Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 7 October 1904

Mr CHANTER (Riverina) - When the House rose last night, I was about to investigate the cause of the new-born zeal of the. Prime Minister in the interests of the farmers.

Mr Johnson - He has always been a friend of the farmers.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. The honorable member for Riverina knows what he ' did for them in New South Wales.

Mr CHANTER - The only political friends which the New South Wales farmers have had were the protectionists, who sheltered them from the unfair competition of the world, and raised the. price of wheat by1s. a bag without making bread any dearer than it was iri Victoria. The Prime Minister was never a friend of the farmers. He was their worst enemy, and at one pf the largest meetings which he has addressed in the Town Hall in Melbourne, he told the farmers and stock fatteners of Victoria that if he had the opportunity he would expose them to the cold' southerly winds of the world's competition. Did he not know at the time of the great disadvantages under which the farmers in the interior suffer? How, for instance, could the wheat-growers in the Mallee districts of Victoria compete with the wheat-growers of

California ? When the right honorable gentleman removed the New South Wales duties on grain, ship-load after ship-load of wheat was poured into Sydney, at a freightage of 10s. a ton all charges paid, whereas it would cost the Mallee farmers twice that amount to send their wheat by train to Melbourne.

Mr Johnson - Does not the honorable members know that Mark-lane rules the prices of the world ?

Mr CHANTER - I know more of farming than does the honorable member, because I have been a practical farmer, and for thirty years have lived on the Victorian and New South Wales border, where I have had an object-lesson as to the advantages of protection. The farmers of New South Wales without protection never got to within 3d. or 4d. a bushel as much for their wheat as the protected farmers of Victoria got ; but the duties imposed by the Dibbs Government broke up the ring of shippers and millers in Sydney, who would not go into the interior to buy wheat, because they could import it at a freight of 10s. per ton. The farmers never had a worse political enemy 'than the right honorable gentleman.

Mr Johnson - They never had a better friend.

Mr CHANTER - Can the honorable member point to . one thing that the right honorable gentleman has ever done for the farmers ?

Mr Johnson - He cheapened their implements.

Mr CHANTER - The honorable member says that the right honorable gentleman assisted the farmers by enabling them to secure implements at cheaper prices. I would ask what was done by the farmers during the time that they were exposed to the cold southerly winds of the world's competition at the instance of the right honorable gentleman? Where did they go to buy their implements? Into the protected State of Victoria, where they could obtain what they required more cheaply than from abroad. Moreover, the implements made in Victoria were better adapted to their requirements, and were infinitely preferable to the imported shoddy.

Mr Fuller - And our farmers obtained them at prices lower than those at which they were sold to the farmers of Victoria.

Mr CHANTER - Even in the district represented by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, the farmers, who were onlv a few miles from the ship's side. preferred to send to Victoria for what they required. The present Tariff has already had injurious effects upon the implementmaking industry of the Commonwealth and these would be intensified if the Prime Minister had his way. One of the best machines ever invented, which is now being copied in all parts of the world, was brought into existence under protection in Victoria. I refer to the Sunshine harvester, which is manufactured by the McKay Harvester Manufacturing Co. of Ballarat. Before the protective policy was introduced in Victoria the farmers had to buy implements, in many cases utterly unsuitable to their' requirements, sent to them from other parts of the world. The ploughs would fly in pieces the first time a root was struck, and other implements were found to be equally defective. The protective policy adopted in Victoria resulted in the growth of a sturdy class of manufacturers, who sent their agents throughout the country in order to find out exactly what was required. They made improvement after improvement in their implements., and today they are manufacturing all that the farmer requires. If the Prime Minister had his way he would sweep away all our protective duties and expose our manufacturers to the cold southerly winds of the world's competition. I ask, is this the policy that would be adopted by a statesman? With what class of farmers has the right honorable gentleman allied himself? There are farmers and farmers. The class with whom the right honorable gentleman has thrown in his lot are the large landed proprietors of the squatter class, whereas the farmers of whom I am speaking are the men who hold a few acres of land, and have to work very hard in order to make a living. These are the men who have some claim to be protected from outside competition. The stock fatteners are not farmers, but squatters who hold large areas of land. What was . my opponent at the last election ? He called himself a farmer, but I should be very glad to be a farmer such as he is. He is reported to own 118,000 acres of freehold land, which, if placed upon the market, would realize about a quarter of a million. Is the Prime Minister aware that even under the present Tariff our stock-growers' are being brought into competition with the outside world? A ship-load of hides from China has been landed in Melbourne with a view to ascertain whether they can successfully compete with the locally-produced article.

