed to the fact that the proposed concessions to New Zealand are -calculated to bring New Zealand timber into more serious competition with our Australian- timbers, especially with Queensland hoop pine. We have had evidence ^submitted to us that Queensland hoop pine is as suitable as is New Zealand kauri and white pine for certain purposes. White pine is used for making butter boxes, but Queensland hoop pine is held by some people to be equally suitable for that purpose. . Yet under these proposals, no consideration whatever is given to the QueensHand product.
– Queensland will obtain -the advantage, if advantage it be, of the increased rate operating against other competitors.
– But the other competitors send) to us Oregon and similar timbers which do not enter into competition with the Queensland timbers.
– New Zealand imposes a duty of 2s. and 4s. upon the same timbers.
– That is no reason why we should tax our raw materials. At the present stage it is most undesirable to tinker with items which will be reported upon at a later stage by the Tariff Commission. What is the use of having a Commission to report upon the Tariff if such fighting items as candles and timber are to be withdrawn from their consideration ?
– Why do not the Tariff Commission show more expedition ?
– Reports are being presented every week. The report upon candles is now actually before the Cornmission, and others are far advanced. We should not be expected to do impossibilities. We have our parliamentary duties to perform, and our private affairs to attend to, and we are giving up a large amount of time to the business of the Commission. It is most unjust that these fighting items to which I have referred should be dealt with in the manner proposed. I am in perfect agreement with perhaps more than half of the proposals contained in the schedule, but in regard to the rest, I urge that we should pause until we have had time for further consideration. This course could be pursued without in any way throwing cold water upon the movement, or showing any want of sympathy with New Zealand. I thoroughly sympathize with the proposal that we should enter into a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand, but I contend that an agreement of this kind cannot be hurriedly patched up. It must be done well, and after due consideration of our local interests. We should not rush through matters at this stage of the session, when we have neither sufficient time nor information at our disposal, merely in order to enable the Government to claim credit for itself. All that we can do under the circumstances is to indulge in a desultory discussion, and elicit an expression of opinion from members. It is to ,be rergretted that this proposal has been, introduced at the end of the session, when there is no time, and apparently no inclination on the part of members to deal with it.
– It is unfortunate that, whenever I find myself in general agreement with the Government, I always have to urge strong objections to some of the details of their proposals. I have been an earnest advocate of preferential trade for many years. I believe thoroughly in establishing reciprocal relations between the Commonwealth and other British dependencies occupying a similar position. Three years ago, I urged the Prime Minister to occupy the recess in considering whether- we could not enter into reciprocal trade arrangements with not only New Zealand, but with Canada and South Africa, without waiting until he could deal with the larger question- of preferential trade with Great Britain. Canada and South Africa were at that time extending their hands towards us, and I believe are still doing so. Prior to Federation, the State which I represent enjoyed .the privilege of reciprocal relations with Canada to some small extent, owing to the free-trade Tariff which was then in operation in New South Wales. Under that treaty we were able to do business with the Dominion in some few commodities, the operations in respect of which might have considerably increased if the arrangement had been continued. From whatever standpoint we may look at the fiscal question, there is much to be said in favour of entering into reciprocal relations with ourown kith and kin in different parts of the world. This applies more particularly to our next door neighbour, New Zealand, whose absence from the Federation has always been regretted. I think that the relations between ourselves and that Colony ought to be placed on a footing very different from those which existed in the case of the countries referred to by the honorable and learned member for Angas, which, for the best part of their career, were sworn foes. In New Zealand, we have a people of our own race, who are engaged, as we are, in the development of a new country, and who at certain periods can send to us commodities with which we at other times can supply them, to our mutual advantage. A few years ago, when we were passing through a severe drought, we could have taken from New Zealand verymuch larger quantities of her agricultural produce if our people had not been called upon to pay very heavy duties. Any concession that we might then ha,ve made to New Zealand would not only have tended to greater amity and good-will, but would have been of assistance to our farmers. We can compliment the Government upon having brought forward their present proposals. But whether or not anything will come of them, it is difficult to say. At least, the subject will be ventilated,’ and the anomalies and defects of the proposals will be pointed out, with the result that the ground ViI i probably be cleare’d for a more workable arrangement. I think that the proposals will come to nothing just now, not only or. account of the opposition that will be directed to them here, but because of the opposition with which they will be met in the New Zealand Parliament. Irrespective of the defects pointed but by . the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and the honorable and learned member for Angas, there is the still greater objection that the proposed scheme would entirely upset the proposals of the Government with regard to the preference to be extended to Great Britain. One cannot understand why we should give preference to New Zealand under conditions which would lead to an increase of duties in respect to imports received from the mother country. Take the item of cheese as an illustration. The duty upon that article against the outside world has been increased enormously, simply for the purpose of facilitating a preferential arrangement with New Zealand. The effect of the agreement will be that we shall have to pay a heavy duty upon the very considerable quantity of British cheese which is imported. Another troublesome feature of this agreement is that which has been pointed out by the Prime Minister himself. We must either accept it in globo or reject it. In that respect we occupy very much the same Posi- tion that we did when we were called upon to deal with the question of the Naval Agreement. At the same time, I am not quite certain whether the view which isentertained by the Prime Minister is altogether a sound one, because, upon turning, to the agreement itself, I find that paragraph 5 reads -
The proportion between the special rates of the schedule and the ordinary Tariff is to bemaintained should either party alter its ordinary Tariff.
That provision certainly permits us - after the agreement has been ratified - to alter our ordinary Tariff so long as we maintain the relative differences between it an(t the special rates of the schedule. That being the case, surely we are at liberty toalter the schedule itself - before we ratify it - within the same limits. If, under theproposed agreement, we impose a duty of id. per lb. upon New Zealand candles, and”levy a duty of 2d. per lb. upon candles imported from other countries, and if, subsequent to its ratification, we are at liberty to alter the rates to Jd. per lb. and id. per lb. respectively, surely no objection can be urged to similar action being taken beforewe approve it? If it be possible to complete the consideration. of this question, during the current session, I think that it would be worth our while to accompany our acceptance of the treaty with some suchamendment, because I believe that weshould experience very little difficulty in securing the assent of New Zealand to it. Then I should like the Prime Minister toenlighten me upon the meaning of paragraph 3, which states -
No reductions or increases or impositions of duties on articles named in the schedule are to be conceded by either Government to any other country until the consent of the other Government has been obtained.
I cannot understand what is the meaning of the statement that no “increase” shall’ b<i conceded by either Government to any other country. We do not usually “ concede “ an increase of duty.
– We do in this case. What the paragraph intends to convey is that no treaty of a preferential character affecting the items enumerated in this schedule shall be entered into with other countries by either party to this agreement without the assent of the other party.
– It means, then, that a concession might be given to! France by an increase of duty as against Germany ?
– Yes; if they were competitors.
– To come to the details of the arrangement, I regret that the number of items specified in the schedule was not added to by the inclusion of canned fish, canned fruits, and agricultural machinery. Last week we heard a great deal about what we were doing in the manufacture of agricultural implements. We were told that the industry was able to hold its own, if it received only fair treatment, and yet it is not proposed to extend preferential treatment to agricultural implements under this agreement.
– The late Premier of New Zealand declined to include agricultural implements.
– Not only does Australia manufacture agricultural implements of a very high order, but New Zealand manufactures other implements of the same character, and it seems to me that it would be advantageous if a reciprocal arrangement were arrived at in respect of them. Then it is surely desirable to include in the agreement such raw materials’ as tin, copper, and lead ! I strongly sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for Parramatta that a preference shall be extended to Australian oranges. Although oranges are upon the New Zealand free-list, he was quite right in his contention, because that country may subsequently desire to levy a duty upon them.
– We endeavoured to secure the inclusion of fruits, jams, and jellies for quite a long time, but we failed to do so.
– Take the item of “ canned fish.” In Australia we can one kind of fish and in New Zealand they can another kind. There are considerable quantities of white bait imported from New Zealand.
– Does not all this indicate the need for further consideration of the matter?
– I admit that. I would further point out that the canned fruit industry is a larger one than that of dried fruits. Yet a very substantial preference is to be extended to raisins and currants.
– They do not produce raisins and currants in New Zealand.
– I take exception to the items embodied in the schedule upon the same ground as that which has been urged by the honorable and learned member for Angas, namely, that in respect of the more important, the proposed preference takes the form of increased protection against the outside world. Take butter, bacon, cheese, hams, dried fruits, hops, malt, and preserved milk, as an illustration. Upon some of these articles there has been an increase of duty of 50 per cent. and upon others of 100 per cent. It is very apparent that the proposals of the’ Government mean bestowing a very much larger measure of protection upon many items which this House, after an exhaustive debate, decided would be adequately protected by duties of 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. less than those which are now proposed. I hold that under The clause to which I have already referred, we might adjust this anomaly by reducing these duties, and at the same time preserving the relative difference between the special rates in the case of New Zealand, and the ordinary rates. I have already referred to the proposed duty of 2d. per lb. upon candles, the produce of countries other than New Zealand.
– Surely that is not too much ?
– At any rate, this House spent a whole night in discussing the duty which should be levied upon candles. This afternoon we have heard other objections against the proposal from the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who is the Chairman of the Tariff Commission. He pointed out that the question at issue is a complicated one, by reason of the bearing which the duty will have upon other productions, such as stearine. Similarly, the timber which one portion of the Commonwealth desires shall be protected, another portion wishes to see admitted free. Some timbers we have been told are the raw material of certain industries - particularly of the mining industry.. If we take the item of sugar, I presume that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo would regard that as a manufactured article. I regard it as a raw material. Upon looking at all these items, I see too much evidence of a desire to increase the duties upon goods from the outside world, in order to afford increased protection to industries which were already supposed to be adequately protected. I do not object to the duties upon grain and agricultural produce, because I think that the preference outlined is a fair one. But I do object to increasing the duty upon hops other than the produce of New Zealand from 6d. to1s. per lb. When the Tariff was under consideration, the proposed duty on hops was discussed at considerable length, but as I was rather interested in the question I did not vote upon it. It was then decided that a duty of 6d. per lb. would be a reasonable protection to grant the industry. It is now proposed to double that duty. Is it absolutely necessary to make such an increase in order to secure preferential trade with New Zealand? Surely New Zealand did not ask for such a thing?
– Was there a demand that the duty should be increased from 6d. to1s. per lb. ? I think that the representatives of New Zealand might have occupied their time more profitably in seeking preferences in respect of other items more likely to result to her advantage. It is also proposed to increase the duty on malt to a greater extent than is necessary. During the Tariff debate the question of what duty should be imposed on preserved milk was debated at great length, many honorable members contending that that commodity was almost as essential to miners and others living on the outskirts of civilization as was bread or meat to the people in the city. It was ultimately decided that a duty of1d. per lb. should be imposed. Under this treaty the duty is increased to 2d. per lb. Side by side with this proposal, the Government have brought forward a Bill providing for a handsomebounty on the production of condensed milk. As a matter of fact, preserved milk is already being produced here, and has been exported to New Zealand. The bounty and this increased duty should be sufficient to flood Australia with milk-canners, who will remain in the industry only as long as these inducements are held out.
– Has the honorable member noticed the value of our imports?
– I have; but if the honorable gentleman knew as much as I do of the intentions of some manufacturers who contemplate entering the industry, owing to the special inducements now offering, he would know that those imports are likely to be reduced. A very grave anomaly is likely to arise in connexion with the proposal that in some cases an ad valorem duty shall be imposed by New Zealand on goods coming from Australia, whilst similar goods from other countries shall be subject to a fixed duty. In support of this contention I would point to the duty on potatoes. Under this agreement New Zealand will levy a duty of 20per cent. on Australian potatoes, and one of1s. 6d. per cwt. on those from other countries. I will ask honorable members to think of the variation that takes place from time to time on the price of potatoes. On the mainland they range from £2 to , £12 10s. per ton, so that this proposal will work disadvantageously to exports from the Commonwealth to New Zealand. If, for example, Australian potatoes were valued at£10 per ton, a duty of 20 per cent. would amount to 2s. per cwt., whilst the duty on imports from other countries would be only1s. 6d. per cwt. Similarly, the duties on bran and some other items are likely to vary considerably with the rise and fall in the value of those commodities. I think that the Government have acted wisely in approaching the consideration of this big question, and that if they succeed in carrying out the scheme they will do a great deal’ for some of the industries of Australia. An advantage will certainly be reaped by our sugar and wine growing industries, for the concessions which New Zealand proposes to grant them are very substantial. I would point out, however, that the concessions in respect of Australian-grown sugar are likely to largely affect the price in the Australian market. When we imposed a heavy protective duty on sugar - and I did not object to its imposition, because I regarded it as likely to assist in the carrying out of a great social reform - it was considered that the abnormally high prices prevailing in the local market would be checked by the increase of local production. We naturally thought that, when the production became more than equal to the local demand, prices would come down. If the effect of. this treaty, however, will be to find a convenient market for our exportable surplus, we shall not secure such a reduction in prices as was anticipated. One cannot object to the treaty on that score, but if it be possible for Australia to export sugar to New Zealand, where it will have a protection of only per ton against imports from the rest of the world, the question naturally arises whether it is necessary for a duty of£6 per ton to be imposed by the Commonwealth. I think that the Government acted wisely in securing these concessions in respect of wine and sugar, both of which are largely produced in Australia. If we can open up a big market for those products in New Zealand, the result will be highly advantageous to the Commonwealth. I should like to see a reciprocal’ arrangement entered into with the mother country and other parts of the British Empire. Whilst I have never wavered in mv adherence to the principle of free-trade, I have always welcomed any such arrangement as that which the Government propose, believing that when we seek to widen the limits within which we can trade, we are endeavouring in the truest sense to give effect to that principle. Why should the different parts of the Empire not enter into reciprocal trade relations? I am sorry that the proposal does not go further. I also regret that in some cases the duties in the schedule are so high as to give rise to the suspicion that an attempt has been made to increase the protection we have already granted to many industries ; but whatever the outcome of this proposition mav be, I hope that it will gave the way to a better commercial understanding between the Commonwealth and the rest of our great Empire.
.- Whilst I approve of trade reciprocity between the Commonwealth and New Zealand, ‘ I am opposed to the proposals submitted by the Ministry. I should have been pleased to see a proposition brought forward for absolute, free-trade between Australia and New Zealand. I fail to see why the principle of Inter-State free-trade should not be extended to that State.
– The honorable member would treat New Zealand fiscally as though it had- entered the Union?
