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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In listening to some of the speeches delivered bv honorable members opposite, one is irresistibly reminded of the extraordinary nature of some of the reasons upon which the ingenuity of the human mind can seize,' when it wishes to take a certain course in connexion with any particular matter. That is especially the case in regard to the debate which is proceeding upon this amendment. It has been alleged that the adoption of the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney would be tantamount to offering an insult to Great Britain. Surely it takes some mental ingenuity to make oneself believe a proposition of that kind. All that is proposed by the amendment is to remove from the clause under consideration the standing insult to Great Britain which it contains. So far from our offering an insult to Great Britain, there is a standing insult to Great Britain contained in the Bill. There is an assumption that she will come here with intent to demolish our trade, and, by every unfair means that she can devise, to destroy our industrial occupations. An assumption like that is necessarily an insult to Great Britain in view of her consistent treatment of us. All that is proposed in the amendment is the removal of this implied aspersion upon her integrity and upon her methods. That honorable members can make themselves believe that, by removing that aspersion, we are offering an insult to Great Britain, seems to me to indicate a mental ingenuity which I, at any rate, am not able to appreciate. Then the honorable and learned member for Corinella spoke of a preference - meaning the preference which was urged with so much pertinacity and eloquence at the last general election - as implying reciprocal, action between the parties who enter into these preferential relations. I venture to say that that is the preference of the protectionist who seeks to guard his market against every part of the Empire just as jealously as he guards it against every part of every foreign Empire. That is not the kind of preference that is preached by those who are advocating the acceptance of this amendment. Neither was it altogether the kind of preference which was indicated bv the Prime Minister at the last elections. At that time he made it clear that, if need be, he was prepared to grant an unconditional preference to Great Britain. I happened to be able to look up the speech which he delivered upon this subject in the House only a little while ago. and if I am not mistaken he then intimated that he was prepared to grant an unconditional preference to the British Empire. That is all we are seeking to embody in' this amendment.

Mr Deakin - A preference in unfair competition.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nothing of the kind. Why should we assume that there is unfair competition between Great 'Britain and Australia?

Mr Deakin - We do not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill assumes it, and provides against it.

Mr Deakin - Only if it exists.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the Government make the assumption adversely to foreign nations, if they choose, but do not let. them make it in relation to our own kith and kin of the Empire That is the distinction.

Mr Isaacs - The amendment would not touch Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far as it goes, it represents our attitude upon this subject. We ask why it should be assumed that there will be unfair competition with intent to destroy our industries on the part of Great" Britain ? Whatever the Government may assume in their proposals concerning foreign countries, they should at least treat Great Britain as if she were a fair competitor, and I venture to say that the whole history of her industrial ' relationships with these far distant States has1 been that of a fair competitor - nay, more, a generous competitor. All that we ask to-day is that she shall be treated in exactly the same way as she has always treated us.

Mr Webster - Oh !

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would be obliged to the honorable member if he would cease his interruptions. He is the most inane man - and the most insulting one - in this Parliament.

Mr Webster - Will the honorable member get on with his speech, and shut up?

The CHAIRMAN - I must ask the honorable member for Gwydir to withdraw that remark.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If he does not, I promise him that I will make him withdraw it.

Mr Webster - The honorable member promises what?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I promise the honorable member that I will not tolerate his insults.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Gwydir must withdraw his remark.

Mr Webster - What remark?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member told the honorable member for Parramatta to shut up.

Mr Webster - I recognise that that would be the greatest hardship I could inflict upon him, and therefore I withdraw it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is now only aggravating the insult.

The CHAIRMAN - I must again ask the honorable member for Gwydir to withdraw his remark.

Mr Webster - In deference to you, sir, I withdraw.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must withdraw his remark unreservedly.

Mr Page - He has done so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far from a preference being a reciprocal matter as between the various parts of the Empire, the only knowledge we have of any preference being granted to Great Britain is of an unconditional preference on the part of Canada.

Mr Deakin - Canada has asked for reciprocity though.

Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- She has asked in no official way for reciprocity.

