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Thursday, 4 September 1902

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth) - As a matter of personal explanation, and in order to prevent the possibility of the slightest misunderstanding, I wish to refer to a remark which I made last evening. I then stated that I believed we had reached the stage of finality in connexion with the Tariff, and I still hold that the present should be its final stage. Bythat I mean that the Government, in making their proposals in regard to the Senate's requests, ought to be fully seized of that fact, and ought to realize that every concession which it is possible to make from their stand-point should now be made in the public interests. That is all that I stated, and that is still my opinion. I did not make that declaration by way of threat, or with a view of preventing any honorable member from taking future action. It. was the almost unanimous desire of honorable members to dispose of the Tariff last evening, so that our proposals might be returned to the Senate. But evidently there is no chance of the schedule being dealt with without a certain amount of discussion, although I trust that no attempt will be made to prolong debate. After a certain amount of reflection, I think that upon one or two of these items it will be necessary to take divisions. I do not propose to divide the committee upon each particular item, when one division will practically settle a series of items. But I would point out that the matter which is now under discussion presents a very curious anomaly. It is one of those items which, I think, transgresses in the most cardinal manner the whole principle of our Tariff legislation. I refer particularly to bacon and hams, and butter and cheese. In the first place we have united in one item two products, the value of one of which is about double that of the other, notwithstanding which, the duty upon them is uniform. In other words, if we impose a duty of 3d. per lb. upon bacon, which casts 4d. or 5d. per lb., it practically means prohibition. Now, the only country from which we import bacon is New Zealand ; and, in view of the desirability of bringing about that finality which is so necessary in connexion with this matter, I ask the Minister for

Trade and Customs to reconsider the position. While 2d. per lb. may be a very fair fixed duty upon ham, which costs1s. per lb., or upon butter, which costs the same amount, it cannot relatively be a fair impost upon bacon and cheese, which are worth perhaps 4d. per lb. My object all through the Tariff debates - apart from my position as a free-trader - has been to make this instrument of taxation a reasonably scientific one. I wish to have a simple Tariff, and one containing as few anomalies as possible. Here, however, is a great anomaly. I will not repeat my arguments in regard to the duties upon wheat, and other foodstuffs. I think that these ought to be reduced, if they are not absolutely eliminated, and I understand that one honorable member intends to propose a reduction. If he calls for a division, upon them, I shall be very happy to be found voting with him.

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