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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - My interest in this debate is practically confined to the deplorably decadent influence of the player-piano upon the art of piano playing. Concurrently with the ever-increasing importations of player-pianos there is a rapid decrease in the number of pianos, and a thinning of the ranks- of pianists. Had the Minister for Trade and Customs been imbued with the true musical instinct he would have brought down an almost prohibitive tariff on player-pianos and pianos, and one that would have placed within the reach of every person the ordinary piano. In my young days every cottage had its piano, with the result that Australia produced many very fine artists. The number of boys and girls of the present generation who can play the piano artistically is considerably fewer than was the case at the period to which I refer. If in the future we have at the head of the department a Minister who is thoroughly imbued with the musical instinct relief in. the direction I have indicated may be given.

Senator LYNCH(Western Australia) f5.55]. - 3? or the last five minutes I have been endeavouring to escape from something ' resembling a mental fog. We have been asked by the Minister to support this proposal of the Government on the ground that the imported article is sold at a high price. The stereotyped argument that has done duty down the ages, namely, that it is necessary to protect our manufactures against the low-priced foreign article, is' exactly the opposite of that which we have heard this afternoon. 'r

Senator Crawford - They are sold wholesale at a low price, and retailed at a high price.

Senator LYNCH - I am beginning to wonder whether we are not standing at the antipodes in a mental as well as a physical sense. In the vegetable kingdom we have a fruit which has the stone on the outside instead of the inside. In the animal kingdom there are such strange phenomena as beasts that jump when they run, and stand when they sit. So it is with the arguments of high protectionists. What are we- to believe, the old argument or the new - the old, that we were crushed out of the market by the low price of the foreigner; or the new, that we must give protection because the price of the foreigner is so high?

Senator Crawford - I did not say that.

Senator LYNCH - Where are we drifting? I observe Senator Payne watching me with a look similar to that worn by sheep in pasture-lands. Which argument does he accept ?. The policy and the attitude of protectionists are that if one argument will not suit, the opposite should be advanced. It is common knowledge that the majority of those who vote for .protection to-day, do not in their heart of hearts believe in it. At least eight of .the sixteen honorable- senators who were opposite to me on the last vote do not believe in protection, and vote against the dictates of their consciences.

Senator Ogden - Oh, no!

Senator LYNCH - What else can be said of them ? The only vehicle for conveying the thoughts of man is speech; but it has been well said that speech is given to us to conceal our thoughts. If we recall the past utterances, >both public and private, of those honorable senators whom I have indicated, we must come to the conclusion that they are against a tariff of this character, and that speech is so employed by them. I can only conclude that it is because we are mentally and physically at the antipodes where reversals occur in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. We cannot now frighten the people with the old argument about our inability to compete with an article that is produced at a low price by sweated labour. The . protectionists of earlier times showed at least a semblance of consistency. I remember Senator Findley as a Himalayan protectionist, anxious to protect everything Australian, including the Australian workmen, against the inroads of the sweating foreigner. Now he stands four-square behind the Minister and says, " Give us protection, because the price of the imported article is so high." Where are our common sense and our logic? I am inclined to uphold the view put forward by Senator Chapman, little as he deserves my support. On this question of the tariff we are getting into a vicious circle. Honorable senators from Tasmania support what is agreeable to that State. Senator Ogden was not afraid to say so. The only redeeming feature of his pronouncement was its extraordinarily refreshing frankness. He said, " If protection is to be the policy of this country " - meaning inferentially that it is a bad policy " letTasmania participate in any benefits that accrue from it." In other words, if the country is going on a spree, let Tasmania be in the spree. Senator Greene made a similar statement in relation to another item in the schedule in modified form.

Senator Payne - Where does the honorable senator stand?

Senator LYNCH - He stands where he stood on the last tariff, and that which preceded it. I am not a protectionist gone mad; I am rational; just as the honorable senator has shown himself to be in the case of the tariff on socks for once in a way.

Senator Payne - I remember . an occasion when the honorable senator was absent from a rational vote.

Senator LYNCH - No principle was then involved. When it is a question of pro'tecting" Tasmanian hops, on goes the duty. When honorable senators from Queensland see an opportunity to protect an industry in their State they say, Let us have protection." When they get what they want, they show their gratitude towards those benefactors who have assisted them by supporting them in their efforts to benefit their States. Senator Ogden is unable to roll his log to the top of the scaffold without the aid of others. If that aid is forthcoming he helps the other fellow with his log. ' The result of this log-rolling and back-scratching is a tariff which is higher than that of any other English-speaking community.

Senator CRAWFORD - And Senator Lynch wears the pure white flower of a blameless life!

Senator LYNCH - 1 leave others to say that of me. They recognize my qualities.

Senator Ogden - Did not the honorable senator vote for an increased duty on whiskey?

Senator LYNCH - Of course I did; and I am proud of it, for the simple reason that the manufacture of local whiskey had not previously been given adequate protection. Whiskey can now be manufactured in Australia at a low price for the benefit of Senator Ogden. That is an illustration of my consistency. I am in favour of protection . up to a point, but no further. The result of having moved in a circle is this shocking anachronism in the shape of a tariff that has increased from 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 30 per cent, to 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent. It has neither rhyme nor reason to sustain it. Admittedly, there is a break in the clouds. Honorable senators who come from any one State do not now always vote alike, for the simple reason that they realize that this kind of ' thing cannot continue. I rose particularly to point out the foolishness of the Minister's argument that we need protection in this case because the price of the foreign-made article is so high. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) gave us the usual rigmarole about imports. It would seem almost that our criminal law should be remodelled' so as to make it an offence for any person to be seen near an importer's place of business. By some persons imports are regarded in almost the same light as are stolen goods. Senator Needham seems to forget that the wool and wheat which we export are imports in the countries which purchase them. What would happen if other countries refused to accept our goods because to them they were imports? If they were to pay us back in our own coin honorable senators who now complain about the volume of our imports would realize the unsoundness of their argument. In this instance I support

Senator Chapman'sobjection, but I warn him against viewing tariff matters solely from a geographical stand-point. It is contended that by imposing increased duties on pianos under the general tariff we are assisting the dear old Mother Country. But is that so? We import from Britain, as it were, only a van load of pianos each year, so that any increased duties on pianos will not benefit the Old Country a great deal. However, I propose to vote for the item.

Item agreed to. '

Division XVI. - Miscellaneous.

Items 373, 376, 380, 381, 417, 418, 427, 430 and 431 agreed to.

Division V. - Textiles, Pelts and Tubs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire.

Postponed item 112. (Apparel or attire, including furs) - Upon which Senator Payne had moved -

That the House of Representatives bo requested to add at the end of the item: - " By omitting the whole of the subitem b, and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -

(B)   1. Fur and other skins n.e.i. (except rabbit skins) dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.

2.   Rabbit skins dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 45 per cent."

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