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Wednesday, 13 July 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I understand that this is one of those Bills on the first reading of which we can discuss any subject.

Senator Keating - One of those Bills on which the more irrelevant you are, the more you are in order.

Senator GARDINER - Yes ; and as it will te delightful for me to be- continually in order, I shall say practically all I have to say on this Bill on the first reading. I stand here as a Free Trader,with an absolute belief that Free Trade is the best policy for a country like Australia. I was delighted to have the assurance of the Minister . (Senator Russell) in answer to the question I addressed to him, that this is a scientific Tariff. On and off I have been in the public life of this country for thirty years, and whenever the Protectionists were up against an argument, or put in a corner, they would say they never had a scientific Tariff. Now they have one, and, as an opponent of the policy of Protection, I welcome its appearance for the first time in the public life of Australia. I understand that Protection is a policy for the improvement of the community and the employment of the individuals in it. If the Protectionist argues that it will give mora work, I am prepared to concede that it will, with this addition, that it will give more work and more labour for less return 'than will a Free Trade policy. Thus, under a policy ofProtection, to - get the same amount . of production and the - same results there must be longer hours and more labour. Otherwise there will be less return. For fifty years Victoria has had a policy of Protection. If I wanted to show what that had brought about, I would quote from the speech delivered by Senator Pearce in the first Tariff debate in this chamber. In any references of that kind I am not going to try to prove inconsistency on the part of Ministers like Senator Pearce, Senator E. D. Millen, Mr. Hughes, 'Sir Joseph Cook, or Sir Granville Ryrie and other Free Traders who are introducing this Tariff, because I admit candidly that, if I were occupying a position on the Government bench with the party I now belong to, it would possibly be this or a similar Tariff that I would be asked to introduce. Therefore, when I make any reference to the known views of the Government on fiscal questions, I am not doing so to emphasize their inconsistency. I was- not present when Senator Pearce made hia speech on the first Tariff, but I have read it .

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was t.h« finest speech, from the Labour standpoint, ever made in defence of Free Trade.

Senator GARDINER - I am pleased to hear that eulogy of it. It was an excellent speech, 'and if it proved conclusively one thing more- than another it was that Victoria, the home of Protection for thirty years, .was not only, with all its Protection, in no better position than the Free Trade States, but in a worse one. Senator .Pearce .proved that over and over again. I need not quote from that speech, because it is easily accessible to honorable senators, although I could do so with advantage. All I need say -is that, quoting; from the experiences of the States which had bean working under Free Trade, and of Victoria, which had been working under Protection, Senator Pearce made, what Senator Millen has well called, the finest Free Trade speech ever made from the Labour stand-point. The case for Free Trade is just as good to-day as . it was twenty years ago, and just as strong, and, I think, . even stronger.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You are out of step with your colleagues.

Senator- GARDINER.-Absolutely. I face that position most candidly. I am out of step with my colleagues and with, my movement, but if I got in with the other party I would have to run downhill,and that I refuse to do. I realize that in the Australian Labour movement we have a modified form of Protection as part of our policy. 'While we agree to a Protective Tariff, we also desire that it shall provide for the protection of the consumers ,qf the protected goods in the matter of price, and for the protection of the workmen in the protected industriesThe policy of Protection works against the interests of the people, and that is what we must consider. It does not matter whether we modify it or make the dose sweeter, if the thing is wrong it is wrong altogether, and the attempt to holster -up industries in a . country by a Protective Tariff is an absolute fallacy. It is so absurd that, although the country may survive under it,- it . will crush almost out of existence thousands upon thousands of deserving people. Other countries, -I know, hav<» been - burdened with a Protective Tariff, and have laboured on. But the present Governmental am ' not making this statement as one of their opponents - above all other sections of the community, have boasted of their loyalty to -the" Empire, and in endeavouring to do what- they consider right in the interests of the Empire, have deliberately laid themselves ont to strike a blow at its progress, and one that could not be more effectively dealt in any other way.

This Tariff has been in operation

Bin de March of last year, and what is the result up to the present ? We are now only beginning to notice unemployment on every hand. The war is over. I admit that its disastrous effects have been felt everywhere. We have heard some saying that during the war period we have been shown that a Protective Tariff, such as this, is absolutely essential. What is the position in Great Britain, which has had a Free Trade policy for a period of seventy years? It has not only carried the financial burdens of the war, but it was mainly owing to its industrial organization that Free Trade England was responsible for the successful termination of the great conflict.

Senator Payne - Does the honorable senator suggest that unemployment has been created by the Tariff introduced fifteen months ago?