The Prime Minister is telling the farmers that he is "the chap to save the country," and will study their interests ; but if they look back at the history of the protectionist movement they will see that it has enabled them to build" up their homes, and that they could not have done without it. The farmers have never received any benefits at the hands of the right honorable gentleman, and they have nothing to look to from him in the future, because, under his policy, they would be left to take care of themselves.

Mr Austin Chapman - The Minister for Trade and Customs will look after that.

Mr CHANTER - He represents only one-half of the Ministry, and I desire to see in power a wholly protectionist Administration. I do not wish to say one word against the Minister of Trade and Customs, because I know that in his heart he agrees with everything I have said. How can we express confidence in an honorable gentleman who tells the farmers that he will sweep away all the benefits they at present enjoy, and at the same time endeavours to persuade them that he is their true champion.?

Mr Salmon - There was nothing in the Ministerial statement with regard to that matter.

Mr CHANTER - There is no Ministerial statement ; I am waiting for an announcement of the policy of the Government. I have heard only the false cry of Socialism - that the Labour Party are Socialists and in favour of land confiscation. The Prime Minister has repeatedly addressed meetings of farmers in terms such as I have indicated. His main thorne at the Kyneton meeting was what he chose to term "Socialism." One or two honorable members, including the honorable and learned member for Angas, have given us definitions of Socialism, but the class of Socialism which the Prime Minister endeavoured to fasten upon the Labour Part};,- when addressing the farmers at Kvneton, was not that which any member of the party desires to see put into practice. Members of the Labour Party are neither anarchists, communists, nor confiscators. There are honorable members sitting upon the other side of the House, protectionists, who, in years past, joined with- me in a tacit alliance with the Labour Party for the purpose of securing land for the settlement of small farmers, and of taking it from those who had mono polized it under the world's free competition which the Prime Minister advocates. Did the right honorable gentleman tell the Kyneton farmers that he would deprive them of the privilege of having their produce conveyed to the metropolitan markets upon the ground, that the control of the railways by the State was a socialistic enterprise, and because some of the lines were not paying, and were not likely to pay ? No. He made no allusion to that. Did he inform them that the Post and Telegraph offices and the State public schools for the education of their children were also socialistic institutions?No. Instead, he assured them, again and again, that if the Labour Party came into power, every man who possessed an acre of land would have it taken away from him. I say that such a statement was a slander upon the Labour Party.

Mr Henry Willis - Do not the Labour Party believe in the nationalization of land ?

Mr CHANTER - Because one or two irresponsible individuals make certain statements in addressing the people-

Mr Mcwilliams - The honorable member's allies in this House say that they believe in it. They do not deny it. They are honest enough to admit it.

Mr CHANTER - I have never heard one of them admit that he is in favour of land confiscation. Upon many occasions I have endeavoured, with the assistance of the leader of the Labour Party, to obtain land for the small farmers, and from those who have grasped it. I have never heard any member of the Labour Party attempt to persuade the public that that party desires the confiscation of land. They would doubtless acquire it by fair and honorable means - by enacting legislation which would have the effect of bursting up large estates in order that the people might gain access to them. In Victoria, have we not evidence of this ? What is the object of the Closer Settlement Bill ? What did the present Prime Minister do in New South Wales in this connexion? He never made any legitimate effort to secure land for closer settlement. He has always been antagonistic to the small farmer, and in favour of the large farmer.

