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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I have reached the parting of the ways. I have just been associated with some of my honorable colleagues in an endeavour to protect an Australian industry, but I have now to consider that the natural industry of recovering minerals from the earth will bo subjected to taxation if the duty on candles is raised. I stand for the greatest good for the greatest number, and I cannot vote for any increase in the duty on candles which will increase the cost of producing wealth from mines. In welldeveloped coal mines and in some silver and gold mines candles may not be extensively used, unless a new drive or stope is being worked. But any one who has worked, as I have done, in mines in the early days must know that the cost of candles in carrying on the mining industry is very much greater than those who are not acquainted with the industry would imagine. I was anxious to protect the wax candle industry, and to enable it to retain its export trade, by giving it its raw material at the cheapest possible rate. But I am not prepared to place additional taxation on those engaged in the mining industry in Australia who require candles, nor am I prepared to add to the cost of living, especially of people in country districts and in districts outside the large cities, where the electric light and gas are not in general use. The idea of Parliament laying itself out to regulate the whole trade and business of the community by making a particular company rich through the halfpence it is enabled to gather from the whole community never made any appeal to me. It has less influence upon nae in connexion with this item than in connexion with some others, because this will affect the poorest section of the community. The Minister (Senator Russell), his Government, and their supporters have done the Combine a good turn to-night. They have given it an opportunity to wipe out an opponent. No doubt the Combine will recognise the work that has been done for it. But I shall not assist in enabling it to further tax the mining industry and people who live where the electric light and gas are not in general use. This debate has evidenced the hollowness of the Protectionist fallacy which seems to have obtained such a grip of the people of Australia. The divisions which have taken place have shown that while the numbers were on the side of the Government the intellect of even their own supporters was on the other side. The Minister has been supported by a majority composed of men who would be behind the Government no matter what they were doing. I am glad that this self-evident praise is accepted by even the honorable senators to whom I am referring. I am in the habit of watching divisions, and I often feel, though I may be beaten on a question, that if two or three members of the Senate are with me the intellect is on my side, though the numbers may be on the other. I asked the Minister to make a concession some time ago, because I was very anxious to do what was regarded as a fair thing by an industry carried on in my own State as well as in other States. I saw that there were strong reasons for the attitude taken up by the Government. I have quite fathomed them now, and have settled in my own mind what they are. Only a majority of honorable senators could have driven the Government from the very powerful position in which they are entrenched. They are there for. reasons that are very substantial, but. which cannot be brought into an open assembly such as this. They are so strong that the members of .the Government may sit quietly in -their places and be sure of their following. I have been submitting requests in connexion with many items in the schedule, in order, if possible, to induce some members of the Committee to agree to trade "with Great Britain. Time after time I have tried to drive home the argument that the strength and position of the -Dominions depend on trading -with Great Britain.

Senator Russell - My votes as a Protectionist for the last ten or fifteen years are open for inspection in Hansard. : Senator GARDINER. - I do not question the honorable senator's attitude on Protection. In the words of Mr. King O'Malley, he is as sound on Protection " as a Rocky Mountain grizzly upon roller skates." The Minister is still a young man, and if he now holds the views upon Protection which he held fourteen or fifteen years ago, then faith must be stronger than works. Victoria is the fountain-head of Protection in Australia, and here, while wealth has been accumulating, men have been decaying. The census has been taken on' two occasions at intervals of ten years, and the result has been that_ Victoria, which was represented in the first Parliament by twenty-two members, is, according to the last count of the population, entitled to only twenty members. That is as a result of fifty years of Protection. If the Min- ister travelled with me on each Tuesday morning he would know that between Albury and Melbourne there is ample room for population where no people are 'to be seen. There is a struggling town or two passed, but there are many miles of unoccupied land. That is one. of the results of fifty years of Protection in Victoria.

Senator Keating - "What of the run from Albury to Sydney? The honorable senator goes over that in the night-time.

Senator GARDINER - Each item of this Tariff is an example of the stupidity of .believing, as some men do, that they can make their country richer by putting obstacles in the way of its development. Every part of the Tariff lends itself to the discussion of the whole, and without an explanation of my position, my votes may not appear intelligible. I wish it to be understood that my intention always is to make commodities cheaper to the purchasers, and to benefit the workers in our industries. Senator Pratten put up a sterling fight in the interests of small factories that have not the wealth and influence which the big concerns can employ to their advantage, and I regret that we have come to the parting of the ways. He wishes now to take a direction in which I cannot follow him; because, to my mind, the adoption of his proposal would increase prices to the consumers, who, in this case, are the miners. Protection has nearly killed mining in Australia, and if continued long enough will kill all our primary industries. That will certainly happen . if the primary producers continue to send to this Parliament foi" any length of time such representatives as sit in it now. You may tax the community, and inflate prices, to establish and maintain industries, but there will come a time when the people will say that they will no longer submit to taxation for the sake of helping Combines such as that which controls the making of stearine candles. Until that happens, there will be a disposition, whenever a crisis comes, to apply the false remedy of more protection, instead of the true remedy of removing obstacles in the way of proper development.

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