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Thursday, 3 March 1904

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister for External Affairs) . - I am grateful to . the House for the respite which was afforded by your kind consideration, Mr. Speaker, to the suggestion made that we should adjourn at the close of the speech made by the leader of the Opposition. Having listened to the remarks of the right honorable the leader of the Opposition with close, attention, I found myself, and assumed that others would probably find themselves, somewhat fatigued by the strain necessary to follow a speech so comprehensive and able, and dealing with a vast variety of subjects in the right honorable gentleman's best manner. I felt also that the concession granted would not be lost, since it afforded an opportunity as necessary to me as it was to the right honorable member to survey some portion of the ground to be traversed, in order not to detain honorable members more than was absolutely necessary. Let me first acknowledge the admirably practical manner in which the honorable members who moved and seconded the address fulfilled their task. Then allow me to say that I do not propose to complain that the leader of the Opposition pointed to his own small successes and expressed the natural satisfaction of an antagonist at the misfortune which has befallen honorable members who sat on this side of the House. The interjection of approval which I gave to his references to the loss we feel was absolutely sincere. We have lost some of the best men it was ever my privilege to see in Parliament. I assert with perfect indifference as to the side on which they sat, or the principles which they supported, that more upright, more patriotic, more public-spirited men never sat in any of our legislatures. I do not think it necessary to detain the House with more than the briefest reference to the condition of affairs by which those losses were brought about. It is not necessary to apologize for them, or even to explain them ; but it should be said once and for all that those who recognised the position in which the Ministry went to the country felt that the exultation expressed at that time by my right honorable friend and those around him at the opportunity afforded to them was well founded. We had lived through' a Parliament of about two and a half years' duration, and of that life about two years had been spent in session. The Cabinet Bacl just lost three of the leading statesmen of Australia. We had coped with a long series of great questions in the presence of three parties, for the House was divided then - although not in the same numbers, on the same principles - as it is at present. Our one cardinal obligation had been to discharge the supreme duty resting upon us as a House and as a Government to pass a tariff in some shape before we closed our labours. Yet that was the question upon which the House was most seriously divided. Our " Customs," if I may parody the poet, rested " upon us, with a weight heavy as frost, and deep almost as life." The necessity of passing a tariff, however mutilated, in order that the mandate of the Constitution might be fulfilled, and that the finances of both Commonwealth and States should be preserved, was absolutely imperative. Whatever might have been the form in which- it emerged from the trial in this House, it was the first duty of the Government to pass it, and pass it at any cost. That was one. of the considerations which, as the right honorable gentleman remarks, did not put us in a favourable position for an appeal to the country ; nor were other surroundings such as to award us even a share of good fortune. We hari to encounter in this State - the centre, as my right honorable friend has often observed, of the fiscal views which I defend - a gross want of discipline, that . lost us several seats. On the other side of the river, the right honorable gentleman, more fortunate, was at the head of a great and well disciplined organization, which enabled him to reinforce his strength. Whilst my friend had here, as he had in other States, a strong and resolute press to support him, we found ourselves, in New South Wales, confronted, not only by the right honorable gentleman - a tower of strength in himself - confronted, not only with the strong party with which he has been allied for years, but by the two great morning dailies, both of them speaking in absolute unison in support of everything done by him, or in his name, and condemning everything done by us, or in our name. That was an enormous handicap. Those familiar with public life will realize that it must tell heavily in any election, and it told with peculiar force, under the peculiar circumstances which aroused feeling in that State. I am in one respect in thorough accord with the right honorable gentleman.. I believe' that my own career, like his own, shows a determination at all hazards to ignore sectarian differences in the political arena. Like him, I view with regret their intrusion on either side. He himself ' has stated