Mr Fuller - How is it that so many honorable members have been returned to this House to support him?

Mr CHANTER - I anticipated that question from the honorable and learned member. The Prime Minister's support is obtained from the Sydney Domain farmers. Surely the honorable and learned member does not regard the tenant farmers upon the south coast, who are within a stone's throw of the capital, as the real farmers of New South Wales? Are the men who are compelled to go cap in hand to the large capitalists, and to say - " Please will you allow me to enter upon your land, and your rent shall be onehalf of the produce that I obtain from it" - the real producers of Australia?

Mr Fuller - Where does that take place ?

Mr CHANTER - All over New South Wales, and especially in the southern and western districts. Does the honorable and learned member know anything about the halving system?

Mr Fuller - There is none of that in my district.

Mr CHANTER -What the Labour Party desire is the creation of a class . of sturdy yeomen, who have a right to the land upon which they live - not a class of rack-rented tenants. During the whole course of his political career, the Prime Minister has never assisted the small farmer. His policy - as can be proved by reference to the Statistical Register of New South Wales' - has always been diaimetrically opposed to the interests of the producers. The latter have to study many things, and they have always been connected with the Liberal movement, particularly in New South Wales and South Australia. They desire that their home market shall be conserved to them, but that result cannot be accomplished by exposing them to the " cold southerly winds of the world's competition." Does not the farmer realize that the home market is his best market? Does he not rely upon, it? Most assuredly he does. He wishes to secure as large and profitable a home market as he can. He is also intimately connected with the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth. He purchases his machinery from them, and, in return, they take their food from him. Thus the circulation of capital is confined to the realm in which it was earned. The Prime Minister has evidenced his desire to assist the farmers of New South Wales by removing a protective duty which put into their pockets one shilling for every bag of wheat they produced, and then taxing their land. Even his land-taxation scheme is anything but equitable, and requires ad justment at the earliest possible moment. Under its operation the owner of 200 acres is placed in exactly the same category as the individual who possesses 200,000 acres.

Mr Fuller - Is the honorable member in favour of a Federal land tax.

Mr CHANTER - I am in favour of a different class of land-tax from that which operates' in Victoria and New South Wales. I am not in favour of penalizing the men who have the heart and courage to go on the land and endeavour to build up homes, while large property-holders in the metropolitan areas escape taxation.

Mr Kelly - That has not been the policy in New South Wales.

Mr CHANTER - That has always been the policy in New South Wales, the politics of which are dominated by the two leading newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, against the dictates of which no politician has yet had the. courage to rebel. The policypursued in New South Wales has been for the benefit of Sydney and suburbs, and not for the benefit of the State generally.

Mr Mcwilliams - Why did not the honorable member alter that state of affairs when he was a member of the Government of New South Wales. ?

Mr CHANTER - Because I had not time. One of the allies of the present Prime Minister was guilty of another unprecedented action, when, immediately after the election at that time, he absolutely caused supplies to be refused to the Government. That trick, however, was not successful, because the late Sir George Dibbs had the courage to pay the salaries of the public servants on the Governor's warrant. Honorable members on both sides of this House know that from the time I entered the Parliament of New South Wales I raised my voice week after week, and year after year, in the interests of the farmer, in order to enable him to make a living for those depending on him. That was my history in the politics of New South Wales, and it will be my history in this Parliament ; and I hope this question will be seriously taken in hand by the Commonwealth Government. We are here to legislate for the commonweal of the States, and the matter I am now discussing is a very simple one. The Commonwealth should take control of the revenue and expenditure, and return a certain amount to the States, taking care that the burden of taxation is placed on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. What has the right honorable member done for the workers of New South Wales, another class with whom I have . strong sympathy? Can any honorable member now supporting the Prime Minister point to one legitimate act on his part in the interests of the workers?

