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Tuesday, 12 August 1902

Mr KINGSTON - The division just taken has practically decided the question, and I shall not trouble the committee further than by moving -

That the amendment requested be not made.

Sir WILLIAMMcMILLAN (Wentworth). - So far as I am concerned, I agree with the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Customs. There may, of course, be honorable members who take a special interest in this item, and I have no desire to stop debate ; but personally I see no use in reiterating arguments which were, if anything, stronger in regard to the other items than in regard to the item before us. At the same time, these duties are very much on a par, and I do not intend to further debate them.

Mr. SYDNEYSMITH (Macquarie).In view of the understanding arrived at, I do not desire to take up much time. . But I think the committee would do well to pause before they inflict the hardship which will result from this motion. Honorable members who have visited some parts of the State of New South Wales must admit the reasonablenessof making some amendment in the proposal submitted by the Government. When the proposal was first brought down, the Government evidently anticipated little or no revenue from the duty. A mere nominal amount of £1,000 is all they expect to receive. But it is owing to the terrible distress that prevails throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales and Queensland that we now appeal to them. I fear that the appeal will be in vain, but still we ask them to give, at all events, some measure of relief by allowing the duty to stand over for six months. The Minister for Trade and Customs has referred to the advantage of protection, and pointed out that at least once in 15 years we have a drought. That is the time when it is expected that the farmers will benefit from such a duty. The farmers of New South Wales do not want any such benefit. I represent one large farming centre, and live in another. The farmers in these districts are suffering more than any one else. Let honorable members consider the condition of a district like that represented by the honorable member for Parramatta. All the way from Camden down to the Hawkesbury there is nothing but distress. The farmers have no crops, the stock is dying, and prices are raised, owing to the operation of the Tariff, upon their clothing, boots and shoes, and necessaries of life. We had to fight the Government for two whole days in order to secure a reduction in the duty on turnips. When, on a recent occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain came down to the House of Commons with a proposal to put a duty on food supplies, my right honorable friend was delighted about it, and pointed out that there was an idea of England's returning to protection. We told him, however, that the people had been misled. We have evidence of that in England today. Two strong conservative seats have been lost to the Government at two byeelections fought recently. This shows that when the people have an opportunity of speaking they will demonstrate that they do not believe in the policy of protection. I mention the English case to illustrate what is likely to result in Australia. The people have no desire that these duties on food stuffs1 should be imposed, more especially at the present time, when so many are suffering. The Government have promised relief over and over again, but have shown no sincerity. The dairy farmers are suffering intensely, because they cannot afford to pay the prices demanded for produce which they require in order to keep their stock alive. But it appears to be hopeless to make appeals to the Government. They seem to glory in the terrible condition of the farmers of New South Wales, because the farmers of Victoria and the other States are reaping a harvest through the distress prevailing elsewhere. That is not the true federal spirit, and when the proper time comes the Government will ascertain that their action is not approved of by the people of the Commonwealth.

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