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Wednesday, 21 October 1914

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - So far as time is concerned, this would be a splendid opportunity for us to start a debate on the fiscal question. I suppose that nothing is surer than that the present Government will bring in a Tariff in the near future. It is quite obvious from the demands which are being put forward, I suppose, by the Board of Trade, on behalf of the British Government, that they are asking a market for quite a number of things in the Commonwealth. It should be remembered that we have already made an approach to the British Parliament. Many years ago we gave a preference to goods coming here from the Old Land, but there has been no approach on their part as to the giving of preferential treatment to Australian goods. Consequently, until there is something in the nature of a return or quid pro quo, I think there is very little need for us to trouble about entering into communication with the people at Home. Whether the present disturbance in Europe will bring about a difference in the opinion of the people at Home regarding fiscal matters, or not, remains to be seen. A war makes such an upheaval in the ordinary business of that country, as of any other country, that I dare say it will have an educative effect in fiscalism as well as in finance, but as regards approaching the British Government in the way suggested by Senator O'Keefe, I am afraid that it would be a waste of effort. We on our part, I hope, will have an opportunity in the near future to deal with the fiscal question, and I have no doubt that we shall renew the offer we already have on the stocks, namely, preferential treatment to the Old Country as against goods from other countries.'

Senator Stewart - Will it be of any value to the Old Country?

Senator DE LARGIE - It should be.

Senator Bakhap - -How can you have preference and Protection too?

Senator DE LARGIE - We can have both. We can have a preference to the imports from one country as against the imports from another country. I do not mean to say that it may be quite as effectual when we increase our duties as it has been in the past. We know, however, that the 10 per cent, advantage given to a number of imports from the Old Country has undoubtedly been of very great benefit to that country.

Senator Bakhap - Is not the object of an increased Protective Tariff to nullify that?

Senator DE LARGIE - I gave the honorable senator an answer to his direct question, and now he asks another question.

Senator O'Keefe - You believe in preference to Australia first, do you not?

Senator DE LARGIE - Undoubtedly ; and our Protective Tariff has always shown that, whilst we were prepared to give a preference to imports from the United Kingdom as against imports from other countries, we have erected a barrier against the goods from the United Kingdom. I do not see how the Protective policy can be worked out unless we do so. However, it is a matter for the future asto how far we are going to carry thequestion of preference. Unless the people at Home are prepared to give some consideration to the articles we can produce here, and supply them with, I certainly shall not be inclined to go any further with the principle of preference than we have already gone.

Senator Bakhap - Are you prepared to support a policy of Free Trade within the Empire ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I am not even prepared to support the principle of Free Trade between the United Kingdom and Australia.

Senator Bakhap - What is the use of talking about preference then?

Senator DE LARGIE - We can give a preference without going that far. I am quite satisfied that all our talk of Protection would go by the board if we-

Senator Bakhap - All the talk of preference is humbug.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am quite sure that it is not. As I have said, the preference to the United Kingdom as against other countries is a very good proof that the principle has been of undoubted advantage to people at Home. However,, that is not exactly the point raised by Senator O'Keefe.

Senator O'Keefe - My point is that,, in fairness, we should have the widest possible markets found for the raw materials which we cannot use in Australia.

Senator DE LARGIE - Quite so; and there is no better market in the world for us than the United Kingdom. If it is prepared to give us that amount of preference which we extend to its products, I am satisfied that a great deal of good will result to both countries.

Senator O'Keefe - In that list, they are asking us to assist them, and we might as well ask them to assist us.

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