Sir William Lyne - Yes, she has.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Sir WilfridLaurier has not asked in any official way for it. All that the Prime Minister can quote in that respect are some statements made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier from the public platform. The latter has made it quite clear that under no circumstances will he make a trade bargain with Great Britain which would interfere in any degree with the absolute autonomy of Canada. Far better, he has said, would it be to sweep away all idea of reciprocal treatment than to sanction any interference with the sovereign rights of these far-distant parts of the Empire. So far he has been prepared to grant an unconditional preference to Great Britain without asking for anything whatever in return. Now we hear for the first time that our idea of preference in Australia is to be put upon a lower plane even than that of Canada. We are further removed from Great Britainthan is Canada, and there is every motive to in- duce us to be more generous in our treatment of the mother country, because Canada has to submit to the competition of the great British-speaking people of the United States of America. Here is an opportunity to give effect to the glowing panegyrics indulged in by the Prime Minister at the last general elections. No one spoke upon this question from the various platforms throughout Australia more eloquently and with greater magnetic power than he did. Here is the close of one of his speeches, which was delivered in Hobart just upon the eve of the elections. I have not the exact words of the speech - I had not time to copy them. But he concluded his address with a brilliant and stirring peroration upon the advantages of a self-contained Empire. He said -

Their policy was to enable Great Britain to fulfil its high destiny, and to bind the parts of the Empire one to another in all that which made for peace, for progress, and for civilization.

Mr Page - Noble sentiments.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In his last message to the electors of New South Wales, which was published upon the eve of polling day. he said -

The choice of the electors of New South Wales is between fiscal peace and fiscal war, with a further choice as to preference, which we propose to grant, and expect to receive.

There is a suggestion of the granting of an unconditional preference.

Mr Isaacs - No; he used the words " and expect to receive."

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But those words were not used to indicate the condition under which a preference would be granted.