that, without reference to his own utterances, a certain vote was cast against him; but it is also equally clear that a certain vote was cast for him, and that in his State the second vote was immensely the stronger of the two. Consequently, in that State we suffered practically the whole of our electoral misfortunes. It has always been a matter of regret to me that the two States in the union who are the closest neighbours - the most intimately allied in commerce and intercourse - should have been divided on the one question on which Federal parties were founded. That, however, is the fact, and if my right honorable friend, when he looks back upon his brilliant efforts in that campaign has anything to regret or if I - as one returning with interest the kind and cordial expressions which he was good enough to utter - have anything to regret for him, it is that he should have stepped from his high Federal position of independence to appeal to narrow provincial motives which should never be introduced on a Federal platform. They, like sectarian influences, should be sternly put aside. I trust that whatever may be the differences of opinion which separate us in this House, they will never be created by the boundaries of the States, or represented by appeals to one section of the people. In these circumstances - my right honorable friends influence and ability, his organization, his press, the local feeling that existed across the border - what wonder is it that a number of those who supported the Ministerial policy lost their seats, and that we thus find ourselves reduced in strength ? When all these facts are realised it will be seen that the principles for which we contended had far less scope and effect in that contest than they have in ordinary contests. They taught us the lesson - that over the area of Australia it is difficult, if not impossible, at the present time to put forward one platform which will become the standard of support to one side, and of opposition to the other. My right honorable friend alluded to the circumstances associated with the general elections in Queensland. He might also have referred to other States in which the main question submitted by myself, as well as by himself, were passed by in favour of other considerations. He should realize that one reason why we stand in this Parliament today divided into three parties instead of two is the great size of the Commonwealth. The differences in political training, in habits of thought, and access to information, between the people of these States have led them to attach very waryng importance to the Federal issues submitted to them. There are, consequently, three parties in this House because Australia is practically divided in itself, and has not yet come to that full consciousness of its Federal responsibilities and powers which will ultimately resolve us into two parties, and two alone. Then my right honorable friend has another advantage in connexion with the general elections. I claim no credit for the Government, because it submitted a positive and somewhat elaborate programme. Any Government in the circumstances would have been obliged to do the same if it cherished any hopes of success. It is part of the responsibilities of its position. The Opposition, on the other hand, enjoyed, as they always enjoy, if they choose to exercise it, a far greater freedom ; a freedom from any positive or constructive policy of their own - a choice of simple negatives, which enabled them to unite all their conflicting forces against a Government programme. My right honorable friend, past-master of tactics as well as of their exposition, took full advantage of that situation. His policy was to present no policy, except in the negative. Even on the fiscal question, to which I must presently allude, his attitude was that of general hostility to the protectionist duties which had been passed. It went no further. In almost every particular of the Ministerial programme the right honorable member confined himself to general, and certainly genuine, indications of his dislike to them or to minor matters. The questions put by us to the Commonwealth - the adoption or rejection of our whole policy - were met by my right honorable friend with a demand that those who followed him should content themselves by rejecting them. That, as we all know, is another practical advantage which he enjoyed. Whatever a Government has done it has always made fewer warm friends by its actions than it has made enemies of those who think some other course ought to have been followed. Whatever it may have left undone is remembered by those who are innocent, perhaps, of all knowledge of the circumstances which compelled or ad vised the omission. Every Government suffers from this condition of affairs'. It was not peculiar to this Government or to the last elections, but operating as it did throughout the whole of Australia, extending over a vast field, and working upon undisciplined forces, the marvel is that the Government comes back to find itself in possession of the Treasury benches.

