Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator VERRAN (South Australia) . - I wish to indicate where I stand on this matter. In all my political life I have not been in such a state of mental confusion as that in which I find myself in approaching the determination of my attitude towards the tariff. The discussion yesterday and to-day has led me to the conclusion that this is a geographical - -tariff, every man advocating the claims of his own State, and caring not whether the devil takes the others.

Senator Kingsmill - Western Australian senators are divided on it.

Senator VERRAN - Just so far as they can afford to be. The idea is for one to give another more than he now possesses. It cannot be denied that the result of these higher duties will be an increase in the cost of living. I am not a rabid protectionist, and I cannot see any justification for these proposals. I can, of course, readily appreciate the desire of a new ministerial head to bring down a fresh tariff. "Honorable senators have been supplied with documentary matter of exceptional volume, but it really tells us nothing. I have not had a very liberal education, but I know the difference between eighteenpence and a hen and chickens. A man who can juggle with figures can prove almost anything. I had an experience recently with one whose ability in that direction is amazing. He belongs to a firm that is endeavouring to obtain a higher tariff. I recognized from Senator Lynch's description the gentleman to whom he referred. He was born a. man, but unfortunately died a millionaire. It is an awful thing to build up a country in such a way that a few men become very wealthy at the expense of the majority of the people. Undoubtedly the proposed duties on timber will increase the cost of house-building.

Senator Crawford - There are more millionaire importers than manufacturers.

Senator VERRAN - That has to be proved. I am able to see daylight through a small hole. The housing aspect is to me a very important one. It has been said that Australian hardwoods should be used. What hardwoods have we? All our forests are being rapidly depleted. Will any honorable senator say that we have a sufficient quantity of timber in Australia to meet our requirements? Certainly we have not. In his early days Senator Kingsmill travelled through the principal parts of the northwest, and he knows very well that the planting of forests has been undertaken only in the last few years. A period of from 30 to 35 years is necessary to bring a tree to maturity. It is" merely a " gag " to say that these duties will set the mills at work. If they should cease their operations at any time, will the tariff be taken off?

Senator Crawford - It has already set 22 mills going in Tasmania.

Senator VERRAN - As a Cornish woman once said, " That is all my eye and Betty Martin." Let us have the proof.

Senator Crawford - I cannot lay the mills on the table.

Senator VERRAN - Senator Reid ha3 referred to the Navigation Act. That act has been nothing but a nuisance. It has created a number of difficulties and interfered considerably with the progress of our industries. If we decline to alter it, we shall be moral cowards. No matter how difficult the problem may be, if any legislation is detrimental to the welfare of Australia, it must be removed from the statute-book. I put it to honorable senators that this tariff will not help us in any way, but, on the contrary, will increase the cost of living. Hardwood boards are not suitable for concrete work; they buckle and cannot be made true. That is not the case with oregon. One-half of the hardwood in Australia can be used for only one or two purposes : when it is required to sustain a weight, it gives. There .is no necessity to bringdown a new tariff merely because a few squeakers want it. When I was a Minister, I was constantly sought after by' that class of person. Will this tariff better Australia?

Senator Crawford - Of course, it will.

Senator VERRAN - In what way?

Senator Crawford - It will keep a lot of money in Australia, and be responsible for additional employment being provided.

Senator VERRAN - I have heard that catch-cry until I am tired of it. The poor working-man is not a milksop, and will not swallow these things unquestioningly. Some time ago a firm was established in New South Wales to make artificial flowers. Report has it that the management was bad, and failure was the result. But the tariff was not removed. We shall have a similar experiencewith these timber duties if the millers fail to act up to their promises. At one time I wasa rabid protectionist, but with advancing years I have become moderate in my views. If I live a few years longer I shall probably not be a protectionist at all. ACornishman once said that he was nothing in particular, and less in general. If I am obliged to listen very much longer to a debate on the tariff. I shall probably reach the stage when I, too, shall be nothing in particular and less in general.

Suggest corrections