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Tuesday, 19 July 1921

Senator BOLTON (Victoria) .- Like Senator Drake-Brockman, I have listened with interest to the debate on .the Tariff Bill, but unlike the honorable senator, I have profited from the discussion. As a good Australian, as I claim to be, I realize that the fiscal policy of this country must be one of Protection. During the period of the war the necessity for such a policy was demonstrated in a very conclusive manner, and when Senator Gardiner said that the industrial efficiency of Great Britain won the war, he uttered a truism. When that little Army which was, in affectionate terms, called the " Old Contemptibles " was, notwithstanding the heroic devotion to duty and sacrifices of its men, almost annihilated by German hordes, when the British Government began to realize the possibility of defeat, and when they saw how inadequately the men were equipped for the great struggle, what did they do? They achieved one of the greatest feats ever recorded in history in an endeavour to defend the honour and integrity of the British Empire by organizing the forces at their command and converting them into a powerful instrument of war, which eventually destroyed their enemies. Assuming that a similar demand were made upon Australia, how helpless we would be, and how futile would be the sacrifices of our splendid manhood. We have not the facilities in this country to manufacture a fraction of the thousands of articles necessary to successfully prosecute modern warfare.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Tariff is really strengthening our defence.

Senator BOLTON - It is. Notwithstanding the security which may be afforded under the League of Nations, or the proposals for disarmament, I am one of those who believe in keeping a hold on what we have instead of depending too much upon the generosity of our neighbours. Protection is essential to this country for safety in time of war and for success in commerce. Although Protection is naturally the fiscal policy of Australia, Protection alone will not make us a powerful or progressive nation, because behind it we must have energy and enterprise. Business men must possess a high standard of commercial morality, and workers must aim at industrial efficiency. The excellence of our work must be sufficient not only to meet the demands in the local market, but those in the markets of the world, and unless a policy such as this gives us that security, Protection will be in vain. Generally, I appreciate and agree with the proposals embodied in this Bill, although it may contain some anomalies. The legislation we are now considering affects not us only, but the interests of those who are to follow us.

There is another subject - I refer to the timber resources of the Commonwealth - which, so far, has not received much attention during the debate in" - the Senate. There is an ascertained limit to these resources. If we can visualize the exploitation of our timber from the date of settlement in Australia up to the present time, with a comparatively small population, averaging, I suppose, 2,000,000 people for the last century, we can form some idea of what is likely to happen during the next century, when perhaps we shall have a population two or three times as great. This is a matter which calls for serious consideration. We should realize our responsibilities in this respect to future generations. It takes nearly 100 years to grow some Australian trees to perfection for certain purposes, and, therefore, on this subject, I am not at one with the proposal concerning the duty on imported timber. I have been associated with timber practically all my life, and I agree with much of what Senator Gardiner said on this subject. In some respects, oregon is absolutely the best timber for constructional purposes. We have nothing that can quite take its place. We have many timbers that are superior and more valuable, but, unfortunately, these are being destroyed or wasted through being used for purposes for which (hey are entirely unstated. The Semite should consider the advis ability of making some effort to alter the duties on timber.

Reference has been- made during the debate to the crowded condition of our cities. No responsible public man can review the position without a feeling of grave concern. It seems to me that, in the interests of the city dwellers themselves, it is important that we should realize that we have approached perilously near a state of affairs in which the rural industries of the Commonwealth will be unable to support the populations in our cities. Therefore our legislation should be designed to bring about a more equitable distribution of cur people. Is the Tariff an instrument likely to accomplish this end? Is it in the interests of the city workers that protective duties should be imposed on certain manufacturing industries, such as, for instance, the manufacture of agricultural implements, if the effect of those duties will be such as to penalize those engaged in rural production? What is likely to happen to the workers in the cities iu such circumstances ?

Senator Russell - What happened to . the engineering industry in Ballarat ? ' '

Senator BOLTON - The manufacturers at Ballarat are able to hold their own in competition. In that city they manufacture the best engines in the world.

Senator Russell - They are not doing it now.

Senator BOLTON - That is on account of the high wages now being demanded in the industry. The dwellers in our cities would, be well advised to encourage in every possible way the development of rural industries, even to the extent of bribing people to go out on the land, and produce. This encouragement should take the form of greater consideration to all connected with the pioneering work of this' country. Recently, I had an opportunity of travelling through a portion of the Mallee district of Victoria, and saw the conditions under which the people there, including the women and children, are living. In some districts the farmers have to cart water a distance, of 10 miles for the purpose of watering their stock. They cannot keep cows to provide milk for their children, for the simple reason that there is no water available. Some of these farmers have as many as 600 acres under cultivation. and yet they cannot keep half-a-dozen sheep because of the trouble in regard to water. But in spite of .their difficulties, these people are facing the future cheerfully. They .are glad to be living a free life, and are prepared to work hard. -The other might I attended a meeting for the purpose of establishing the organization known as the New Settlers' League, the object of which is to keep in touch with all new immigrants to this country. There was some criticism about farm labourers or domestic' servants coming to Victoria at the present time, the suggestion being 'that immigration was not advisable in view, of the existing unemployment; and the gentleman who presided at the meeting said, " I was in Gippsland the other day, and was informed that thousands ,of pounds' worth of work, for which tenders had been called, could not be done for the simple reason that there was no Habour ..available." And, .as I have already said, .1 was in the Mallee a little time ago, and I know what is happening there. The difficulty with regard to water is due to the fact that no labour can be obtained for the construction of water channels T-/bich have been promised by the Government. There is a mad rush of people to get into our cities and towns. Parliament should take heed of the trend of events, .and our legislation, and especially this Tariff, should be an instrument to remedy this state of affairs.

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