Mr Isaacs - He could not grant it in return for a preference.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - May I suggest that here is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to grant a preference to the mother country, and only a very limited and conditional preference at that. The amendment does not embody a proposal for* freetrade as between the Commonwealth and Great Britain. It does not interfere with the Tariff in any way. Having regard to the fact that we stand related as we do to the mother country, we mav surely rely upon the Tariff already in existence, with such modifications as we care to make in it, to protect us from the unfair competition of her goods and from dumping, if there be any. Surely the Tariff is a sufficient instrument of obstruction between the trade of Great Britain and ours without these further proposals, which mean, possibly, prohibitive protection, if imports be found to interfere with the organization of our industrial concerns. There is not very much brother!liness in an attitude like that. I venture to say that the terms of the Bill, if carried into effect,, would represent an incomplete loyalty between Australia and Great Britain. I am not suggesting now any reference tohonorable members' loyalty to the Throneof Great Britain, but I am suggesting a possible want of loyalty to her trading interests, without which her integrity and status could not be maintained. It would' strike a blow at her position and prestige in one of its most vital quarters if, under a Bill of this description, we were to impose prohibition. I want to push the matter no further than that. This amendment offersus a chance of showing that we have nodesire to injure Great Britain in any degree. Here is an opportunity to remove an implied slur upon her in a way which, could not be resented by other countries, or taken exception to on broad international grounds. Here is a chance of removing an implied aspersion upon her integrity, and the assumption which the Bill carries, namely, that she may do us an injury with intent to destroy our trade and industrial life. Though there has been no ground shown, nevertheless the Bill proceeds upon the assumption that there are nations ready to cut into the vitals of our industrial prosperity, that there are nations which with that sinister purpose will set themselves to destroy our industries, and so interfere with the domesticity of our homes, and our ideals of comfort. We ought to exempt our own people from an implied assumption of that kind. That is all that the amendment seeks to do. Yet. forsooth, we are told bv our opponents that in removing this implied aspersion upon Great Britain we are actually offering an insult to her. It seems to me to be a very curious process of reasoning which leads honorable members into a position such as that. All we propose to do in this matter is simply to treat Great Britain as she treats us. I submit that clause 14, if carried out by Great Britain in relation toAustralia, would ruin our export trade tomorrow. If she were to treat our export trade in a similar way we should be in a bad way, and very quickly too. In this respect it is proposed to do to Great Britain what we would not care that she should do to us. It would be a sorry day for Australia, if the mother country did such a thing. Surely with ;i Tariff, regulating from the protectionist stand-point any difference in wage rates, industrial skill, and experience, we ought not to go further, and carry out the prohibitions which are possible under this Bill. I repeat that if Great Britain were to treat us and our export trade as it is proposed under this Bill to treat her imports, it would be a sorry day for Australia, and many of our industries would have to seek' elsewhere for the market which could' not be obtained there. We are constantly interfering with her industrial enterprises and primary productions. Indeed that is one of the main objects of the protectionists in Victoria, and particularly the professed preferential traders. I remember that at the last election the Prime Minister and the honorable member 'for Melbourne Ports distributed throughout Australia a circular pointing out amongst other things how Great Britain's agricultural productions had declined under free-trade, and the former pointed out that what we seek by means of preferential and empire trade is a market for our primary productions. Surely that is rather a one-sided idea of loyalty to the old country. It does not show much sympathy with the primary producers at Home, when the avowed object of our seeking preferential trade with them is to find a market for still more of our primary productions, in the shape of wheat, butter, cheese, and all those things which we produce in abundance. In advancing an argument like that, we do not take much stock in the welfare of Britain's primary, industries. But I am not concerned with that at present. I am only concerned1 now to show that the ideas of honorable members opposite in relation to all these preferential matters is not that which ought to obtain between members of the same Empire. I remember that, at the last election, one of the Prime Minister's favourite illustrations was that of a great family group, in which one should supply the wine, another the fruit, and another the grain. He went through the whole list of primary products, and said that between the members of the group, there should be unfettered and unrestricted trade in" those things which constitute the family stock. Here, instead of carrying out the idea which he. advocated with magnificent eloquence throughout Australia, he is interposing a further barrier against some of "the things which one part of the family oversea wants to send us. I appeal' to honorable members on the protectionist side as to whether they do not think that the Tariff is a sufficient obstacle to interpose against all goods coming from any part of the British Empire. Surely they can regulate the competition of the Empire bv means of a Tariff, without bringing into operation proposals for the shutting down of trade in this arbitrary way ! It is not, I repeat, as if this were the alternative of free intercourse. The obstacles which the Tariff interposes to the free importation of British goods will still remain. If that is not enough, let honorable members raise the. Tariff, and do it in a fair and above-board way. But do not let them assume, as is done in the Bill, that, unless we protected ourselves against her, Great Britain would intentionally injure us in the way contemplated by the terms of this Bill. All that we propose to do here is to remove from Great Britain the aspersion which the Bill casts upon her bona fides with regard to her industrial relationship to these States. The honorable member for Moira asked what are the grounds upon which we support the proposal. From my point of view, the grounds can be readily stated. First of all, Great Britain has no such legislation against us. It seems to me to be an allsufficient ground in itself that she is of the same family group as we are. We stand in a filial relation to her, as we do not to other nations. Her destiny is our destiny ; her highest interests are the same as ours: We seek the same ideals, and have practically the same objective. For 100 years, and more now, she has welcomed to her shores anything which we have cared' to send, no matter at what cost to her business or trade. She has never, apparently, considered the point, but has given us free access to her markets without let or hindrance of any kind. The fact that she does not contemplate any such proposals as these with regard to our export trade to her shores is, in itself, I submit, an all-sufficient ground for giving effect to this amendment. I do not put it on the ground of generosity at all, but submit that in view of all the circumstances of the case, it would be a just thing to remove this aspersion from her. What are _ those circumstances ? The whole ramification of her industrial relationship to us is opened up here. I do not intend to do more than briefly refer to it. In the first place, let me remind honorable members that this is the first time in all history, so far as I know, where a motherland has permitted her Colonies to tax her. Every other country has insisted upon free and unfettered intercourse between herself and her Colonies, so far as history furnishes us with any examples. If there has been a privilege at all, it hasbeen claimed on the side of the motherland as against the Colonies. As a rule, the Colonies have been laid under tribute and made to minister to the wealth, ease, and affluence of the central Government. But here, for the first time in the history of the world, we have an example of a motherland permitting her Colonies in far distant parts even to tax her goods, and to prohibit trade intercourse by means of Tariffs. We have not an example like that anywhere else.

Mr Frazer - Probably that is why Great Britain's Colonies are so loyal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I amnot prepared to deny that. I was going on to observe that this really is the measure of the completeness with whichour system of self-government has been granted to us. But I venture to say that if, after this free and generous gift of self-government, we were not loyal, we should not be worthy of the name of Britons.

Mr Frazer - But why alter the conditions by this amendment?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not seeking to alter them.

Mr Frazer - We are getting along very well.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid my honorable friend has not been paying attention to my arguments. I am suggesting that the conditions should remain. I am not suggesting at present any interference with the Tariff, but I am suggesting that we should not put into this Bill an implied aspersion that Great Britain desires to injure our industries.

Mr Frazer - The honorable member is advocating preferential treatment for the products of British manufacturers.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. That can only be done by means of the Tariff.

