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Monday, 18 December 1911


Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - As I did not speak on the motion for the first reading of this Bill, I hope that the Senate will excuse me for the liberty I am taking at the present stage in laying my view before the Chamber and the country. I had the advantage of listening to the glowing peroration of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and I hope I shall not be exaggerating when I say that I cannot share his hopeful outlook or his belief that the Tariff is responsible for the great prosperity of Australia at the present time.


Senator McGregor - I did not say that. I said that the Labour party was responsible for the prosperity.


Senator GARDINER - I agree with the honorable senator there. Some most interesting speeches were delivered during the first-reading debate, and I daresay that before the measure is disposed of we shall hear more of the same character. I can, at all -events, give the Government my word as one who is interested in the effect of duties in New South Wales, that where an in jus- tice is being done, it matters not how small it may be, I shall be prepared to use all the forms of the Senate to prevent its perpetuation.


Senator McGregor - Only New South Wales? I thought the honorable senator was an Australian.


Senator GARDINER - I hope that I represent Australia as much as any senator does. But I go further. If I can lay my finger on one direct injustice to only one man who has invested his money in an industry in New South Wales, and that industry is threatened by this Tariff, I maintain that it will be my duty, and that of others who realize the facts, to try to secure a remedy. At any rate, I shall require an explanation from the Minister in charge of the Bill as to what the effect of the Tariff will be. I fear, however that, in accordance with their usual conduct, Ministers will be deaf to an appeal for absolute justice from their own supporters. If the industry to which I refer was a large one, there would be no necessity for me to make the appeal. Powerful interests would at once be aroused in its favour. If they were engaged in a big industry, they would have no difficulty in securing the ears of certain members of this Parliament. But they are only engaged in a small concern, which sprang into existence as the result of the operation of the old Tariff. It is connected with the manufacture of pocket handkerchiefs, and it employs only a few persons. It was entered upon by two brothers, one of whom was a farmer, whilst the other had some knowledge of the business. At that time the duties imposed were 40 per cent. under the general Tariff, and 35 per cent. under the Tariff for the United Kingdom. The business went on swimmingly ; the farm was sold, and the proceeds invested in it. Then suddenly another Tariff was introduced which reduced the previous duties to 25 per cent. under the general Tariff, and 20 per cent. under the Tariff for the United Kingdom, thus eliminating their margin of protection. I appeal to the Vice-President of the Executice Council to say whether it is fair that men who have invested their money in an industry should have that industry wiped out merely because a re-adjustment of the Tariff takes place? I say that it is not. If the VicePresident of the Executive Council will give me an assurance-


Senator McGregor - Don't shoot ; and I will come down.


Senator GARDINER - I am quite prepared not to shoot, and I hope that my manner towards the Vice-President of the Executive Council has not been threatening. Despite all his jocularity, I believe that he would be the last man to assist to alter a Tariff in such a way as to inflict a direct injustice upon a single individual in the commiunity. But how far he will come down I do not know. I wish now to make my position in regard to this Tariff perfectly clear. During the course of his remarks, Senator Stewart said that no man can be a Labour representative unless he is a Protectionist.


Senator Stewart - In Australia.


Senator GARDINER - Exactly. I try to be a Labour representative, and the reason why I cannot be a Protectionist is that, although I have watched keenly all the Tariffs which have been discussed in Australia during the past twenty years, I have never yet seen that Protectionist ideal - a scientific Tariff. On the contrary, I have always seen a Tariff which Protectionists themselves have condemned. Senator Stewart spoke of building a Tariff wall around Australia so high that we should receive no Customs revenue. Does he not recognise that the more our industries grow the more our revenue will increase, because the raw material of one industry is the finished article of another


Senator Stewart - But we would produce the raw material of all the great staple industries. The honorable senator's statement is true of Great Britain, but it is not true of Australia.


Senator GARDINER - I recognise that we have a large scope for production in the Commonwealth, but I am not a Protectionist, because I do not believe that Protection protects. Let us assume that we desired to protect the cabinetmaker. His finished article is a piece of furniture with a highlydressed marble top, and with a beautifullypolished surface. How can we impose a duty upon the polished surface, uponthe marble, and upon the timber used inthe article, and at the same time assist the cabinetmaker ?


Senator Stewart - Is thehonorable senator a Revenue Tariffist?


Senator GARDINER - No, I am a La bour representative.


Senator Stewart - That is a shuffle.


Senator GARDINER - I have aslittle hope of Free Trade accomplishinganything for the benefit of the working classes as have of Protection.


Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator is another fiscal agnostic.







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