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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South. Wales) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (a), British, free.

I submit this request on the ground that it is desirable that we should trade with Britain. I am constantly being congratulated by people who desire that Australia shall trade with the dear old Motherland, and who approve of the stand I have taken. Is it not absurd that we should impose a duty of 30 per cent. on imports of this class of agricultural implements from Britain? What has Britain done to deserve such treatment? In this morning's issue of the Age there appears a report of a speech made in England by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), whom one would expect to voice the opinions of his Government. There is indeed quite a number of people who believe that he is the Government of the Commonwealth. In this speech he said to the people of England-

We trade with you; we sell to you; we buy from you. We are the best customers Great Britain has, and it concerns us vitally how things go in England.

Of late years there has not been much in common, politically, between the Prime Minister and myself, but I can sincerely indorse the sentiment expressed by him in this speech. We are interested deeply in Great Britain as well as in Australia, and surely we can say to the Old Country, " If you like to compete with the United States of America in supplying us with agricultural implements and machinery such as are dealt with under this item we shall put no obstacle in your way." If such a proposition were voiced by any other honorable senator I believe it would be carried, but because I am a Free Trader I am suspect. I am not the onlyFree Trader in the Senate Senator Cox is a pronounced Free Trader when he is on the public platforms of the country.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do not forget Senator Guthrie.

Senator GARDINER - I am informed that Senator Buzacott's recent votes have been getting him into trouble, and that he is henceforth going to vote for the policy of Protection. To make my attitude perfectly clear, I am afraid it will be necessary for me to move in respect of every item that imports from Great Britain shall be free. Surely the primary industry of agriculture is of as much importance to the Protectionists as is the secondary industry of manufacturing agricultural implements. We are told that McKay Brothers are turning out these implements for sale not only in Australia, but in the markets of the world, and that because of their superior workmanship they are able to compete successfully in the world's markets. Surely, in these circumstances, we can say to the manufacturers in Great Britain, against whom there is a natural protection of 25 per cent., " If you wish to turn your industry in the direction of manufacturing agricultural implements for use in Australia, so as to make good the shortage in the local output, we will allow your imports to come in free." We have been told that Mr. McKay is unable to supply more than one-half of Australia's requirements in respect of the machinery dealt with in this item. That being so, we should be prepared to give Great Britain the preference for which I ask against all other countries. The Protectionist, to my mind, thinks only of the manufacturer. If our primary producers were given the best implements and machinery at the lowest rates, there would be such an enormous development in primary production here that the local market for our secondary industries would be greatly extended. If our idle hands could he put on our idle lands the unemployment created by the Tariff would no longer exist. The Tariff has created unemployment. For ten years we have had nothing to equal the unemployment in Australia to-day. I point with sorrow to the fact that in all our .State capitals there are people who cannot find work.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even England is not without unemployment.

Senator GARDINER - That is so. The war which crushed her trading possibilities with other nations is largely responsible for that. As a result of the war, a great part of Europe is out of business. The effect of the war in that respect is very much like that of a prohibitive Tariff. We have come out of the war better than the rest of the world, because of our natural advantages, and could quickly recover from its disastrous effects if we were only given a reasonable opportunity. That opportunity, however, is withheld. I am not going to say that it is wilfully withheld by the Government; but it seems to me that Ministers are guided by mere words and phrases rather than by reason. The word " Protection " has paralyzed their intellects. This Government ought not to be so affected; but a slavish regard for mere phrases has wrought more harm in the government of all countries than has anything else. When I was a little boy the cry was " Protection for infant industries." Today it is " More Protection for full-grown industries." Infant industries which have developed into maturity are being nurtured with increased protection. I stand for trade with Great Britain free of Customs interference, so far as our primary producers are concerned. The best intellects of the Empire are bent to the task of devising means to knit it still more closely together. The links of trade are the best that could be used to bind it. These heavy duties against British imports must give rise to irritation. If we levy this enormous taxation against imports from Great Britain, the whole of its trade with us will slowly ┬╗but surely pass away, and with the passing away of that trade its ships, that should carry our produce to other parts of the world, will cease to come out here. The whole question of trade within the Empire is linked up with that of the Tariff; and a Tariff such as this is not calculated to improve " the relations between Australia and the Motherland. Quite a number of members of the present Ministry come from Great Britain. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), all fairly representative members of the Ministry, are of British birth. What has the Motherland done to these, sons of her's that they should want to place high duties on her exports to Australia?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What has Australia done to the honorable senator that he should want to injure its industries ?

Senator GARDINER - On the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I made my position clear. I said then that I believed that trade with other countries increased employment here and improved our position. If I believed that Protection was beneficial to Australia, I should advocate it. But" Protection cuts off our customers. A country needs to cultivate as many customers for its produce as possible. A business man who will trade only with a select few will soon lose his custom. And so with a nation. I believe that Free Trade with the world would distinctly improve our position, and it is only because I am driven to the last ditch that I confine my request in this case to the removal of the duty in so far as British imports alone are concerned. New Zealand to-day is shutting out our fruit by what I might describe as direct action, because of the way in which we have shut out her products. And this is taking place in an Empire the people of which talk about the crimson thread of kinship which binds us all. I have heard Englishmen in this country say that, 'broadly speaking, the Australians are more English than ' are the English themselves. There is noticeable in Australia an intense loyalty to England which is not displayed to the same extent by similar classes at Home. With such a feeling in existence here, why should we impose a duty of 30 per cent, on British imports under this sub- item. Such imports were originally free. The political lives of honorable senators opposite depend largely upon their boasted loyalty to Great Britain, but their loyalty will not stand the test of voting for Free Trade with Great Britain. Senator Russell, in introducing the Customs Tariff Bill, told us that the Australian workman is distinctly superior to workmen in any other part of the world. If that be so, there is no reason why we should handicap the workmen of Great Britain. We do not need any advantage against them in addition to the advantage which distance gives us. We all want the things which can be made in Great Britain, and when we find that a country like America imposes a duty of 22d. per lb. on our best wool, it is clear that a distinct preference to Great Britain in our Tariff would be a: very great advantage at the present time, as it would make the people of other countries realize that the Empire might be self-contained.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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