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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) .- Although' we have had'' a verv instructive debate on Part III. o£ the Bill, no utterance to which honorable members have listened de serves more serious consideration than that of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, supported as it was by the speech of the honorable member for Perth. Surely the Government must feel that in disregarding those remarks it is practically flouting the Tariff Commission. The honorable and learned member adduced weighty arguments to prove that at this stage we require more information than we at present possess in regard to the dumping which Part III. is intended to guard against. With the utmost respect for the members of other Royal Commissions/ 1 say that it will be generally admitted that no Commissioners have more thoughtfully, carefully, and attentively carried out the tasks allotted to them than have those appointed to consider the effect of our Tariff upon Australian industries. There have always been large attendances at the meetings of the Commission, and the desire to secure evidence on both sides of the questions coming before it has been evident from the first. Therefore, the appeal of the Chairman for the postponement of the consideration of this important measure deserves more respect than has been shown to it. I do not wish to speak unkindly, but the action of the Minister forces us back to the belief that the Government is being compelled by others to push the measure forward before information, which would be available after a very short delay, can be obtained. The Minister was challenged to give instances of dumping such as the Bill would deal with, and replied most weakly. He referred to one or two industries which, in the proper sense of the words, are, not manufacturing, but assembling, industries, the work of whose operatives is to put together imported parts. While I admit that such industries are serviceable to the community, they are not such as justify the enactment of legislation like that before us. I ventured to suggest, when speaking on the second reading, that the Committee would be found unanimously opposed to the deliberate importation of goods for the purpose of destroying Australian industries ; but the measure provides for a direct restraint of trade, and gives to the Minister powers which he should not be permitted to exercise, even with trie safeguards arranged for. If it is really the desire of the Government to give relief to industries requiring assistance and further protection, why do not Ministers bring forward for consideration the reports of the Tariff Com- mission already to hand? The honorable and learned member for Bendigo thinks that it will take at least a month to consider those reports, and to give effect by legislation to any decisions arrived at in regard to them, and I, for one, am prepared to pay serious attention to the recommendations of the Commission, with the desire to do all that is necessary to give help to industries requiring it. By the time the three reports now before us had been dealt with, the Commission, I have reason to believe, would have presented other reports.

Mr Fowler - If Parliament commenced to deal with the Commission's reports to-morrow, I think that I can safely say that the Commission would undertake to keep it supplied with work for the rest of the session.

Mr KNOX - That is a declaration to which the Ministry should pay serious heed, arid I have no doubt that it will be indorsed by the chairman of the Tariff Commission.

Sir John Quick - Hear, hear.

Mr KNOX - Surely the statements that have been made by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Perth, as chairman and member of the Tariff Commission respectively, amount to a challenge to the Government, who profess to desire to assist our industries, to postpone the consideration of the Bill for' the present, and engage in the more practical -work of dealing with the reports of the Tariff Commission. If Ministers adopt this course, I am sure that they will receive the assistance of a number of honorable members on this side of the House. The Government are flouting the business men of Australia, and are unnecessarily interfering with the course of trade and commerce by unduly pressing forward legislation of this kind. The object of the part of the Bill now under discussion is to prevent the importation of goods which are deliberately brought here for the purpose of destroying our manufactures, and Ministers will best accomplish their end by giving reasonable consideration to the requests of honorable members. I do not believe ' that mere cheapness should be our sole aim. I desire that the fullest justice should be done to all our producers and manufacturers, but I do not think that we should be 'called upon to deal out of hand with an incomplete and ill-considered measure such as that now before us. It would be an outrage, not only upon the House, but upon the community generally, to pass the Bill under present conditions, and any wrong that may be inflicted as the result of the Government persisting in their present 'Course will inevitably react upon the members of the Labour Party, who are pressing, them forward. It seems to be imagined that both our manufacturers and the working classes will be benefited by the prohibition of imports which it is intended to' exclude by means of the dumping provisions; but it is questionable whether the Bill will confer the benefits that are expected to flow from it. I trust that the Government will cease their efforts to bulldoze honorable members into passing this ill-considered Bill.

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