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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I shall be brief, because, though much has been said which might bear repetition, to indulge in that repetition would be out of place on the present occasion. The item covers a wide range of articles used by every class of primary producer, great and small, stretching out from the small orchardist to the large wheat grower in the interior. When we have an item of this description we should weigh well the effect our action will have on a great class of producers. We quite appreciate the congestion of population in suburban areas and the effect of the rates of wages obtaining there; and we must ask ourselves seriously whether it is right to stimulate that tendency,, with its result in upsetting or altering the balance that has hitherto prevailed between the standards of wages in the country and city areas. When I landed in Australia, thirty years ago, upon the Queensland coastal regions a piece of good advice was given me. I was told that if I desired to make headway in this new country I had better push inland, that if a man preferred to hug the coast and spend his life in the coastal cities where competition is fiercest he could not hope to carve out an independent career. The tendency in recent years, however, has been to discourage men from going inland. Everything favours their remaining upon the coastal fringe. Without question, the dwellers outback are under greater disadvantages than city people ; and, more and more, the population of the interior is striking back to the coast. This Tariff will considerably augment that tendency. The Leader of the Labour party in Western Australia (Mr. Collier) recently said that the men working on the Golden Mile today were getting lower wages than the workers along the Western Australian coast. The same comment would apply to conditions in every State. Should the Government encourage such a state of affairs ? Must the man outback, in addition to fighting various pests and battling with nature in all its moods, be further penalized by the payment of higher prices than ever for the implements of his occupation? I know what I am talking about, for I am trying to make a very unwilling patch of the Western State productive.

Senator Wilson - The stage has just about arrived when the addition of a few more burdens cannot make much difference to the farmer.

Senator LYNCH - That is just what I am trying to hammer home. In Canada the duties upon agricultural implements generally range from 12 to 15 per cent, while in the United States of America the Tariff is probably rather less. What is the reason for these enormous rates in the Commonwealth? My ideal for this country is that the farm labourer of today shall become the farmer of to-morrow. The farm labourer is satisfied to improve his status by sheer virtue of his physical powers and mental ambitions. But the effect of the Tariff will be, instead of promoting the farm labourer of to-day to the farmer of to-morrow, to make the farmer of to-day either the farm labourer or the city dweller of to-morrow. Has anyone ever heard of a millionaire farmer ? I know of millionaire landlords, manufacturers, traders, wheat-buyers, and land and estate agents. There are millionaires among the suppliers of every variety of farming requisite ; but the poor, overburdened primary producer never gets anywhere. Yet, in face , of these unchallengeable facts the Government would heap still higher burdens upon his tottering frame. The National Parliament is too closely involved in city interests. One can scarcely step outside the door of this Chamber without being lobbied by representatives of some coastal fringe concern.

Senator Duncan - Hear, Hear ! We want Canberra.

Senator LYNCH - The sooner the Federal Parliament establishes itself on independent territory the better for the whole of Australia. But, proceeding with my point, have any honorable senators been lobbied by representatives of rural interests? The primary producer is too busily engaged in making a bare living to waste his time or spend his money in pleading his interests at the doors of the National Legislature. Nevertheless, the primary producer is not a negligible factor. There are 240,000 adult males trying to scratch a livelihood from the Australian soil.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order ! The honorable senator's time has expired.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.

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