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Tuesday, 15 March 1904

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON (Barker) - When I listened to. the speech, as read by the Governor-General, I must say that I was impressed by the extent of ground which it covered, and, although I may not be able to indorse the remark of the leader of the Opposition that there is work enough in it to last for all eternity, I am convinced that it is a programme in the carrying out of which we shall all do well to pray for the Divine guidance to which reference is very properly made in the closing para-' graph. I have been much interested in the debate, especially in the speeches made, by the new members. There can be no doubt that in political knowledge and speaking power they will prove an acquisition to tfiis Chamber; but, at the same time, one cannot but regret the absence from both sides of the House of old members who in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, won our respect and cordial good-will. It was my intention to have spoken earlier in the debate, and to have dealt with the various' matters referred to in the speech at some' length, but as it is desired, seeing that the debate has run into the third week, toclose it as soon as- possible, I shall only touch on three or four topics, and my references shall be brief. Really nothing more is necessary, as the matters will come up later on for .full discussion. From the Imperial stand-point, one of the most important subjects referred to in the sgeech' is that of preferential trade. I am with the Government in regard to that matter. I firmly believe that an arrangement may be made which will be advantageous both to the old country and to Australia. The arrangement which I favour is a business arrangement - not an arrangement based entirely on sentiment. We should be prepared to treat Great Britain generously, but at the same time we should expect similar treatment from Great Britain. I am not at all sure that I should be disposed to vote for any reduction in the present duties. I may vote in that way in some special cases; I do not know, and L am not prepared to commit myself.

Mr Wilks - That is a silent sort of preference.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - As honorable members are aware, our averageduty upon imports from Great Britain is only about 7 per cent.

Mr Lonsdale - Sixteen per cent.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - I repeat that our average duty upon imports from Great "Britain is not more than 7 per cent. There is no margin there, especially as we must have revenue. The average duty in Canada, after making reduc-tions in favour of Great Britain, is 16 per" cent., and I notice that the Canadian Government have announced- that they intend; to do no more in. the way of reducing duties. The trade between Australia and foreign countries has been rapidly growing. In 1901 the total imports into the Commonwealth from the United Kingdom were valued at .£25,237,032, as compared with £26,453,841 in 1891. In this latter year the value of foreign imports was £6,927,941; but in ten years the value of these imports had risen to £12,412,336.

Mr Lonsdale - Will the honorable member be good enough to give the House the figures relating to the imports from British possessions?

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - I am not prepared to do that.

Mr Lonsdale - The honorable member omits them because they do not suit his argument.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - Not at all. The figures which I have quoted prove that a preferential tariff may mean much to Great Britain, as illustrated in the case of Canada. I am sorry to see, by cablegrams published last week, that the British Government do not propose to touch the tariff^ question until after the next elections, and that there is no certainty of these elections taking place in the near future. I shall support the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It may provide for legislation which is to some extent experimental ; but I am quite willing to make the experiment in the interests of industrial peace. Anything is better than strikes and locks-out, which are so often such terrible calamities, causing suffering and disaster to innocent women and children, and also to people who are the victims of circumstances which have arisen entirely apart from themselves. But, as I did last session, I shall oppose the amendment, which, I understand, it is intended to propose, providing for the inclusion in the operation of the measure of members of the State civil services and ..railway employes. Conceding that this Parliament has the power to in-sert ' such' a clause would it be a wise proceeding? If the Federal Parliament wished to create friction between the Commonwealth and the States, I do not think it could do anything which would be more effective in producing that result. But 1 do not intend to elaborate this point. The case has been remarkably well stated by several honorable members ; and. I quite agree with one honorable member who said . that even the honorable member for Adelaide - and I know something of that honorable gentleman - would, as Premier of a State strenuously protest against such a provision as an encroachment on State rights. I am entirely for the principle of arbitration, but in this case I really think the Labour Party will be wise to make haste slowly. I am as enthusiastic as ever I was on the subject of a White Australia. I am convinced that Australia must be kept white in the interests of future generations, and for the well-being of the Commonwealth. But I am not sure that this Parliament is wise, as a matter of expediency, in insisting on the exclusive employment of white labour on out mail steamers. Still, I have no intention of changing my attitude. In this matter I thought my friend the honorable member fqr Gippsland, who is usually so scrupulously just, was unfair. He spoke as if Australia were attempting to dictate to Great Britain as to how the merchant marine should be manned. Nothing of the kind. All that Australia does is to announce that she will not pay mail subsidy to steamers which employ black labour. This may not be good policy, but there is nothing unreasonable about it, especially if Germany insist on vessels having the same relation to the Fatherland being manned by Germans. I am entirely in agreement with the Prime Minister in regard to the Chinese in South Africa. The recent war was an Empire matter, in which Australia played no unimportant part, and that fact gives her the right not to protest or (dictate possibly, but certainly to express an opinion. Was the war in South Africa waged in order that the country might be occupied by Chinese? Is the labour trouble really as serious as represented? Admitting that there is no exaggeration, may riot too big a price be paid for the development of the mines on the Rand ? To me this matter presents aspects of great importance. I sometimes think that it contains elements which may threaten dismemberment of the Empire. I am sure the House will forgive me if I read two or three sentences from a letter just received from London. The writer is a wellknown man - not a Little Englander, but an enthusiastic Imperialist. This, is what he says : -

