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Monday, 18 December 1911


Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - When the Senate rose on Friday I was endeavouring to point out that any adherent of the Labour party, or representative of that party in Parliament, must be a Protectionist, to be consistent in his policy. That fact is evident on the face of it. We cannot compel Australian employers to pay Australian wages, and to observe Australian conditions, unless sufficent protection against the sweated labour of other countries is given to them.


Senator St Ledger - Is that the principle of Protection, according to the Labour party?


Senator STEWART - I am not speaking for the Labour party; I am pointing out that if a Labour man is to be consistent in the endeavour to maintain a high standard of . living here, he must protect our manufacturers against the competition of the sweated labour of Europe and other countries. We have to ask ourselves : Is the Tariff doing what it ought to do from a Labour stand-point? Any one who looks at the record of our imports would at once come to the conclusion that it is not. We import goods per head of population to a larger extent than any other country, with the exception perhaps of New Zealand. That is sufficient evidence that the Tariff is not doing its work, and instead of being Protectionist in its incidence is a revenue Tariff. I direct the attention of the members of the party to which I belong, and of the Government, to the fact that a revenue Tariff buttresses land monopoly. So long as the Commonwealth and the States derive a large part of their revenue from Customs and Excise duties, there will be no need for direct taxation. The objective of every Labour man. ought therefore to be to make the Tariff Free Trade, that is, to have no duties except on stimulants or narcotics, or to make it Protec tive, so that it would return the minimum of revenue, and compel resort to direct taxation.


Senator St Ledger - Is there such a protective Tariff on earth?


Senator STEWART - I am not troubling about that. Australia is in advance of most countries in social legislation, and in my remarks I am not addressing the Opposition just now. The policy which I support is one to which the honorable senator and the party with which he is associated is directly opposed.


Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - There are strong Protectionists, in the Opposition.


Senator STEWART - I am addressing the members of my own party, and showing that if they are to be consistent they must vote for an admittedly revenue Tariff, buttressing up land monopoly and imposing the severest taxation on the poor - because the poorer the man and the larger his family the more heavily the Customs taxation falls on him - or must support a Tariff which will not be a revenue Tariff, with the necessary consequence that Customs revenue will be reduced to a minimum, and direct taxation must follow. To my way of thinking, the latter policy is the proper one for a Labour man to support.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is not, to. my way of thinking.


Senator STEWART - I am speaking for myself. The honorable senator will have an opportunity to address the Senate later. If the policy which I advocate. is not that to which he can agree, he would be more comfortable outside the Labour party. He has no right to be in the party if he does not believe in that policy, which is accepted by almost every man here, and in every other country where there is a Labour party as a part of the Labour policy.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is not.


Senator STEWART - As I have said, we must do one of two things. The people of Australia have declared against Free Trade and in favour of a Protectionist Tariff. The Labour party is bound, not only by its own platform and its principles, but in addition, by the mandate of the people who placed it in power to pass a Tariff which will give effective Protection to existing industries and create others. Let us analyze a few of the articles which are imported to a very large extent. Imports are going up at a remarkably rapid rate, and revenue is being correspondingly increased. No doubt all that is evidence of the prosperity of the people. It is admitted by everybody that Australia is passing through a period of great prosperity, but every man who knows its history is aware that we have, so to speak, a succession of heights and hollows. We are on one of the heights now. The hollow is either in the near or in the more or less remote future, but that it is there every man must admit. Some day Australia will be in the trough, just as she was ten years ago, and that will be the time when the need of local industries will be apparent to everybody, and when the failure of this Parliament to put in force a policy which would result in creating industries in town and country will be more and more apparent, and will be regretted by everybody connected with it. If the Tariff is made Protectionist, not only will it create a large number of secondary industries, and in that way give a large amount of employment, but it will result in freeing the lands of the Commonwealth as a consequence of the imposition of direct taxation. The land monopoly in that case would have to be broken up. The demand for revenue would be so great that Parliament would have its attention directed straight away to the huge amount of community -created< value which passes every year into the pockets of private individuals. That practically unexplored region of taxation would be attacked and dealt with in earnest.


Senator Vardon - After the monopoly had been broken up you would still have to get your revenue from the land.


Senator STEWART - We would still have to get our revenue from where it ought to come. Every farthing of communitycreated value in this continent belongs, I repeat, to the people who created that value, and not to any private individuals. It is one of the monstrosities of public life, not only in Australia, but in a great number of countries, that the rich stores of communitycreated values almost everywhere pass not into the hands of the people who created them, but into the hands of the private owners of land. I as a member of this Parliament, and a citizen of Australia, intend to do everything in my power to-


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To be honest.


Senator STEWART - Bring that state pf affairs to a close, and I shall be exceedingly glad if Senator W. Russell will give his assistance.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Not much.


Senator STEWART - Instead of being,, as he appears to be, an advocate of land monopoly.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of new Protection, and no Protection without it.


Senator STEWART - That is a very sliding out for Senator W. Russell. He says, " No Protection without new Protection."


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My hustings pledges.