– I should. But even from the stand-point df a protectionist, I do not think that any objection could be raised to the free admission of imports from New Zealand, since the standard of living there is as high as that prevailing here. Wages Boards and other legal means of maintaining fair rates of pav and reasonable hours of labour prevail there, so that no complaint could be made on that, score. According to the Prime Minister’s own statement, if we adopt this proposal we shall increase the taxation of the people through the Customs by £100,000 per annum. That fact alone is sufficient, in my opinion, to condemn this treaty.
– After all, that increased taxation would only make up what we have lost in respect of the duties on spirits.
– We are now coming to the point.
– Then that was the game?
– It was not, in any sense, and could not be, because this treaty was arranged long before the alteration in the spirit duties.
– The proposal submitted to us this afternoon practically means increasing the taxation of the people through the Customs by £100,000 per annum.
– That will be the result at the outset, but after that it will decline.
– It is remarkable that such a proposition should not have provoked keener opposition than has been offered to it. We are told that Pitt said that the people of England could be taxed by means of Customs duties till their very coats were taxed off their backs, but that if an attempt were made to raise 7J per cent, by direct taxation a civil war would take place. Notwithstanding the advances we have made, so far as education is concerned, it seems to me that in this regard we are in much the same position as were the people of England practically 100 years ago. A Minister may ask, practically without opposition, for. the imposition of heavy Customs duties, but if he were to propose a little direct taxation, a condition of affairs bordering on a civil war would arise. This is not even a protectionist proposal. Although I am not a protectionist, I should not object to the substitution of certain protective duties for revenue duties if it could be shown that the former would increase the avenues of employment open to the workers of Australia.
– The honorable member means to say that if it were necessary that we should have either protective duties or revenue duties, he would prefer the imposition of protective duties on goods that we can produce.
– That is so. I am not a revenue tariffist, and I hold that if an form of taxation be bad, it is that which is merely revenue producing. The foreigner certainly does not pay revenue duties. There may be something in the contention that the foreigner pays the duty when there is a protected industry producing articles which come into competition with his importations, though I do not agree that that is so; but even the protectionists must admit that the citizens cf Australia pay it when- there is no local industry, and the tax is wholly a revenue one. Australia raises more per head of population by means of Customs and Excise duty than does any other civilized country. In the United States of America, £i ios. per head of population is raised in this way ; in Canada, about £2 ; in the German Empire, about 16s. ; in France, including the profits from the manufacture of tobacco, about 40 francs, or 33s. ; and in Australia, £2 5s. ; while, if we raise another £1,500,000 to provide for old-age pensions, which has been proposed, our., taxation under this head will be increased to £2 12s. 6d.
– We spend more per head than does any other country.
– I should think that the people of Canada live as well as we do. The honorable member, no doubt, would prefer to raise no revenue through the Customs; he would like to see prohibition.
– I should like everything to be made in Government workshops.
– I agree with the honorable member there. One objection that I have to the proposal- under discussion is that it increases the dutv on Oregon timber.
– Would it not be better to use hardwood in the mines?
– No. It has been proved over and over again that oregon is the best timber for the Broken Hill mines. If we could get good timber from New Zealand, I should prefer to see it used in place of the Puget Sound timber, but that is impossible. When the Tariff was under discussion, the honorable member for Moreton stated that there was a big supply^ of suitable timber in Queensland, although the forests are somewhat inaccessible; but no timber has since been sent from that State to Broken Hill.
– Because the people there will not buy it. They prefer to use imported timber.
– Because imported timber suits their purpose better. I should not like to dictate to the managers of the Broken Hill mines as to the timber which they should use, and it would be unwise for Parliament . to do so. If honorable members think it right to tax the mines, by all means let them do so. But it would be absurd to say to the highly skilled and trained men, who have the safety and lives of thousands of miners in their charge, that they shall not use a certain sort of timber.
– Queensland timber is used in the Mount Morgan mine.
– Although that is a large mine, it is small in comparison with the Broken Hill mines. Besides, it would be much more expensive to bring Queensland timber to Broken Hill than it is to bring it to Mount Morgan. Both minemanagers and men at Broken Hill are of opinion that it would be dangerous to use hard timber in the mines there. If the duty on oregon is increased as proposed, it will mean a taxation of £10,000 per annum on the Broken Hill mines, and no advantage will be given to the people of Australia, because it would take very many years to grow oregon here, even if we have the requisite soil and climate, while no other timber is suitable. With regard to the proposed increase in the duty on candles, I would point out that the present duty of id. more than covers the .whole cost of the labour employed in the manufacture of the candles made locally. When the Tariff was being considered, the hon- orable and learned member for Bendigo, who was asking for a still higher duty, wished to know why I, a Labour representative, was opposed to the proposal, seeing that the difference between the wages paid abroad and those paid here was very great ; iod. a day being paid in Italy, and 5s. a day being paid here. I replied that I would vote for a duty which would cover, not the difference between the two rates, but the whole cost of labour in Australia. The honorable gentleman then consulted some persons interested in the industry, and returning, said that the labour employed in manufacturing candles costs about fd. a lb. I thought that that was a high estimate, but I agreed to vote for that duty. He said that he would have to vote for a higher duty, because he was supporting the Government. I think that if the people of Australia cannot make candles in competition with manufacturers abroad under a duty which protects them to the extent of id. per lb. in addition1 to the whole cost of labour, they should give some reason. It may be said that candles are being dumped here, but we have passed the Australian Industries Preservation Bill to pre- vent that from taking place. The price of tallow must be lower here than in England, because we export tallow there, and those who buy it have to pay the cost of freight.
– The foreign candles are not to any extent made from tallow.
– I understand that the cheaper candles are made not from tallow, but from Rangoon wax. If that be so, what advantage would New Zealand derive from the proposed increase of duty? We should still have to import Rangoon wax candles, and we should make our people pay double the present duty without conferring any advantage upon New Zealand. If the Prime Minister thinks that a duty of id. per lb. on candles is not sufficient to protect the local manufacturers, he should come down with a straightforward proposal to increase it. He should not, under a pretence of patriotic regard for New Zealand, endeavour to sneak in further protection for our manufacturers. I understand that Sir Wilfrid Laurier entered into preferential trade relations with England, because he was a free-trader, and saw no other chance of reducing the duties as against the mother country. He appealed to the patriotism of the people, and succeeded in securing their approval to his proposals. There may be some reason for appealing to the patriotism of the people with the object of securing a reduction of taxation, but I object to duties being increased in the manner proposed. I should like to see the proposals rejected or referred hack for reconsideration. I think that there is some force in the argument of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that, before dealing with, at least, some of the items, we should await the reports of the Tariff Commission. That Commission has done an immense amount of hard work - more than that performed by any other Commission appointed by this Parliament. The Commissioners have faithfully discharged the duties imposed upon them, and it cannot be very long before the whole of their reports are in the hands of the Government. We should be in an infinitely better position to deal with, the question now before us if we had the conclusions of the Commission to guide us. I am prepared to vote against the Government proposals, although I do not feel very strongly with regard to any item except that relating to Oregon timber.
– Would the honorable member be satisfied if Oregon timber could be introduced in logs free of duty?
– I do not see that there would be any advantage in that, because the freight upon the timber cut into the sizes required is very much lower than that upon the logs, and it would be to the interests of the importers to pay the duty of 6d. per 100 superficial feet upon the cut timber, rather than to pay an increased freight upon the logs.
– But if the logs were introduced, work would be afforded in connexion with cutting them up.
– That would not afford any very great amount of employment, because four men operating one machine can cut up a large number of logs in the course of a day. I would point out that one strong objection to the adoption of preferential tariffs with this that and the other country is’ that the position at the Customs House will be complicated, and the door will be opened for the perpetration of more frauds. I do not believe that our importers are any less honest than those to be found elsewhere, but there are always a certain number of persons who are ready to take advantage of any opportunities for evading Customs duties, and the more openings we afford for dishonest practices, the worse it will be for the honest importer. If we enter into reciprocal treaties with . New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and England, the work of the Customs officials will be very much complicated, and it may be necessary to increase the staff of magistrates and judges. I do not think that this conclusion should induce us to decline to consider any such proposals, but certainly we should not lose sight of the risk which we shall run.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Barrier upon Hie good protectionist speech that he has just delivered, and upon the very clear grasp he has shown of the principles upon which protectionists base their convictions. Prior to Federation we had in Victoria a fairly scientific Tariff. Under the system of protection then adopted the object was to provide for as. few revenue imposts as possible, and to impose duties only upon those articles which we could produce ourselves. The consequence was that duties were levied upon only one-third of the articles imported, the other twothird’s being admitted free. I am at a loss to understand why this important proposal should have been introduced at this stage. For the last three/ years we have been talking about preferential trade, and surely Ministers have had ample time to take some action before now.
– The honorable member must know that Mr. Seddon’s decease led to the delay in bringing the matter forward.
– I am not speaking of a few weeks or months. I quite understand that . some delay occurred owing to the death of Mr. Seddon. I object, however, to the proposals being brought forward at the present time. They will keep very well, and I think we should wait until closer inquiry has been made and more enlightenment has been afforded. We have waited for three years, and we might have allowed the matter to stand over for a little longer, especially when we haw much more important business to attend to. Under the circumstances, I am afraid that this discussion will prove ito be of a purely academic character. Objections are being urged, from one side and another! to nearly the whole of the items in the schedule, and there is no possibility of passing the proposals this session. A good deal of sympathy has been expressed for the farmers, but, unfortunately, no relief is afforded to them. The duties upon their implements have been increased with a view to cheapening them - -a result which may or may not be brought about.
– Does not the honorable member, as a protectionist^ believe that the imposition of effective protective duties will cheapen goods?
– Yes; but farming, implements were cheap enough under the operation of a 1 5 per cent, duty, and it remains to be seen whether the imposition of a 25 per cent, duty will result in a reduction of prices. As I have stated, higher duties have been imposed upon the farmer’s im’plements, and now a proposal is being made which will, probably result in’ restricting his markets and lowering the price of his products. I am somewhat at a loss to know what is to be gained by adopting the Government’s proposals, what motive has prompted the Government to bring them forward, and what necessity there is for introducing them at this critical period? We are told that we must adopt the schedule as a whole, and trust to the Government to afterwards secure any modifications that may be regarded as desirable. We are informed, further, that if any of the proposed concessions are withdrawn the advantages conferred upon us by New
Zealand will have to be proportionately restricted. Under the circumstances, what possible chance is there of this agreement being ratified, or even of insuring for it fair consideration ? I do not know what industry will be stimulated by these proposals. We all recognise that in any scheme for preferential trade sacrifices must be made. What we wish to insure is that there shall be some equality of sacrifice. In the agreement which we are now asked to ratify, no equality of sacrifice is involved. Under it, who will be required to carry the whole of the burden ? Unquestionably, it will be the farmer. His industry will be affected, whereas not a single city industry will be touched. Why are not the woollen industry and the implement industry included in the arrangement? Because a howl would be immediately raised against the adoption of that course.
– By whom?
– By their representatives in this House. It seems to me that the circumstances of the Commonwealth and of New Zealand are so similar that it is very difficult indeed ‘for us to enter into a truly reciprocal treaty with that country. True reciprocity can best be obtained by entering into an arrangement with countries whose circumstances and products are different from our own. We could secure a better reciprocal agreement with countries upon the other side of the equator, simply because our time of plenty is their time of scarcity, and vice versa.
– That is a good free-trade argument.
– We have been told that under the proposed treaty a considerable advantage will be conferred upon Australian sugar. Doubtless that is so. But 1 would point out that we propose to give an advantage to an outsider which we refuse to extend to our own people - to our jam manufacturers.
– Does the honorable member know that our jam manufacturers enjoy a protection of £14 per ton upon their commodity ?
– I know that we have already pampered the sugar industry sufficiently. The Commonwealth is paying very heavily for what has been done in thai direction. Of course, there are great principles involved that we cannot afford toignore. In regard to the timber duties proposed, I hold that there is absolutely no justification for them. If I were an autocrat in the country to-morrow, I would endeavour to reserve its timbers as long as I possibly could. Unfortunately, there is no product with which countries have been so prodigal as they have been with their timbers. When I was in Canada recently, the. complaint was made to me that the Government had disregarded tree planting, with the result that the time was not far distant .when the Dominion would be in need of the timber which had been so ruthlessly destroyed. Consequently, I claim that we should be very chary about imposing duties upon timber in the rough. The timbers included in this schedule represent the raw material of certain industries, and especially of the mining industry. I could quite understand a proposal to establish free-trade as between the Commonwealth and New Zealand; but such a mongrel proposal as that of the Government I cannot understand. We all know that when Federation was established, New Zealand declined to join the union, doubtless for good and sufficient reasons. Tasmania, upon the other hand, entered the Federation. Why then should we allow the .products of New Zealand to come into competition with the main products of Tasmania ? The agreement is not Just- to the island State, nor to Victoria, which will be called upon to shoulder the bulk of the burden which it will impose upon us. I do not see why they should be made the scapegoat in this connexion. Another important point which seems to have been lost sight of during this discussion is that if we ratify the agreement we shall be tieing our hands in respect of Tariff matters for a period of three years. Within that term proposals may emanate from other countries respecting items which are embodied in this schedule. But if we approve this agreement, we shall not be able to deal with them unless we first obtain the assent of New Zealand. Are Ave going to better ourselves for that period in return for the paltry advantages which the proposed treaty will confer? The proposals of the Government, so far as New Zealand is concerned, stand upon an entirely different footing from their proposals to extend a preference to the goods of the mother country. Personally, I should like to see free-trade between all parts of the Empire. I believe that the time is not far distant when events will compel the people of the old country to recognise the necessity for working in that direction. We have been assured that the Government proposals in respect of New Zealand represent a beginning. If so, it is such a small beginning that it is not worth troubling about. The disadvantages of the proposed agreement far outweigh the advantages, which it will confer, and I maintain that its adoption will impose a further handicap upon the Australian farmer.
.- The honorable member for Echuca complimented the honorable member for Barrier upon his almost complete conversion to protectionist principles, and I feel disposed to congratulate the honorable member for Echuca upon his complete conversion to free-trade theories. I was always under the impression that he was a protectionist, but the whole tenor of his remarks conveyed the very opposite idea. He has attempted to prove that the ratification of the proposed agreement with New Zealand will operate prejudicially to the Australian farmer. I have yet to learn that we have anything to fear from competition with our own kith and kin who live and labour under equally good conditions in New Zealand. Need I remind the honorable .member that the farmers of that country are not exempt from the operation of an Arbitration Act, as they are in Australia? The honorable member stated in. effect that the Australian farmer cannot compete with the New Zealand farmer under free-trade conditions.
