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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr CAMERON (Wilmot) .- Napoleon said, on one occasion, that the people of Great Britain were a nation of hucksters, and I am very much afraid that if he had listened to the speeches of some honorable members he would have spoken of the people of Australia in the same terms. I was much struck with the ability with which the honorable member for North Sydney spoke in favour of according preferential treatment to Great Britain, and I most cordially support his amendment. It seems to me that the Attorney-General did not rise to the occasion. He should have accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney, not only because it is a fair one, but because it would enable us to show our gratitude to the people of Great Britain for what they have done for us in the past. Instead, the Attorney-General, acting, it appears to me, very much as Shylock did in demanding his pound of flesh, said that he could not agree to the request, but that the Government hoped, at some not far-distant period,to introduce a Bill in favour of preferential trade relations with the mother country. He knew full well when he talked of preferential trade that he was speaking of something which the people of GreatBritain, by an enormous majority at the polls, had declared against. He knew that there can be no such thing as preferential trade in the near future between any of the British Dependencies and Great Britain. The electors of the mother country have unmistakably declared in favour of free-trade. They have sent the party whose members advocated the imposition of moderate duties, in the interests of preferential trade, to the wall. The Government of Great Britain is now composed of men who have declared in the most unmistakable fashion for free-trade. What,then, was the use of the Attorney-General attempting to humbug this Committee?

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must not impute motives.

Mr CAMERON - Then I will say what was the use of the Attorney-General attempting to mislead honorable members?

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must not impute motives.

Mr CAMERON - If the AttorneyGeneral was not endeavouring to impute motives, what was he attempting to do?

The CHAIRMAN - It is not for me to answer the honorable member's question as to what the Attorey-General was doing; but the honorable member must not impute motives to other honorable members.

Mr CAMERON - I bow to your decision, sir; but in my opinion it was unfair for the Attorney -General to act in the manner that he did last night. He is aware - no man better - that any preference which may be extended to the goods of the mother country must emanate from the people of the Commonwealth themselves. Great Britain has done much for us in the past, and why should we not do a little for her? Honorable members upon this side of the House do not ask for a reduction in our Tariff duties with a view to giving effect to the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney. We recognise that there is a majority against us. But surely we are justified in following in the footsteps of New Zealand. Surely we are justified in emulating the example of the late Mr. Seddon, who has been so much extolled by the Prime Minister, and whose unhappy death has been deeply lamented by everybody, and especially by those who hold the democratic faith. Undoubtedly he was a man who recognised his responsibilities to the Empire. Surely this Commonwealth is not going to play second fiddle to New Zealand, and to say that, because of certain mean and contemptible motives we decline to follow in its footsteps. I appeal to members of the Labour Party, who have time and again declared themselves in favour of free-trade, to assist honorable members on this side of the Chamber to give effect to the amendment which is now under consideration. If they do so, I am quite satisfied that they will never have cause to regret their action. This is not a party question ; it is a question of sentiment which should appeal to every honorable member, no matter upon what side of the House he may sit. I am satisfied that if honorable members vote in the direction I have indicated, they will in the future have cause to congratulate themselves upon having risen superior to party politics, and upon having done something, however little, for the country which has done so much for us.

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