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Thursday, 17 March 1904

Mr McDONALD (Kennedy) - I do not propose to take up much of the time of the House, because I quite understand that the debate has dragged out probably to a greater length than most honorable members expected. Had it not been for one or two speeches which have been made I should not have spoken to the address at all. As I have decided to say a few words I shall briefly mention the points I wish to make in connexion with the Speech made by the Governor-General. One of the first matters brought under our notice is a reference to preferential trade. I shall not deal with the subject at any length, because the question is not before us in any practical form. I desire, however, to say that so far as Australia is concerned, the only question is whether it will pay. Considerations of sentiment and the " dear' Old Mother Country " do not enter into the matter.. The person who tries to run fiscalism on sentiment will have a very bad time, and the country adopting preferential trade on purely sentimental grounds will have the worst of the bargain. It is a cold, matteroffact business matter. I presume that as a reference is made to the subject in the Governor-General's Speech, it is the intention of the Government to bring it forward in some practical form during the session.


Mr McDONALD - If it is not the intention of the Government to do so, why is any. reference made to the subject in the Governor-General's Speech ?

Mr Hughes - Does it not help to fill in the Bill ?

Mr McDONALD - It certainly does, and in that respect it is, I am afraid, like many other matters submitted by the Government. We require something more than that. We should have a practical motion with which we can deal. I may say that I regret very much that this paragraph should appear in the Speech, if it is inserted merely to assist a certain section in England, who will use it for party purposes. The same kind of thing is being done here ; in fact it would appear that the protectionist parties in both countries are playing into each other's hands. I regret that any reference to the subject should have been made in an underhand way in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, when the Government do not intend tosubmit any definite proposal dealing with it. I enter my protest against the. invitation to Mr. Chamberlain to advocate preferential trade here. If that right honorable gentleman comes to Australia for that purpose he will have a bad time. If he comes outhere as an English statesman, he will no doubt get a very good reception in Australia, but if he enters upon party politics, as he certainly will do, if he advocates preferential trade, I am afraid he will return to England with but a poor opinion of the principles he advocates.

Mr Conroy - What principles will he advocate; there is time for him to change his views on the voyage.

Mr McDONALD - I quite realize that the right honorable gentleman, referred to may change his views a dozen times before he arrives in Australia. . If the Government are sincere in their references to immigration, the only way in which they can do any good is to bring about some development in the agricultural industry of this continent. One of the best things which they can do would be to relieve the agricultural community of a number of the iniquitous duties which now stand in the way of their getting the implements necessary for their industry. If they were sincere in this matter the Government would submit direct taxation and put a thumping big land tax upon the large estates in Australia. At the present time in the State of Victoria hundreds of thousands of acres, within even a few miles of this building, are unutilized, though they might be made the means of settling thousands of families.

Mr Skene - They are under very heavy taxation.

Mr McDONALD - The whole of the direct taxation of the State does not amount to 14s. per head.

Mr Skene - There is a very heavy land tax here.

Mr McDONALD - The indirect taxation of Victoria amounts to something like £2 6s. per head. Of what use, therefore, is it for the honorable member for Grampians to suggest that direct taxation bears a fair proportion to indirect taxation in this State? It is most extraordinary that the moment an attempt is made to make those interested in landed property in Australia bear a fair proportion of taxation they begin to make a noise. Members of the Labour Party are accused of advocating class legislation, but these people have, as a class, legislated in the past for their own ends, and have made the general public bear the great burden of taxation. If we are to do any good in the settlement of people on the land in Australia we must first break up the big landed estates, and that can best be done by a substantial land tax. When such a tax is imposed we shall get at the normal value of land, and then, if it is necessary, the Government can buy back some of these estates, and lease the land to people who will be prepared to make proper use of it. So long as we allow individuals to hold these large estates, we cannot accomplish much good in the direction of settling the people upon the land.. I quite agree with the remarks of the right honorable member for Adelaide that the question of the Federal Capital site will never be satisfactorily solved until the Government are prepared to take it up as a party question. The sooner that course is adopted the better it will be for the Federation as a whole, and for New South Wales in particular. Undoubtedly that State entered the union upon the distinct understanding that the Federal Capital should be located within its territory, and I hold that it is our duty at the earliest possible opportunity to give effect to the provision in our Constitution which relates to that matter. Of course, I recognise the difficulty in which the Government find themselves in that two Ministers are interested in rival sites. The result must be to prevent a settlement of the question so long as the present Government hold office, because if either Tumut or Bombala were selected the resignation of a Minister would naturally follow, and the Cabinet would thus be weakened. Consequently the Government will never submit any definite plan for dealing with the question. That being so, I have a suggestion to offer to them. I desire to know if they, will allow any private member to introduce a Bill designating either Tumut or Bombala as the capital and whether they will promise to afford the necessary time to enable that measure to be carried through this Chamber? I£ the Ministry are not prepared to deal with the question themselves, surely they cannot reasonably object to a private member undertaking that responsibility. Again, the speedy settlement of the question is likely to be delayed by other complications. As honorable members are aware, this House last year selected Tumut as the site of the capital. If the Seat of Government Bill is again brought forward - and the Government has not yet intimated their intention to resubmit it to the House - and if a majority of honorable members decide in favour of Tumut, whilst the Senate declares for Bombala, will the Ministry promise to advise the GovernorGeneral to dissolve both Houses, so that the question may be definitely settled ?

Mr McColl - There are several other matters which require settlement in addir tion to that. We could deal with them all simultaneously.

Mr McDONALD - Of course if several other matters require to be settled it would be wise to dispose of them simultaneously. I know of one question which the honorable member for Echuca desires to submit to the people of Australia, namely, whether the Labour Party shall he wiper out of political existence?

Mr McColl - There is no justification for that statement. It is a very improper remark, and a very untrue one.

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