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Tuesday, 12 August 1902

Mr MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane) - I feel it to be incumbent upon me to say a word or two in regard to one or two misrepresentations that have been made by the last speaker and by the honorable member for Canobolas. It has been said that there are a number of honorable members in this House who have no sympathy with the pastoral industry, and who are ignorant of the difficulties of the pastoralists. It has also been alleged that squatters and men following similar occupations who are not designated squatters, although they follow the same pursuit, come squealing to the Commonwealth and States Governments, seeking assistance whenever they are in trouble. I give that statement an emphatic denial. There are no men in Australia who have suffered more than have those who are concerned in one of the main industries of Australia - namely, that of the production of the golden fleece. Yet in no instance within my memory - and I have watched this industry and been concerned in its prosperity and development for a number of years - has a pastoralist come " squealing " to any Government, whether State oi< Commonwealth, for assistance.

Mr Mahon - A member of the honorable and learned member's own party said so.

Mr.MACDONALD-PATERSON. - I am not here to answer the utterances of ignorance and inexperience, and there is a little of both on each side of the House. The accusation that any man in Australia associated with the great pastoral industry has come " squealing " like a wounded rat for assistance in the distress under which he is suffering is a misstatement. The pastoralists are " taking their gruel " as men who are worthy of Australia and of the past history of the industry in which they are engaged. As to the duty before the committee, one honorable member said that he hoped that the Government would arrive at some reasonable compromise. We are here, 70 men, who have been elected by the people of Australia. We represent those people, and their several interests and industries, and we are asked to compromise upon a request made by the Senate, a body of not half our number, and representing, as we know, State interests only. If 33 per cent, of the Commonwealth Parliament are to have this representation and consideration accorded them in this House, the people, and especially the wheat-growers, will be the first to remind us of so unwarrantable an intrusion upon the representation of their interests. I decline to accept any request for a compromise, if I stand here alone. I am sorry that I should have to mention Queensland at all, but we have not yet become used to abandoning our parochial, provincial, and separate State views. New South Wales, and New South Wales only, has been mentioned this afternoon, and Commonwealth interests have been forgotten. I am bound to say that in Queensland there has not been a single squeal, if I may apply the term in this way, for the abolition or reduction of the duty upon wheat. I am glad to be present this afternoon, if only to record my objection' to what has been said by the acting leader of the Opposition in support of the reduction of the duty, and my appreciation of what has fallen from the Minister for Trade and Customs.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member says there is plenty of fodder yet.?

Mr MACDONALD-PATERSON - I say that I have not heard of a single stockowner advocating the reduction of the duty upon wheat for the purpose of enabling him to preserve his sheep, cattle, or horses. It is most unsuitable food, even for horses.

Sir William McMillan - Does the honorable and learned member not know that thev are using it 1

Mr MACDONALD-PATERSON - I know they are using it, but I am speaking of a different question. We are not proposing to deal with this matter for six or twelve months, but for all time, or at least until some other Parliament deals -with it, and we must have universality, 'simplicity, and harmony in the duties imposed. Because there happens to be a little grumbling and squealing in some districts of New South Wales, from some people who desire to get wheat for the- purpose of saving the lives of sheep and cattle, are we to alter the policy of this country as determined by members of this committee some months ago? I should be ashamed to sit in this House if honorable members carried the amendment proposed by the acting leader of the Opposition. We are dealing with what we hope will be a permanent industry, and its permanence can be securedin good seasons or bad seasons only by the duty, modest as it is, which was agreed to in this House, and which, I trust, will not be interfered with at the request of a smaller Chamber than this. I have not heard of any demand for a reduction of the duty from Victoria, or South Australia ; we have heard of it only from portions of New South Wales. It is alleged in the very lengthy telegram which was quoted this afternoon - and which must have been considered urgent, because the information could have been posted for very much less money - that the farmers desire the removal of the duty. I say it would be far better for us to give them their seed-wheat free.

Sir William McMillan - How could we do that ?

Mr MACDONALD-PATERSON - It is just on a par with' other things that have been suggested here. A friend of mine who heard of this matter coming on this afternoon, said - "Free kerosene, free rice, free tea, free flour. It is not the agriculturist they have in their minds ; it is others, whose votes they hope to receive at the next election " - which, I am glad to think, is not very far off. I did not rise to make an election speech, but if what I have said this afternoon were to result in my defeat at the hustings, should I make up my mind to endeavor to return to this Chamber, I should not be sorry to have been defeated in support of the, doctrines to which I have given expression this afternoon on behalf of the hard-working and indefatigable agriculturist and wheat-grower of Australia.

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