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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I realize with the Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) what our position is in, regard to these duties. I look upon it as purely a matter of taxation. For the first year of its operation, this measure realized £32,000,000, within a few thousand pounds. That money was taken chiefly from the working classes - poorer classes - of the community. This year, judging from the first quarter, the revenue will be between £26,000,000 and £28,000,000. In matters of taxation I think the other House has a pull over the Senate. They have to take the responsibility of meeting the electors on these purely financial matters. If they have decided to put a wall around Australia that will injure trade, penalize people for trading, and set up what, to my mind, is an iniquitous and obnoxious system, that is their business. I am still quite prepared to do my utmost to see that the primary producers get a fair deal, and I think a majority of the Committee are also in favour of acting in that direction. As regards taxation of this kind, it is very evident that the Government have determined to take about £30,000,000-they took £32,000,000 last year - from the working classes, and in this connexion they were well supported in another place. I do not think there were many dissentients there. The only objection offered to this obnoxious system of taxation was when individual interests were concerned; but when it was a question of the other fellow there was no opposition. I view the position as the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) does, and agree that the powers of each House have to be recognised and acknowledged, so that when the differences are distinct and acute we should consider them in a reasonable and sensible manner. We have to ascertain how we can handle this question so that both Houses may come to an honorable and acceptable settlement. It is useless to keep the measure off the statute-book, seeing that it has been in operation since March, 1920. The Tariff is being usedfor raising an enormous amount from the primary producers in the interests of the secondary producers, because if a man in the city engages half-a-dozen men he can secure the highest possible protection for his industry, and can compel the farmers and others from one end of the Commonwealth to the other to help him, when they are very often quite unable to do so. Why should we protect industries that cannot pay their own way? Why should we shut out trade from Great Britain by imposing duties of 45 per cent. ? Some honorable senators pretend that that excessive rate is not sufficient and would favour the imposition of duties of 50 per cent. There is sufficient protection against British manufacturers in consequence of the distance from our markets and the high freights which have to be paid. As an Australian I resent this action. We should trade with. Britain on terms of equality, particularly when there is sufficient natural protection in the direction I have mentioned. This Bill strikes a most crushing blow at the trade of Australia, and those who are supporting it will have to take the responsibility. I have done my utmost to show a reasonable way of conducting trade, but as a majority of members in this and another place do not support my contentions, all that I can say is that the sooner the measure is out of the way the better it will be. If we do not move quickly in this matter Melbourne merchants will soon be going around saying that they are surprised at the moderate requests that they have made. As this Parliament is constituted, it Would be an easy matter to impose duties up to 100 per cent. The sooner we close down on this obnoxious measure the better it will be for the primary producers and the working classes of the Commonwealth.

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