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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth) - Does not this discussion, together with the proposed amendment, show that this legislation is premature ? If we are going to decide on such a great national undertaking, surely we ought to be unanimous, or, at any rate, there ought to be a solid, compact majority in favour of the departure. All the circumstances show that we are not prepared for the scheme, and that it was a great mistake to import this question into the Tariff. In dealing with the Tariff, we had a simple duty to perform, and the introduction of Division VIa., with its concomitants, was one of a series of what I may almost describe as ridiculous blunders. An enormous amount of time has been taken up by the discussion of a measure which is by no means urgent ; and now we cannot agree - even those honorable members who believe in the principle of a bonus cannot agree - whether the industry shall be carried on by the State or by private enterprise. There is a suspicion aboutprivate monopoly. There is no analogy between the position of Canada and the position of Australia. We are far away from all civilized countries, with only a handful of population, and, without casting any reflection on the scheme, I say that as a matter of business, if this euterprize is to be a success, it must be concentrated in one huge concern. This industry requires almost centuries of experience, enormous capital; and a sort of heritage of scientific knowledge. What hope is there of a successful industry of the kind at the present moment, unless the Government coddle it up for years and years to come? We are not ripe for this industry, and in the whole course of the discussion there has not been a really workable scheme proposed. It has not been clearly proved that we have so far advanced as to be able to create an industry, which, while employing thousands of people, will not at the same time enormously increase the price of the raw material in a large number of manufactures. I cannot vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ; even if, like some of my friends, I did lean towards a bonus system under certain circumstances, I still contend that we are not in a position to pass this legislation. It is not likely that the industry will be token up by a small State; and if New South Wales, for instance, got the bonus of £250,000 it could probably afford to upset what the honorable member called equality of trade.

Mr Watson - So could a private company, at that rate.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - Not exactly, because we call for all Australia to tender for these bonuses, whereas we should negotiate with each State separately, and every State could not undertake the enterprize. It seems to me that by means of this subsidy we give an advantage to one State over another.

Mr.Fowler. - The other States will be at liberty to get their iron elsewhere.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - But the bonus is to be followed by protection, and

I am satisfied that that protection will have to-be largely increased. In discussing this Bill, we are unnecessarily occupying time, and it would be far better to wait, in order to see what the other Chamber does with Division VIa. of the Tariff. The whole of the bonus system stands or falls by a consequential system of ad valorem duties, and if the other Chamber refuses to pass Division VIa., this Bill must go, except it be passed in the form proposed by the honorable member for Bland. I am absolutely opposed to the Bill as premature, but I cannot see my way to vote for a proposal which will create a state monopoly at the expense of the Commonwealth.

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