Mr Fuller - He removed taxation from their shoulders.

Mr Watkins - And gave them a tea tax !

Mr CHANTER - What the right honorable gentleman did when Premier of New South Wales was to borrow money with which to employ the starving poor in shifting sand from one part of a paddock to another. No legitimate work was to be obtained, because enterprise had withered under the "cold southerly wind of the world's competition." In the great mother State - though, by the way, it is not the mother State - which is regarded as the centre and hub of Australia, the right honorable gentleman had to feed the starving unemployed with money he borrowed, and has left posterity to repay. He is now associated with a colleague who, in order to develop the industrial enterprise of Australia, more particularly in New South Wales, endeavoured to improve the breed of stock. What did the honorable gentleman do? He sent an agent home, at great expense, to purchase stock with borrowed money.

Mr Fuller - And the scheme has turned out very well.

Mr CHANTER - This heaven-born statesman, who desires to lead the Commonwealth, could not raise sufficient money out of the revenue of New South Wales to provide the paltry sum necessary for the purchase of stock. He could not even furnish' the visitors' house at Jenolan Caves without resorting to the use of borrowed money, and that system he carried out, until in that State there has been built up the largest public debt in any State in the Commonwealth. What has the right honorable gentleman to show for all this expenditure ?

Mr Mcwilliams - He has a big majority behind him in New South Wales.

Mr CHANTER - No doubt the right honorable gentleman has a big majority behind him in Sydney and its suburbs. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Hume, and myself, and a number of others were always opposed to the right honorable gentleman and his policy ; and his supporters consist of representatives of Sydney and other places in the county of Cumberland, where not' only fiscal influences, but other influences of a degrading nature, were exercised.

Mr Fuller - What about the honorable members for Robertson, Macquarie, and Werriwa?

Mr CHANTER - I have never heard of any farmers' association who approved of the policy of the honorable members referred to.

Mr Kelly - The farmers in the Hume constituency are not unanimously against the Prime Minister.

Mr Mcwilliams - In the Senate the supporters of the right honorable gentleman's fiscal policy received more votes than the opponents of that policv.

Mr CHANTER - The constituency represented by the honorable member who interjects is as but a flyspeck on the Commonwealth of Australia.

Mr Mcwilliams - What my constituents lack in number they gain in intelligence.

Mr CHANTER - The honorable member for Franklin, who is a follower of the Prime Minister, knows that no State has built up its prosperity under protection to a greater extent than has Tasmania. Honorable members opposite preach freetrade, but practice' protection.. Let us have either one policy or the other for the Commonwealth. There will be no hope of any settled policy from a Government, one half of which is antagonistic to the other. There is no possible hope of any benefit to the workers and farmers from such a' Government. Theremight be some hope if a free-trade Ministry occupied the Treasury benches, and endeavoured to put into force a free-trade policy, because then the electors would awaken. But as matters are, this new nation has neither one policy nor the other - it has only a sit-still policy, which I do not feel inclined to support.

Mr Mcwilliams - What is the policy of the honorable member's present party as regards protection?

Mr CHANTER - Every one of the party with which I am associated advocates protection- for the individual, protection for the manufacturer - -protection for the whole body politic of the Commonwealth. There is no division amongst us - we stand or fall by that policy. If we sit here only ten or a dozen strong, we intend to be true to our pledges and our convictions, and advocate the policy which we believe to be the best in the interests of the people.

Mr Fuller - Will the honorable member for Canobolas subscribe to that policy ?

Mr CHANTER - The honorable member for Canobolas is not of my party - he is of the Labour Party.

Mr Mcwilliams - Then the Labour Party is another party?

Mr McCay -Has the honorable member for Riverina no connexion with the Labour Party?

Mr CHANTER - There is an honorable alliance with the Labour Party, but there is no fusion of the two parties.

