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Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator PEARCE - But there were not Labour Governments in the States.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - As Minister for External Affairs at that time, I came in close contact with migration matters, and it is interesting to note that the number of migrants who came to Australia annually during those three years was about the same as is expected under this proposal. In those days it was not necessary to appoint a costly commission to stimulate migration or to extend special facilities in the way of financial assistance to those desiring to settle in Australia. It is true that the land tax was a factor, but the prosperity in Europe was largely responsible for the satisfactory position of migration at that time. European countries were purchasing our products to a greater extent than previously. Germany, for instance, was buying Tasmanian fruit at prices highly satisfactory to the' growers. If there is general prosperity in Europe and heavy tolls are not imposed in Australia in the form of Customs duties, Australia is also likely to progress. During 1910 to 1913, there were scarcely any unemployed in Australia, and the Customs duties were not as high as they are today. In America the Customs collections have never amounted to more than 6 dollars per head of the population ; in Australia we are paying 22J dollars per head.

Senator Crawford - That is because their tariff is sufficiently high to be effective.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Our tariff amounts to four times as much per head. If protection is of benefit to a country we should, therefore, be four times as prosperous as America, and if it is a burden upon the people, then we have to carry a burden four times as heavy as that carried b)' the people of that country. The Minister referred to the possibility of 10,000,000 settlers being placed on the river Murray lands, where I believe there is sufficient land available for the settlement of a large number, but it is useless to consider such a proposition unless profitable markets can be found for the commodities thev produce. If a Minister for Markets and Migration cannot assist in finding profitable markets for Australian produce I do not think a highly paid commission can do so. I hope the commission will be the success, which some honorable senators anticipate, but personally I am very doubtful. It has been said that Mr. Gepp is to be appointed chairman of the commission, and that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Gunn, may possibly be a member. T have nothing whatever to say concerning the qualifications of these gentlemen, but I believe that Professor Griffiths Taylor, a gentleman whom I have only met on two occasions, would render excellent service to Australia in that capacity. Although perhaps not an organizer, I believe he knows more concerning Australia and its possibilities, particularly in the matter of production, than any other person in Australia. Increased settlement and development is ur gently needed, and I hope it will not be many years before there will be many millions of people in Australia speaking our language, and possessing those ideals and aspirations which have made the British Empire the greatest the world has ever known.

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