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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - It makes one, to a certain extent, content to know that members of the Opposition have taken for their text this morning something that has appeared in the Melbourne Age. Inspiration is required; and evidently those honorable members are not particular whence it is drawn. It is remarkable that a measure of this kind cannot be discussed without the honorable member for Parramatta, who is the deputy leader of the Opposition, hurling at the Minister in charge observations which, in my opinion, are absolutely unworthy of any representative in this Chamber. This measure has been described as another fraud - as only one of many frauds "which have characterized the political' career of the Minister. Statements of this kind are surprising, as emanating from a gentleman who might glance at his own windows before throwing stones at the windows of other people. The honorable member for Parramatta turns on any one who ventures to point our the absolutely un-British conduct which marks him whenever he rises in opposition to any proposal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister of Trade and Customs has the honorable member for Gwydir under his thumb.

Mr WEBSTER - The honorable member for Parramatta now accuses me of supporting the present Minister of Home Affairs under all conditions, rightly or wrongly. But the consistency I have shown in supporting one whom I know to be right is a fact in which I take a great deal of pride. The consistency of the honorable member for Parramatta lies in denouncing anything and everything, whether he believes in the proposal or not, just as it suits his political mission. However, the honorable member " gave away " the whole position when this morning he stated that he had received letters from his constituents begging him not to oppose this measure.

Mr Spence - The honorable member for Parramatta does not oppose the measure.

Mr WEBSTER - I admit that; but we can now see the lever by which he is worked - the lever which moves this gentleman, who, of all others, is the greatest exponent of freedom of commerce and trade. When he hears the still small voice of his constituents, he is prepared to swallow all his high aspirations in regard to fiscalism, and to be silent on the floor of this House in. the presence of a measure which invades the very principles he so strongly advocates.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is very loud, but where is the point?

Mr WEBSTER - The point is that the workers of Lithgow are sufficiently strong to override the honorable member's professions with regard to free-trade.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not understand the honorable member.

Mr WEBSTER - I cannot help that; I cannot supply the honorable member with the sense to understand.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How does the honorable memberfor Gwydir account for the fact that thevoters of Lithgow return the honorable member for Parramatta to this House?

Mr WEBSTER -I can only say that the workers of Lithgow, like the workers of Bathurst, are liable to be hypnotized by the wonderful presence of the honorable members who now represent them, the hypnotism being assisted by the glamour thrown around those two gentlemen by the Sydney daily press.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When the honorable member has represented a constituency for twenty years, he may be in a position to talk in this strain.

Mr WEBSTER - The length of the period does not prove the efficiency of the representation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Gwydir, in order to get into Parliament, had to go to a constituency where he was not known.

Mr WEBSTER - Well, that is more than the honorable member would ever dare do.

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member for Gwydir discuss the Bill?

Mr WEBSTER - I am merely replying to interjections, which are published, and thus spread misrepresentation abroad.

Mr SPEAKER - It may be well for honorable members generally to know that interjections not replied to are not published in Hansard.

Sir William Lyne - But they are published in the newspaper press.

Mr SPEAKER - In any case, I shall not allow irrelevant or improper interjections to be held to justify any departure in debate from thesubject-matter of the question.

Mr WEBSTER - I ask for no concession ; but it is very difficult to refrain from replying to interjections. The honorable member for Parramatta, and others, declare that this Bill does nothing - that it is a sham, a farce, and a fraud. But the Bill does, practically, as much as can be done by Parliament at this time. We simply give the right, in some other session, or to some otherParliament, when it is proved that iron has been made from native ores, according to the terms specified, to apply the provision of the Tariff to the industry. The present proposal is made in the belief that it will save time; and the only criticism advanced against it amounts to an assertion that a resolution will prove as difficult to pass as an Act of Parliament. Every honorable member who has considered the question must know that that assertion is not correct. Honorable members can speak only once to a motion, but there are endless opportunities to discuss a Bill. That being so, the objection can only be regarded as being most insincere. I hold that something tangible will result from the passing of this measure. We do not propose to allow the Minister of his own motionto bring

Part VI. a of the Tariff into operation, but, by this measure, we" call upon him to obtain the consent of the Parliament to that being done. The honorable member for North Sydney has said that when the time arrives for the adoption "of that course another Parliament may be in existence ; but that is an immaterial consideration. The Opposition are opposed to the imposition of duties,, the granting of bounties, or anything else "designed, to encourage our industries, and hence their objection to this proposal. But for the arrangement made by the Government of New South Wales with' Mr.. Sandford for the supply of all the iron required by the Railway Department of tha.t State for the next seven years-, the Ministry would have proceeded with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill in its original form. For reasons overwhich, we- have no control, the situation has changed, and yet the Opposition would have) the public believe that, the Government are backing down from the position which they first took up. Such an assertion is an idle one. The honorable member for North Sydney spoke of this as sham legislation, to be perfected hereafter by some other Parliament. Such an attack may be all very well from the point of view that, it is the duty of an Opposition to. denounce every Ministerial- proposal, but, after all, that is a sorry position to take up. The Government and its supporters hold that it is only right that Parliament: itself should determine when Part VI. a of the Tariff shall come into operation.

Sir William Lyne - I wish that I could do more, but I cannot.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister never tried'..

Mr WEBSTER - Had the Minister proposed that Part VI. a of the Tariff should be brought into force by Executive act, his proposition would not have been as far forward as it is to-day. We know that- he- would like to do more if he could, and- so would every other honorable member who is honestly inclined to assist the iron industry, and does not favour a certain policy merely for the sake of gratifying a small coterie of his constituents. The Minister in the circumstances is doing all that he can, and but for the contract made between the Government of New South Wales and Mr. Sandford, I am satisfied that .he would have done that- which the Opposition now upbraid him for failing to do. If the Opposition find fault with the Government for neglecting to provide for the payment of bonuses in connexion with the industry, they must also find fault with the State Government which has placed the supply of iron and steel for the State Railway Department for seven years in the hands of a close corporation. It has- also been declared by the honorable member for North Sydney that this is a most shadowymeasure, and that had the Government desired to push an Iron Bonus Bill' through the House, they could have done so by means of the " gag." The Government brought forward the closure standing orders merely to secure a means of defence against waste of time on the part of the Opposition, and I am sure that they have no desire to avail themselves of it for any other purpose. In dealing with this Bill, the Opposition have been letting off political fireworks very much like those which were fired two or three days ago by the Premier of New South Wales, and it seems to me that they are unworthy of further attention. 0

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