Mr Reid - In physical possession.

Mr DEAKIN - Quite so. That is, after all, a remarkable achievement. We had to confront not only the right honorable gentleman, but an independent party in this House, following its own announced platform - a platform that in this and many of the States comes so much closer to our own than to that of the Opposition that the antagonism of those who stand in its name is to us more deadly. We who, like my right honorable friend, claim the title of " liberal " and even of "radical," know that those who hold opinions similar to our own are our most dangerous antagonists at the poll, and consequently we suffered, as my right honorable friend has pointed out, to in even greater extent than did h'is own party.


Mr DEAKIN - We suffered to a much greater extent, except in New South Wales and Victoria, where the position remained practically unaltered. When all these circumstances are taken into 'account - and I dismiss them now - it becomes easy to understand why we face the House with only one-third of its members as our supporters, independently of any other organization. My right honorable friend still enjoys, and while he remains in opposition will continue to enjoy, yet one more advantage.

Mr Reid - I will give them all to the Prime Minister if he will change places with me.

Mr DEAKIN - When my right honorable friend crosses to this side of the House he will not be able to hand over those advantages to us to the same extent. Honorable members on this side who are Ministerialists have been returned on the Ministerial programme, which is positive, while honorable members on the opposition side have been returned on a programme which is negative. Deep divisions will rend the right honorable gentleman's ranks when he steps from mere negations to positive propositions. At present he is able to keep under his banner many whose contrasted sympathies were reflected in their faces in spite of themselves during his remarkable deliverance this evening. The smiles "whichrippled over the faces of one section were surely heralded by the frowns of the other while the leader of the Opposition, in his inimitable way, turned lightly from one difficult problem to its fellow. That indicated only too plainly that his power lies, as he now perceives, in pursuing to the last a barren policy. He has maintained it consistently in the. admirable speech to which we have just listened. When the Opposition put to sea under his captainship, they sailed under sealed orders ; those who expected that to-night the seals would be broken, and the ultimate destination of the party known, are no better informed now than they were before.

Mr Reid - I am waiting for the offer that is coming.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - " Prescribe when you are called in."

Mr DEAKIN - That dictum has the' authority of one of the greatest of English statesmen, Sir Robert Peel; but it was more apt in his day, when the public not only took a much smaller share in the business of the nation, but were taken much less into the confidence of their leaders, than now. At the present time a negative policy can be pursued only for a short distance, and for immediate purposes. If followed further, it will fail. It is not the noblest kind of strategy. Indeed, it may be termed a " penny-in-the-slot " tactic. One must put a penny in before any policy will pop out.

Mr Reid - The Government were glad to fight under the white flag of truce during the elections.

Mr DEAKIN - We fought for the white flag of a white Australia.

Mr Reid - We all fight for that.

Mr DEAKIN - My right honorable friend's' allusion to the white flag is applicable to the Ministry, only because of the stainlessness of our policy.

Mr Reid - There is not even a blot of ink upon it.

Mr DEAKIN - The difficulties of the situation are common to us both. When my right honorable friend was turning me pleasantly upon the gridiron, I thought of the comment of the Aztec prince to his complaining compani'on who was undergoing the same torture by the white conquerors of his country - "Am I, too, on a bed of roses?" I felt inclined to interject, when the right honorable gentleman was speaking - " Are you, too, on a bed of roses ?"

Mr Reid - No, I am not. I am waiting to be asked.

Mr DEAKIN - My right honorable friend has a large professional experience of cases in which thoughtless offers of alliances have been followed by disastrous pecuniary results to thegentlemen who have made them. He is an expert in such cases, and he knows that the present opportunity does not permit me to make a reply without prejudice. Under the circumstances, I must wait for such an occasion. The difficulty the Government have in making an offer is that we do not enjoy, his position of vantage. We went to the country, and have been returned upon a programme from which, beyond the reasonable relaxations of practical expediency, a departure is not possible, and we can make an alliance only with those who share our programme. The right hon- orable member has not seen fit to disclose his programme, and until he does how can I know whether an offer can be honorably made or received?

Mr Reid - The right honorable and learned gentleman must employ a broker.

Mr DEAKIN - I should not need to go far from my right honorable friend at the present time. Although I do not withdraw one word of the speech of mine to which he alluded, it appears to me that, bound as we are to our programme, the gradual emergence of the solution of the present situation from the active life of this House must be awaited as the only thing possible. We have put before honorable members a programme which is definite and long; but all the measures mentioned in the speech can be dealt with this session, with one or two exceptions, which are carefully indicated. We hope to deal, even in a short session, if the House is so minded, with practically the whole of those questions. In doing so, we must inevitably fall into voting alliances and oppositions which will indicate the principles by which we are moved. The formal alliance,' when it comes about, must be absolutely open, and made- in the public eye. The speech of my right honorable friend was notable for many things, and eloquent in many parts, but most eloquent in its silences. When he spoke with a certain sympathy of the funeral obsequies of the Ministry, the apprehensions which I might otherwise have felt were calmed by the realization that he is- wearing black crape upon his own arm in remembrance of obsequies far more important than those of a Ministry or party - the death and burial, during this Parliament, at all events, of the fiscal issue.

