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Tuesday, 19 July 1904

Mr KING O'MALLEY (Darwin) - I am glad that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has brought this subject forward. There can be no doubt that hundreds of men are to-day out of work in Melbourne. I am not prepared to say that the Tariff is the primary cause of their lack of employment ; but I am prepared to insist that there are industrial institutions in Melbourne that are suffering in consequence of its operation. There is, for instance, the Otis Company, with which I am well acquainted, and which' is now employing 500 hands fewer than it employed a year or two ago when the Victorian Tariff was in operation. Whether we are going to raise a " row " with regard- to the fiscal question or not. it certainly is the duty of the House to consider whether the effect of the Tariff has been to throw men out of employment. It is our duty to find them work. I have always told our labour brethren that our mission as a party in this great House is to find work for the people, and to enable those who are capable of affording employment to do so. If it be true that the Tariff has thrown men out of employment, it certainly is the duty of the present Ministry - although it may be composed of freetraders and protectionists - to face the question and take it up. They might appoint a Select Committee to go into the whole matter, examining it from every stand-point. The Age is publishing leading articles day after day upon the question. Surely the statements which are made must have some foundation. A conference at the Trades' Hall a few weeks ago declared that there were 23,000 men out of employment in Australia in consequence of the operation of the Tariff. /I do not intend to raise the fiscal question at this stage., but I am merely stating what I have gathered in Melbourne. I am continually "knocking about" this city, and people come to me for help from every quarter. I have had to appeal to Mr. Speaker for some place in which to live so as to enable me. to divide my salary with outsiders. I am aware that it is rather difficult to persuade the Government to take up the question, because of the fact that there are free-traders and protectionists sitting together in the Cabinet. But it is a vital -question. It is a burning issue in Australia; and if the present Government does not take it up some other Government will have to do so. A member of the Legislative Council of Victoria referred to the matter the other day, and said that the Labour Party were talking about Arbitration Bills and Wages Boards, whilst at the same time they were not enabling the Australian manufacturer to pay the wages that were fixed. If something is not done, the whole of the factories of this country will have to close up. The iron industry is going in Victoria; there is no question about that. One of the hat factories has had to close, and the tanneries are closing. Men are complaining' in the streets. It is the duty of the Labour Party, whether a Labour Government is in power or out of power, to take up this question. I do not say that we should go into the whole Tariff matter, but we ought to at least appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of furnishing a report to Parliament with a view to enable the Government to bring down proposals. Perhaps some items of the Tariff will have to be raised, whilst others will have to be lowered. Sooner or later the Labour Party as a party mli have to declare itself upon the fiscal question, and as to whether Australia is definitely to shut out the goods of the Chinaman and the blackfellow, or let their products come in practically free. Unless " the subject is taken up in earnest, the wages paid in this country will very soon fall to the level of the wages paid in the countries that send their goods to us. Every one admits that the imports into Australia have gone up by leaps and bounds. I am perfectly certain that the free-trade party are willing to go into the question with a view to keeping in view solely the wages paid to the people. The Tariff question may be sunk, but we cannot sink the stomachs of hungry people. If some thing is not done some of us will have to look for tents on the banks of the Yarra or somewhere else. I have much pleasure in supporting the action which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has taken.

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