Mr Frazer - Then what is the good of the amendment?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This Bill assumes that foreign nations will injure our trade if we permit them to do so. We are providing an instrument here to prevent the possibility of their destroying our trade by unfair means. I say that it is right that we should assume that the industrial relationship of Great Britain to Australia is fair, and not unfair, as this Bill assumes it to be.

Mr Wilkinson - Where does Great Britain's gift to us come in? It is we who have made Australia, and not Great Britain.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of Great Britain's gift of self-government. I should be very sorry to be thought unmindful of the part that Australia has played in the building up and maintenance of the Empire. I am not suggesting for a moment that Australia has not taken a part in building up the Empire. I simply say that we have in Australia a magnificent gift of self-government, more complete than any other nation has received from a motherland. I challenge the honorable member to deny that. So complete is this measure of self-government that we are actually given the right to tax Great Britain out of our markets, if we choose. If honorable members desire to keep her out of our markets, for Heaven's sake let it be done by means of the Tariff, and not by the imposition of machinery such as this Bill. The fact that she has given to us this complete form of self-government is a reason why we should strain every point before we do anything which would seem to savour of an abuse of the liberty with which she has so plentifully endowed us. Might I remind honorable members of what Great Britain is doing for us at the present time? Take our trade in the East - who has kept the open door there for us? Would Australia have any chance to get into the trade of the East if it were not for the protection afforded us by Great Britain, and her insistence upon the open door for us - for herself also, it is true, but equally for the Empire at large. But for Great Britain's insistence upon the right to open commerce in the East, we should not be able to send a pound's worth of our goods to Eastern ports to-morrow. The other great nations of the world would take care of that. That is one of the things we do not stop to think of when considering all the. trade ramifications of this great Empire of ours. What we receive from Great Britain in the way of protection, of facilities, and of privileges is not always expressed and open to the gaze of the world. Her influence is very often silently exerted on our behalf. Indeed, we could exercise but little influence for ourselves were it not that we were allied to her in the bonds under which we exist as a part of the Empire. I am speaking now in reply to the honorable member for Moira, who asks what are the grounds upon which we urge this special exemption of Great Britain from the implied aspersions of this Bill. That is my purpose in making these observations. I ask again what chance should we have of insisting upon and enforcing a White Australia if it were not for the protection which Great Britain gives us? Australia, I venture to say, would be overrun by the Eastern nations - I will not say that they would trench upon our cities ; I do not know that they would trouble themselves about that - but I do say that we should have had colonies of Japanese and of other Eastern nations in the back parts of Australia to-day but for the relations in which we stand to the great British Empire. Great Britain has made our White Australia policy a possible one. The honorable member for Moreton smiles at that statement, but I should like to hear him prove the contrary. I think that my contention in respect to the White Australia policy is unchallengable. I am certain that but for the benevolent intervention of Great Britain at the time our White Australia legislation was going through, our circumstances even to-day might have been very different from what they are. It is due to the benevolent intentions of the rulers of Great Britain, to the Navy which is always at our disposal, and to the prestige of the British nation in the counsels of the world that we have been able to keep our shores free from the hordes of Asiatics who would else have undermined and defeated our civilization. Might I suggest to the honorable member for Moira., when he asks what Great Britain has done for us, that she has given us practically a " Torrens title " to one of the greatest continents of the earth.

Mr Wilkinson - What could she have done with it if we had not been here ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If she had not done something with it other nations probably would, and our circumstances in Australia might be very different from what we find them to-day. Instead of having our 1,000,000,000 of private wealth, this continent might still have been a penal settlement, under quite another form cif government. Thanks to the enlightenment of the great country to which we are proud to belong, and the complete system of self-government she has given us, we have been enabled, without let or hindrance, to build up a civilization here which to-day is the envy_ of the world.