Mr Reid - I recognise that that is the verdict of the constituencies.

Mr DEAKIN - That admission disarms me at once. The omission from the GovernorGeneral's speech of a reference to fiscal peace is due simply to the lack of necessity for it, either as a mere statement of fact or as the glorification of success. The fact stands out boldly before the eyes of the thoughtful, because it marks a very important stage on the journey we have been travelling. We inherited the fiscal issue from the States, and in a federation of a group of States, with differing policies, it had to be fought out; it could not be avoided. It has been fought out to an issue in a form which, is unsatisfactory to both sides. But, by the verdict of the public, the question has been deposed from its high place as the first article upon our programme, and laid aside altogether for this Parliament. Perhaps it has been disposed, of in perpetuity, in the sense in which the fight has hitherto been waged.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then what is the meaning of the references in the speech to bounties and bonuses ?

Mr DEAKIN - If we commence with the acceptance of the fact that the fiscal issue is dead, the way is open for dealing with the practical problems before us with a much freer hand than we have hitherto possessed. Up to the present, considerations foreign to these problems have weighed upon our minds, and have occasionally deflected our views in spite of ourselves. The fiscal issue being put aside, we are free to look these questions straight in the face. My right honorable friend was not without justification when he said that, in the opinion of those who agree with him, the' proposals for what is termed preferential trade, which were before this country during the elections in an indefinite shape, seemed a contradiction of the protectionist policy adopted by those who sit on this side of the chamber. That may easily be so, for this reason: the question is one which may be regarded apart from fiscal principles in their ordinary application. Replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta, in regard to bounties, it is common for those who term themselves free-traders to approve the granting of bounties and subsidies of one kind and another, or proposals going beyond the most favoured nation clauses providing discriminate treatment with other countries. Such proposals were made by the mother country in the treaty with France, and have been considered at other times.

Mr Reid - They were quite different.

Mr DEAKIN - They were different ; but they represent departures which to the minds of many free-traders were not justified. They were believed to impair the pure principles of free-trade. I do not agree, but I can understand the position of those who, like my right honorable friend, consider our present proposals inconsistent with the protectionist policy. To our minds they are the necessary outcome, and part and parcel of the principles of protection as we understand and have adopted them. I feel that it would be idle to reopen the fiscal controversy at this stage; but desire to draw a broader line of demarcation than that which is furnished by fiscal opinion, so that the causes from which our deepest differences spring may be realized. The term "free-trade " is an extremely effective battle cry. All sentiment is for freedom, and Britons at all events have always realized the value of trade. But the term "freetrade " has always been specious if not spurious in the mouths of many of those who adopted it. Their policy is not free-trade but free imports. The free-trader who is only a free importer, rejects the doctrines of protection now because he rejects the restriction of imports in England sixty years ago, undertaken in the interests of a class and by mediaeval means, which unnecessarily' interfered with commerce. But the rejection of the old system of what may be called class protection no longer applies when protection has been democratized, as we know it has in Australia, since it now takes into account the interests of all classes of the community, and aims at supporting them. As we claim to have developed the doctrine beyond the point at which it was formerly subject to criticism, we see in the revival of the discussion in the mother country a recognition from the other side of the shield of the fact that the world has moved - that circumstances have changed for free importers also. The proposals now submitted are far from identical with the system* of fifty or sixty years ago. Consequently, a fresh and open mind with new and free thought, independent of old fiscal theories, is needed to determine the bearing of the propositions lately submitted. To our school of thought the doctrine of free imports is essentiallydistasteful, because it means to us as to some of its most outspoken advocates in the text-books, a reduction of the conditions of life and labour to the irreducible minimum, an abolition of every other consideration than the power of the purse, coupled with a refusal to look beyond superficial cheapness to the causes from which that cheapness - springs, and the disastrous results it often implies. The doctrine of free imports- meant to us the absolute abandonment of all considerations except those which could be expressed in coin at the moment of purchase.

Mr Conroy - How does the Prime Minister explain the support given to free-trade principles by all the socialists of Europe?

