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Tuesday, 19 July 1904

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden) (Monaro) . - I do not think that we require the testimony of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to satisfy us that there is a large number of unemployed in Melbourne. Most honorable members know that there are unemployed in all parts of Australia, and if we possibly can do anything to help them we shall have accomplished a good work. It is idle to attempt to raise the fiscal issue at this stage. Those honorable members who deplore the fact that the present Tariff is not sufficiently protective, and blame it for much of the distress that prevails to-day, should have thought of what they were doing at an earlier stage. Those weak-kneed protectionists who were afraid, for some reason or other, to vote for adequate protective duties-

Mr Tudor - Does the honorable member refer to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as a weak-kneed protectionist ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I make no accusation against any honorable member. Those weak-kneed protectionists who were afraid to vote for adequate protectionist duties will have to answer for their conduct to their constituents. I do not accuse .the honorable member for Melbourne Ports of being a weakkneed protectionist. But I would ask the honorable member for Yarra whether he does not think that he would be acting more logically if he were to seek to make protection to local industry one of the planks in the labour platform. If that had been done when the Tariff was under discussion it would not have been necessary for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to bring under our notice the present dearth of employment. However, the time for crying over the Tariff has passed, because the majority of honorable members were sent here pledged to maintain fiscal peace. I so pledged myself, not because I recognised that we had a Tariff that would encourage industries and thereby provide employment or attract people to the Commonwealth, but because I felt that it was the best Tariff that we could obtain. Further, I advocate fiscal peace for the present, in order that we may demonstrate that it will be a good thing to introduce a larger measure of protection. I believe that many honorable members, who differ from me upon fiscal matters at present, will,\at the end df five years, be prepared to support the imposition of higher duties. The case of Canada has been referred to on many occasions, and the question occurs to me whether the prosperity now prevailing in that country is due to the Tariff or to other circumstances. It appears to me that it is attributable 1 to the encouragement which is being given to private enterprise, and to the fact that the authorities are not attempting to coddle their industries or to exercise undue State control over them.

Mr Watson - They are opening up' their land.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Yes ; but they are also offering encouragement to private enterprise. Let us consider the position with regard to the iron industry here. I believe that it would be a good thing to encourage the production of iron from native ore within the Commonwealth, and the majority of honorable members agree with that view, but because some people think that the State ought to undertake the work, even though they know full well that it is improbable that a State enterprise in that direction will be entered upon for many years to come, the whole project is being delayed. We are at present importing iron, the production of which in our midst would give employment to a very large number of our people; I do not consider that the fiscal question is involved in the proposal to offer bonuses for the manufacture of iron from native ores, and I should welcome any movement in the direction of encouraging capitalists to establish ironworks in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Fremantle has charged the late Government with having failed to carry out certain works in Western Australia. He stated that £5,000 had been voted for the construction of a fort at Fremantle, and that this money had not been expended. The Prime Minister, when speaking upon the Supplementary Estimates last month, made some reference to a sum of £16,000 which he stated had been saved out of the £22,000 voted upon the Estimates for equipment. At page 2146 of Hansard he, is reported .as having stated -

With regard to the question put by the honorable member for Echuca, as to the reduction by £16,000 of a vote of ^,"22,000 for equipment of Field Artillery, I desire to say that I cannot obtain the detailed information, for the reason that the item in question in the original Estimates was not specifically voted for any particular form of expenditure. It was a general authority.

A little later on he said -

The reduction represents only a failure on the part of the Department to go as far as they intended in regard to general expenditure.

I feel sure that the Prime Minister made that statement in good faith. '

Mr Watson - I did not intend to imply any censure.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The Prime Minister stated that he could not obtain detailed information; but I would point out that it was open to him to refer to the Defence Department, and obtain information with regard to the instructions given by me.

Mr Watson - But I could not obtain that information on the spur of the moment.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable gentleman also made a statement with regard to the re-arming of the Cerberus.

Mr Watson - It' bears out my assertion that the statement now made by the honorable member is not correct.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - A sum of £22,000 appeared on the Estimates with respect to equipment, but of that amount £16,000 remained unexpended. How was the saving effected? If the

Prime Minister turns to the official papers he will find that I refused to expend the whole of this amount in purchasing waterbags, belts, uniforms, saddlery, and other equipment in other countries, and urged that as far as possible our supplies should be obtained from local sources. I was informed at the outset that we had not the necessary patterns to enable much of this work to be done in the Commonwealth, but to this I replied, " Let us use a small portion of this sum in importing the necessary patterns, so that the balance may be expended within the Commonwealth." In taking up that attitude I was supported by the late Treasurer. He agreed that, so far as was reasonably possible, the supplies not only of the Defence, but of every Department of the Commonwealth, should be secured in Australia. , We did not even impose the condition suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that ' ' other things being equal," this policy should be adopted, but said that anything' that could be reasonably manufactured or supplied in the Commonwealth should be obtained here. It was because of -this policy that the saving of £1 6,000 was effected.

Mr Watson - I approved of that, and referred to it in the speech in question.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I thought that the honorable gentleman would do so, but he unwittingly made a statement that bears a different construction. The honorable gentleman in pointing out that several of the items appearing on ' the Supplementary Estimates did not involve additional expenditure, said that various amounts representing about £48,000 had been saved. In justice to the late Government he might well have said that the two sums of ,£22,000 and £48,000, together with others; making a total of between £70,000 and £80,000 had been expended by me, with the sanction of the late Treasurer and the Prime Minister, in purchasing rifles and ammunition, and that this course had been adopted owing to a war scare.

Mr Watson - I approved of that action, and also referred to it.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member for Fremantle complained that a sum of £5,000, which appeared on the Estimates in respect of fortifications at Fremantle had not been expended. What became of that amount? The honorable member should inquire of my late colleague the right honorable member for Swan. With the sanction of the late Treasurer, I commandeered it-

Sir John Forrest - Without my knowledge.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - That is so. The Cabinet did not consider that it would be wise to expend that amount on a work which would involve a total expenditure of something like £70,000, and, therefore, it was also devoted to the purchase of rifles and ammunition.

Mr Fowler - For Western Australia?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - For the whole Commonwealth. Surely it is time that we rid ourselves of these little provincial, issues. In addition to that item and the vote for the re-arming of the Cerberus, to which pointed reference was made by the Prime Minister, various sums voted for fortifications in South Australia and for services in Tasmania and New South Wales, were also devoted to the purchase of rifles and ammunition, and I hold that we were justified in using the money in that way. I do not accuse the Prime Minister of having wilfully made an incorrect statement; but there is no doubt that the remarks which he made on the occasion to which I have referred, were incorrect.

Mr Watson - What I said was absolutely correct, and involved no criticism of the honorable member's action.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - As the " Prime Minister takes up that attitude, I should like to re-quote the statement in question.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - What has this to do with the question of the unemployed ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member will probably learn if he listens to this quotation. Hansard shows that the honorable member for Echuca put a question to the Prime Minister with reference to the expenditure of the sum of £22,000, and that the honorable gentleman replied as follows: -

With regard to the question put by the honorable member for Echuca, as to the reduction by ^16,000 of a vote of ^22,000 for equipment of field artillery, I desire to say that I cannot obtain the detailed information, for the reason that the item in question in the original Estimates was not specifically voted for any particular form of expenditure. It was a general authority.

Later on he said -

The simple position is that they have not spent £16,000 of the sum which they intended to spend.

Mr Watson - Under that heading.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The report proceeds -

Mr McColl - The reduction does not involve any radical change?

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