Mr Kelly - What is the bond of alliance?

Mr CHANTER - I answered that question last night, when the honorable member was not here. The alliance desire to pass an Arbitration Bill on, as nearly as possible, the lines of the Bill introduced by the Barton and Deakin Governments. That was one bond of alliance. Another was that they should do all they could to arrest the ruin and decay in the manufacturing industries of Australia.

Mr Kelly - Is that what the honorable member for Canobolas says?

Mr CHANTER - I am not the keeper of the honorable member for Canobolas. I am the keeper of my own conscience. The honorable member for Wentworth will have a subsequent opportunity to question the honorable member for Canobolas if he pleases. But what I understood him to say was that he would act honorably and fairly in accordance with the terms' of the alliance.

Mr Mcwilliams - He said that he will be no party to increased duties.

Mr CHANTER - I heard the greater portion of the honorable member's speech. What the Labour Party have undertaken to do, and what I believe they will do, if the result of the Commission of Inquiry shows that the destruction of industries is driving out labour, and reducing wages, is to remove those evils by their votes. I have sufficient reliance upon their honour to believe that they will be bound by any agreement which they have entered into. There is an agreement upon a particular programme, but there is no fusion of parties. There is no intention to fuse the Protectionist Party with the Labour Party. The right honorable member for East Sydney is not a man who, I think, should be at the head of affairs in Australia. He is a provincialist now, as he has always been. He was a strong provincialist in New

South Wales, and he is just as strong in the same direction now. Another reason why he should not be at the head of affairs is that he makes promises which he does not keep. He may have no intention at the time that he makes promises not to keep them, but if the exigencies of his position make it convenient for him not. to keep his promises, he makes no effort to do so. He promised the people of Australia that if he came into power he would not permit any delay in the survey of the Transcontinental railway, but would take steps to build the line straight away. Does he say that now? He has since come into power, but has taken no step to carry out his promise. His action in regard to Federation was similarly unsatisfactory. At first he was diametrically opposed to it. But when he found that public opinion was coming over strongly to the side of Federation, he said, " Oh, well, I think it is a good thing to have it." Even then he made an exhibition of provincialism by saying that he would not enter into Federation unless the Federal Capital were conceded, to New South Wales. What justification had he, in forming his Ministry, for ignoring some of the States of Australia as he has done? When Sir Edmund Barton formed his Government he took into consideration the Ministerial representation of the various States. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat did the same. But the right honorable member for East Sydney practically says that there are only two States in this union - New South Wales and Victoria. Those two States,, as is well known, happen to hold diametrically opposite fiscal views. The right honorable gentleman has so blended his colleagues as to make it absolutely impossible to carry out either the one policy or the other. That is not a position which the electors of Australia can regard, with any hope.

Mr Wilks - It is a Scotch mixture.

Mr CHANTER - It is one of those Scotch mixtures of which, if a man takes too much, the result is that he reels about, and ultimately finds himself in the gutter. While ruin is being wrought amongst the manufacturing industries of this country the administration of the right honorable gentleman's political mixture will have the effect of hastening their downfall. What hope have the farmers of Australia from the present occupants of the Treasury bench with regard to the question of preferential trade? Day after day we see from the cables in the newspapers what is going on in England. Australia ought unquestionably to do what Canada and New Zealand are doing. The voice of Australia should be pronounced one way or the other. We should say either that we are or are not in favour of preferential trade with Great Britain. But the right honorable gentleman is utterly careless of what is taking place, and will not reach out a helping hand to Mr. Chamberlain, who is fighting so noble a battle in Great Britain for this great cause. He says, " We will wait until Great Britain makes a request to us." Would it not be better for Australia, and particularly for our producers, if Ministers made our wishes known to the British Government ?

Mr Fuller - How can the honorable member say what the opinions of the people of Australia are?

Mr CHANTER -The Prime Minister could invite the House, which . represents Australia,, to express its opinion.