Mr DEAKIN - I do not propose to explain it. At some other time I might be glad to discuss the question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman is delivering .a lecture.

Mr DEAKIN - I hope I am not stray- . ing even for a moment from the practical issue before us. I venture to contend that the original orthodoxy of the free-trade party has been rejected in connexion with nearly all recent industrial and social legislation passed in the mother country or here.

Mr Reid - The Minister is entirely misrepresenting our view.

Mr DEAKIN - I am reviewing the original orthodoxy of the free-traders, and am not representing the views of the right honorable gentleman, which I take it, are necessarily in advance of those to which I am referring. If we look back to the old orthodoxy of free-traders, we shall find it as much at fault as the protectionist orthodoxy of that . date. The advocates of both political creeds are more nearly approaching each other, because it is recognised thai, so far from abandoning economic affairs, and trade and commerce, to the mere operation of what is called the " natural " law of supply and demand, it is necessary in connexion with our social legislation, and our commercial and industrial organizations to exercise control over all public agencies in the best interests of the public. The old doctrine of "let alone" is dying with the circumstances to which it belonged, and is no longer possible. My honorable friends accept sanitary legislation, and accept legislation relating to public education, although at the time of the old orthodoxy such measures were regarded with as much disfavour as protection itself, as involving an equal interference with the sacred liberty of the subject. Advances of time and thought have brought an humane element into our legislation, and after that is coming a national element which is now beginning to express itself in connexion with our administration and legislation. I hope that my right honorable friend will forgive me for this little digression, which has been necessary to enable me to remind the House how out of the new circumstances of the twentieth century has grown the recognition of the fact that not only is legislation in connexion with trade and industry necessary to preserve the lives and safeguard the health of the workers, but that from a national point of view such measures are insufficient in themselves to safeguard us from the unfair competition r-f labourers in other lands who work under less satisfactory conditions. This is the reason that the proposals for preferential trade are being revived to-day in England, with every prospect, not only of their ultimate, but of their early, adoption in some form or .other.

Mr Conroy - How does that statement accord with the results of the recent byelections in England?

Mr Reid - The advocates of preferential trade admit that they do not expect to win at the next election.

Mr DEAKIN - I agree with my right honorable friend, and am aware of the results of the recent by-elections, but I would ask can even the party managers in Great Britain say how much of the success which has been gained by the Opposition is due to the preferential trade proposals of the Government, and how much is attributable to the action of the Government on the education question, their war policy, or their attitude as to the Chinese in the Transvaal? It is impossible to accurately estimate the extent of the influences which have been at work.

Mr Reid - That applies to every election.

Mr DEAKIN - I admit that; but if honorable members will lookback at the utterances of the English newspapers which are opposed to the Government, they will see that prior to the introduction of the preferential trade question, great stress was laid upon the Education Act and the war exposures, until the Opposition expected to gain a majority in most constituencies without reference to any other question.

Mr Reid - That is why the red herring has been drawn across the track.

Mr DEAKIN - That would support my argument, that if the measure of success which has attended the Government was due to their preferential trade proposals, the failures were attributable to other causes.

Mr Reid - Hear, hear; that may well be. The other was the sharper tooth by which they were liable to be bitten.

Mr DEAKIN - The position I put is that the national issue has naturally come to the front. One of the best results of the recent fiscal discussion has been the reaffirmation of the old truth, taught by Adam Smith, but which seems to have been lost sight of by his disciples for many years, regarding the value of the home trade. Recent returns published in Great Britain show the effect of foreign competition upon the trade of that country, so far as it is reflected by imports and exports. These have driven back our opponents into their old entrenchments, which were ours for many years. It has made them recognise the value of the home trade. It has been shown that the total value of the import and export trade is but a fraction of the whole trade, for the reason laid down centuries ago that home trade combines production and consumption within a country, so that whatever profits may result, including that derived from transport, are within the country, and assist to build up the State. The aim of preferential trade throughout the Empire is to make the trade of the Empire a home trade, so far as our autonomous and other 'conditions will permit. The advantages of a greater home trade cannot be and are not disputed. The proposal for preferential trade has commended itself to the people of the mother country, because it appears to them to afford an opportunity to secure to the people of the Empire the profits of its trade transactions to a greater extent. Of course, natural conditions tend to bring about this result.