Senator STEWART - I believe in new Protection just as firmly as does Senator W. Russell. But I also believe in doing to-day what you can do to-day, and if you cannot do all you would like to do, do it to-morrow, or some other day. Now we have a mandate from the people to pass a Protectionist Tariff. We ask them to give Parliament power to fix rates of wages, hours, and conditions of labour, and everything else in connexionwith labour, and they refused to give us that mandate. They said in effect, " We are satisfied with the provision which existsfor fixing rates of wages and conditions of labour in the States." I believe that the people of the Commonwealth were wrong, in coming to that decision, and I am prepared to go out to-morrow and help tobring them to a better frame of mind. But meanwhile let us give the various industriessuch effective Protection that not a single manufacturer throughout Australia will have the shred of an excuse for refusing to pay his workmen a decent living Australia!* wage. Take the wages as they exist. I donot say that they are anything like what they ought to be, but they are very mud* higher than the wages paid in countries which now compete with Australian manufacturers in a number of industries. They are 100 per cent, higher in somecases, and 150 per cent, higher in several others, so that the claim that the peopleworking in our manufactories are not getting a fair share of Protection seems to me to be not quite so valid as it ought to be. In any case, let us bring in a Tariff whichwill protect. When that is done, if the workmen and the workwomen do not get their fair share they will have the matterin their own hands. They can give the Parliament of the Commonwealth the power of dealing with the rates of wages and conditions of labour.


Senator Ready - Do you think that our industries are languishing?


Senator STEWART - I do not say that our industries are languishing, but our imports are "very much greater than they ought to be. As I mentioned a minute ago, we are living in a period of unexampled prosperity. Everybody is employed more or less, but the day is coming, as Senator Ready ought to know, when Australia will be down in the rut, as she was a few years ago, when there will be thousands of unemployed both in town and in country. Now is the time - and this is what I am trying to impress on Senator Ready and every other member of the party to which I belong - to lay the foundation of industries in the future. Now is the tune to break up land monopoly. Now is the time to bring forward such a Tariff as will create industries of many kinds throughout the Commonwealth. Now is the time to bring forward a Tariff which will encourage manufacturers in the Old Country and other countries to come here with their capital, lay down their plants, and proceed to manufacture with every modern improvement at their command. It will be too late to do that when trouble knocks at our door. I do not know exactly the amount, but in 1909 we imported goods to the value of over ,£50,000,000. Our Customs revenue was the second highest per head in the world, so far as I have been able to discover. New Zealand, with £2 14s. 7d. per head of the. population, had the highest, while ours was £2 is. 4d. per head. The Customs revenue of the United States of America amounted to only 13s. 1 id. per head. That is a fact to which I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators very strongly. There is one of the most prosperous countries under the sun ; a country which is probably more self-contained than any other community of people to be found on the face of the earth, and yet their Customs revenue amounts to only 13s. nd. per head, the reason being that they have a Tariff which effectively protects their manufacturers against the manufacturers in the sweated countries of Europe. Some honorable senators may say that the people of the United States of America have not found the New Jerusalem, so far as industrialism is concerned, even with their high Tariff. I quite admit it. A high . Tariff of itself is not sufficient. I merely point out that under high Tariff conditions these people have become so selfcontained as to be practically independent, so far as their products are concerned, of almost every other country. Where the United States of America have failed, and_ where we hope to succeed, is that they have not protected their workmen, and. have allowed the land monopolist and- the industrial monopolist, in other words, the trust and the ring, to reign supreme. We in Australia hope, if not to-day, at least in the near future, to deal not only with the trust and the combine, but with the land monopolist, who is a greater evil to any country than any other kind of monopolist I know of. Those are the essential differences between the positions of Australia and the' United States. I urge honorable senators who desire to see industries created and fostered in Australia to keep the Tariff of the United States in. view. Last year we imported about £260,000 worth of boots and shoes. Does any man think that we are not capable of manufacturing all the boots and shoes required in the Commonwealth? As ha3 been said on this floor numbers of times, and I believe it is true, we can produce as good a boot as is to be found in Germany, Great Britain, or America. I have been told that if four pairs of boots, Australian, American, English, and German are placed upon a counter without distinguishing marks - the United States, England, and Germany being the three leading nations in the boot industry - the difference cannot be distinguished, except by an expert, and in many cases even the expert fails. The duty on boots is 35 per cent, (general Tariff) and 30 per cent.- (United Kingdom). I suppose a number of honorable senators will say that that ought to be quite sufficient, but apparently it is not. Our bootmakers receive 100 per cent, higher wages than those paid in Great Britain, and I believe at least 150 per cent, higher than those paid in Germany, but the protection given by our Customs Tariff to the industry does not seem to be enough. It ought to be made enough. If we are to establish an Australian standard of living we ought to make the protective wall so high as to keep out at least 95 per cent, of the products of those . sweated countries. Wie imported about £1,500,000 worth of apparel upon which the duty is 40 per cent, (general Tariff), and 35 per cent. (United Kingdom), yielding a revenue of £500,000. This, I suppose, is an important item,- but it does not establish an industry, although, so far as I am concerned, that is the only reason why a Cus- toms tax should be imposed at all. If those duties are not sufficient, let the protection be raised to 50 or 60 per cent., or to whatever figure is necessary to establish the industry, and enable the Australian standard of living to be maintained. We had an. import of nearly ^200,000 worth of hats and caps. We have plenty of wool and rabbit furs, and plenty of labour, to manufacture 'those articles here. Why do we riot do it? There may be several reasons, but the principal one is that the duty is not sufficiently high. In every industry, of course, there are wheels within wheels, and no doubt after the great principle has been established and the wall has been built so high as to enable those industries to flourish within our own borders it will be the duty of the Commonwealth, having repelled the invader from outside, to clear the ring inside. That will have to be done some day. Undoubtedly some people are taking more advantage of the Tariff than they have a right to take.