– I made no such statement. I said that our farmers would be specifically handicapped under the proposed agreement, whilst other people would escape.
– We must make a beginning. There is not a resident in Australia who does not recognise that prior toFederation it was absolutely impossible to secure intercolonial free-trade. Whenever the opportunity offers, I shall be prepared to extend the preferences which are offered to New Zealand under the proposed agreement to our kith and kin throughout the Empire. I have no apprehension for the Australian farmer when he is called upon to compete under fair conditions. I venture to say- and I am speaking as a farmer - that if we had absolute free-trade with New Zealand upon all the items enumerated in the schedule, with the exception of timber, no disadvantage would accrue to the Australian agriculturist. I anticipate that the ratification of this agreement will impart an impetus to trade between the Commonwealth and New Zealand. I do not know the possibilities which it opens up in regard to sugar.
– What is the use of discussing particular items if we cannot vote upon them ?
– I am quite prepared to vote upon the whole schedule ; but I hope that I shall be afforded an opportunity of voting upon particular items. Complaint has been made that the sugar industry has cost us too much, but it has yet to be shown that it has. We are told that if we agreed to this treaty, we should, for all time, impose a burden on the community. As a matter of fact, the price of sugar was reduced quite recently to the extent of 30s. per ton, and it seems to me that that reduction is encouraging. Even if we had free-trade between Australia and New Zealand, just as we have free-trade between the States, no injury would accrue to the farmer:
– Then the honorable member is a free-trader.
– I was a Federalist from the outset of the movement,, and never anticipated that any trouble would accrue to the farmers of Victoria from the establishment of Inter-State free-trade.
– The removal of the stock tax has not ruined them.
– It has not depreciated the value of their holdings.
– The honorable member for Gippsland said that it would.
– It has assisted, as it were, to empty the farming districts of Victoria into New South Wales.
– I do not think that any injury would accrue to the Australian farmer if he had to compete in the open market with his brother in New Zealand, who works under exactly similar conditions. It has been pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the farmers of New Zealand labour under greater handicaps than do those of Australia. We were told in this House not long ago that if the farmers were brought under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bil) they would be ruined. The farmers of New Zealand are not exempt from such legislation, and yet it is said to-day that their brothers in Australia dread competition from them. Speaking as a farmer, I say unhesitatingly that I am at a loss to understand the cry that has been raised by alleged friends of the agriculturists that they will be ruined if these proposals in regard to the grain duties be adopted.
– What does Mr. Robert Harper, the great farmer, say ?
– I have not heard his opinions on the subject. I was among those who were returned at the last general election as supporters of proposals of this kind, and, although the treaty now before us may not cover all that I desire, I certainly do not intend to reject an instalment of the system which I was returned to support.
– We have yet to see the honorable member reject anything which the present Government proposes.
– Would the honorable member break any of the pledges he gave at the last general election?
– This is not a matter of pledges.
– Some people have no respect for the pledges they make, but I am glad to say that I do not come within that category.
– Did the honorable member have this schedule of duties in mind at the last general election?
– I am prepared to seek re-election as a supporter of it. When last before the electors, I distinctly pledged myself to the principle of preferential trade with the United Kingdom and other parts of the Empire.
– What has that to do with this schedule of duties?
– I have not, at all events, confined my attention to such a sma I item as the duty on oranges. I have had regard to the whole field of Australian production.
– Does not the honorable member see that the imports from the United Kingdom detrimentally affected by this treaty are greater than the imports from New Zealand which would be bene*ficially affected?
– One thing at a time. I shall deal with the question of preferential trade with the United Kingdom when it is submitted for our consideration. As a matter of fact, not long ago, some honorable members submitted proposals for a preference to the United Kingdom in respect of illegitimate trade, and we shall now have an opportunity to see how far they are prepared to go when a proposal is made for legitimate trade between England and some of her dependencies. The honorable member for North Sydney and, I think, the honorable member for Wentworth, and others, supported a proposition designed to exempt traders in the United Kingdom from the provisions of a Bill for the suppression of illegitimate trading. What action will they take with respect to the desire of the Government to facilitate legitimate trade within the Empire? Some reference has been made to the probable effect of this treaty on our imports of timber. I admit that I am not fully seized of what is likely to be the effect of the duties on Oregon and other timber, and that the duties on the raw materials of large industries should be very carefully considered. I have yet to learn, ‘however, that we have not in Australia a substitute for oregon for mining purposes. I was strongly impressed by the argument of the honorable member for Barrier, who, when the Tariff was under consideration, said that oregon ought to be placed on the free list, and that a small further reduction in the value of lead would cause some of the Broken Hill mines to close down. As a protectionist, I considered that if the imposition of a duty would so dimmish the margin of profit of those engaged in a very important industry as to cause many of them to cease operations, the position would be very serious ; but, as subsequent events proved, at. that time we had practically reached the turning point in the value of metals. Since then their value has increased to a considerable extent, and I do not know that the miners, who are dependent on capitalists, for their wages, have benefited to any extent by that increase. My inquiries lead me to believe that we have in Australia timber which, although costing- a little more, is as suitable as Oregon for mining purposes.
– But for the use of oregon the big fires in the Broken Hill mines might not have occurred.
– -I know that some of the woods which it is suggested would prove a good substitute for oregon are not so inflammable, and that it has been shown that their breaking strain is quite as great.
– An important point is that, whilst hardwood may resist greater pressure, when it does give way it snaps suddenly. On the other hand, oregon would creak and groan for days before breaking.
– I am not prepared to reject this treaty on the ground that the _ timber duties are undesirable. Much stronger arguments than have yet been advanced will be necessary to satisfy me that they will have a harmful effect. Although at the first blush it may appear that the protection extended to the farmers will be diminished under this treaty, an examination of it will show that there is no cause for alarm. I know that we shall be told that in New Zealand the yield per acre of certain cereals is higher than it is in Australia. Reference will doubtless be made to the higher yields of oats obtained there. My reply to such an argument is that the lands in Victoria best adapted to the production of oats are devoted to other purposes. Speaking from personal knowledge, 1 assert that in some parts of Victoria we can obtain as good a yield pet acre of oats as is possible in New Zealand.
– Given good seasons we could do so.
– In nine cases out of ten we could. What quantity, of oats is produced at the present time in Southern Victoria, which is specially .adapted to such crops? As a matter of fact, most of the oats we produce are raised in the dryer parts of the State. But for the hayfields practically little, if any, of the land south of the Dividing Range is devoted to agricultural purposes. As a matter of fact, however, it is perhaps only in one season out of twenty that we cannot compete with New Zealand in this trade.
– Does not the honorable member know that we import grain every year from New Zealand?
– Certainly I do; but to say that we have something to fear from our brother farmers in New Zealand, who are working under exactly similar conditions to those prevailing in Australia, is to put forward an absurd plea.
– I do not think that any one has made such an assertion.
– Then why this outcry?
– The honorable member was afraid the other day of our “ brother harvester-makers,” who work under the same conditions -as do the manufacturers of harvesters in Australia.
– I was not.
– When that question was under consideration the honorable member argued on verv different lines.
– Not at all.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
– - I recognise the many disabilities under which our fanners labour. Many of them, having come here from other countries, have had everything to learn in regard to local conditions and requirements. But I deprecate the statements which are made from time to time to the effect that our farmers are weakkneed individuals, who, at every turn, depend on the State for assistance. If there is one section of the community which is more sturdy and self-reliant than another, it is the agricultural population. Whilst I recognise that the farmers cannot benefit directly to any great extent by protective duties, I say that they are benefited by protection, because that policy, by diversifying, the local field of employment, increases the number of consumers of primary produce. Furthermore, they are benefited by subsidies and conventions, such as the grant for agricultural education, the expenditure devoted to experimenting in regard to agriculture, and the reduced rates for the conveyance of grain.
– And by the making of roads and railways.
– Yes, to a great extent. In Victoria, Parliament annually grants £50,000 to recoup ,the Railway Commissioners for an alleged loss on the carriage of wheat. But, although the farmers are thus substantially assisted by the State, they do not get all that they are entitled to. They should get more, and they should co-operate to a greater degree than they do now. Our farmers do not fear competition on the part of those with whom they are on an equality, and, so far as my information goes, they are on an absolute equality with the farmers of New Zealand. Both have sprung from the same mee, have the same standard of living, the same form of Government, and practically the same climatic conditions. One of the chief reasons why I was a federalist was because I desired to remove the restrictions of trade between the States, including New Zealand.
– Then why not throw the doors wide open now?
– I am prepared to do so But we must consider the other party to the agreement. It was only after a number of interviews between the lite Prime Minister of that Colony and our Prime Minister that these proposals were framed. I am not prepared to reject this instalment, even though it has been termed infinitesimal.
– It is so infinitesimal that it can be accepted only on sentimental grounds.
– I hope for a larger Instalment at some future period. It may be that the Australian farmer may have to meet more competition, but he will benefit, by the widening of the fields of the Australian manufacturer. If it is urged that the proposal now before us interferes , Vl[. preferential trade with the United Kingdom, my reply is that it is time enough to bid the devil good-day when one meets him. My only objection to it is with regard to the proposed alteration of the timber duty, and as to that matter I should like to hear honorable members who have a more intimate knowledge of the possibilities of the Australian timber trade-. Except as to a few isolated items, the rule which seems to have been adopted by the framers of the agreement was to accept in each case as the duty to be. imposed against the outside world the higher rate in force in either country, and with that I find no cause of complaint. I accept the agreement as an instalment, I do not think that it will injure our farmers, or. that our manufacturers will object to freedom of trade between the Commonwealth and New Zealand, since they are on an equality with the manufacturers there. I shall be prepared to support reciprocity in regard to the manufacture of woollens and of implements on the ground upon which I supported InterState free-trade. The greater the volume of our production the greater the possibility of assisting our producers to reach the markets of the world. The agreement is a step in the right direction.
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that, in stating that I shall be very glad to see the day when we shall have free-trade within the Empire, I meant between our own kith and kin. I did not include India, which must be regarded as a separate entity, and treated differently.
.- Like the honorable member for Moira, I have always been an ardent advocate of preferential trade throughout the Empire, and would be prepared to make considerable sacrifices for a comprehensive scheme embracing the whole Empire, or the greater part of it. But I do not consider that it is patriotic to grant concessions to a small part of the Empire like New Zealand, and to raise the Tariff against the rest of it. I do not know why New Zealand should be differentiated from the rest of the Empire. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Moira has said, New Zealand is the one place which can compete successfully against the Australian farmer. It is true that the labour conditions are the same in the two countries, and the arguments of the honorable member have force if applied to the making of a reciprocal treaty affecting our manufacturers. But as the climatic conditions of the two countries are dissimilar, our farmers are at a disadvantage. The average returns of crops are much heavier in New Zealand than in Australia.
– I anticipated that objection by pointing out that in the drier parts we graze instead of farm.
– My honorable friend knows that it will not pay to produce cheap cereals on land worth from £25 to £30 an acre. No doubt we have small areas which could produce crops as heavy as are produced in New Zealand, but there is a great difference between the values of the land. My contention is proved by the fact that, notwithstanding the present duties, the New Zealand farmers successfully compete in this market with our own. It is true that in good seasons the competition is not very much, but in dry seasons it is keen, and only then are our farmers benefited by protection.
– Do the New Zealand farmers successfully compete with ours in respect to anything besides oats?
– Yes. I have not had much time to go through the schedule, but I have taken out a few items. For instance, in spite of the Tariff, we have during the last five years imported £62,705 worth of barley. ‘Yet it is proposed to reduce the duty on barley by 3d. a cental.
– That is11/2d. a bushel.
– It is more nearly 2d.
– Ruinous !
– My honorable friend jeers with bad grace at the contention that protection should be given to our farmers, since only last week, when it was shown conclusively that the local manufacturers of agricultural implements compete successfully against foreign manufacturers in countries where both are on the same footing,, although protected by a duty of121/2per cent., which we proposed to double, he strongly supported an increase of 42 per cent.
– I supported a duty of 25 per cent.
– That all depends upon the valuation that is fixed.
– I am speaking of the only valuation regarding which we had any substantial proof. The fact that our manufacturers can compete successfully in neutral markets is an answer to all the arguments used in favour of any large increase of the duty. The honorable member knew that our manufacturers were charging the farmers £81 for harvesters which cost them £41 to produce.
– I did not know that, and I do not know it now.
– If the honorable member investigates the matter, he will find that what I say is correct.
– I have investigated it.
– During the past five years, we have imported from New Zealand maize to the value of , £62,200, and yet is is proposed to reduce the duty not by 3d., butby 6d. per cental. Perhaps the Prime Minister can explain why any distinction hasbeen made in regard to maize, which is one of the staple products of my district. In good seasons, the farmers there can compete with New Zealand, or any other part of the world, because they grow exceptionally heavy crops, but they suffer from dry seasons, and New Zealand does not.
– The period to whichthe figures quoted by the honorable member relate covers the recent drought.
– Partly. It also includes the last three years, which have been exceptionally favorable. During the five yearsperiod, we imported from New Zealand oats to the value of , £587,000. It is proposed to reduce the duty upon oats by 3d. It is also proposed to reduce by 3d. the duty upon bran, pollard, and sharps, of which we imported £63,605 worth from New Zealand. Of wheat, the duty upon which is to be reduced by 6d., we imported £44,064 worth. I do not know why the maize and wheat duties should be selected as the subjects for the greatest reductions. I suppose that in the district which I represent more maize is produced than in any other part of the Commonwealth, with the exception perhaps of some parts of New South Wales, and I fail to see why the duty should be reduced in the manner proposed. There is no reason why we should adopt one policy for the manufacturer and another for the primary producer. I am prepared to give a fair degree of protection to the manufacturer, but only if the primary producer also receives reasonable consideration. At the best, we can give only a very small modicum of protection to our farmers It is only in dry seasons that they derive any benefit from import duties upon their products, and it is at such times that they require the most protection. If we have two or three years df drought in succession - as unfortunately we frequently have - and the local market is flooded with importations, our farmers will be deprived of all protection. During the recent drought, the representatives of New South Wales asked for a remission of the fodder duties in order to permit of the importation of foodstuffs to enable farmers and pastoralists to keep alive their starving stock. But the members of the Government urged that that was the very time at which our farmers should receive protection.
