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Friday, 18 November 1927

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - The debate is not without its interesting and humourous phases. It provides an illuminating lesson of the folly of going to extremes in matters of public policy, and is a striking illustration of the truth of the adage that even a worm will turn. Further, it brings into relief the folly of creating an idol of ungainly proportions. No member in this chamber did more than Senator 'Barwell to place the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) in his present powerful position as a dictator in Australian industry. When the last tariff proposals were under discussion in this chamber some of us hoped that Sir Henry Barwell would assist us in our efforts to ease the burden that had been placed upon primary producers in this country for so many years.

But on nearly every occasion, when a division was called, the honorable senator crossed the chamber to vote with tile Government to crush the minority who wished to see a reasonable measure of justice apportioned to the people. Now the chickens are coining home to roost and we gather from what Senator Barwell has said, that some of the chickens are roosting in South Australia. I therefore feel it my duty to remind him that the time to apply the remedy was when the tariff was under discussion. Parliament then had the opportunity to take such action as would prevent Mr. Pratten from entrenching himself in his present strong position.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - The Minister for Trade and Customs is acting under regulations.

Senator LYNCH - Over and over again, Senator Barwell argued that the importation of commodities meant the displacement of similar commodities which could be produced in Australia; and in support of his belief he was always to be found voting with the majority in favour of imposing heavy duties.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - I did nothing of the kind.

Senator LYNCH - I invite Senator Barwell to read the Tariff Board's latest report. As I said, we looked to him then as the rising hope of the reform party in this chamber. But we were disappointed. Sir Henry Barwell did much to make the Minister for Trade and Customs virtually the master in the industrial life of this country. I do not blame Mr. Pratten so much after all. He is but the creature of this Parliament and certainly he received every encouragement from Senator Barwell who now rises to denounce him. Surely the honorable senator is making a mistake in directing attention to the position thus early in the piece. He should allow Mr. Pratten to continue along his present course of folly. Time will effect a cure. The honorable senator's interruption of the business will only postpone th*e necessary reform. Why should Sir Henry Barwell seek now to take the bread and butter out of the mouths of a small band of Australian coopers by suggesting that returned empty wine cases should be allowed in free of duty ? For years we have been saying what Senator Barwell is now advocating, and during the tariff debate we looked, but in vain, for assistance from him. He was then shouting with the multitude. Now he is alarmed. He finds that the Frankenstein which he helped to create, is about to devour him. He wishes these empty wine casks to be allowed in free of duty. It is a long road that lias no turning, but happily the Tariff Board's latest report is pointing the way to the turn. It indicates clearly that for some time now we have been travelling along the wrong path. The view of the minority in this chamber with regard to the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth has not always been treated with respect because our numbers have been few. Always there has been plenty of ventilation in the vicinity of these seats, and often we have looked with dismay at the crowded ranks behind the Government. Sir Henry Barwell during the tariff discussion was always one of that solid phalanx. By his attitude during that debate he greatly emboldened the Minister for Trade and Customs to take up his present attitude. But it is somewhat comforting to find another Daniel come to judgment. Truth cannot be utterly submerged for ever. We now have the Tariff Board, a Government instrumentality, telling us that it is about time we took serious thought as to where we are going. Senator Barwell is one of the JohnnycoRielately's in this Parliament. . We who had been here before him looked to him for assistance when assistance would have been useful, but we were disappointed. Now that the chickens are coming home to roost in South Australia he is perturbed. But he thinks only of South Australia, whereas we, who for long have been in opposition to the rising tide of protection, have all along been thinking of the Commonwealth as a whole. Senator Chapman, another political fledgling, has thought fit to chide us on other occasions. Now he, too, dares to throw mud in the face of his own idol. The honorable senator would do well to concede to the minority in this chamber the same liberty of thought which we are prepared always to concede to him. I have no doubt that he will learn his lesson in time. Taking it all in all the motion, as I have said, is not without its humorous aspects. It is some comfort to us to know that at last we are being vindicated. The Tariff Board's last report clearly shows that this and preceding governments have, by means of Customs duties, been throttling industry. I say therefore that the time has come for us to re-examine our fiscal policy. We should no longer ignore the danger signals. It is nice to have this eleventh hour conversion on the part of Senator Barwell. It is a pity that he did not reform before he had run his wild career, but -

.   . while the lamp holds out to burn,

The vilest sinner may return.

In what he said to-day, Senator Barwell may not have been all wrong, but he was more wrong than right. After much laborious effort the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) succeeded in persuading the British Government to grant preference to certain products from the overseas dominions. That was, if I may say so, a herculean task. Now we find Mr. Pratten nullifying the benefits of the policy by imposing Customs duties on returned empty Australian-made wine casks! The imposition of this unwarranted duty, so we are told, means an increase in the price that must be charged for the wine, because other casks of Australian material and made by Australian workmen must take their place.

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