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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not propose to terminate that section immediately. Under my proposal, it will be practically perpetuated till 1920, and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides.

Mr Carpenter - Let us hope that they will see it in that light.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am also glad to say that the proposals now submitted are practically in accord with the views expressed by the Premiers of the States at the Hobart Conference. As a matter of fact, they are more generous to the States than were the proposals of the Premiers. For instance, I do not suggest that the States should for ever forego the right to borrow on the London market except through the Commonwealth - as was agreed to at the Hobart Conference - but I propose to make that question an open one after 1920. In no way are the present recommendations of the Government less liberal to the States than were those submitted by the Premiers themselves at Hobart. If honorable members will look at Appendix B they will see that I have annotated the recommendations of the Premiers, so as to show clearly where they differ, and in what respect our proposals are more liberal or less liberal, than those submitted by the Premiers. Our proposals will give - subject to certain limitations - financial freedom alike to the States and the Commonwealth. The last subject with which I am called upon to deal is the Tariff. I am not in a position to submit proposals for an amendment of the Tariff with my Budget statement. Had I been able to do so, it would have been most desirable, because I should then have been in a position to indicate the financial effects of the proposals. Up to the present time, only the operation of the excise duties has been reported upon by the Tariff Commission, and considered by the Government. It is impossible for me to announce the * probable effect of any proposed duties until more reports have been received from the Commission embodying their recommendations in regard to Customs, and until their general effect upon the revenue has been ascertained. I should like to point out - no doubt it has occurred to honorable members - that any proposals for an amendment of the Tariff must take effect immediately they are submitted. That being so, their consideration will require to be proceeded with, without delay, until the final decision has been arrived at. That is a very important point, which honorable members should thoroughly weigh. In dealing with Tariff reform, we ought not to commence the consideration of any proposals we cannot finish. What would be our position if, after levying duties during the next month or two, it was found that we could not conclude the consideration of the Bill authorizing them during the present Parliament? I think that we should be compelled to return all the money that we had collected under the proposed duties unless we could pass legislation to legalise the collection of the duties until the. new Parliament has time to pass the necessary law - and that might be difficult, besides being unprecedented. It will thus be seen that great difficulties would arise, The Governnent recognise the great importance of the interests affected, and are most anxious to afford whatever relief is possible to any injured industries at the earliest possible moment. We desire to complete the. work of the session by the end of September, and will deal with all reports of the Tariff Commission, which we have proper time to consider, within the time available. It would, of course, have been preferable if the whole of the proposed amendments of the Tariff could be dealt with at one time, in order not only that their effect upon the revenue might be known, but also that any extra expenditure upon defence caused by the proposals now under consideration, and others not yet ripe for submission, might have been considered in the light of the revenue likely to be available. I have now dealt with all the subjects that occur to me. In Committee, Ministers in charge of the various Departments will be only too anxious to give full information upon every item which appears in the Estimates or in the Budget papers. The Government have no secrets. We have no skeleton in our political cupboard. We desire to take honorable members into our confidence upon every public matter in respect of which it is reasonable and proper for us to do so. In conclusion, I would ask honorable members to try to realize what the 4,000,000 of British people in Australia have done and are doing. They have £107,000,000 upon deposit at the banks, of which over £23,000,000 are in coin and bullion. Thev have deposits in the Savings Banks of over £37,000,000, and the number of depositors is 1,152,506. They have produced minerals to the value of £636,000,000, Qf which £24,766,000 were produced during 1905. Of this £636,000,000, the sum of £462,439,000 represents the production of gold, and of that quantity £15,500.000 worth was produced in 1905. Perhaps I may be pardoned for saying that more than half of the gold production of that year came from Western Australia.

They have 9,380,000 acres under cultivar tion not including grass and fallow lands. During the last two years they have produced wheat valued at £18,766,000, and have exported butter valued at £4,792,000. They have 75,000,000 sheep, 8,000,000 cattle, 1,600,000 horses, and 1,000,000 pigs.. Their sheep have increased during the last three and three-quarter years by 22,000,000, and the value of the wool produced is now over £20,000,000, having increased during the same period by £7,000,000. In 1906 their oversea trade represented £95,000,000; their imports being of the value of £38,000,000 and their exports of the value of ,£57,000,000. I am glad to say that 71 per cent, of this trade was with the people of the British Empire - our own people - the remaining 29 per cent, being with the people of foreign countries. The value of their imports is £15,000,000 less than those of Canada, but their exports exceed in value those of Canada by £13,000,000, and of South Africa by ,£25,000,000.

Mr Harper - And Canada lias a population of about 6,000,000.

Sir JOHN FORREST - As compared with our population of about 4,121,000. The people of Australia produce annually about £3,000,000 worth of hay, £1,400,000 worth of potatoes, arid 6,000,000 gallons of wine. They have a grand total of primary annual production, including manufactures, representing a value of about ,£120,000,000 a year. They have great and populous cities, railways, ' tramways, water supplies, telegraphs, telephones, shipping facilities with the world and on their coasts, and are in -enjoyment of most of the advantages, conveniences, and luxuries of the old world. They have thirty times as many sheep, and produce forty times as much wool as Canada, whilst they have five times as many sheep as in the whole of South Africa. They produced last year 54,000,000 bushels of wheat, being only 15,000,000 bushels less than the output of Canada, which is regarded as the granary of the world. They produced nearly five times as much gold as Canada, their product being valued at only £1,500.000 less than that of South Africa", which has been considered as the greatest gold producer of recent times. This is what the people of Australia - 4,000,000 British people - are doing. We have our dlifficulties, p political, as well as financial; we have had to face times of depression as well as of prosperity, ; but the results I have referred to remain. Whether we look at our position collectively or individually we have, I think, good cause for satisfaction and gratefulness. Collectively, we have an opportunity - given to no other 4,000,000 people in the world - of guiding the destinies of an immense continent " compass'd by the inviolate sea," and of fashioning its laws "broad based upon her people's will." Individually, far removed from the crowded centres of the old world, and its grinding competition - in a sunny land, with healthy and pleasant surroundings, where there is plenty of room for all to make a living, and even gain a competence - surely we may rejoice that our " walks" are " by the long wash of Australasian seas," and that we have the opportunity and the privilege -

To take

Occasion by the hand, and make

The bounds of freedom wider yet.

I move -

That the item, " President. £1,100," be agreed to.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask for the usual adjournment.

Progress reported.

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