Mr Wilks - Mr. John Burns, who represents the working class of England, says that they do not want preferential trade.

Mr CHANTER - Let us make it clear to the working classes of England that preferential trade would not mean any increase in the price of their commodities. Mr. Chamberlain has told them clearly that while preferential trade may mean an increase in the taxes on some articles to the extent of£8,000,000 or£9,000,000 per annum, he would take off taxes on other commodities to the extent of£10,000,000, or £1 2,000,000, so that there would be no increased charge upon the people. The cablegram published this morning shows that it is the foreigner who will be made to pay toll in order to enter the markets of Great Britain. The foreigner at the present time is entering those markets free and unfettered, destroying the old established industries of England, and driving out English workmen. This great missionary, Mr. Chamberlain, has gone forth to create a healthy opinion in the minds of the people, and is leading them to see what their duty is under present circumstances. He holds out his hand to Australia, but Australia will not respond. The only man in this country who has power to respond is the Prime Minister, and he will not invite this House to express an opinion as to what Australia desires in this direction. What hope is there for those who desire to see the advance of industrial enterprise in Australia' in the right honorable gentleman's attitude towards the establishment of the iron and steel industry ? Previous Ministries have proposed to deal with the matter of the introduction of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, under which it was proposed to give a bonus to assist the establishment of the industry. But, as honorable 'members are aware, the right honorable gentleman now at the head of affairs, and his free-trade supporters, are entirely against that measure.

Mr McWilliams - Is the alliance in favour of it?

Mr CHANTER - Yes, it is. We are prepared to secure the establishment of the iron industry, either by the imposition of duties for its protection or by the payment of a bonus upon its output. Honorable members opposite declare that they will not help it in any way, and that, like everything else, it must be exposed to the cold southerly winds of the world's competition. There is not an honorable member on this side who does not desire to see that industry established in Australia.

Mr Fuller - The leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney signed a report which was opposed to the granting of a bonus.

Mr CHANTER - I speak in the presence of the members of the party to which those honorable gentlemen belong, and subject to correction, if what I say is not correct. Those" honorable gentlemen have expressed their desire for the establishment of the industry, but they believe in State control of what they think' will be a monopoly.

Mr Page - That is correct.

Mr CHANTER - They are not opposed to a bonus for its encouragement, but they think that the industry is one which should be controlled by the State. We look upon it as one of the finest industries that could be established in Australia, and, as protectionists, we are prepared to give every assistance necessary to secure its establishment, whether in the form of protective duties or a bonus. We should be prepared to give a bonus if the industry were established by private enterprise, but we shall be perfectly content to secure its establishment under the control of the State, if that be thought desirable by the majority. We want to see it established in some form - to bring about the investment of capital in an industry which will provide employment for the people. One half of the members of the Government are pledged not to assist the establishment of this important industry, whilst the other half are in favour of it. In such circumstances, what hope can there be that they will submit a strong policy in support of the manufacturing industries of Australia?

Mr Mcwilliams - Would the honorable member give a bonus to shipbuilding ?

Mr CHANTER - I should be prepared to give a bonus to any industry, the establishment of which could be shown to create work for the people ; and to protect it from the competition of the products of other countries, which are assisted by State bonuses. I am free to admit that it would have a very great effect with me if the present Prime Minister in these, the latter days of his political life would openly confess that he has been wrong in the past, that his theories are not practicable, and that he is now prepared to help these industries. But the right honorable gentleman will not make any such statement. All he is now prepared to do is to allow the honorable member for Eden- Monaro, or some other honorable member, to take up the question. He will not say that he will give his support to any proposal submitted to deal with the matter.

Mr.Fuller. - That is what the last Government did. They agreed to give the honorable member for Hume the same opportunity.

