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Tuesday, 2 September 1902

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth) - I think my right honorable friend is rather lacking in the sense of humour. He began by saying that it was absolutely unnecessary to go over the old ground again, and yet he has spent nearly half-an-hour in restating the principles of the measures. If honorable members will cast their memories back to the debates which took place upon Division VIa. of the Tariff, they will come to the conclusion that either the present time is inopportune for the granting of the proposed bonuses, or that at any rate the measure requires a great deal more consideration.

Mr Sawers - The time will always be inopportune in the view of the honorable member and his party.

SirWilliammcmillan. - The question where the money is to come from must occur to all of us. Our finances are now in such a condition that the Treasurer can scarcely forecast results from month to month. We are under certain obligations to the smaller States, and this fact has been made use of by the Ministry as a political cry. Yet, notwithstanding the manifesto of the Prime Minister that we should provide for revenue without destruction, and maintain tottering industries, it is proposed to appropriate £250,000 for the encouragement of an industry which was not in existence at the last general election, and in connexion with a scheme which, I venture to say, has never been before the people of the Commonwealth. I hope the proposal of the honorable member for Bland will be agreed to, and that the select committee will consider a great many matters connected with the scheme. 1 have listened very attentively to the special pleading of my right honorable friend, and I have noted the arguments based on the conditions of the Canadian iron industry - which are not at all on all-fours with the proposed scheme - and also his special reference to the iron industry in the United States - a country populated by 80,000,000 of people. But I have not heard anything that will convince me that, at this stage of our national life, with a population of only 4,000,000, it would be to our interests to spend a large amount of publicrevenue upon the establishment of a new industry, for . which the chances of success are very doubtful, and which if once supported by the State, especially by bonuses, would require more and more assistance until it became an absolute monopoly.' The establishment of a monopoly would mean one of two things. If the industry were taken up by the State of New South Wales the people there would have to pay for the reduction in the price of iron, to the consumer, or the State Government would require from the Commonwealth larger and larger import duties until the imposts became absolutely prohibitive. In view of the interests of the manufacturers, themselves - which the protectionists are supposed to conserve - and bearing in mind that iron enters largely into almost every one of our important manufacturing concerns, this is not the time at which we should contemplate an increase in the price of the raw material. On' several occasions we have lacked information such as could be obtained only by means of exhaustive inquiry, and this is a matter upon which - putting aside my fiscal faith, because I do not believe in bonuses of any kind - we should be placed in a position of much greater advantage if a patient investigation were made by a committee of this House. Why should we rush matters in connexion with this industry? We are half way through this Parliament, and the proposed industry cannot be placed upon its feet until the next Parliament is elected. Why should we commit our successors to such an enormous expenditure as that contemplated 1 I consider that some time might well be spent in investigation, and that the Ministry - after the tedious debates which have dragged through weeks, and which have shown that there is no determinate opinion one way or another - ought to be glad of an investigation that would throw some distinctive light on the question. Although I am opposed to bonuses, I recognise that a majority of honorable members are in favour of the bonus system under certain conditions, and I shall therefore vote for the appointment of a select committee, which will at any rate place in our hands an authoritative statement as to the actual position of affairs.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).The honorable member for Wentworth was right in spying that a majority of honorable members are in favour of the granting of bonuses under proper conditions. At the same time it is curious that the majority should not have their own way. As a matter of fact, the triangular duel which has been proceeding is being made use of by the minority to impose their will upon the House. A majority of honorable- members are in favour of the granting of bonuses subject to proper precautions, but that majority have unfortunately, allowed themselves to be split into two divisions, 'one of which insists that the bonus shall not be granted, except upon certain conditions With all respect to the honorable member for Bland, I think that he and those associated with him are making a great mistake in their own interests. The honorable member has led his party with great ability and industry, and has paid great attention to the debates in Parliament, but I cannot help thinking that he has been illadvised in this matter.

Mr Watson - We always think that about " the other fellow's " opinion.

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