– And the farmers were very mean to take advantage of such protection at the expense of their starving neighbours.
– I do not suppose that my honorable friend would be any more patriotic than his bucolic brother on the land if. his pocket were affected. The honorable member who preceded me referred to the railway concessions made to farmers, and to other benefits which they enjoyed. Let us view this matter fairly and impartially. The city man derives as much benefit as does the farmer from the reduction of freights. The country railways are merely arteries of communication between the producer in the country and the consumer in the city, and the latter has as much interest in cheap transit as has the producer. That is not all, because the resident in the- country pays the freight both ways. -If he sends a truck of wheat, or stock, to town he has to pay the freight. If, on the other hand, he receives a truck of merchandise from the city it is he who pays the freight. The manufacturer or merchant in the city does not pay the freight upon the .goods which he sends into the country. Therefore, I think’ that I he less said the better with regard to railway concessions given to the farmer.
– The man in the country does not always pay the freight upon the goods sent from the towns.
– In Victoria he always does so.
– The city man who buys goods from the country sometimes pays the freight.
– Perhaps he does, but if there were no railways he would have to pay the cost of bringing the produce to town by bullock drays. If New Zealand were prepared to enter the Federation, and throw in her lot with us under a common Tariff, I should be quite prepared to receive her on the same terms as those upon which all the States joined the Union. But there is always a danger in entering into a treaty with a neighbour when you have no voice in framing her Tariff. What would there be to prevent products from other parts of the world from being filtered through New Zealand? I know that it is proposed to grant preference only to the products of New Zealand, but if the traders there could obtain commodities of similar character elsewhere at a low price they could pass them into consumption in the local market, and export their surplus of locally-grown produce to Australia. I cannot see that any advantage would result to us from the proposed treaty. I admit that the concession with regard to sugar is a substantial one.
– That also applies to wine and fruit.
– Yes, some advantage may be derived from the concessions in regard to those articles. My complaint, however, is that the farmers are called upon to make all the sacrifices, whilst any little benefit that may be derived will be reaped by other sections of the community. I am not prepared to support an arrangement of that kind. I wish to deal equitably with all classes of producers, and manufacturers. I would give them reasonable protection, but I shall not be a party to protecting the manufacturers, and abolishing what modicum of protection is now enjoyed by the farmer. I know, from my own knowledge, that the higher prices received for cereals and other primary produce during years of drought have enabled many farmers to remain on the land. In good seasons, farmers can accept low prices, because they grow heavy crops ; but in Lad seasons thev require to obtain a relatively higher return. Under ordinary circumstances, the prices of our primary products are ruled by those which obtain in .the markets of the world, and our producers derive no benefit from protective duties. But in years of drought they do gain some advantage. I was very much surprised to find that the Government proposed to deprive our producers of the protection now granted to them in order to obtain problematical advantages such as those that are held in prospect by the proposed treaty. There are one or two items which appear to me to be somewhat anomalous. In the first place, with regard to barley, we propose to admit the produce of “New Zealand at a dutv of is. 3d. per cental, whereas New Zealand, which grows very much better barley, and produces very much heavier crops, intends to charge a dutv of is. 6d. upon our product.
– We reduced our duty from is. 6d. to is. 3d., whereas New Zealand reduced her duty from 2s. to is. 6d.
– ‘But, surely, in view of the fact that New Zealand can produce infinitely better crops than we can, and that her farmers are not affected by drought, as we are-
– If so, it would not matter very much if the duty was further reduced.
– Does New Zealand” take any of our barley?
– I do not know that any barley is imported into New Zealand from Australia, but I am referring to the anomalous position of affairs. The same thing applies to maize. We propose to charge is. per cental, whereas New Zealand intends to impose a duty of is. 3d. Then there is the matter of fresh fish. We propose to give a preference of id. per lb. to New Zealand, whereas we are to receive no concession from her. While protection is the policy of the Commonwealth we should’ not deny to our poor struggling fishermen any advantages that might accrue to them from a duty upon the product of their labour. If any man earns the few pence which he receives for his labour it is the fisherman, who has to work in all kinds of weather and under all sorts of conditions.
– Last year we took only -£2 worth of New Zealand fresh fish, and they took none from us.
– If the matter is so unimportant, why was the item left in the schedule ?
– Because it was all that was left of our proposal which included canned fish, with regard to which we could not obtain any concession.
– The Prime Minister’s statement indicates the hollowness of the whole scheme.
– Fishermen should be specially protected. I do not know of any harder working men or of any who have to pursue their occupation under more unfavorable conditions. They are wet up to their waists nearly the whole of the day, and they shorten their lives as the result of being called upon to work continuously in all sorts of weather.
– Our fresh fish will be admitted into New Zealand free of duty, if we have any to send there
.- It will not be creditable to this Parliament if it rejects the proposed treaty upon the ground that the Australian farmers derive great advantages during periods of stress and drought.
– The great majority of them suffer during times of drought. Only a fraction of them are benefited.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member is stating what he knows from personal experience to be a fact. If it be true that our farmers are benefited by a period of general adversity, all I can say is that there must be something radically wrong with the economic conditions of the country. The proposal, under consideration cannot be decided by a microscopic examination of the schedule. Either it is a big question - in which case it must be considered upon broad lines - or it is nothing.
– Why did not the Prime Minister confine himself to big items such as sugar?
– I may tell the honorable member that if sugar’ were entirely omitted from the schedule, it would not affect my attitude towards the proposed agreement one iota. In pre-Federation days, it was generally expected that New Zealand would enter the Federal union. The reason she did not do so was that the New Zealand Government was much more advanced than were the Governments of these States.
– The people of New Zealand had too much sense to permit them to join the Federation.
– They had more democratic institutions than had these States, and they were afraid to merge them in the Federation. I believe that they had too little sense and too much timidity. It would have been better for both New Zealand and the Commonwealth if that country had joined the Federation.
– Order. Will the honorable member confine himself to the question which is before the Chair?
– With very great respect, I submit that I am discussing a matter which is very cognate to the provisions of the proposed treaty. The preamble of the agreement reads -
The Governments of the Colony of New Zealand, and of the Commonwealth of Australia, desiring to promote trade and intercourse between their respective countries as a means of closer union, have agreed to recommend to their Parliaments reciprocal and preferential concessions in certain Customs duties upon the following conditions : -
That indicates a desire on the part of New Zealand to come into closer touch with the Government and institutions of this country. If honorable members are obliged to confine their remarks to the items of the schedule, I have no criticism to offer, because those items in themselves are paltry as compared with the great principle which is embodied in the agreement. Consequently, I hold that we cannot take a microscopic view of the advantages or disadvantages which would result to any industry in Australia under its operation.
– Surely the principle of the agreement must be expressed in the schedule?
– It is expressed in the preamble which I have already quoted.
– But the honorable member stated that we should ignore the schedule.
– I say that a microscopic examination of the schedule would defeat the whole purpose of the agreement, for the verv obvious reason that we cannot amend the schedule without the consent of New Zealand.
– Can the honorable member explain why it is that whenever goods of New Zealand will’ come into competition with our own manufactures there has been no lowering of the duties, but whenever the produce of New Zealand will come into competition with’ our primary producers the duties have been reduced?
– I do not know that that is so in every instance. If it were, it would be a reason for rejecting the whole of the treaty, because it would show that those who were charged with the conduct of the negotiations with the late Prime Minister of New Zealand were incompetent to protect the interests of Australia.
– I think that the consideration of the matter should be postponed.
– I do not believe that it was the intention of those who conducted the negotiations on the part of the Commonwealth to injure our primary producers. In has speech the Prime Minister clearly pointed out that the schedule to the agreement cannot be amended. But he intimated that it might be possible for the Committee to make certain suggestions, which might form the basis of negotiations with the representatives of New Zealand at a later stage. If the Committee suggest such amendments, will those who negotiate with New Zealand in respect of them have power to sign the treaty, in the absence of any further action by Parliament? If so, it would take the control1 of this matter entirely out of the hands of Parliament. Although it might seem to smooth over a difficulty, it seems to me that it would create a bigger difficulty.
– I could not propose that in reference to any Tariff alterations.
– That being the case, there is no time to indulge in further negotiations before the prorogation of this Parliament. Consequently we must either accept the treaty as it stands or reject it. We cannot have interminable negotiations concerning matters of detail. The agreement must be accepted or rejected by the respective Parliaments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand, upon the merits of the case presented. I have summed up my attitude upon the Government proposals in the statement that a microscopic examination of the schedule on the part of those who believe that the interests of New Zealand and the Commonwealth are identical cannot be justified.
– If I were a Queensland representative I might not desire to submit the schedule to a microscopic examination.
– So far as I am concerned, even if the advantages which Australian sugar will derive under the agreement were eliminated, I should still support it. The honorable member1 for Parramatta and others seem to be greatly interested in the benefits which will be conferred upon the sugar industry. Need I point out that in respect of a small matter like jam our manufacturers enjoy a protection of £14 per ton, as against a protection of £5 per ton upon sugar.
– That does not benefit the exporter of jam.
– Then why was it imposed ? Does it not enable our jam manufacturers to increase the price of their commodity ? I suppose that that was the object for which it was levied-
– That is why the duty was imposed upon sugar.
– I admit that the duty was imposed upon sugar to enable the white growers of that commodity to compete with the growers in other countries. I am glad to know that the time is rapidly approaching when we shall be able to produce, not only sufficient sugar for our own requirements, but to export a quantity. I trust that in the very near future the increased cultivation of cane will enable the cost of that article to be reduced to the consumer.
– Why will not the honorable member assist us to place the relative duties upon jam and sugar upon a proper basis? Does he not know that the percentage of duty imposed upon sugar is more than that which is levied upon jam?
– The honorable member has not worked out the calculation himself, or he would not have made that statement so definitely. Assuming that a ton of jam contains half a ton of sugar, the duty levied upon the sugar would be £3.
– Take the price of both commodities upon the market.
– But the duty upon half a ton of jam would be £7. There would thus be a margin of £4 in favour of the jam manufacturer. The point is so obvious that there is no need to emphasize it.
– It is obviously against the honorable member.
– It is unanswerable.
– I do not wish to refer to speeches made some time ago by the honorable member for South Sydney, who referred to the low price of fruit. If the price is low my argument is strengthened. Now that we have secured a market for Australian sugar some honorable members would say, “ Let us remove the existing duty.” The honorable and_ learned member for Angas has urged that the objection to this treaty is that, unlike others of the same kind, it is not based on the principle that a freer interchange of trade should be secured. As a matter of fact, however, when the Government of Great Britain was tending towards a freer, exchange of trade, treaties somewhat similar to this were proposed by it. It would be folly to lose sight of the fact that the character of a treaty must be governed by the policy of those who negotiate it. The Governments of New Zealand and Australia are undoubtedly protectionist ones, and that being so, the policy of protection will naturally predominate in amy proposals which they make.
– The honorable member is the best “ f free-tectionist “ in this House.
– I am stating facts which may be easily verified.
– The honorable member can justify both policies equally well.
– The honorable member is the first who has made a remark of that kind in regard to myself. Any one who knows me is aware that whether my views on any subject are right or wrong my constituents know exactly what they are.
– They may, but no one in this House does.
– They know exactly what attitude I take up on every question that comes before us. The honorable member for Gippsland has stated that, as we have a protectionist Government and a Parliament in which protectionists predominate, this treaty should be of a more protective character. He joins issue on this point with the honorable and learned member for Angas, who says that” we should have free-trade with New Zealand. I should not object to that, although, a large number of the people in my constituency complain that under this treaty some of the duties on timber will be slightly lower than thev were.
– Lower !
– They complain that’ this treaty will not place them in a better position than, thev have been.
– The duty on oregon is increased from 6d. to is. 6d. per 100 super, feet.
– But it has been stated that no oregon comes from New Zealand. That being so. what will be the effect of the increased duty?
– It will mean that the miners will have to pay the outsider more for their Oregon.
– The honorable member for Barrier anticipates that the pine imported from New Zealand will serve as a substitute for Oregon in mines.
– The miners cannot use New Zealand pine.
– Once again we hear the old familiar cry. The honorable member declares that the only timber suitable for the miners of Broken Hill comes from a country other than that with which we are negotiating.
– Notwithstanding the increased duty, Oregon, will still be cheaper than New Zealand pine.
– I understood that the New Zealand white pine was cheaper.
– But white pine is unsuitable for mining purposes.
– If the honorable member were a miner he would not like to trust his life to white-pine props.
– I have told my constituents that whatever is necessary to protect the lives of miners should not be handicapped by any action on the part of this Parliament. I do not wish mv position to be misunderstood. Honorable members are taking only a partial view of this question. As a matter of fact, log timber is absolutely free.
– The shipping freights on logs would mean an increased cost.
– Poor Broken Hill, whose mines in the course of a few years have paid millions by way of dividends, is to be specially studied in this connexion.
– The lives of the men are to be studied.
– Where is there a more prosperous mining community than that of the Barrier? The difference between the shipping charges on log timber, which is free, and that which is cut into sizes, must be exceedingly small; but, apparently, the proprietors of the great mines at Broken Hill are not prepared to import oregon in logs because they object to the slightly increased cost. I venture to assert, however, that oregon logs are imported, cut into sizes, and sent on to Broken Hill.
– Oregon is cut into sizes here, but logs are not actually imported.
– The duty on oregon cut Into certain sizes has been 6d. per 100 super, feet.
– And under this treatyit is to be increased to is. 6d. per 100 super, feet.
– Presumably it is thought that Oregon will be imported by timber merchants in New Zealand, cut into sizes there, and exported to Australia. I presume that the Government have good reason for this proposal, although they have not yet disclosed it.
– It is quite evident that the Minister of Trade and Customs knows nothing about mining.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is not present, but I presume that a reason will be given for the proposed duties on timber.
– Where is the Minister?
– I suppose he is attending to some important duty connected with his office. Although a difficulty might arise in regard to the timber supplies of Broken Hill, I do not think that it would be sufficient to warrant the rejection o’f this treaty.
– If no oregon is produced in New Zealand, this duty will probably be struck out by the Parliament of that Colon)’.
– I have already said that the conditions of a treaty of this kind are such that it must be either accepted or rejected as it stands. It has been shown that any attempt to amend the treaty will lead to its defeat, since there is no time during the present session to enter into negotiations, and the Executive has no power to go behind Parliament.
– Is this treaty so urgent?
– There is no time like the present.