Senator GARDINER - The Tariff has" added considerably to unemployment during the past fifteen months, and it will continue to do so. Let me give an illustration which may indicate exactly what I mean. Two neighbours possessed very nice gardens, and as the footpath in front of their residences was in a bad state of disrepair, they ' petitioned the municipal council to lay down an asphalt path, and it was done. From that day the plants in the gardens began to wither and die, until a man with some knowledge of the matter waa consulted, and during the discussion reference was made to an escape of gas. The occupants of the dwellings said that gas had' been detected, and asked why it had not affected the plants before. ' They were informed that the escaping gas had been allowed to penetrate through the footpath, but as an asphalt track had been made, it had been forced into the gardens, with the result that the plants were killed by the fumes. That is exactly what is happening under a Protective Tariff. We have an' asphalt Protective Tariff in operation, which is slowly but surely causing unemployment and considerable hardship. Can a Protectionist show where a high Tariff can remedy half of the evils which have been created, or where it has been the means of increasing employment in -our industries as has been suggested? Protection is the essence of selfishness, and is advocated by those who say it will be the means of creating increased employment.- I can recall the names of many prominent statesmen who have favoured Protection, and I do not suggest that I have more information upon this subject than they had, but looking at the question as an earnest man should look at it, I oan see nothing but disaster confronting the people of Australia if excessively high duties are imposed,- because they will only be the means of increasing the already heavy burdens which are at present placed upon the shoulders of the people. I realize that Tariffs are not a cure for all evils, but a high Tariff is an obstruction to trade, and if we can grapple with the question, and remove the obstructions which now exist and allow trade to travel in its natural channels, I can foresee a period of progress which would da more for the people of this country than anything else. Row can we protect our people-

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator is very courageous, at all events, in. advocating Free Trade at this late hour.

Senator GARDINER - I am showing how Protection leads to unemployment, and let us see how it works out. I take it that a logical Protectionist, if he had his way, would absolutely prohibit the importation of all articles which we can manufacture in Australia.

Senator Crawford - How many millions are unemployed in Great Britain at present? '

Senator GARDINER - Quite a large number.

Senator Crawford - Due to Protection ?

Senator GARDINER - No. But those ' little islands in the north are at present carrying nine times our population, and they have faced the financing of their war debts better than any other country in the world. They have called up more money than any other country.

Senator Bakhap - And they have had centuries in which to build up their population.

Senator GARDINER - I know that Protectionists will always go far afield in an' endeavour to. make unreasonable comparisons. But let us look at the question and see what is the result of refusing to trade with the other fellow, and doing the work ourselves, with the idea of giving more employment to our own people. That is the essence of the Protectionist argument. I assume that Australia, under Free Trade, could exchange products to the extent of £20,000,000 per annum - I use that amount merely as a convenient basis - with Japan, China, India, America, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Russia, quite apart from other smaller countries.

Senator Crawford - But Russia has no products.

Senator GARDINER - I am assuming, for the sake of argument, that Australia could exchange products to the value of £20,000,000 with each of ten different countries, which would mean, in the aggregate, £200,000,000 a year. The Protectionist says that the . policy he advocates gives employment to our own people-

Senator Crawford - What could we exchange with China?

Senator GARDINER - Honorable senators who had the opportunity a few weeks ago of listening to a gentleman who has spent many years in China know the possibilities there are of trade with that great country.

Senator Bakhap - China has been forced into being a Free Trade country. She has not the independence to have a Protective Tariff.

Senator GARDINER - I am assuming that under a Free Trade policy exchange of products to the amount of £20,000,000 could be effected with ten important countries, but by adopting a Protective Tariff and drawing a circle round our own country we are ceasing to trade with these people in the mistaken belief that we shall manufacture all we require. But as soon as we do that we throw out of employment all the people engaged in producing the £200,000,000 worth of trade with the ten countries I have mentioned, and we naturally have to ask what is to be done to replace that labour. Is it to be done by the 5,000,000 persons in this isolated position? What is the answer to that? It is to be. found in the newspapers every day. Although the Tariff has been in existence for only fifteen months, ships are lying idle everywhere. Why is that so? Because we have a Tariff that has so enhanced the price of goods that the merchants in the Commonwealth are ceasing to purchase.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The importations during the last twelve months have been higher than ever.

Senator GARDINER - I realize that.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The values are higher, but the quantity is smaller.

Senator Crawford - One-third of the world's shipping is at present idle.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Pratten is following on true Protectionist lines when he makes such a misleading interjection. Why are importations larger? Because we have had. four or five years during which trade was practically at a stand-still, and in consequence the warehouses became empty. When the war was over an effort was made to replenish stocks.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are many people who are wishing that the warehouses were empty now.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - During the four years of war the importations were only a little below normal.

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