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Friday, 15 July 1921

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - One of the noticeable features of this interesting debate is the amount of discussion that has taken place on what may. be termed the definition of Protection. We have heard .the terms " High Protectionist " and. d' Scientific Protectionist " used. I do not propose to use any qualifying words -to explain what sort of a Protectionist I am in order to define -my position. To me 'the object to be attained in framing a Tariff, and this is how I propose to approach this Tariff, is to find in what way the industries of Australia can be developed up to the very highest capacity, and to proceed along those .lines as far as is within our power. When that object is attained, we shall have done something to promote the best interests of the country. Production is the cry of the hour, and members of all parties, both Protectionists and Free Traders, have joined in the chorus for more and more production. That is, briefly, my position, and I shall make it more definite as I go on, although I recognise at this stage that we can only indicate in a general way what our views are on- the fiscal question. When Senator Gardiner was speaking, I interjected, and a further interjection was made by Senator Thomas, in which he questioned the possibility of science having anything to do with the Tariff. He seemed to think it was a ridiculous idea that England's Free Trade policy had helped the chemists of Germany to capture for Germany the trade for aniline dyes. I want to bring this argument right home to Senator Thomas and Senator Gardiner, because, strange to say, no two politicians in Australia today have more responsibility on their shoulders for driving the aniline dye trade into German hands than those two. Free Trade members.. That may seem a strange statement to make, but I shall endeavour to prove it beyond any doubt. Senators Gardiner and Thomas were members of the Free Trade Parliament of New South Wales many years ago, when the Free Trade Administration of the late Sir George Reid abolished the duty on kerosene oil. That action did a great deal to help the aniline dye industry of Germany. It may seem a far cry from Free' Trade New South Wales to Protectionist Germany, but that is ah absolute fact, and this is how it came about. The well-known Joadja seam of coal in New South Wales, was the raw product . from which a very excellent kerosene oil, in which' New South Wales had a most remunerative trade, was produced.. There was a duty . on kerosene, which ' projected that New South Wales product, , but ' the Reid Administration struck it off. Senator Gardiner and; Senator Thomas were members of the State Parliament when the 'duty was removed from kerosene oil. I was living in New South Wales at the time, and unless my memory is at fault, I think they supported the Free Trade Government in doing this thing. What was the result? A most useful and profitable industry which was giving employment to a large number of men was immediately destroyed, and the works closed down. Any one visiting that locality to-day will see houses, substantial public halls, and churches built of Hawksburn sandstone crumbling ' to decay. They will also see great rows of oil retorts - numbering about sixty-four - and long lines of oil pipes, which were used to reticulate the oil from one part of the works to another, lying idle. What was the next tragedy in this unfortunate drama ? Although the retorts were closed, and the distillation of oil ceased, the miners continued to raise the shale and export it. Such a thing had never been known before. The shale was raised and shipped to Germany, where it was afterwards utilized by scientists and chemists' in connexion with the aniline dye industry. We can charge the two honorable senators I have mentioned with assisting in that direction.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator does not suggest that we knew at that time that Great Britain and Germany were likely to engage in war?

Senator DE LARGIE - Certainly not, but it was a blind blunder on the part of Free Traders. .There was a shocking lack of foresight, and when attention is directed to such blunders these Free Traders, in their old age, ought to profit by the failures of the past. In spite of their years of experience, however, they are prepared to go on. blundering so long as they have an opportunity of' destroying industries. In this particular instance we can see what Australia has lost. The cheap oil coming from America at that time was being dumped into Australia at such a low rate that it was impossible for any similar industry in Australia to make any headway in competition with the imported product. It is quite true that for a while New South Wales under a Free Trade policy continued to obtain supplies of kerosene at a reasonably cheap rate, but that did not continue. New South Wales, in common with other parts of the Commonwealth, is now paying enormous prices for imported kerosene, whereas if the New South Wales' Government had continued to develop their deposits prices could have been modified to a large extent, because they were producing themselves. The free ports of Britain provided a market for German aniline dyes, which killed an old industry in England. The Free Traders of New South Wales killed another established industry in this country, and supplied shale, the raw material for aniline dyes, to the Germans. Unless these two Free Traders and those who supported them are prepared to adopt a different policy, an9 assist in building up the kerosene shale industry in Australia, there is no hope of ns ever obtaining supplies at a reasonable price from America or any other country.

Senator Gardiner - Has not the honorable senator and his colleagues been somewhat neglectful, seeing that they have had Protection for twenty yeaVs, and have not done anything?

Senate DE LARGIE. - There is no duty on kerosene, and the Australian people have still to be penalized.

Senator Gardiner - If I am guilty, others must share the responsibility with me.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am glad the honorable senator Bees the error of his ways, and I trust that in future he will adopt a more statesman-like attitude. -

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator and the Governments he has supported have been passing Tariff after Tariff, and have never removed the evil.

Senator DE LARGIE - Even if that were true, it would not relieve Senator Gardiner of his responsibility in assisting to' destroy in his own State one of the best secondary industries ever established in New South Wales. I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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