Mr Wilkinson - Thanks to the Australians who protested against the convict system.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - May I remind the honorable member that other* peoples have protested before, and have not been successful. Our protestations had availed nothing were it not for the benevolent intentions of the people of the Home land. All the protestations we could have made against the continuance of the convict system, or against limited self-government, would have been of no avail had there not been a willing ear and an enlightened mind to receive them. Similar protestations being made to-day in other parts of the world are falling on idle cars. All the considerations which the honorable member suggests from time, to time by his interjections, only serve to show the great difference between our position and that of other peoples existing elsewhere as the colonies of other nations. Again, what shall be said1 of the consular service of the Empire, under which we enjoy the right of entry into and protection within every country of the world, free from the molestation crf any man. Under it we are guaranteed our rights and privileges as citizens of the British Empire in any part of the world. I should like to ask the honorable member for Moreton what we pay for all this? Not a penny, so far as I know. We send our trade representatives to the East, and they are there under the protection of the British consuls. They carry on their work to our advantage in a way in which they would not be able to "do but for the free and generous way in which these consular services are placed at our disposal. I say nothing of the protection of the British Navy. Every member of the Committee, I take it, is cognizant of the security, peace, and progress which has been possible to us through all these years by reason of the Navy which guards our shores. We may have our aspirations for an Australian Navy. In time, possibly, that may come. I, for one, am not anxious on that score, so long as the great British Navy continues to exist in its present state of efficiency.

Mr Kelly - Captain Creswell in his last report says that the real defence of Australia must always rest with the Imperial Navy

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know in detail the opinions of the latest authorities on this matter, I know only that we dwell in peace and security to-day in Australia by reason of the Navy which has looked after us through the period of our development, during 100 years and more. These, I think, are some of the reasons, put upon material, hard, and practical business grounds, why we should stretch a point, if possible, in favour of the great land from which we have sprung. But above and beyond these material and business reasons is the one outstanding reason why we should seek to remove this implied aspersion from Great Britain, and that is simply because she is Great Britain, and our mother country. That, after all, is the great reason - because she is part of the great British Empire, part of the great family of which the Prime Minister spoke so eloquently upon the occasion of the last elections. Because, to use the honorable and learned gentleman's ilustration, we should so act in every way that each member of the family might contribute to the family stock of prosperity and progress. For these reasons we ought not to pass any legislation which asperses the integrity of Great Britain's industrial relations to these far-distant parts of the Empire. After very careful consideration of this matter, I do not hesitate to say that if we put this Bill in its present form on the statute-book of the Commonwealth, it will indicate in the clearest possible way that there is an incomplete loyalty between Australia and the old country - incomplete, I repeat, and explain, only from the industrial point of view, and only in so far as our trading relations with her are affected. I do not now refer to the kinship of race and blood, which I believe is as firmly cemented in even' part of the British Empire to-day as it has ever been. As to that aspect of our loyalty to Great Britain, I believe it is stronger to-day than it has ever been before. But is not that in itself a reason why every possible avenue of intercourse with her, industrially as well as in every other way, should be kept reasonably open? I say that if our industrial conditions prevent free intercourse, as is constantly alleged bv these on the protectionist side of the fiscal controversy, for goodness' sake let those who think so give effect to their views bv means of the Tariff, and not by means of these special prohibitive enactments. That much is due to Great Britain from us in consideration of all the material benefits which I have tried to enumerate, and because we belong to the same family, and are loyal members of it. I have no more to say on this, matter, except that a nation such as Great Britain is, with all her past history, and past relations to us, demands at our hand's the best treatment we can give her in connexion with this special prohibitive legislation. We belong to anEmpire that long ago abolished slavery, to an Empire which has spread to the ends of the world the principles of Christiancivilization, and has done more than am* other Empire to open up the dark places of the earth to civilizing influences. To-day she. occupies a position amongst the nations, of the world which makes them envy her, and desire to imitate her. I venture to say that she is exercising ait influence upon the destinies of the world paramount over that exercised by all other nations. Our ideals are hers. Our civilization is hers. We build upon her pattern - trying to improve it if we may. But now, as hitherto, she is our pattern and exemplar in all those things which make for the extension and the maintenance of civilization. She has been our friend and protector for a hundred years, guaranteeing to us in these distant lands unmolested progress in all the arts and sciences of life. And now, after we have grown up and become a self-contained nation, both in point of influence and of population - now that we are able to shift for ourselves if need be, we, forsooth, are showing in our legislative enactments that we have suddenly become afraid of thisgreat motherland - afraid of the injury which she may inflict upon our industrial enterprises - afraid of the way in which she mav assail our homes and the standard of comfort that we have set up. It seems as if it had taken us a hundred years to become afraid of all these things happening to us at the hands of the nation which has proved herself to be the greatest friend' and benefactor that Australia has ever had. I appeal to honorable members to remove all traces of that feeling and of that fear from this Bill ; and we shall dothat. I think, most effectively bv voting for an amendment which, while leaving the

Tariff as it is, willi proclaim once and for all that, so far as Great Britain is concerned, we will regard her intentions as honorable until we have evidence complete and unanswerable to the contrary.

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