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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator fiercely attacked the Government, and when I said, " That is the stuff ; give it to them," he retorted, " Oh, there is a lot more to come yet." The atmosphere to-day is different. The Labour party is definitely and avowedly high protectionist.

Senator Dein - Ridiculously so.

Senator COLLINGS - That depends upon one's viewpoint. I suspect that any argument which I may advance will appear ridiculous to Senator Dein.

Senator Dein - We remember the statements of the honorable senator in connexion with matches and bananas.

Senator COLLINGS - The match industry is still flourishing.

Senator Dein - The honorable senator predicted its downfall.

Senator COLLINGS - That would have happened had the honorable senator been able to impose his will. The present position is rather interesting in that on the one hand, we have the country freetrade, low-wage party, which does not believe in the application of a tariff except against commodities for which it has no use. As with the freetrade, lowwage party in all other countries, it believes in obtaining the highest prices for its products and paying the lowest prices for everything it uses in production. The Labour party believes in high protection. Then there is the unfortunate Lyons Government, which is torn between love and duty, and finds itself pledged to attempt to " temper the wind to the shorn lamb " by making some concessions to the Country party. In no circumstances will it meet the wishes of the Labour Opposition. But, as I said in my opening remarks, we shall not shift one inch from the position which we have always taken up, because we have every faith in the policy of protection and the principle of a White Australia. That principle cannot be maintained merely by keeping out of Australia the low-wage workers of other countries, if we persistently admit the low-wage products of those countries.

Senator Dein - Does the honorable senator believe that, while declining to import from them we should export to them?

Senator COLLINGS - I believe that we should produce everything that we can. There is little that we cannot produce. "We should also stand up to our contractual obligations by discharging our overseas indebtedness. The Labour party has knowledge of means whereby those debts may be paid without inflicting hardship on the primary producers and the workers of this country. The Opposition in this chamber hopes that Australia will continue to discharge its obligations in this direction. But it does not agree that these payments should continue indefinitely. It does not believe that the value of three bales of wool or of three bushels of wheat should be used to discharge a debt which when incurred was equivalent to the value of one bale of wool or one bushel of wheat. The bargain should be revised on decent, honest lines. If that were done Australia would experience no difficulty in meeting its commitments. So far it has been able to pay its way.

I hark back to the sentiment which I expressed in my opening remarks. There is a distinct difference between the Opposition and the other parties in this chamber in their approach to the consideration of fiscal policy. We stand for what we believe to be the right policy for Australia. In my opinion, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes should be arraigned as political public enemy No. 1. With one voice he demands more population from the women of Australia, and with another voice urges that the offspring of these women should, when grown up to young manhood, be made available for cannon fodder on the other side of the world. He cannot have it both ways. We advocate the highest possible form of equitable protection of Australian primary and secondary industries, because we believe that, under such a policy, our population will increase, and we shall be able to defend effectively this country if, unfortunately, it should ever be attacked. While the Government fosters a fiscal policy which reduces the employment available in the Commonwealth, the members of the Labour party will oppose the introduction of population from other countries.Not until all our people who are willing and able to work have employment provided for them can jobs be made available to the migrants which the Government proposes to bring to Australia. Having given in general outline my reasons for opposing the Government's tariff policy, I shall defer my detailed comments until the later stages of the bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

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