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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - I do riot agree with those who express the opinion that Parliament will be powerless for all time to deal with any evils which menace the community. Neither do I concur in the view expressed by those who would allow this industry to remain undeveloped for half a century rather than see it developed by private enterprise. Parliament is always in a position to deal with difficulties which confront the community. . I have yet to learn that any self-governing community will submit to a monopoly which menaces its welfare. I do not share in the slightest degree the fears expressed by thehonorable and learned member for Corio regarding the chaos which will ensue if the States Governments engage in the iron industry. I doubt whether it is worth while attempting to alter the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, because it simply stipulates that no bonus shall be paid unless the iron is manufactured in works owned by a State Government. I think it is generally admitted that there is a difficulty in the way of any Parliament acting with the same despatch as a private individual. Before embarking upon any enterprise, the Legislature usually exercises more caution than is exhibited by individuals. For that reason, it is not likely that any State Government can engage in the iron industry within the period suggested by the honorable member for MelbournePorts. On the other hand, if the amendment be carried, and at the end of twoyears the States Governments show no disposition to move in the matter, this Parliament can amend the Act, and allow private enterprise to develop the industry. As. reasonable men, we know that it is impossible for any State Government to nationalize it within the brief period of two years.

Mr Kingston - Our idea is that if a State pledges itself to undertake the work within a couple of years, tha bonus should be reserved for that State, but the amendment applies to all time.

Mr KENNEDY - If the States show nodisposition to embark upon the enterprise within two years, it would be better for the Government to bring down an amending Bill. If a monopoly is to be created, I prefer to see it vested in the whole of the people rather than in a section of them. We have had experience of State monopolies in connexion with our railways, and our postal and telegraphic business, and we know that if there is any gain from those services the people derive the benefit.

Mr CROUCH - There is plenty of loss, but no gain.

Mr KENNEDY - There is a considerable gain to the people of Victoria and New South Wales by reason- of the fact that the States exercise control over their railways. If the latter were in private hands we should have to pay considerably more for inferior services. To my mind, the fears expressed by those who foresee dangerin the development of the iron industry by private enterprise are groundless. Surely the Parliament of the Commonwealth will be strong enough for all time to safeguard the interests of the people against the avarice of ' any particular section. For these reasons, I do not feel particularly wedded to thesuggestion of the honorable member foiMelbourne Ports. Rather than jeopardize the Bill, I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).I feel strongly in sympathy with the views enunciated by the last speaker, and I sincerely hope that we shall not be found voting upon different sides. In the Federal Convention, I was successful in carrying section 91 of the Constitution, which enables any State to grant a bounty upon mining for gold, silver, or other metals. My idea was that the States individually should be allowed to pay bounties for prospecting in gold-mining and silvermining, because those bounties do not interfere with freedom of trade between the States,and that any State should be at liberty to develop industries such as the iron industry. But it is now proposed that no bonus shall be given unless to a State. For myself, I should prefer to see an industry of this kind carried on by the State. I am not wedded to any particular theory in these matters, but I certainly feel that the iron industry and the coal industry, on which so many other industries, and on which the State itself depends in some emergencies, would be best carried on by the general community in the general interest. Men of the most conservative temperament, who would shrink from the name of socialists, are in favour of the coal industry being carried on by the State. It is clear that the Commonwealth cannot carry on the industry, but that a State can, though none of the States have as yet entered upon it. I do not think it is our duty to refuse to help to develop an industry merely because we cannot get it carried on by whom we like. I know pretty well the forces at work in the State Parliament, and I see no reasonable prospect of Victoria, at all events, having regard to the constitution of the Houses of that State, being induced, for a long time to come, to carry on the iron industry. But a proposal has been made by the honorable member for "Melbourne Ports, which appears to me to meet the case as nearly as possible. The proposal is that we shall express our view that the States should have the first chance of earning the bonus ; but that if there be any dilly-dallying, we should, in fairness, allow private persons to take advantage of the Bill. I believe that the effect of such an amendment would be to make the States Parliaments hurry up, and make some arrangement to take the industry in hand. But the amendment of the honorable member for Bland would mean no iron industry for many years.

Mr Watson - I do not think that.

Mr Kingston - What is wanted is to make this a live question in the States.

Mr Watson - If the Commonwealth are willing to give the bonus, I guarantee this will soon be a live question in some of the States ; but I do not think that two years is sufficient to organize a big movement like this.

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