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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - HUGHES. - I thought this matter over very carefully when it was introduced for six weeks before making a pronouncement. I came to the conclusion that the matter was of such first-rate importance that my electors had a right to know my views on it. Consequently, I spoke in public on several occasions last July, and, as I was very well reported in the press, my views, particularly on the subject of diversion of trade from Japan, are fairly well known not only to honorable senators but to a great many of the public as well. My remarks are on record in the press, and I cannot be expected to somersault on the issue, or to vote for the validation of this schedule. It may, conceivably, be right in what it proposes to do, but it cannot be claimed to be right in so far as it ignores the law of the land and constitutes a somersault from the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. At the moment, I do not wish to deal with these matters at length, but I propose to indicate briefly my views on them.

Senator Hardy - Does not the honorable senator think that the Government's action is the only practical course to follow in the circumstances?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - No. If I had to describe the schedule as a whole I would say that it is most injudicious, most ill timed, and most uneconomic in its general outlook.

Senator Hardy - I am speaking, not of the schedule, but of the desire of the Government to avoid discussion which may affect certain negotiations which are proceeding.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - But negotiations have been proceeding for six months.

Senator Hardy - But they had not previously reached so favorable a stage as at present.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - We do not know about that. I have read for six months now that these negotiations have been developing favorably, and that a satisfactory conclusion would be arrived at within two or three weeks. But weeks have extended into months. Does not the honorable senator realize the possibility of this position slowly becoming permanent ?

Senator Collings - Why does not the honorable senator postpone his remarks until the appropriate occasion?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I think the present is an appropriate occasion. I shall defer some of my remarks until a later occasion ; but, at the moment, I propose to define in general terms my reaction to this particular schedule. I repeat that it is most injudicious so far as Japan is concerned. It was not introduced at the request of the British Government. It kas struck a blow at a country which has treated Australia with friendliness, and has been one of our best customers. So far as the United States of America is concerned, I do not think that we need want to show our hostility to each country in the Pacific, which is our immediate field of trade; but in general terms the trade diversion from the United States of America to Great Britain was justified by the fact that we had such an extraordinarily adverse balance with the former country. In fact, I feel that the quota we allowed to that country in respect of motor cars might easily have been made smaller. As to the third aspect of the Government's trade diversion policy - the manufacture of motor cars in Australia - that proposal, so far as I can make out, does not show any signs of coming to fruition.

Senator Dein - I understand that it does.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - We shall hear more about it, I suppose; but, if it does come .to anything at all, it will mean that the purchasers of motor cars in Australia will have to pay a good deal more for them in the future than they did in the past. The cost of production will rise and the purchaser will not get as good an article as he has had hitherto. In any case, the prices now ruling for motor cars are high enough. That is all that I need to say on this occasion. At the moment I am discussiong the Government's general policy; I shall deal with its details later. I wish to define my attitude very clearly. It is the duty of public men, before six months elapse, to tell the general public where they stand on a matter of so great importance to them as the radical alteration of tariff duties. I do not for one moment believe that anything I may say will impede or assist the present negotiations. They are quite beyond my influence. Great Britain's interest in this matter is sure to be raised. I have already dealt with that to some extent. It has been suggested in some quarters that those who do not approve these schedules are anti-British, but that of course is mere rubbish. I have always stood primarily for allegiance to and cooperation with Great Britain. An instance cannot be cited in which I have done otherwise; but that does not mean that we should force a friendly, although foreign, nation to become antagonistic to Britain. Living in the Pacific zone we have to consider our environment. Honorable senators should read an admirable article entitled " Australia in the Pacific " in the September issue of the Australian Quarterly by Mr. F. W. Eggleston and take to heart what the writer says. A short quotation from the article reads -

It docs not do to plan policy too far ahead. But to get a correct policy we must get our fundamentals right, and the fundamental fact of Australia's position >n that her future will be mainly in the Pacific and her relations will be mainly with Pacilic ..tions. Her ideas, her traditions have been Formed by her western culture, but without sacrificing this ethos she must apply these ideas in a new environment. She must study the Pacific, know its geography, its peoples, its trade, its communications. Without forgetting her history and positions she must refuse to be influenced by the tags and relies of dogmas applicable to different conditions. This is particularly necessary because British thought, owing to the intensity of its problems is becoming more and more self-centred and less able to envisage circumstances completely different from its own.

I commend the whole of the article to honorable senators. It is an honest attempt by a man of great ability, who is fundamentally British, to study the whole subject of our relations with other countries, and not to be influenced by those who wave flags when there is no necessity to do so. I hope that I approach the consideration of this subject in the spirit in which he does. Australia, being extensive in area and having a comparatively small population, should refrain from in dulging in actions which appear to be, or which may be, provocative to our neighbours. We should study these problems calmly, and, so far as possible, dispassionately and fairly. I have endeavoured to do that. In speaking on this bill I have refrained from using provocative words. I trust that I have conveyed my meaning to the Senate; I could have said a good deal more. I wis*h to show clearly where I stand in respect of the Government's trade diversion policy, and I believe that the time to do so is when this measure is before the Senate. For reasons which I have already given, which could be amplified six fold if necessary, I am opposed to this validating bill, which should not have been brought forward at this juncture.

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