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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I candidly admit that I am not at all astonished at the action taken by the mover of this request. The honorable senator conies from the home of Free Trade in Australia.

Senator Gardiner - New South Wales pays half the Customs duties of the Commonwealth.

Senator STEWART - Apparently the idea of the people of New South Wales is that Sydney should be the gateway through which almost everything that the Commonwealth requires should come, and the gateway out of which all the primary products of the Commonwealth should pass. Senator Gardiner has said that New South Wales pays one-half of the Customs duties collected by the Commonwealth, but let me tell the honorable senator that Sydney has progressed more since Federation than during any other period of her history within the last forty years. This has been almost entirely due to the Protectionist incidence of the Commonwealth Tariff, though the general trend of the Tariff is undoubtedly revenue-producing. It is the object of this request to make this Tariff even to a greater extent a revenue-producing Tariff. It is not intended to create an Australian industry, but to get more revenue for the Treasury.

Senator Gardiner - Hear, hear !

Senator STEWART - Senator Gardiner says " Hear, hear," but what is he doing in supporting this request? He is proposing to tax the builder of - every wooden house in Australia for revenue purposes. I do not think that the working people of Australia would object to further taxation with the object of creating an industry in Australia, but they have every right to object to Customs taxation for revenue purposes only. I ask honorable senators never to forget that every farthing that is collected for revenue through Customs and Excise saves the skin of the land monopolist and the capitalist generally. So I say that honorable senators who vote in this fashion are the friends of the monopolists, and the foes of the working man. That is a strong statement to make in the face of men who profess to be the direct representatives of Labour, but I make it without fear of contradiction, because 1 can prove it up to the hilt. Every farthing of additional revenue derived from the Customs is only so much more to save the skin of the land monopolist whom Senator Rae professes to hate so consumedly, but whose position he is willing to buttress up by his votes in this Committee.

Senator Rae - Oh, rats !

Senator STEWART - -The honorable senator has got "rats," and a whole battalion of them. Ought it not to be the object of every member of the Senate to establish industries in Australia? Is it not more patriotic to use our. own timbers than to use timbers from New Zealand or any other country ? We have any quantity of timber in Australia. It is foolishness to say that these duties will injure the people of Australia. We hear the farmers mentioned in this connexion. No man has more sympathy with the farmers, and more respect for them, than I have. But the farmers of Australia are getting more protection than any other class.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are not.

Senator STEWART - I have not time to enter into a discussion on the point with the honorable senator just now, but I could easily prove my statement. In any case, we, as patriotic Australians, ought surely to try to develop industries within our own borders. Even if our timber is difficult of access, it can be got at, and the country where it is growing could be opened up. It appears to me that some honorable senators come here to espouse a fiscal policy that is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. I can understand the point of view of the Free Traders, but these fiscal hybrids I cannot understand. I ask those who are not particularly anxious about a Tariff which will extract revenue from the people to give a good Protectionist vote on this question.

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