– Hear, hear.
– It would be humiliating for one Parliament to take this matter in hand, and then allow it to stand over to be dealt with by another Parliament.
– Where would the humiliation come in ? We should be in a humiliating position if we agreed to a defective treaty.
– We should, in such circumstances, continue to impose the existing duties on the products of our fellow Britishers in a neighbouring Colony, who are entirely in sympathy with us, and have the same system of Government and the same standard of living that prevails here. We should be in a humiliating position if we delayed dealing with a favorable overture made to this Government by an eminent statesman, now unfortunately deceased.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to remove all the trade barriers between the Commonwealth and New Zealand?
– I have said again and again that, in pre-Federal days, the wish was that New Zealand should join the union, and that we should have a free exchange of trade with that country. I am quite prepared to assist in bringing about that state of affairs as soon as possible. Let New Zealand enter the union, or, failing that, let us endeavour to draw her people closer to us. There are some honorable members, however, who, notwithstanding the advantages it might confer on the people, would reject a measure if it were not absolutely perfect.
– Is the honorable member aware that New Zealand will not accept this treaty ?
– That is a matter of no concern to us.
– Let New Zealand accept her responsibility, and we will accept ours.
– Our business is to declare whether we are desirous of having closer relations with New Zealand. We are the dominating partner in this arrangement, and, if any concession is to be made, it should come from us. The discussion hitherto has been paltry and microscopic, and not creditable to the Committee. We should lay down general principles as a guide to future Parliaments. Let us begin well. This is the first proposition of the kind that has been put before us.
– It is avery bad one.
– The statements of the Opposition are contradictory. They assert that the arrangement is a bad one for the Commonwealth, and also say that it must be bad for New Zealand, because that Colony will not accept it.
– May not a bargain be beneficial or hurtful to both parties?
– That is not the case in this instance. If the people of New Zealand do not accept the agreement, it will be because they feel that they will not getthe benefits which they consider should flow from it.
– They will lose £200,000 a year in duties on sugar.
– But I presume that we shall benefit thereby. Some honorable members have objected to the, agreement because their little bit of earth will not benefit by it. The honorable member for Gippsland said that certain little districts in Victoria might suffer - no doubt a legitimate objection , to take - but, in dealing with big national issues, it is impossible to adjust every small detail. We should not take a narrow view of this question. But if. we reject the agreement, it will be thought in New Zealand and elsewhere that we have done so, not because we consider it a bad one, but because we wish to reject this overture from a small to a large country. In my opinion the agreement is equitable, just, far-seeing, and statesmanlike. If accepted, it will be beneficial to both New Zealand and Australia, and will assist in the development of the British race in the southern seas.
.- Before addressing myself to the details of the proposition, I wish to knew, Mr. Chairman, whether you propose to put the items of the schedule seriatim or in globo.
– The motion before me is that the schedule be agreed to; but, if any honorable member wishes to move an amendment in regard to any part of the schedule, I shall accept it.
– If an honorable member requests that an item - aerated waters, for example - be put separately, will you, sir, put it separately?
– Honorable members are at liberty to amend any item in the schedule.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay laid down the dictum that we must accept or reject the proposal in globo. I am glad to find that it is not so. A particularly noticeable item in the schedule is timber. I do not know whether it has been proposed to increase the duties on timber to keep out imported lumber, and to force Australian timber into general use; but, if so, the intention will fail, because Australian timbers cannot be used successfully in place of certain imported timbers. The New Zealand timber used in Australia is imported free of duty, and, as it will not increase the use of New Zealand timber in this market, New Zealand will not benefit by the raising of the duty on Oregon, baltic,. redwood, and other imported timbers. New Zealand kauri, although’ admitted duty free, is twice as dear as baltic or Oregon.
– It is used for different purposes.
– Yes. Then, although Oregon is 50 per cent. dearer to-day than it was during some parts of last year, it is being more extensively used than at anyprevious time in our history.
– Because, for one reason, oregon can be got in greater lengths, and in special sizes, which makes it more suitable than any other timber for floor or ceiling joists, rafters, girders, and other structural material.
– Cao it be got in greater lengths than jarrah and karri?
– Yes. Karri is an altogether different timber, and not suitable for the same kind of work. No timber grown in Australia or New Zealand can supplant oregon. The same remark applies to redwood, which is used very largely for joinery, mouldings, and skirtings. No other wood, except, perhaps occasionally, and to . a very limited extent, Queensland pine, can compete with it for these purposes. Redwood is used almost exclusively for mouldings and for other classes of joinery work. Kauri comes in free of duty at the present time, and is still twice as expensive as any of the other timbers mentioned, and cannot be used for the same purposes. It is employed for work of a special character, and none but the wealthier classes can afford to buy it. At any rate, it is a timber which under no circumstances would come into competition with oregon or baltic. These timbers are most largely used for building purposes, and the increased duty cannot benefit any one in Australia or New Zealand. The only effect of increasing prices will be to unduly harass the poorer sections of the community by adding to the cost of building. Oregon and baltic are used most extensively in the construction of weatherboard cottages, such as are occupied by the working classes in the cities, and by miners and settlers in the country. If the Prime Minister had intended to impose a crushing burden upon the primary producers and the workers of the Commonwealth in this connexion, he could not have devised any more effective scheme. The only State in the Commonwealth that is affected at the present time by the importation of New Zealand timbers is Queensland. Her hoop pine is, to some extent, affected by the competition of New Zealand kauri and white pine, the latter timber being useful for making butter-boxes and fruitcases. I am informed that the in creased duties upon oregon and baltic have come into operation at a most inopportune time, because Queensland pine is extremely scarce. I have had several communications from timber merchants and contractors, who are unanimous in their condemnation of the duties. Messrs. Langdon and Langdon, large timber merchants in Sydney, write as follows: -
At the present time there is a great scarcity of Queensland pine, and also of colonial pine, and notwithstanding that we have made every effort to secure it, the cry is that owing to the floods and other causes, it is impossible to send it into the market. These are not isolated examples, but occur periodically. We have had orders on hand for these timbers for many months, and are met with this difficulty, and also the uncertainty of our getting regular consignments. It is quite clear, therefore, that in imposing a duty upon Oregon and redwood, and also upon baltic lining, flooring, and weatherboards, &c, the effect is not to facilitate the output of the Commonwealth timbers, but to heighten the cost of the foreign timbers at the expense of the building and general public. To emphasize what we have mentioned, we are just giving you a few extracts from our correspondence with a Brisbane house, showing the delay which occurs in the execution of orders for Queensland pine. This has occurred right throughout the whole of our contract for 12 months’ supplies, and although the contract has expired long ago, there is still a very large proportion of our orders unexecuted. With regard to the copy of the wire of the 27th April, we required this order to be made urgent, in view of its being specially required for a large wool warehouse that was then in course of erection in Sydney, but so great was the delay that our client had to eventually substitute other timber for that ordered from Queensland.
The copies .of correspondence attached to the letter bear out the statements which I have read. Some honorable members may have noticed a communication published in one of the daily newspapers from a writer who appears to be well versed in the subject. He points out that the Victorian consumption of dutiable timber for the past year amounted to 66,000,000 superficial feet, and that the duty paid on the f.o.b. value of £290,000 was £66,000, equivalent to 23 per cent. Under the present proposal, the duty will be increased to £99,000, equal to 34 per cent. To this amount would have to be added wharfage dues, amounting to- £20,625, which would increase the surcharge to 41 per cent. The figures for the . Commonwealth show that last year duty amounting to £124,119 was collected upon 146,708,266 feet of timber. Under these proposals the duty would be added to to the extent of £73,354, which would bring the total up to -£197, 574- It will thus clearly be seen that a most serious additional burden will be placed upon the backs of these who have to use these timbers, whilst no benefit will be derived by any one in the Commonwealth or New Zealand. I am amazed that any honorable member who calls himself a special representative of the interests of labour can approve of this treaty, which is going to impose such heavy burdens upon the working classes, and render it so much more difficult for the wage-earner to make a home for himself. The (whole scheme is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. While it ‘pretends to confer benefits upon the people of New Zealand and Australia, it will, as a matter of fact, impose disabilities upon the citizens of both countrie’s. This is recognised” by the people of New Zealand. Not a single public man in that Colony has raised his voice in favour of the proposals. On the other hand, so far as public men have given expressions to their opinions, they have condemned the treaty in the severest terms. I notice by the cables published in the newspapers that a Committee has beer appointed by Parliament to inquire into the proposal. The testimony submitted by the flour-millers is that the adoption of the treaty would ruin their industry, and the general opinion of the people of New Zealand is that the treaty is as dead as a doornail. If we were sincere in our desire to confer benefit upon our kith and kin in New Zealand, we should be prepared to treat them exactly upon the same level as if they were residents of the Commonwealth. It would, however, be utterly absurd to adopt a proposal such as that before us. I am opposed to the schedule as it stands’, but possibly there may be a chance of making some alteration.
– You cannot make an alteration in a treaty - you must accept or reject it. Directly you alter its terms, it ceases to be binding.
– I understood the Chairman to say that we could amend every item in the schedule.
– That is correct, but if the Committee make any amendments they at once defeat the treaty.
– Then what is the use of submitting a treaty, with a schedule, for the consideration of a deliberative body unless amendments can be made.
– What other course could have been adopted?
– I think that a more business-like bargain might have been made if the representatives of the New Zealand and the Commonwealth Governments had met together, and had arrived at certain tentative proposals, subject to approval by their respective Parliaments. That is what I understood was to be done.
– That is what has been done. But we cannot alter those proposals without destroying the whole of their work.
– Then what is the use of submitting the agreement to Parliament?
– Because if Parliament does not choose to accept the scheme, it will fall to the ground.
-The only way in which another bargain can be made is by , amending the various items in Committee, and by allowing the New Zealand Parliament to proceed in exactly the same way. Those proposals would then go forth as the expressions of opinion of the Parliaments of the two countries.
– Does the honorable member suppose that the New Zealand Parliament would hit upon exactly the same amendments that we would?
– There, is a possibility that the two Parliaments might agree. But, assuming that they did not, is it not possible to submit the proposals of each to a new Parliament, just as we send Bills to the Senate? ls it not better to occupy a longer period in obtaining a perfect agreement, than to accept an imperfect agreement which is objectionable to both parties to it?
– The portions of the agreement which have been challenged in New Zealand are not those which have been challenged here.
– Rather thar. accept the agreement in its present form, 1 shall support its rejection in globo; for instead of being a reciprocity and preferential treaty, it is simply an instrument for unduly piling up fresh burdens of wholly un; justifiable taxation upon our own people, and on those particularly who are among the least wealthy members of the community.
– The first question which we have to consider is whether this treaty shall be accepted or not. That ought to be decided by a definite vote. Should there be a majority opposed to its’ acceptance, obviously it would not be worth our while to spend time in discussing its details. But, by way of meeting the wishes of honorable members in opposition, I ami prepared to propose that this treaty shall hold good for only twelve months. I am willing to propose that in the hope that honorable members will see their way to indorse its acceptance for that period. Should it be accepted for twelve months, we can then proceed to consider its details, together with any alterations which honorable members may suggest. These can be forwarded to New Zealand, and the Parliament of that country, if it also accepts the agreement for twelve months, can, in the same way, forward its proposals to us.
– -I do not know what the commercial world would say to that.
– Each Parliament may indicate, the amendment which it desires, and these can be taken into consideration next year.
– Would not the adoption of that course occupy a very much longer time than would be absorbed in making the amendments now?
– It is impossible to communicate with New Zealand, to receive from it the proposals which it may make for an alteration ot the treaty, to have them considered by both Houses, and to arrive at a conclusion before we prorogue. Consequently, by way of a solution of the difficulty, I ask honorable members to accept the treaty for twelve months.
– The adoption of that course would disorganize business.
– The honorable and learned member is always prepared to discover objections to any course which may be proposed. It is his professional duty to do it elsewhere, and, as a member of the Opposition, it is his party duty to do it here. I venture to say that the acceptance of the treaty for twelve months would not produce any greater disturbance of the commercial world, as the duties are now in force. In the meantime, we should be able to form a very good idea of whether its operation ought to be continued beyond that period. I recognise that the time at our disposal before the close of the Parliament is short, and that criticism is necessary before a permanent treaty can be arrived at. In addition, the adoption of my suggestion would allow us to receive the remaining reports of the Tariff Commission, and to view the matter in the light of their conclusions.
.- L trust that the Committee will not entertain the compromise offered by the Prime Minister. I do not think, because an honorable member upon this side of the Chamber objects to accept one-half, or a third, of a loaf, it is just to charge him with being animated by strong party feeling.
– Is the honorable and learned member referring to my comment upon the interjection of the honorable and learned member for Angas?
– He and I understand each other perfectly.
– But others may not understand the Prime Minister. I have no need to champion the career of the honorable and learned member for Angas, but it seems to me that he is about as impartial a critic as can be found in this House.
– If he were occupying a judicial position, he could not be excelled.