If there were no alliance between ourselves and the mother country, Great Britain ; would still be our best customer, because she has a dense population and is a large consumer of foodstuffs and raw materials. On the other hand, owing to the natural conditions under which we live, Great Britain would see in us a huge territory sparsely populated, with almost unlimited opportunities of producing foodstuffs, and at the same time requiring supplies of manufactured goods: These conditions would in themselves foster the deliberate policy which is now being brought forward in order that there may be a profitable internal exchange of that which we produce. We shall need to produce in much larger quantities in order to reap the full advantage of any reciprocal arrangement for English manufactures which we do not produce or attempt to produce.

Mr Reid - Any article can be manufactured here at a price.

Mr DEAKIN - My right honorable friend's contention is that his action has always been friendly to the mother country, and not friendly to France and Germany.

Mr Reid - No, fair to the mother country, and fair to all. I declare war against no one.

Mr DEAKIN - Exactly. My right honorable friend prefers to describe his attitude as fair to the mother country, and fair to all. It cannot be fair to her to keep her on the same footing as her rivals and possible enemies.

Mr Reid - But my first object is to do what I think best for my own people. That is the basis of my creed ; I believe it is good for my own people. If I thought that it was bad for them, I might be a protectionist.

Mr DEAKIN - My right honorable friend, when he was speaking this afternoon, did what he rarely does. I think he made a slight slip, or perhaps it was an intentional concession, when drawing a contrast between the policy of preferential trade and the policy of protection. He said that the policy of preferential trade was Imperial, whilst the policy of protection was Australian. That is precisely what we say. We say that the policy of protection is Australian, because it benefits Australia. But at the same time we hold that it is consistent with the study of the interests of Australia under protection to develop our policy along the lines of preferential trade. Preferential trade, as applied to the Empire, may mean protection, but whether so or not it does not necessarily involve any sacrifice of our interests. It has been possible in times gone by for foreign nations to enter into commercial treaties with one another, and surely it is possible for us to enter into a treaty with the mother country, not only because natural conditions favour it,' but because national sentiment encourages it. We could not, even though we wished, hide from ourselves the fact that our fortunes - in fact, our very existence - are bound up with those of the mother country, that we must stand or fall with the mother country, that we must rise or sink together. Hence it is to the interests of the mother country to strengthen as far as she possibly can, and to trade with, the countries under her own flag rather than to give support and encouragement to those countries which are not within the Empire. In this part of the world she finds the greatest purchasing power for her goods.

Mr Reid - No thanks to us.

Mr DEAKIN - Even under all the tariff restrictions upon which my right honorable friend is so fond of dwelling, the fact remains that we are the best purchasers of the goods of Great Britain, and we know we can become still better customers. This consideration is the chief motive operating with the statesman who is at the head of this movement in Great Britain. Apart from this, he puts his case upon grounds which can be well defended, but in the forefront of his proposal he places first the closer commercial alliance which will be brought about between the mother country and her Colonies, who are her best customers. Is it not possible for those who sit in opposition to us upon the fiscal question to realize that in striking this national note we are sounding an entirely new chord?

Mr Reid - Hear, hear ; the Government are less protectionist than they were.

Mr DEAKIN - We are less protectionist in the same sense than my right honorable friend is less free-trade.

Mr Reid - No, I am not.

Mr DEAKIN - In the words of the old French proverb, " we recoil a step in order that we may leap the further." Just as we were content to accept the risk of Federal union, under which protection might be to some extent impaired by the lowering of the duties, and, unfortunately, the duties have been lowered too much, so we are prepared to further expand our area of supply throughout the Empire, so as to secure a larger field and better opportunities. We can advance step by step whenever we can gain more by making a concession than by remaining as we are.

Mr Reid - The question is, will the Minister make a substantial reduction of the duties in order to achieve the glorious results which he has been picturing ?

Mr DEAKIN - Speaking personally, I am perfectly prepared to do so.