Mr CHANTER - If the honorable and learned member refers to the Watson Government, my answer is that they had no time to do anything. They were no sooner in office than they were garotted. What did the preceding Governments do? They asked this House to establish the iron industry. They made it a Government matter, and the present Prime Minister and his free-trade supporters did what they could to destroy the measure thev proposed.

Mr Austin Chapman - We are going to have it now, or something will break.

Mr CHANTER - I should like to ask if I am right in assuming that the Minister of Trade and Customs said that the protectionists asked the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to induce the present Prime Minister to re-open the Tariff? If that be so, as one of the party, I must say that I never heard that any such request was made.

Mr McLean - I never said so.

Mr CHANTER - I took a note of the matter when the honorable gentleman was speaking, and I refer to it now in order that I may not misrepresent the honorable gentleman in any way. If he says that he did not say so, I must have misunderstood the statement he made at the time.

Mr McLean - What I did say was that the general wish expressed was for a longer truce than that offered by the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Mr Mauger - It was not a generally expressed wish.

Mr CHANTER - Taking the humanitarian point of view, what have the people of the Commonwealth to hope from the present Prime Minister in the matter of oldage pensions ? The right honorable gentleman tells us that he will enter into negotiations with the States; but in the meantime many old people are dying. A case came under my notice only yesterday of a man who has been fifty years in Australia. He is a Hanoverian by birth, but under the laws of the land of his nativity he has ceased to be a Hanoverian subject, and he is not a British subject. He is eighty years of age, and was in receipt of an old-age pension for two years, but immediately it was found ihat he was not a British subject the pension was taken from him, and he has been left to starve. I have directed the attention of the Minister to his case. Surely, if there is one matter which the Federal Parliament would dowell to consider quickly it is that of providing pensions for aged people.

Mr Fuller - How is it that honorable members opposite did not have that on their programme ?

Mr CHANTER - It is on my programme.

Mr Fuller - It was not on the programme submitted . by the honorable and learned member for Indi until he combined with the Labour Party.

Mr CHANTER - It has been suggested that the honorable and learned member for Indi has drawn up several programmes, but I have seen only one. I quoted from it last night, and it is now the same as when it was first submitted to me. One of the planks of that programme is to make immediate provision for old-age pensions. It must be patent to every member of the House that these old pioneers of Australia, though they may not have resided for twenty-five years in any one State, should not be allowed to die without a helping hand. The Commonwealth should rapidly bring into force a law to grant immediate relief without reference to the wishes of the States. How easy would it be for the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who is entitled to retain 5s. out of every £1 collected from customs and excise duties, to deduct from the returns of Victoria and New South Wales the amounts spent in those States upon old-age pensions ! On behalf of those who sent me here, I have to consider what my duty is in regard to this Government. When I am asked whether I have confidence in the Government, I can only answer in the negative. Let them inspire that confidence which I do not now possess. Now that the tension has been relaxed, and there is apparently to be no immediate appeal to the people, let the Government declare their policy, and show whether the protectionist half dominates the free-trade half, or vice versa. I shall be always true to the programme of the alliance into which I have entered, but, at the same time, if the Government propose an}' legislation which will tend to maintain existing industries and establish others, provide work for workers, and raise the prosperity of the people of Australia, they shall have my support. But let them bring in this liberal legislation as quickly as possible, and not seek to get into the haven of recess - and no doubt it will be of long duration - in order to arrange a programme. I hope that I have made my position pretty clear to honorable members. And, in. conclusion, I would say to the" farmers of the Commonwealth, " Be careful what you are doing ; be not beguiled by the sophistries and statements of the Prime Minister as to what he will do. Wait until he shows in some practical form what he proposes to do." The right honorable gentleman can best serve this country, not by adopting a hesitating policy in regard to preferential trade, but by saving the farmers and stock-fatteners from the " cold southerly wind of the world's competition," by holding out a protecting hand to them, and showing that his first consideration is for the people of Australia, and not, as in the past, for foreigners with whom we have nothing in common.

Suggest corrections