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Thursday, 4 September 1902

Mr SALMON (Laanecoorie) - I deeply regret that there should be any special pleading in this Chamber on behalf of any decision which has been arrived at elsewhere. I fear that ere long some honorable members who have indulged in that pleading will find it necessary to adopt quite a different attitude in order to preserve the privileges of this House. Personally I never cast a vote in my life which gave me more satisfaction than that which I recorded last evening, even though, according to a certain newspaper, I was associated with men who are classed as "mere nonentities." But I would point out that the writer of that article has been a consistent supporter of the rights of the Legislative Council of Victoria for many years, and that his journal will 'always be found supporting the views of any Upper House as against those ' of the popular Chamber. I cannot understand the attitude which is adopted by some honorable members of endeavouring to place every restriction on personal explanation, or on any attempt to avert an injury which it is supposed will accrue from the action of those interested on the other? side. I regret that the honorable member for Coolgardie has found it necessary to specially plead for further consideration^ being shown, for what he calls the expressed desires of another place.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Coolgardie is not pleading for another place, but for the miners.

Mr SALMON - The honorable member for Parramatta, apparently, was not listening, or did not appreciate the full force of the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, whose desire apparently is that we should accede to the demand of another place because the division there made it evident that it was the intention of the Senate to insist on their request. We announced by a division that we did not see fit to make an amendment which was suggested by the Senate, and it does not matter whether that resolution was arrived at by a majority of one vote or of twenty votes ; it remains the resolution.of this committee. The Government now propose to vary that resolution, but have given no reasons why such a course should be adopted. If there is to be a reversal of form some reasons ought to be given by those who are responsible for the proposal. The committee are now asked to say that they do not think fit to . adopt the suggestion of another place and fix the duty at 10 per cent., but that we do think fit to modify our previous resolution. Why should the committee be asked to do that, without being afforded a single word of explanation? I feel that the desire is to secure finality ; but have we any guarantee that finality will be secured ? If honorable members had done what I have attempted to do since the vote of last night - that is get some idea of the feeling in another place - they would be somewhat surprised, and would not be so anxious to recede from the position previously taken up. With regard to these items, and this item in particular, honorable members are, in my opinion living in a " fool's paradise." Whether the duty be fixed at 10 per cent., 12£ per cent., or 15 per cent., will not matter so far as the final result is concerned.

Mr McColl - What will the result be?

Mr SALMON - Further messages from another place, and we shall then stand on very much less firm ground than we should if we had not carried the resolution last night. I am not one whom the Government can accuse of desertion, seeing that I have never failed them in any division on the Tariff. I 'have been consistent, and have voted in accordance with the principles I advocated during my election ; and these principles I am prepared to advocate at any future election, come it soon or come it late. Some attention should be paid to the desires and opinions of those who in the past have shown that they are prepared to support the Government so long as the Government adopt the right attitude. I must say that the action of the Government on the present occasion is straining my allegiance almost to breaking point. I cannot feel justified in completely swallowing principles which I have previously advocated, and I feel that any duty less than 15 per cent. will not be protective. I do not agree with those who say that 12½ per cent. will give protection. The honorable and learned member forCorinella, in making his calculations, referred to one of the arguments of the honorable member for Wentworth, who, in speaking on the question of a Federal Tariff, expressed the opinion that revenue duties of 10 per cent. would be sufficient. But I do not accept the dictum of the honorable member for Wentworth in this regard ; in fact, I am not at all certain, after having made inquiries, that 15 per cent. amounts to anything more than a revenue duty. These industries have been built up at great cost, and large sums of money have been invested in them, and yet we are asked to give them a final blow, one which will completely shatter their future. Are honorable members aware that in Victoria and South Australia workmen have been discharged since the Tariff was introduced, and the duty fixed at 15 per cent. Are honorable members aware of the enormous number of dependent industries, especially in connexion with the manufacture of agricultural implements ? Foundry men, ironworkers of all descriptions, tinsmiths, and carpenters, are employed in these dependent industries at the highest rates of wages, and yet we are asked to reduce the duty during a time of depression. The Clyde Iron Works in New South Wales has not made a single harvester since the Tariff was introduced.

An Honorable Memrer. - Is that not the result of the drought?

Mr SALMON - Not altogether. We have been accustomed to blame the drought for everything, but it is not responsible for all that has occurred in the discharge of employés and the failure of large ironworks to keep going full time. I suppose there are six or seven such establishments in

Melbourne alone, and from one of these 70 hands have been discharged, and from others 200 hands will have to be discharged unless the duty is made 15 per cent. I therefore ask honorable members, instead of agreeing to this wretched compromise of 12½ per cent., to maintain the attitude of the committee in the past.

Mr.J oseph Cook. - The honorable member is stone-walling.

Mr SALMON - The honorable member for Parramatta is a much more effective stone-waller than I can pretend to be. I am endeavouring to protect the interests of a number of men who, in a few weeks - or it may be days - will find themselves without employment.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I suppose the honorable member claims a great deal of sympathy with working men?

Mr SALMON - I have shown my sympathy with working men in a much more practical fashion than has the honorable member for Parramatta since he entered this Chamber. The method adopted by the honorable member is to take away from working men the means of subsistence and the power to purchase, under the cloak of giving themcheaper commodities.

Mr KINGSTON - The Government, in connexion with metals and machinery, have tried to get a duty of 15 per cent. We have fought for that duty, and would at this moment adopt any means to get it, unless those means involved keeping public business in the present state of disturbance for weeks or, it may be, for months. That we are not prepared to do under the circumstances.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - Suppose the Senate reject the item after we give in?

Mr.KINGSTON.- We have a right to expect a great deal better than that at the hands of the Senate, and I unhesitatingly expect better treatment, Do honorable members think that the Government have not fought for this duty? Is there any honorable member whowill bring the charge against the Government that they have not thrown their whole heart into the matter, . and have not done their very best to maintain this duty? It is not for this House alwaysto have its way, and disregard the wishes expressed elsewhere ; and when we see divisions so nicely balanced as those we havehad lately in connexion with items of this sort, I do not think we are doing too much, in the crisis which exists, in giving way to the extent which we propose. I am consoled by the reflection that 15 per cent., so far as this item is concerned, is what we originally proposed, and that 15 per cent., as regards agricultural machinery, is the duty under which Victoria throve and South Australia prospered. Under the circumstances, we are are doing what we ought to do, and what will commend itself to the good sense of the House. I hope the committee will show, not only by their voices, as expressed by the honorable member for Perth, but also by their votes that they recognise we are doing the right thing, under difficult circumstances, in facing even the criticism of our friends.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas). - I recognise that in connexionwith this item, the Government are travelling along the road towards compromise, and I only regret they did not see their way to travel the same road with regard to the previousitem. The line under discussion is different from the preceding lines to this extent - that from it under normal circumstances, the Government will get revenue, while the duty has a protective incidence on the industries which are established. In the other lines the production here exceeds the consumption, and under normal conditions no revenue and no advantages will be derived from duties. When we had under consideration on a former occasion the advisability of remitting the duties upon machinery, the Government were unable to command as large a majority as they were able to command in favour of the retention of duties such as those upon agricultural products, with which we have just been dealing. Several honorable members who voted for a reduction in the duties upon machinery were opposed to the reduction of duties upon agricultural pro ducts, because their constituents are benefiting by the high prices now prevailing in consequence of the shortage created by the distressful drought from which we are suffering. As the members of the Opposition would not demand divisions in regard to the former set of duties, I hope that a division will not be insisted upon in this case.

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