– The Prime Minister, might credit all honorable members with the desire to approach a proposal of this sort in a judicial spirit. If the honorable and learned gentleman had said to the Committee, “ We will allow this agreement to operate for twelve months, and we will eliminate from it the increased duties against the goods of other countries, so as to extend to New Zealand merely the benefit of a reduction of the existing duties,” I should have been. disposed to say that not very much objection could ;be offered to the experiment. I do not like political experiments. Those who advocate them entirely fail to realize the labyrinth of economic forces which they set in play to disorganize the commercial and industrial world. I almost invariably notice that the men who talk most glibly about political experiments are those who have not a quantum of commercial experience to suggest 10 them what a multiplicity of influences of a disordering character they set in operation. Any man who has read Herbert Spencer upon legislative interference with trade must be convinced that it is impossible to trace the effect of such experiments - even though they may extend over a very short period. When this question comes up for consideration, I am always reminded of a very pregnant passage in Buckle’s History of Civilisation, in which the writer convincingly shows that the whole of the great reforms of the early part of the nineteenth century consisted of Acts for the repeal of experimental legislation which had been passed towards the end of the previous century. He then comments upon the impossibility of following the course of this experimental legislation through all its ramifications in commerce and industry. Nobody can look at the present proposal without feeling that it will confer upon New Zealand a decided advantage over the mother country, which has ten thousand times more claim upon our consideration. I contend that it represents a deliberate attempt 10 concede a further measure of protection to Victorian industries, by increasing the existing duties against the goods of all other countries except New Zealand, and that it extends1 to that country a preference to which it is not entitled. New Zealand was justified in holding aloof from the Federation. I do not resent her action. I think that her politicians acted wisely when they refused to bring into an Australian Federation a country which lies 1,000 miles away, and with which it would have been impossible to carry on the detailed administrative relations which Federation has developed in the six States. But because that country happens to be 10,000 miles nearer to us than is Great Britain, I do not think that we should forget the untold obligations which we are under to the mother country. Nor do I think that we should place her in an inferior position to that occupied by Kew Zealand simply because the Prime Minister of that country, when visiting Australia during a convivial time, met the Prime Minister and proposed that they should enter into some sort of Empire-making project which seems likely to bring kudos to them in other parts of the world. I do not wish to enter into a detailed discussion of the duties upon timber, candles, or any of the other articles which are specified in the schedule. Although I claim to know something of the business principles which ought to operate in our treatment of those commodities, I am not familiar with all the practical details which have been presented by other honorable members. The honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Barrier, and others, have thrown a flood of light upon the business aspect concerning the different commodities which are comprehended in the schedule under consideration. One of the drawbacks of politics in Australia is that verv few of our politicians do possess that knowledge of business principles which would enable them to appreciate the labyrinthine movements of commerce and industry as affected by legislation. The honorable and learned gentleman who is in charge of this motion is about as innocent of commercial practices as is any man in Australia. The late Mr. Seddon had considerable mining experience in his early days, but was about as innocent of commercial practice as is the Prime Minister. I say this without a spark of ill-feeling, because I recognise that, while the Prime Minister has not had occasion to acquire a knowledge of practical business, he has had an opportunity to make himself familiar with many less practical subjects about which business men know little, and I have no doubt that the position was the same in regard to the late’ Mr. Seddon. But when . we are going to interfere with the channels of commerce and industry we could not have more dangerous advisers than those who are thus innocent of the complicated phases of our business practices. I do not know what course the honorable member for Mernda intends to take, but he’ well knows how a proposal of this kind will affect the commercial world. The honorable member for Kooyong is another who could enlighten the Committee as to the effect which this “proposed treaty would have. It was, I think, the honorable member for North Sydney who interrupted the Prime Minister and said that the disorganization of business resulting from the adoption of any legislation would be as .great during a twelve months’ trial as it would be if the legislation extended over three years. I invite the Committee to note that the mere fact that the late Richard Seddon and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth conceived the idea of establishing special preferential trade between; New Zealand and Australia should not satisfy them of its practicability or of the possibility of its working out in such a way as to be of any value to either country.
– The late Mr. Seddon ought to have known something about the matter.
– I do tot know whether the honorable member is aware that I am speaking of commercial practices.
– Mr. Seddon knew something about them.
– I do not know that he had any commercial experience. He was in business for a very short time, but in a capacity which gave him really no commercial knowledge. He may have understood one particular branch of trade, which I need not dilate upon, and he certainly had some experience in mining-
– He was a storekeeper.
– My contention is that he had not the necessary knowledge of commercial practices to warrant us in accepting his proposal in this regard as a sound one. This brings me to the general question of preferential trade, to which I have long desired to address myself in this House. One of the most notable features of the career of the Prime Minister has been the very lackadaisical way in which he has treated that great question. From time to time since the establishment of Federation,, he has made it the subject of long and expensive cablegrams to England, and has also made long speeches upon it in this House, but he has never until now taken a decisive step with regard to it. Long cablegrams have been sent to England, and taken up by great newspapers like the Times as being of vast significance. ‘But they were, after all, mere cablegrams - sent very unjustifiably, I think - and alleging in the clearest terms what the wishes of Australia and the Australian people were. I have over and over again felt when I have read those cable messages in the Times that there was no justification for them. We all remember a number of meetings held in Victoria, and one or two that took place in New South Wales, at which a strong desire was expressed - professedly on the part of the Australian people - for some sort of trade arrangement to be entered into between Australia and England. I watched those meetings with the most scrupulous care, and found that every one of them was composed of manufacturers, and that ‘ in almost every case they stipulated as a sine qua nott that the duties should be increased against foreign countries. On no occasion did they express acquiescence with the more genuine idea that the existing duties should remain as against the products of foreign countries, but should be reduced in favour of those coming from the mother country.
– They did in many instances.
– I challenge the honorable member to mention one meeting at which that desire- was expressed.
– I can show the honorable and learned member resolutions that were passed.
– I should like the honorable member to do so.
– What did Sir Normand McLaurin manufacture?
– I can only remind the honorable gentleman of the remark made by another celebrated surgeon, who, when complimented on his great skill, pointed to a graveyard near at hand, and said, “ That is full of my mistakes.” That is the only appropriate answer I can give the honorable member. It may, too, be a very good illustration of the position in regard to protection, but it does not affect the argument I am addressing to the Committee. What I wish to impress upon honorable members is that in every case the meetings to which I have referred were composed of manufacturers. I challen “e contradiction on this point.
– Does the honorable and learned member refer to public meetings?
– Certainly I do. A meeting of the kind would cease to be private if I, as a free-trader, knew what transpired at it.
– There is such a thing as a. meeting of an association.
– I am referring more particularly to the great meeting held in the Town Hall, Melbourne, and intended as a big demonstration to support the proposals which Mr. Chamberlain was then making.
– There were about 400 present.
– That is so. I have also in mind a meeting held in the Prahran Town Hall, and a third meeting held in Melbourne, .at which the same opinions were expressed. It was urged in each case that the existing duties should, not be reduced in favour of Great Britain; but that they should be increased as against the foreigner.
– The preferential effect would be the same.
– But this shows that the real feeling animating the preferential traders is1 not a desire for closer union, but a selfish desire to secure more protection for Australia. I am analyzing these meetings to show that their primary purpose was not to give Great Britain an advantage, but bv a side wind to secure more protection for Australia. We talk too glibly about preferential trade without indicating clearly what “brand” we have in view. We know verv well that during the course of Mr. Chamberlain’s historic campaign a variety of proposals were made. That honorable gentleman, eloquent and able as he is, shifted his ground on three or four occasions. In the first place, he simply proposed a dutv on food products. When he saw that such a proposition was likely to revive the feline which prevailed when the British corn laws were in operation, he promptly abandoned it. He then turned to the manufacturers to ascertain whether he could not win their favour by proposing to place duties on the manufactures of Germany in order to free the products of Sheffield, ‘ Birmingham, and Manchester from their competition. When he found, after the Commission had inquired into the subject, that instead of the industries in question having declined, many of them were ‘prospering to a greater extent than even the most sanguine could have anticipated, he once more changed his ground, and returned to his proposed duties on food. We know what was the result. Notwithstanding that fifty years had elapsed since the repeal of the corn laws, the feeling was so strong that’ the people of England swept Mr. Chamberlain, and all who were associated with him, practically put of Ministerial or quasi Ministerial existence. We have been told over and over again, and I have resented the assertion, that the people of Australia are asking Great Britain to do something in this direction. I say advisedly that the people of Australia have never in a corporate capacity-
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know, Mr. Chairman, whether it is competent for the honorable member to discuss, as he is doing, the question nf preferential trade with Great Britain, which is to be dealt with after the motion now under consideration has been disposed of.
– On the point of order, Mr. Chairman, I would remind you that this motion involves the question of preferential trade with Great Britain, since it relates to a proposal to grant certain products of New Zealand a preference over those of the United Kingdom and other countries.
– The whole question pf preferential trade is involved in this motion, but the honorable and learned member would not be in order at “this stage in discussing the details of the motion relating to preferential trade with Great Britain, which is on the business paper. He would be in order, however, in dealing with the question in a general way.
– I did not intend, sir, to discuss the details of the question. I am dealing only with what I describe as the hypocritical attitude taken up by the Prime Minister and others in connexion with the question of preferential trade. My fiscal opinions may be different from those of many honorable members, but I do like straight dealings in politics. I like a Minister to tell the House honestly and squarely what he desires it to do. When the Prime Minister was told this afternoon by the honorable member for Barrier that these duties would involve additional Customs taxation to the extent of £100,000 per annum, he replied in effect, “ We need to make up our losses in respect of the spirit duties.” I do not know whether the Committee will tolerate such treatment. Is it to be said that because the House negatived a Government proposal calculated to raise an additional £100,000 in respect cf the duties on spirits,’ we should be told that we should agree to a proposition to raise the moneys in another way ?
– This proposal was completed months before the alcohol duties were introduced. When the honorable member for Barrier spoke of what wouk be the effect of this treaty on the revenue derived from Customs duties, I merely pointed out that the House had varied certain propositions submitted on alcohol, which would mean a reduction of £100,000 per annum in the revenue.
– If this treaty was formulated a month ago, then our objection to its being brought forward at the last moment is strengthened.
– The delay was due to the death of Mr. Seddon.
– There was no reason why this matter should not have been introduced and dealt with as soon as Sir Joseph Ward returned from England and took office as Premier of New Zealand.
– We had to fix upon a date when ‘ it could be submitted simultaneously in both Parliaments, and selected the earliest day on which Sir Joseph Ward could lay it before the Parliament of New Zealand.
– Is the Parliament of New Zealand dealing with this matter?
– Yes. It has been referred to their Committee of Industry and Finance, which is to report to the House on the 20th.
– If that is the case I withdraw my last comment. But it is a little unbecoming for the Prime Minister to tell us that these proposals will have the effect of making up for something which honorable members have rejected. There has, I submit, been a degree of hypocrisy shown by the Prime Minister in regard to this great question of preference which is not worthy of him. He has never spoken openly about increasing protection, but always of “ promoting trade and intercourse,”” and bringing about “a closer union.” It is hypocritical pHraseology of that kind to which I, as a straightforward politician, object. I shall not deal with 1 h:,t very equivocal phrase ‘ ‘ closer union, ‘ ‘ because it is so hackneyed and abused. To speak of bringing about closer union between two peoples by binding then* together is like speaking of bringing atom closer union between two persons by handcuffing them together. I indorse the view of ihe Duke of Devonshire, who, in addressing the British Empire League, said that the best way to bring about closer union between Great Britain and her Colonies is to leave the Colonies free to manage their own finances. How can the proposed agreement, which is to be binding for three v.ears, promote closer union, except in the” handcuffing sense? To speak of it in that way is a very improper use of words which should indicate a bond of friendship requiring no such compact. I take exception to the manner in which the proposition has been placed before us. If closer union with New Zealand is to be brought about by giving a preference to that country over Great Britain, that which is deliberately aimed at is the putting in of a wedge between Australia and Great Britain. Moreover, the arrangement is likely to raise the animosity of the other countries which, together with Great Britain’, are excluded from it. Some one has said, in defence of it, lhat it must be read in conjunction with the Government’s proposals for preferential trade with Great Britain. But we must not lose sight of the f act that it affects a large number of commodities which we are daily receiving from Great Britain and the Continent, and that it practically bars us from entering into another arrangement in respect of them for a period of three years.
– We can end this agreement at the end of twelve months to make such an arrangement as the honorable and learned member refers to.
– It is true that the agreement ‘ is for three years, and that either party may break it at the end of one year by giving notice. But if it is in contemplation to break it within twelve month’s, why should we bind ourselves to three years? It would be farcical to do so. Although the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, Sir John See, and Sir William Lyne have told the people of England that Australia is crying out for an arrangement with Great Britain, no single meeting lias taken place in Australia in which the public have unreservedly and unconditionally expressed that wish. Every meeting which has been held has been a meeting of manufacturers, asking for more protection. They have used preferential trade as a hypocritical excuse for obtaining higher duties against the United States and Germany, and, if possible, against Great Britain.
– The honorable and learned member is in error.
– Then: I should like the Prime Minister to correct me. At the very end of last Parliament he was asked bv the leader of the Opposition whether he would undertake to reduce the duties in favour of Great Britain, leaving them as they stand in respect to foreigners; but he said that he would not. In a speech of three hours in advocacy of preferential trade, he replied to one of two interjections that he could not undertake that any scheme introduced bv him would lower the rates of dutv in regard to Great Britain.
– Unless there was a reciprocal preference.
– The Prime Minister- said at the beginning of this Parliament that he was prepared to reduce duties.
– I have been referred to a passage on page 112 of volume XVIII. of ‘Hansard, in which this interchange of remarks takes place: -
– The question is, will the Minister make 3 substantial reduction of the duties in order to achieve the glorious results which he has been picturing?
– Speaking personally, I am perfectly prepared to do’ so.
– That is a fair answer; but it involves a change of policy.
– It will mean a reduction of protectionist duties.
– Our proposal will require fair consideration of the duties which are protectionist, of those which are not protectionist, and, in fact, of all imposts whose reduction will have a preferential effect.
The concluding statement acted very much like the ingredient which the cuttlefish exudes when pursued, darkening the water for a sufficient distance around to allow of his escape from his pursuers. I wish to show that the Prime Minister is not so actuated by the desire to benefit the mother country that he is prepared to say, plainly, “ I propose to modify our Tariff in favour of the mother country in order to bind us more closely together.”
– I am prepared to do so as soon as they are.
– Why does not the Prime Minister do so?
– There have been various utterances by the honorable and learned gentleman on this question since 1901, as a prominent and influential member of the Barton Administration, as Prime Minister of the Administration which followed it, and as Prime Minister for the second time in succession to the right honorable member for East Sydney. Yet, at the very end of a session, three weeks before the prorogation, according to his own statement, a proposition is brought forward without an opportunity being given for the full discussion which its importance requires.
– New Zealand fresh fish is to be allowed to enter duty free, but last year our importations amounted to only £2 worth.
– I do not wish to deal with the various^ items of the schedule, though I admit the utility of the criticism which we have had as showing that, even if we allow the principle involved, the details are such that the anticipated result cannot be hoped .for. The Prime Minister is bringing forward his English preferential trade proposals at a very strange time, seeing that the dust has hardly settled after the recent elections in Great Britain. Never since the repeal of the corn laws in 1846 has there been so distinct a mandate from the people of that country regarding the fiscal question. Mr. Balfour, who had to some extent played with it, and Mr. Chamberlain, who was sent out like the dove from the Ark to find out how the fiscal firmament looked, have become private members, and one of the greatest political parties in modern history has been disintegrated and scattered because of the attempt to convert the people of great Britain to protectionist views.
– That was not the cause.