Senator Vardon - You have a big contract on hand.


Senator STEWART - We have a great many big contracts on hand, and the bigger they are the better we like to grapple with them. In any case they are contracts which must be undertaken. These are conditions which must be attacked and destroyed. Our duty is first to keep the invader where he ought to be, on the outside, and in the second place, when the industries have been established, to protect our people against rings and trusts and combines inside.


Senator St Ledger - Have we not done a great deal in that direction?


Senator STEWART - We have only begun. The result of what has already been accomplished is so slight as to be worth next to nothing so far as increasing the welfare and general comfort of the people of the Commonwealth is concerned. We have only touched the fringe of this great question, and if I understand the feeling of the people aright they have made up their minds that the heart and centre of it must be reached, and that the evil, so far as it injuriously affects the welfare of the people, must be destroyed.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You must have been, studying the Melbourne Age !


Senator STEWART - I do study the Age. I am not bigoted. I read newspapers of all politics. I do not confine my reading to one set of opinions. I try to gather wisdom from every source. Probably Senator W. Russell does not feel the need of resorting to any authority outside himself for enlightenment.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am often asked to what party the honorable senator belongs.


Senator STEWART - The honorable senator can only sit there and gibe. Apparently he can do absolutely nothing to advance the welfare of Australia. That being so, I ask him to permit me to proceed without interruption. I may listen to the honorable senator when he is prepared to do something effective for the benefit of the people who sent him here instead of being, I will not say, one of the advance guards of land monopolists, but one who appears to be on that side.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator knows that that is not true.


Senator STEWART - I know that it is exactly true. It is as true as that I am standing here to-day. If I were asked to go before a Court and take my solemn oath on it, I would take that oath and prove it out of the honorable senator's own mouth. I have pointed out that the present Tariff is a revenue Tariff, the one kind of Tariff against which every Labour man is pledged by every principle and plank of the policy of his party. Indirect taxation is the kind of taxation which the Labour party are pledged to sweep away. But here we have it in this Tariff in the most flagrant form. We have Customs taxation greater than is to be found in any other civilized country on the face of the earth, with the exception of New Zealand. The present Tariff is everything that it ought not to be from a Labour point of view. We have a Labour Government in power, with Labour majorities in both Houses, and our Customs Tariff imposing the kind of taxation to which the Labour party are opposed, we have now a unique opportunity to deal with it. I ask that the Labour party should do so, or say at once that they have abandoned the" fight against indirect taxation.


Senator Needham - They have said nothing of the sort.


Senator STEWART - If they have not said so directly, they say so by implication when they refuse to deal with this evil.


Senator Needham - That is the honorable senator's own construction.


Senator STEWART - No one can put any other construction on the circumstances. If the Labour party had not a majority in both Houses of this Parliament, and some other party were in power, I have not the slightest .doubt that Senator Needham and other members of the party would be getting up in their places and raving against indirect taxation. Now we have a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and an assured* majority in the Senate, for two Parliaments the Labour party can do what is necessary if they will, but yet they will not do it. What conclusion can any man come to in the circumstances, except that they do not intend to touch the Tariff so far as its revenueproducing capacity is concerned. That is the only conclusion at which any unprejudiced observer of the situation can arrive. The party have an opportunity which may never again arise in their history. It is a very good maxim to do a thing when the opportunity offers, as you never know whether such an opportunity will ever come round to you again. I say once more that the Labour party have now a unique opportunity. They have complete control of both Houses of this Parliament. We have here a gigantic evil. We have a system of taxation which preys with the greatest possible severity on the very people whom the members of the Labour party are sent here to represent, and they do not lift a finger to assist in removing this burden from the shoulders of those people.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator will have a leading article in the Age to-morrow on his speech.


Senator STEWART - I will not. The Age considers me a much greater enemy than is Senator Needham of the policy it would like to see pursued. The honorable senator is a Revenue Tariffist.


Senator Needham - I am nothing of the kind.


Senator STEWART - The honorable senator is one of those who do not desire to alter the present system of taxation, and being a Revenue Tariffist, he is the aider and abettor of land monopoly.


Senator Needham - That is a lie.


Senator STEWART - That is the policy which the honorable senator is an absolute advocate of.


Senator Needham - That is an absolute lie.







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