Mr Reid - That is a fair answer ; but it involves a change of policy.


Mr Reid -It will mean a reduction of the protectionist duties.

Mr DEAKIN - Our proposal will require fair consideration of the duties which are protectionist, of those which are not protectionist, and in fact of all imposts whose reduction will have a preferential effect. We shall have to consider how far we can spare the revenue that we now derive from such duties as it may be considered desirable to reduce, and we shall have to be satisfied as to the effect of any reductions upon the industries. As this is a matter of trade relations, it must, like every other similar transaction, be a matter of bargain. It does not follow, because the actuating impulse is sentimental, because the ends to be gained are national, and because we recognise their importance quite apart from their commercial aspect, that we should enter into a compact without considering the influence it would have upon our trade and commerce. I may say that, if we are spared sufficiently long, we shall not hesitate to make proposals which may involve sacrifices to this country. But we shall make no sacrifices without showing the country their full extent, and pointing out what we are to receive in return.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is eminently safe.

Mr DEAKIN - I should say it is eminently wise.

Mr Reid - Is the Minister prepared to indorse the promise made by his predecessor in office, that he would give a preference to England without obtaining any concession in return ?

Mr DEAKIN - That may be the outcome of the situation. The reason we have spoken with hesitancy, and why I refrained from making a precise pronouncement in this regard last session, was that a proposal, such as that mentioned, as a free gift on the Canadian plan, would be very different in character from that I have in my mind as the result of a reciprocal trade bargain. The Canadian proposal itself, we have been informed by a leading statesman of that country, has been made in the expectation of a compensating recognition, which is now being looked for. It has even been stated, I think by a member of its Government - I am not sure whether the gentleman to whom I refer is now in Opposition - that unless some such consideration is forthcoming the Canadians will require to reconsider their position.

Mr Reid - At the recent Conference of Premiers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whilst agreeing to make further concessions without bargaining, expressed the hope that the Imperial Government would reciprocate.

Mr DEAKIN - Even Sir Wilfrid Laurier expressed the hope that there would be reciprocity, and a late colleague of his went still further. Our position has been rendered one of extreme difficulty in this regard because we have had to wait to learn the attitude of the Imperial Government. The leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon to a declaration - an authoritative declaration - which was made a few days ago in London, and which was far more distinct than had previously been made by any member of the Government. I must confess that I read the statement with very great disappointment. I had anticipated that the present British Cabinet would propose some forward step before the next general elections took place. It was not until that utterance that we learned that the Government does not consider the country ripe at the present time for more than a discussion of the question. That necessarily alters our attitude - alters the position in which we find ourselves. But we have not remained idle. The Minister for Trade and Customs has for some time been engaged in preparing materials, some of which have been asked for by the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr Reid - He has published a pamphlet.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes, and a very admirable pamphlet it is. But, in addition to that, a close examination is being made of the whole circumstances connected with our British trade, and our foreign trade likely to be affected by proposals of this nature. The information which has been asked for by the honorable member for North Sydney constitutes an essential element in the consideration of this question, but it is not the only element. Another element lies in the conditions under which all our exchanges are made. Consequently, a study of the Australian Tariff, and of the industries affected by that Tariff, will be necessary before any Government can be prepared to submit, to this House proposals which must receive weighty examination before they are launched. The work will not take years ; it may not take months.

Mr Conroy - Surely there was a preference given to the Colonies as far back as in 1846. The same argument was used then.

Mr DEAKIN - Trie proposal under this head was challenged during the recent elections here as involving an interference with the autonomous liberties of the Australian, Canadian, and South African self-governing communities. In my opinion it represents no intrusion, by a hair's breadth, upon those privileges. I take it that any proposal of this character would operate for a fixed term of years, and would relate to specific articles, and to a fixed extent. It would be a free Act of the several colonial Legislatures. Probably it would be of a rudimentary character in the first instance, and would require to be adjusted and extended as the result of further knowledge and experience. These proposals, so far as I can judge, will form but the commencement of a long and carefully developed policy which will link, as far as it is possible . to do SO our commercial interests with those of the mother country, and the other great dependencies of the Empire, to our mutual benefit. It will, therefore, produce in the first instance an enhancement of the wealth of the Empire as a whole, and supply the sinews of war upon which it depends, but much more than that, it will multiply the multitudes of its population, who are settled under its own flag. It will increase the number of white citizens living under white conditions who are able to take their stand in the defence of the Empire.

