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Monday, 18 December 1911

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the tirade of abuse which has been levelled at honorable senators upon this side of the chamber, and particularly at myself by Senator Stewart. This Bill has only one object in view, namely, the rectification of Tariff anomalies. It is not intended by the Government that it shall deal exhaustively with Tariff revision.

Senator Vardon - Does the honorable senator say that it deals exhaustively with Tariff anomalies?

Senator NEEDHAM - I think that it does.

Senator Vardon - I do not.

Senator NEEDHAM - So far as it deals with Tariff anomalies I shall support it, and I shall support it wholeheartedly without in any way prostituting my Protectionist principles. Despite the onslaught which has been made by Senator Stewart upon other members of the party to which he belongs, I say that we are just as pronounced Protectionists to-day as we were when the 1907-8 Tariff was under consideration. I repeat that I can support this Bill without renouncing one tittle of my Protectionist principles. The Bill is intended only to rectify anomalies. At this period of the session there is no opportunity to do more. To the question, " Is the present Tariff sufficiently protective"? I reply that it is not as protective as I desire that it should be; but it would not be so protective as it is had not Labour members in this Senate and in another branch of the Legislature who hold Free Trade opinions voted for it because promised by the Government they were then supporting and the manufacturers of Australia that, if they did, new Protection would ensue. They have been disillusioned. The manufacturers who during the consideration of the Tariff besieged honorable members in the lobbies with applications for higher duties, contested the validity of the new Protection legislation. Since that time neither the workers nor the consumers have benefited by the Tarin;. Whilst I desire to see the highest Tariff possible, I shall not vote for an increase of duties until the national Parliament has received from the people the powers sought at the last referendum. It is idle for the press or for any fiscalist to say that I am prostituting my Protectionist principles because I refuse to vote for increased duties until the workers and the consumers, as well as the manufacturers, can benefit. Senator Stewart, in reply to an interjection, accused me of being a friend of the land monopolists. He is usually calm and deliberate in his language, but no one knows better than he that when he made that charge he told a deliberate untruth. Neither I nor any member of this party is a friend of the land monopolist. The Bill may not go as far as I should like it to go, but until the people increase our constitutional powers, it goes as far as it should go.

Senator Stewart - The honorable senator would help the land monopolist until that time comes ?

Senator NEEDHAM - No. There is on our statute-book a measure imposing a tax on unimproved land values, which has been instrumental in bursting up many of the large estates . formerly held by land monopolists. This party has used its constitutional powers to the utmost for preventing land monopoly. Senator St. Ledger asserts that there are no monopolies in Australia, and has quoted figuresin support of the assertion, but that monopolies exist in Australia I have not theslightest doubt, and I could name them if I chose to do so. For that reason, .we desire to have the power to at least cripple, if not to kill them. I am surprised at any senator professing Labour principles saying that because we are not now increasing the protective duties, we are abandoning Labour principles. Whilst in this Parliament I shall never renounce my Protectionist views, but until the people give us the power to impose new Protection so that the workers and consumers may share with' the manufacturers in the benefits produced by a high Tariff, I shall not be prepared to give a vote for higher duties.Once we get the power we seek, I shall be ready to assist in building a Tariff wall so high that nothing will be able to get into this country except by aeroplane or balloon.

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