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Friday, 13 July 1906

The CHAIRMAN - The Minister is quite in order in moving the amendment of the amendment.

Mr LONSDALE - I was about to say when the deputy leader of the Opposition rose to a point of order, that the attitude of the Ministry would be more honest if they simply negatived the amendment of the amendment, instead of proposing the addition of other words. If that course were adopted, we should have a fair straight-out vote on the honorable member for Franklin's proposal. Let us consider for a moment what would be the effect of passing the amendment of the amendment in the form now proposed by the Minister. Experiments with a view to the improvement of agricultural machinery are being made month after month and year after year. It is only a little while since complaint was made to the Minister that so-called foreigners were conducting a. trial of disc ploughs with the object of discovering the improvements necessary to secure a machine best suited to the various soils of the country. If an improved plough on this pattern were sought to be introduced, the Minister, under his further amendment of the amendment, would be able to prevent its importation. We should desire to give free play to the improved machinery which comes here from other countries, instead of seeking to prevent its importation because our own manufacturers do not keep pace with modern development. The amendment of the amendment refers to stripperharvesters. There can be no doubt that great improvements will be made in those machines as the result of experiments being made by agricultural experts. But what would be the position if an improved stripperharvester were sought to be introduced? Is it to be said that because the improved machine would interfere with the business of a local manufacturer the farmers should be prevented from obtaining it? Should the farmers be injured in this way merely to strengthen the position of a manufacturer of obsolete machines? The Committee have largely followed the lead of the Ministry, failing to recognise that they are taking this action in the interests of the manufacturers alone, but I trust that they realize the true position. Had the Government agreed to the amendment enabling the Justice to fix prices, we might have allowed the present proposa.1 to pass ; but they seem to be endeavouring to do all they can to help the manufacturers, who comprise the smallest section of the community. That is the one object of the Bill. I shall vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin. The proposal submitted by the Minister is absurd. If the Government are opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin, the Ministry should negative it in a straightout, honest way, and not seek to defeat it by a side wind. No doubt the Minister of Trade and 'Customs will boast to his constituents that he has assisted the farmer by reducing the price of stripper-harvesters ; but he knows that his one Object has been to enable local manufacturers of those machines to obtain a higher price for them. If he speaks the truth he will admit that his object is to prevent the competition which keeps down prices. If he were honestly pursuing the object that 'he claims to have before him, he would simply refuse to give an advantage to Mr. McKay when he was in a combine to keep up prices against the farmers. They certainly deserve no consideration. If I were satisfied that the business of Mr. McKay was being ruined by importations of harvesting machinery, I should not be prepared to give him any assistance, because he was in combination with others to keep up the price of agricultural machinery against the farmer. Throughout the consideration of this Bill Ministers apparently have assumed that there is only one class in the community in whose interests legislation should be passed. Amendments in the direction of helping other classes have come only from the Opposition, who have endeavoured to secure that some protection shall be afforded under this measure to the worker and to the consumer. I shall support the amendment.

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