Mr Reid - Will it not link us with India, too?

Mr DEAKIN - It may do so to any extent to which we find it profitable to enter into commercial relations with Hindustan. We shall safeguard our interests in that matter as in any other. But this policy must have as its foundation the recognition of the fact that this Empire is British in authority and control., It cannot be all British in its population. It is British only fractionally. But the greater that fraction is the more will the whole , sway of the Empire be strengthened and enhanced.

Mr Higgins - Is this policy to be submitted to the present Parliament?

Mr DEAKIN - I hope so, but, as I have said, we must depend largely upon the nature of the proposals from, and upon the trend of affairs in, the mother country. When we entertained a more sanguine view of the action which .would be taken by the Imperial Government, we were naturally more hopeful. Now that they are putting aside the subject for some months, if not for a longer period, we have necessarily to speak with more circumspection. At that time it appeared likely - and it is still possible - that their following in favour of preferential trade proposals will prove stronger than the Imperial Government has counted upon. I earnestly trust that it may. I have alluded to this question in order to enable honorable members to understand both the attitude of the Government in regard to it, and the difficulty of facing a constantly changing situation in the mother country - our other partner in any such arrangement Necessarily, whatever arrangement may, be entered into, must depend upon the response which is made by the mother country. It is only because of the fluctuations of opinion regarding the nearness of the success of this movement in England that we are so exceedingly cautions in dealing with it. Personally, I believe that when this issue is plainly placed before. the country we shall find the leader of the Opposition, and a number of those who are now acting with him, thoroughly alive to the .reasonable nature of the proposals submitted and to the magnificence of the end which they are intended to serve.

Mr Reid - I consider all the objects good. The only point of difference is as to whether this is the best way of bringing about the desired result.

Mr DEAKIN - The last point upon which I have to touch in this relation is perhaps for us the most important of all, because we must recognise that if we were fortunate enough to obtain an advantage in the almost inexhaustible markets of the mother country, the increased consumption of our butter, fruit, and other products would prove of incalculable value to those who are settled upon the soil of Australia. In this connexion the leader of the Opposition asked rather captiously this afternoon, " What about the millions of acres which are open in Canada, and the supplies which can be poured in from there?" But

I would point out to him that our farmers are now successfully competing with the producers of Canada. I " believe that with the advantage of our seasons, they will compete with them to even more advantage.

Mr Ewing - Australia is a better country than Canada can ever be.

Mr DEAKIN - In regard to butter, fruit, and other products, Ave certainly possess an advantage, not only over Canada, but over the competing countries of Europe. It is because of their bearing upon the settlement of this country that these preferential trade proposals should commend themselves to this House. The right honorable member for East Sydney has referred to the fact that it might be deemed aristocratic exclusiveness if Ave aimed at securing the young sons of farmers who possess money. He declared that this class is limited in number. That is true, but the inquiries which I have made show that it is far larger than I had dared to suppose, and that a large proportion of those who are finding their way to Canada are taking money Avith them. And what we have to face is an even more serious condition than that. The subject is brought home to me by means of sheaves of correspondence, some of which, I must confess, furnishes me with a very painful surprise. I find, for instance, that one well-known citizen - I have not his permission to use his name - mentions that by one vessel bound for America last year there were 300 per-_ sons from Australia and Canada, most of whom were agriculturists. By another vessel he declares, upon the authority of the purser, 62 men of the agricultural class travelled thither, their capital averaging ^1 2 5 each.

Mr Conroy - Then shame upon the Government policy.

Mr DEAKIN - - They were proceeding to America from Australia. I have no information as to the districts from which they came.

Mr Reid - When Avas this ?

Mr DEAKIN - Last year.

Mr Watson - Does your informant give the names of the ships so that the statements may be verified.

Mr DEAKIN - Yes.

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