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Wednesday, 13 May 1936

Senator PLAIN (Victoria) .- I question if there ever was a time when more thought should be given to the tariff schedule than to-day. Our primary and secondary industries are so inter-related that we must be careful not to destroy either of them. Experience has taught us that a well organized home market is the best market. In order to create a home market for our primary products, we must encourage our secondary industries. The Government would he well advised to accept the proposal of the other chamber in regard to cement, for it would give to the industry an opportunity to adjust itself to the new conditions. The Government says that acceptance of the decision of the House of Representatives would be equivalent to an infringement of the Ottawa agreement, but I strongly dissent from that view. The opinions of learned counsel support my view. The discussion that has taken place has been based, not on the recommendation of the Tariff "Board, but on the sanctity of the Ottawa agreement. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in continuing to extoll the "'spirit of Ottawa ". Either its nerves are shaken, or it is wandering in its sleep. I visualize members of the Imperial Government, which we all admire, sitting around a board, not only dictating the policy of the British Empire, but also guiding the destinies of other nations of the world. They have assembled for the purpose of reviewing the Ottawa agreement as it affects both the British and the Australian governments. After carefully reading the record of the operation of the agreement, they look at each other and say, " It is a wonderful performance, The Australian Parliament has crossed every ' t ' and dotted every . ' i ' of the agreement. We must give the Commonwealth credit for having done that ". By that time, however, the spirit of Ottawa, to which extensive allusion has been made, has been wafted over the troubled ocean, and has affected those men. Looking again at each other, they say, " It must be the spirit that is wrong ". They analyse it and come to the conclusion that it has been badly diluted ; therefore, they instruct their representatives in Australia to convey a message to the Commonwealth Government as rapidly as possible for consideration. The distinguished officer who delivered that message did so in a tactful and friendly manner. Nevertheless, I decline to accept the statement of the Minister that, in supporting the action taken by the House of Representatives I shall become a dishonorable citizen and member of Parliament by endorsing a breach of the Ottawa agreement. No one has a greater love for the British Empire and a greater admiration for the politics of Great Britain than T have, but I refuse to be told by the British Government or the Commonwealth Government what course of action I should take in regard to an agreement submitted to this chamber for its consideration. I shall comply with every condition of the agreement, but I shall not be influenced by the alleged spirit which has been summoned to the aid of the Government, but which exists only in the minds of its creators, who contend that they are the only persons who are right, and that those who vote in opposition to them are dishonorable. The endorsement of such a policy would have far-reaching effects on our politics; it would cause confusion in the minds of our manufacturers, and create an undesirable feeling between the two countries. Whatever action we take as parliamentarians, we should be loyal to an agreement made; but I protest against the action of the Government which, in order to win a fight which is immaterial to the great majority of people, has camouflaged the issue so as to create fear in the minds of honorable senators. Because of the intemperate atmosphere which surrounds the discussion of this item, I shall cast my vote against the request submitted by the Minister in charge of the bill.

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