– As a close student of English political history, I have formed the opinion that it was the main factor in the dissolution of that party. I turn now to another aspect. Before Federation the States were competing one against another, and their people were suffering great inconvenience by the levying of Customs duties on their borders. Those of us who took an active part in bringing about the Union know that the argument which most appealed to the public was that if the States federated Inter-State freetrade would be brought about. The fact that all the free-traders of eminence in public life acquiesced in the movement showed their willingness to take a step towards the consummation of universal free-trade by obtaining free-trade within Australia, even though that involved, in the first instance, protection against the outside world. The Prime Minister frequently advocated Federation on the ground that it would lead to the abolition of State duties, and I should like to know why he is not prepared to apply the same principle to the British Empire? If he genuinely desires to benefit Great Britain, why is he not prepared to apply the principle to the Empire, and announce that he is in favour of Imperial free-trade with duties against the outside world ?
– He advocated an Imperial Council.
– He is president, not of the British Empire League, because I have that honour, but of an Empire League in Victoria. I have read with very great pleasure the addresses in which the Prime Minister has spoken of the Federation of the Empire. Unfortunately, however, he has failed to advocate that we should take what I regard as the first step that contributes towards that end, namely, the abolition of the duties which operate against other parts of the Empire, with a view to establishing- Imperial free-trade, with a system of duties against the outside world. Some such scheme is necessary in order that the Empire may be come “self-contained, and self-supporting.
– Is the honorable and learned member in favour of Imperial free-trade ?
– Certainly. 1 was in favour of Federation because I regarded it as a step in the direction of the Federation of the Empire, which I believe will one day be brought about. I am also in favour of Imperial freetrade because it is a forward step towards universal free - trade. With true free-trade instinct, the honorable member for Echuca pointed .out to us - although I doubt whether he realized where the logic would lead him - that we should do our best to enter into treaties with other countries which, by reason of their climate, geographical position, population, and other conditions, could supply us with products which we were not able to economically raise for ourselves. He thereby enunciated a great free-trade principle, which underlies the idea of Imperial free-trade. Immediately the Commonwealth was established, we had brought home to us the advantages of Inter-State free-trade, under which Queensland was permitted to send her tropical fruits to the Southern States, while Tasmania was afforded an opportunity to supply Queensland with her winter fruits, free from restrictions of any kind. We recognise that the Almightyhas endowed different parts of the earth with different capabilities, and that commodities should be raised in those places where natural conditions are most suitable for them, and exchanged for others under agreements mutually advantageous to all concerned. That principle cannot be extended to the whole world at present, but it could be brought into operation so far as the British Empire is concerned. If the Prime Minister were to ‘bring down a scheme having such an object in view, he would win reputation as a statesman from the people of the whole Empire. Even those who did not like his scheme would approve of his breadth and generosity of mind. If we in our turn adopted the proposal we might rehabilitate our reputation in that part of the Empire in which we have to obtain our money, and place ourselves in a much better position than that in which we stand to-day. The Prime
Minister, instead of fiddling about with this little schedule, bearing a close resemblance to an auctioneers’ catalogue, should bring forward a great, farreaching scheme of Imperial free-trade. Let him indicate, not through protectionist meetings, but through this Parliament, that the people of Australia are willing to enter into a great Imperial free-trade compact, and to join, for the time being, in a system of protection against the outside world, which is endeavouring to penalize the products of the Empire.
– Could such a scheme be carried ?
– Nothing is mv possible nowadays, and, although the honorable member might not individually approve of such a scheme, I think that it would be adopted. I now wish to draw attention to one or two serious results which might be brought about if the proposed treaty were carried out. If this were a far-reaching proposal dealing with great interests, we might be ready to take some risks. But it is. a miserably small one, affecting products of only very small value; and any advantages that may be derived from it will be obtained at great cost. I think that it is a case of dropping the substance and grasping at the shadow. We are running the risk of giving offence to some of the great nations, not by levying duties upon their products, but by deliberately differentiating between them and one other country. We mav thus engender a spirit of retaliation. We know that whenever preferential trade’ has been spoken of in Australia many thoughtful men have predicted that if we differentiated even between the mother country and the great European nations, the spirit of retaliation would probably grow in the latter. It has been pointedly stated that one of the first commodities that the United States and some European countries would attack would be our wool, and we have not very long to wait for an incident bearing upon this aspect of the-matter. In to-day’s Argus I read a very interesting paragraph describing a meeting of French people in Sydney, at which the preferential trade proposals of the Government were considered. I should like the Committee to consider in what way prominent and influential French people view the probable effects of these proposals upon the people of their own country.
– It is significant that no mention is made of the preferential treatment of the French colonies by that country - we have not taken any offence at that.
– I do not think that touches the question at all ; for that is an instance of a preference by a mother country to her own children. The portion of the report to which I refer is headed Preferential Trade: ^French Protest,” and reads as follows: -
The following resolution has been passed by the council of the French Chamber of Commerce of Sydney : - “The council of the French Chamber of Commerce of Sydney, at a meeting held under the honorary presidency of M. Albert Pinard, ConsulGeneral for France, without considering in detail the new preferential duties - which are still in the Bill state, although operative through Ministerial decision - deem it advisable to call the attention of the Commonwealth Parliament to the actual proportions of the commercial interchange between Australia and France. “The latest Federal statistics show that during the year 1905 the direct exports from Australia to France reached the total of ^,762,904, while the direct imports from France into Australia totalled only £510,950, France has therefore bought -in 1905 it times more Australian products than she has sold of French goods.” “ It seems desirable that such commercial relations, presenting for. Australia preponderating advantages, be not compromised by the proposed increased duties against French importations. It >is evident, moreover, that any similar tax, which very probably would be established in France as a retaliatory measure, would weigh heavily on the Australian products that are imported there in lowering by as much the price limits of the French buyers and their so useful competition on the markets of Australia and England. 0 “ In consequence, the Chamber re-affirms the principle and the terms of its resolution of 24th October, 1902, adopted at a time when the establishment of the preferential Tariffs seemed imminent, and which contained the following passage: - ‘That the establishment of the said preferential Tariffs, if it came to be effected, would have for very probable consequence the adoption of retaliatory measures, which the French Government would feel compelled to take as a reply to aggressive methods, in raising the duties on Australian products or taxing such goods hitherto admitted into France free of duty.’ “ The council of the French Chamber of Commerce respectfully requests the Consul-General for France in Australia to communicate the present deliberation, in whatever form he may deem proper, to the Federal Government.”
– Our exports to France consist of raw material’s which the people of that country must have. They impose heavy duties upon all our other commodities.
– I do not like such cock-sure opinions upon, economical questions - they are generally made in a hurry
– The honorable and learned member’s opinions are all cock-sure.
– The honorable member does not understand- the language I use, or he would know that I am not cocksure of anything except that he does not comprehend me. We must not imagine that the French people in Australia are an insignificant community. France has her woolbuyers scattered throughout the Australian States, and some of the ablest men in French commercial life are always amongst us. They form a very influential community, and have a newspaper of their own. They point out very clearly that their country buys from us products valued at eleven times the amount represented by our own imports from France. Yet we are being asked to enter into a truly insignificant arrangement with New Zealand, which has really never been asked for by the people of that Colony, or of the Commonwealth, and which, apparently, has every chance of being rejected in New Zealand, to the detriment of a country that buys nearly six millions of products from us every year. The moment that the new Premier of that Colony returned from England, he expressed his doubts whether the New Zealand Parliament would adopt it. We are asked to enter into an insignificant agreement, which will differentiate New Zealand from Germany, France, the United States, and Great Britain. Are we going to risk, I will not say the loss of a great customer, but the chance of having a handicap placed upon one of our principal commodities merely iri order to bring about the paltry results that are likely to follow upon an agreement of this kind ? Are we prepared to jeopardize the interests of one of our greatest industries and to run the risk of having retaliatory measures adopted by the great nations of Europe in respect to some of our principal products? It must not be forgotten that we have the Argentine Republic upon our flank only too eager to fill any gap in the markets of the world in which we have for so long had, if not a monopoly, a distinct advantage. I think that honorable members should pause before they support the Government proposal. We are under no obligation to placate New Zealand. She has done nothing for us, and is asking nothing from us’; and we should not adopt the proposed treaty merely for the glorification of the Prime Minister. Germany has already spoken pretty freely upon the question of preferential trade. When t’he question was raised some time ago of a preferential trade arrangement with Great Britain, it was openly stated that in all probability Germany would impose retaliatory duties. Then again we are attempting to open up trade with the East. We have sent special commercial agents to China and Japan, with a view to increase trade and induce the teeming millions of those countries to adopt wool instead of cotton for the manufacture of their clothing. Yet it is now proposed to differentiate those two countries with nearly 600,000,000 of people from New Zealand with its 800,000, and to run the risk of giving offence to those great countries with which we specially desire to trade. Some people may say that there will be no risk of exciting the prejudice of China. But did not China recently boycott imports from the United States of America because of the treatment meted out to the Chinese by the American Government? Did not the announcement of the Chinese boycott have such a potent influence upon the President of the United States that he spoke of repealing the whole of the offensive legislation against the Chinese rather than allow the interests of the American manufacturers to be seriously prejudiced.
– A minute ago the honorable and learned member was advocating a world-wide preference.
– That is a very different matter. Instead of dealing with the 800.000 people of New Zealand, whom we are now attempting to placate, we should then Le dealing with 50,000,000 of British people.
– The position is equally illogical.
– The honorable member’s standard of logic and my own may differ. I have been brought up in a different school. We cannot afford with a waive of the hand to say that we are commercially indifferent to China, Japan, France, Germany, and the United States. When this question was first mooted, about four years ago, I recollect reading in the newspapers a cablegram from the United States which breathed the spirit of retaliation. It is an easy matter for honorable members like the honorable member for Echuca to argue that other countries cannot help themselves. No greater mistake can be made than for any nation to suppose that other people cannot live without its products. The assumption that we have a monopoly of the wool production of the world, and that no country can afford to differentiate between Australia and other countries in that respect is about as bad a° blunder as we could fall into. That fact is exemplified by the attitude of France as it is disclosed in to-day’s newspapers, and by the attitude adopted by the President of the United States immediately he found that China proposed to resent the treatment meted out to Chinese immigrants by that country.
– Does the honorable and learned member know that the French protest has nothing whatever to do with the reciprocity proposals ?
– That fact can make no difference whatever to my argument. The objection of France is to any form of preference which differentiates her goods. I would advance precisely the same argument against the more comprehensive Bill. I now wish to say a word or two concerning what I may call the tap-root of this matter. _ This cry for preferential trade originated in a . whine from the State of Victoria. For my own part, I am tired of hearing, from Victoria these complaints, which ido ‘not’ emanate from any other State. Nobody can “read the reports of the evidence given before the Tariff Commission without being struck with the helpless tone adopted by Victorian manufacturers. At every stage we find them making this sort of statement : “We want more assistance, for ‘our industry is declining.” We have recently heard a great deal in reference to the refusal of Victorian manufacturers to face the crossexamination of one or two free-traders upon that Commission. We have some very good evidence of the reason which inspired that fear in some of them. When certain manufacturers, as witnesses, made their ex parte irresponsible statements, they talked of the decline of their industries, but under cross-examination they had to confess that they were really doing more business now than they had done prior to the establishment of Federation. That fact was clearly established in connexion with the manufacture of agricultural implements. It was conclusively shown that the manufacturers engaged in that particular industry, who have been so consistently crying out for more protection, had not only succeeded in Australia, but had actually been exporting their products to the very country which they charged with having “’ dumped “ its goods into the Commonwealth. The lie direct has been giver.’ to their statements. Those statements are only part and parcel of a broad-based scheme of complaint which proceeds from Victorian industries. When Federation was established, we, of New South Wales, all knew that many young industries had been started upon hot-house principles, whose little roots were embedded in this State. We were all aware that protection would have the effect of developing those industries. But we did not anticipate that this whining would be continued for six years of our Federal history. I remember, forty years ago, when a protective policy was first introduced into this country. It was in 1866, and at that time I took a youthful interest in the fiscal question.
– The honorable and learned member must have commenced to do that when he was in the cradle.
– I was very young. At that time, Mr. Yeomans, a well-known hatter of Victoria, to whom I had been speaking of the evils of protection said, “ You know that we shall only require protection for a little while. When we wish to teach a child to walk, we put our hands under its armpits, and assist it to toddle, with the result that by-and-by it cac stand alone, So it will be if a little protection be afforded to our industries. We want to get our labour educated and our market reconciled. We shall then be able to dispense with all these aids, and our industries will stand alone and face the industrial world.” It was a pretty picture. But we find to-day that, like unfledged birds in a nest, these industries still have their mouths open, and are asking for more protection. The people of New S’outh Wales, who have lived under free-trade conditions fcT years, are now called upon to pay duties upon various articles ranging from 20 per cent, to 40 per. cent, and upon some commodities up to 70 per cent.
– What commodities are they ?
– Starch is one of them.
– What does the honorable member mean by 70 per cent. ?
Mr. BRUCE SMITH. I mean that there is a duty of 70 per cent, on starch, and the honorable member for Mernda, who sits near the honorable member, is aware of the fact. It is now proposed to ask the people of New South Wales to pay a duty of ijd. per lb. upon imported oatmeal. All these duties are to be levied for the purpose of assisting a number of industries which were going to stand alone, and to face the competition of the world ; but which, after forty years, are still leaning on the unfortunate consumer. In all his speeches, the Prime Minister talks as a Victorian, and as an advocate of Victorian industries. I have never known him to take into consideration the whole of the circum-stances of Australia. Does he forget that for years 1,500,000 persons in New South Wales have been living under a system of free-trade ?
– What ! under freetrade ?
– Of course. There were duties collected upon narcotics and spirits, but the people of New South Wales have practically been Hying under a free-trade Tariff, and, in order to bring about Federation, they agreed to come under the Victorian system of protection.
– They are giving strong evidence of a desire for more protection.
– I ask the honorable member to point me to a single passage in the evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission in which any New South’ Wales manufacturer cried out for more assistance.
– I will do so at once.
– The Prime Minister has not done justice to his Federal reputation by constantly viewing this matter from a Victorian stand-point. I shall oppose the proposed reciprocal agreement with New Zealand. The benefits which it would confer are infinitesimal as compared with the dangers that would be involved in passing it. The moment that we sanction it the news will go forth to the world that we have differentiated between the goods of New Zealand and those of every other country, and there is every chance that our action will engender a feeling of retaliation in the countries affectedby it. We have had an indication of that to-day in the case of France, and in regard to Germany we occupy exactly a similar position. There can be no doubt whatever that if we offer an advantage to New Zealand as against the mother country, we shall exhibit a glaring want of appreciation of our real obligations to Great Britain.
