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Friday, 21 October 1904

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If I had been permitted to complete my remarks on this phase of the question, Mr. Speaker,, I think von would have found that I did not intend to follow the lines which you have mentioned. I merely wished to say that, whether the policy of the country be that of free-trade or protection, we ought to be assured of its continuance, and that a constant change from one policy to the other is most undesirable.

Mr SPEAKER - That is a discussion of the fiscal issue, and the fiscal issue, so far as I have been able to observe, is not dealt with in this Bill. As I have mentioned, it is a Bill providing, not for the imposition of duties, but for the payment of a bonus. I waited for the honorable member to develop his line of argument in order to see the direction it would take, and it seemed to me that he was going outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) -- Very well, sir. I shall content myself by saying that the payment of a bonus in respect of this industry is really an integral part of our fiscal policy. If we desire to develop those great industries to which the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs referred - the agricultural implement trade and kindred manufactures - we shall require to be assured of a certain consumption of the article to be produced as the result of the passing of this measure. The payment of these bonuses is designed to bring about the production of pig iron from Australian ores, but the production of pig iron would be wholly useless if there were to be no consumption of it, at a later stage, by our manufacturers. We should have the raw material for our iron trade produced locally, and I would not for a single instant countenance the payment of a bonus - the expenditure of these large sums of money, the outlay of the very great amount of capital which is involved, and perhaps the wrecking of some private fortunes, as well as the loss of some public money - if I were not assured that when the pig iron is produced there will be a sure, steady, and certain consumption of it. That is the whole point of my argument. We require to be assured that some continuous benefit will be derived from the payment of these bonuses. If this be not assured to us, we had better abandon at once the idea of paying them. In these circumstances, I think it will be necessary for us to maintain an undisturbed line of policy with respect to the iron industry, and in regard to fiscal matters generally, for unless we do so we cannot and will not succeed in the way that we hope. The only other point I desire i.o make is in regard to the' control of the industry. Almost every honorable member, has expressed his views on this aspect of the Question. I am quite free to vote either for a State-owned ironworks or for the pay- ment of the bonus to ' private individuals, i Speaking for myself - and my previous re-j marks should easily indicate what I am1 now about to say - I should prefer to see one of the States undertake the establishment of this industry ; but I am given to understand that there is no immediate prospect of that being done. In these circumstances, I have to ask myself whether it is advisable that I should insist on the adoption of the course in which I believe, or vote, as I am perfectly free to vote, for the payment of this bonus to any company or syndicate undertaking the manufacture of pig iron in Australia. At this stage all that I have to say on the subject of control is that if it appears to me, after this debate has proceeded, that there is no real prospect of the States taking up the business on their own account, and manufacturing iron for their own use, I shall hold myself free to vote for the payment of the bonus to whatever company or syndicate undertakes the work, provided always that there is room for the State to at any time take the works over, and that whilst they are under private control proper hours are worked, proper wages paid, and proper conditions observed. If, on the other hand, it is shown that there is a possibility of any one of the States undertaking the establishment of ironworks at a reasonable date, I shall feel myself free to vote for a State-owned industry. To put it briefly, I desire to secure further information on the subject before I finally commit myself as to the exact terms for which I shall vote. The establishment of this industry in Australia is to me a matter of no small concern. No more important business could be transacted by this Parliament. I should have infinitely preferred to see this Bill receive the seal and authority of the Government, instead of being thrown on the table, so to speak, and left to any enterprising private member to pilot through the House. I am sorry that any personal matter should have been introduced during the debate. I know that the measure stands in the name of the honorable member for Hume, but it is immaterial to me whether that honorable member or the honorable member for Eden-Monaro be intrusted with the duty of carrying the Bill through. I should have preferred to see it taken up By the Government, for its importance warrants the placing of the Government's seal upon it. This cannot now be done, but we can at least hope that its passage through this House will bring for its sponsors that return in manufactures and commercial progress which we have so long hoped for and still trust to see realized. '

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has delivered a speech that would be most admirable if given before a debating society in one of the suburbs of Melbourne. It was replete with everything bearing upon the theoretical side of the question.

Mr Austin Chapman - If the honorable member would father it and publish it at Lithgow it would win a good many votes for him.

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