The question as to the Chinese in South Africa is a nice comment on the adjuration to learn to think Imperially. Soon everybody will be cursing the war, and Australians will feel foolish when they awaken to the fact that the introduction of coloured races into the Northern' Territory has been brought within measurable distance. I quite expect to see a capitalistic agitation for this to arise soon.

Is there no justification for the alarm expressed in the sentences which I have read? I think that there is, and there are many who will agree with me. There is one clause in the Governor-General's Speech to which some honorable members have taken exception. I refer to that which declares it to be the intention of the Government to introduce an Inter-State Commission Bill. Honorable members have taken exception to this proposal upon the ground that it means adding to the expenses of the Federation. Personally, I would be one of the last to desire to pile up those expenses. They are already heavy enough. Nevertheless, I say - and I do so emphatically - that such a tribunal as is contemplated bv the Commonwealth Act, let it be constituted as cheaply as may be, ought to be brought into existence so as to regulate railway rates, wharfage dues, 'and similar matters, in order that the Federation of Australia may be a Federation in fact as well as in name. There is one clause in the speech in which can very clearly be seen the hand of the Minister for Home Affairs. I refer to the clause in which the Government promise to introduce a Bill providing for the survey of a railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States. Well, South Australia will not oppose the survey, nor will it offer any obstacles to the construction of that railway-

Sir John Forrest - Hear, hear.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - When there is satisfactory evidence that it will be a fairly profitable undertaking.

Sir John Forrest - Hear, hear. That is a good ground to take.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - It is just as well to act with caution, especially as Australia is already carrying a sufficient burden of debt. This reference to the indebtedness of Australia reminds me of our relations with England. I think it a great pity that some temporary arrangement was not made for the representation of the Commonwealth in London pending the appointment of a High Commissioner. It is within the knowledge of many honorable members that an arrangement might have been made which would have been greatly to the advantage of the Commonwealth. As it is, I am afraid that Australia has suffered seriously through having no one in England who could, with authority, correct the misrepresentations which have been so prevalent and so persistent. We all deplore with the Government the fact that the population of the Commonwealth is not increasing as rapidly, as it should do, but unfortunately it is much easier to do this than to suggest the means by which a better state of things may be brought about. - In this connexion it should not be forgotten that for many years the Dominion of Canada was in much the same condition. With the return of more prosperous times Australia may offer greater attractions. Wonderful things are contemplated in Egypt as the result of comprehensive schemes of. irrigation. Would it not be possible to do equally great things for Australia by locking the waters of the Murray arid Murrumbidgee, and possibly those of the Darling? Much may be done by advertisement, but there is no advertisement so effective as a prosperous community. Give us prosperity, and we shall soon draw to these shores people of the best type from every part of the world.

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