– Here is one passage in which a New South Wales manufacturer desires more protection.
– The honorable member is playing beautifully into my hands. I have already stated that if we look through the report of the proceedings of the Tariff Commission we shall find upon almost every page instances in which Victorians engaged in the distillation of whisky, and in the manufacture of harvesters, galvanized’ iron, wire, and shoe nails, cry. out like a nest of unfledged birds for more protection.
– The honorable and learned member said that not one manufacturer in New South Wales asked for more protection.
– I did, and I am going to read the paragraph which the honorable member has brought under my notice. New South Wales has a population of something like 1,500,000, and the Tariff Commission reports that “ Two manufacturing firms in New South Wales supported the complaint and suggestion made in Victoria, and South Australia.”
– Read the names of the two manufacturers.
– The names are immaterial to the point at issue, but I shall give them. They are the Clyde Engineering Company and the’ Meadowbank Manufacturing Company.
– Two manufacturers complained in regard to one item, and yet the honorable member said that not one manufacturer in New South Wales had made a complaint.
– I would point out the remarkable difference between the attitude of the manufacturers of New South Wales and those of Victoria.
– I could point to fifty more cases.
– The only two Cases foundin a community of a million and a half prove the rule for which I have contended. It is, too quite possible that since this artificial system came into existence some manufacturers - possibly Victorians - havegone to New South Wales, and endeavoured to establish industries there. The supporters of the Government must be in a very bad plight when they profess tothink that they have scored a victory by finding two cases in which manufacturers in that State have asked for more protection.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has bowled out the honorable and learned member.
– He has found that two manufacturers in New South Wales complain of want of duties, whereas on almost every page of the reports of the Commission we read of complaints from Victorian manufacturers that more assistance is necessary. The Prime Minister has not, Isay, done justice to himself in failing to give consideration to the great wave of free-trade which rolls year after year over New South Wales, and which is inimical to all these beggarly measures which he is bringing forward without the slightest indication of that appreciation of the position which one would expect from the occupant of his high office.
.- I am sure that the Committee is indebted to the honorable and learned member for Parkes for the elaborate lecture which he has just delivered.
– That is a very old gag.
– For the most part it was a repetition of lectures to which he has often treated us, but his declaration that he is an Empire free-trader, and a protectionist against the world, is certainly new. His present attitude suggests the well-known query -
Are things what they seem,
Or is visions about?
The honorable and learned member who, hitherto has been regarded as a paragon of free-trade excellence, boldly announced himself as a believer in protection against the world. His lecture, although somewhat contradictory, was exceedingly interesting. He complained that the Prime Minister had not included Great Britain in a comprehensive scheme of Tariff reform designed to link the whole British Empire together against the world; yet almost in the same breath, he warned us of the dire consequences of a union of France, Germany, China, and other foreign countries in a kind of zollverein in opposition to us. In one sense, however, the palpable contradictions in which he indulged added a piquancy to his deliverance. Though in sympathy in some measure with his views, these contradictions are too palpable to be ignored. For somewhat different reasons from those which he enunciated, I find myself in antagonism to this proposition. I do not believe that any two men in Australia are competent to draw up a Tariff and require Parliament to agree to it without alteration. If this treaty is to be adopted, I should prefer to see it extended over a period of three years, rather than that it should be limited, as just suggested by the Prime Minister, to twelve months. I do not think that the honorable and learned gentleman realizes the serious dislocation of business which results from Tariff re-adjustments. If this treaty remains in force for three years, it will have a fair trial, and commercial men will have an opportunity to re-adjust their business arrangements “to meet the altered position. The Prime Minister must surely know that twelve months would scarcely enable manufacturers and importers to complete the arrangements necessary to be made in respect of some of the items in the.-. schedule; and that, on the expiration of the treaty, they might suffer ‘serious loss in respect of goods which had been ordered some time in advance.
– Some of them would have to adopt a different system of manufacturing.
– That is so. It is difficult to see how the House can swallow a Tariff without examination. I, for one, shall not subscribe to anything of the kind. These items ought to be fairly debated, and the House should arrive at a true understanding of what their effect will be. The Prime Minister should have arrangd, if possible, for the scheme to be discussed in the Parliament of New Zealand whilst it is under discussion here.
– It is now before the New Zealand Parliament.
– I understand that it has been referred to a Committee.
– The New Zealand House of Representatives have a Standing Committee of Finance and Trade, which deals with all measures affecting trade and their financial arrangements.
– But I understand that it will have to review the work of that Committee.
– It will do so next week.
– That being so, we are not in a position to know what- the New Zealand Parliament will do. I wish now to refer briefly to one or two items -in the schedule. I believe tha* the honorable member for Barrier has dealt with what is likely to be the effect of the proposed duties on timber, but I wish to emphasize the point that it would be unfair to the mining community to impose differential rates in respect of Oregon. It is clear the rates fixed on this and other items show that this proposal was not fully considered by Mr Seddon and the Commonwealth Government at the time of its adoption by them. Although the Ministry propose to grant a preference to British products, I find that under this treaty the duty on condensed milk imported from Great Britain and all countries other than New Zealand will be increased by 100 per cent. Can it be said that the Ministry is in this way redeeming its promise to give preferential treatment to imports from, the mother country? The presence of such a proposal in the schedule is in itself sufficient to render it impossible for the Committee to adopt it as it stands. I find from the statistics submitted to us that over £21,000 worth of preserved milk is imported from Great Britain, and from information I have received, I believe that the imports this year from English factories will be increased tq 100,000 cases. Should my information be correct the value of our imports of preserved milk from Great Britain this year will be very materially increased, and the imports from other countries will be correspondingly reduced. I suggest that, instead of fixing the duty on preserved milk from New Zealand at id. per lb., we should impose a duty of d. per lb., and retain the present duty of id. per lb. as against the British article, whilst increasing the duty as against the foreign article to ijd. per lb. That alteration would be absolutely consistent with the Ministerial policy of granting British products a preference in this market, and I do not think that New Zealand could offer any objection to it. On the other hand, the proposal embodied in the schedule would penalize the British article, and place it on an equal footing with the production of any foreign country. My . suggestion is that New Zealand milk should pay a duty of Jd. a lb., British milk a duty of id. a lb., and the foreign article a duty of ijd. a lb. That arrangement would be. consistent with the declared policy of the Government to give the mother country a preference in this market.
– And reciprocally New Zealand should make the same arrangement with respect to us.
– Does the honorable member make the same suggestion in regard to the duties on cheese?
– I have not the same information in regard to cheese; but if the same principle applies, I should do so.
– And in regard to hops?
– In regard to all other articles to which the principle applies. It seems to me that the Ministry, instead of proposing a duty on many New Zealand products, should allow them to enter free. Protective duties are imposed in Australia to safeguard local manufacturers from the effects of lower wages and unfair conditions elsewhere ; but as the position of New Zealand approximates to that of Australia, there is no justification for such duties against that country ; and if we do not impose duties against New Zealand products, that Colony will have no excuse for imposing duties upon our products. The adoption of my suggestion will leave the Government much freer to impose differential rates favouring the products of the mother country, and slightly handicapping foreign competition. I understand that condensed milk contains from 30 to 50 per cent. of sugar.
– I do not think that it contains as much as 50 per cent.
– I am informed that some foreign brands contain nearly 50 per cent., and that they average from 35 to 40 per cent. But, if the New Zealand manufacturer of condensed milk is able to get Australian sugar free of duty, he will have an advantage over the manufacturer on the mainland; and, therefore, I suggest the retention of a duty of1/2d. per lb., to put the manufacturers in the two countries on the same footing. While such an anomaly as this affords a strong argument for not adopting the proposition of the Government, if the Prime Minister’s idea is carried out, and any recommendations that we may make are attached to the schedule, to become the basis of further negotiations with the New Zealand Government, it may, perhaps,be accepted. If we cannotachieve our endin any other way, I shall vote for including our recommendations, in respect to alterations, in the schedule, in order that they may be the basis for further negotiations. That, of course, would be on the understanding that our Government insisted on the retention of the alterations made by this House. I congratulate the Government upon having made a start in this matter. The honorable and learned member for Parkes censured them for not having proposed an elaborate and complete scale of duties in respect to both New Zealand and the mother country ; but everything must have a beginning, and theGovernment seems to have made a fair start. If we are willing to take New Zealand into the Federation, as I am sure that we are, we should extend her the freedom of commerce enjoyed by the other States of the Union ; and I am hopeful that ultimately this treaty will become the basis of a commercial union between the two countries.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that when I was sitting on an opposite bench, to which I had moved in order to obtain a better opportunity to hear his speech, the honorable and learned member for Parkes made what, I think, was a very improper reference to me. It is not the first time that allusions of the kind have been made in this Chamber. They are exceedingly distasteful, and absolutely without justification. He was speaking of the manner in which Victorian manufacturers, as he alleged, always come open-mouthed to Parliament for additional protection, and pointed his argumentsby alluding in a very marked way to starch, and the honorable and learned member said very pointedly that the honorable member for Mernda could give information on that subject. I object to such statements, because they are not calculated to raise the tone of debate, and, in reply. I wish to, put before honorable members one or two facts. My . firm engaged in the manufacture of starch at a time when the Victorian duty was 2d. a lb., and, when the Federal Government proposed that rate in the Commonwealth Tariff, I expressly asked them not to impose a protective duty of more than id. per lb. The Government practically acted on my suggestion to reduce the protective duty by retaining. ihe import duty of 2d. per lb., and imposing an Excise duty of rd. per lb. on all starch made in the Commonwealth. This Excise duty not only necessitated the pay.ment of id. per lb. by the manufacturers, but involved them in the inconvenience and expense of carrying on their operations under Customs supervision-. I did not vote on the question. I have never made any request to the Government for additional protection. The honorable and learned member who twitted the Prime Minister with want of commercial knowledge, showed that he was utterly ignorant df the conditions under which the industry was carried on, because^ he did not know that there was an Excise duty as well as an import duty. It may surprise mv honorable and learned friend, who is a free-trader of the free-traders, when I tell him that, as the result of the duty of id. per lb., which is the net protection that the local manufacturers enjoy, the price of the article has steadily gone down. As the operations of the manufacturers have increased, they have been able to reduce their cost of production, and to-day starch is being sold in the market at a lower price - making allowance for the Excise duty of id. per lb. - than was ever asked for it in the days of free-trade in New South Wales or Victoria.
Mr.- Kelly. - Has the world’s price not declined ?
– No, the world’s price has not declined.
– I would ask the honorable member not to go beyond a personal explanation.
– I think that I am entitled to some slight consideration, because the honorable and learned member for Parkes has gone out of bis way to personally refer to mc. I have always done my duty here, and I think I shall be able to show mv disinterestedness. I thoroughly believe in protection, because, according to my -experience, once an industry is fairly established, and the local manufacturers have command of the market, competition reduces prices and protects the public. I think I shall be able to prove that later on. I trust that these personal imputations will not be repeated. My duty here is to represent the whole country, and not to look after my own interests. As Ministers know. I have studiously abstained from interfering with matters in which I was interested, and, so far as the proposed treaty with New Zealand is concerned, I knew nothing whatever about it until it was published in the newspapers. If starch is included in the schedule, it was certainly not placed there with my knowledge, or even with my approval.
– I am involved in this matter.
– Does the honorable member wish to make a personal explanation.
– Yes, because the honorable member for Mernda has cornplained of my conduct He has very cleverly made a mountain out of a molehill. He has very adroitly used the occasion to give us an autobiographical sketch-
– The honorable and learned member is not now making a personal explanation.
– The honorable member for Mernda has not reported this matter properly. What I stated was that Victoria had been crying out for years for more protection.
– The honorable and learned member is not now making a personal explanation.
– You, sir, allowed the honorable member for Mernda great latitude.
– If the honorable and learned member will permit me to explain, I think that he will see the limits within which he is permitted to speak. The honorable member for Mernda was entitled to make a personal explanation. As soon as he proceeded to discuss the question of free-trade and protection, I told him that he was going beyond the limits of a personal explanation, arid he returned to the point. If the honorable and- learned member desires to make a personal explanation, I shall not interfere with him, but I cannot permit him to discuss what the honorable member for Mernda has done, or what he should have done, or what duty should have been imposed on starch.
– You, sir, were not here when the incident to which I wish to refer occurred. The honorable member foi Mernda, under cover of a personal explanation, made a long autobiographical statement with regard to matters which have never before been referred to ; and I submit that I have a right to tell honorable members what took place, in order that they may not be carried away by the irrelevant statement now made by the honorable member. What took place in Committee was this-
– The honorable member must, not refer to what took place in Committee. Before the honorable and learned member came into the Chamber I asked the honorable member for Mernda if he desired to make a personal explanation, and pointed out to him that he would not be entitled to refer to what had taken place in Committee. I cannot permit the honorable member for Parkes to do that which I prevented the honorable and learned member for Mernda from doing. He. may make any explanation he desires, but’ his explanation must not reflect upon any other honorable member.
– The whole of the honorable member’s explanation related either to what took place in Committee or to something that did not take place at all, and I want to differentiate between what occurred and what, did not. I shall confine myself to references to what did not take place. I did not reflect upon the honorable member, and I did not refer to himpersonally. I was mentioning that the duties had been increased by 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 70 per cent. An honorable member askedme what duty had been increased to 70 per cent., and I said “starch.” I did not refer to the honorable member’s profits on starch or to the profits he was making in, his business. Neither did I say that the honorable member had asked the late Government to do anything in regard to the duty. I did not charge him with askingfor more duty. I stated generally,and only generally, that the Victorian manufacturershad asked for more duties. I do not wish to say anything, offensive to the honorable member. He was sitting at the back of the honorable member who asked me what commodity had a 70 per cent,duty upon it, and when I mentioned starch, I did not in any way connect that article with the personality of ‘ the honorable member. I merely referred to the honorable member by his constituency name, and remarked that he would remember what had taken place in connexion with the Tariff discussion,. I did not refer to the profits derived by the honorable member from his business.
– Nor did I.’
– The honorable member gave us a history of his business.
– I merely stated that the pr ices were lower than they had been.
– I do not wish to offend the honorable member in any way. If the honorable member did take offence-
– Only because of the personal application of the remark of the honorable and learned member.
– I can assure the honorable member that no personal application was intended.”
– I accept the assurance of the honorable and learned member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060912_reps_2_34/>.