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Tuesday, 25 October 1904

Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports) - I agree with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that a very remarkable change has taken place, and that those who have been urging that something should be done in the interests of our industries have gained a very signal victory in the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister.

Mr Reid - Honorable members opposite are welcome to any number at the same price.

Mr MAUGER - But the crux of the position has not been considered even by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. We are to have this Commission appointed, and, according to the honorable and learned member, they are to deal with cases as they appear to be urgent, but we have no indication as to the intention of the Prime Minister and his Government, and no assurance as to what shall be done with the recommendations of the Commission.

Mr Isaacs - Although they are urgent.

Mr Reid - Will not honorable members opposite allow us to get them first? Will they not allow me to have a look at them before I shall decide what I shall do?

Mr Isaacs - That is not the point.

Mr MAUGER - Surely the Prime Minister must recognise that this is a matter of policy.

Mr Reid - But this is an inquiry as to facts.

Mr MAUGER - It is for the Government to say whether they are appointing this Commission merely as a stop-gap to waste time, or whether thev intend that anything practical shall come of it.

Mr Reid - How can it be a waste of time if the Commission brins: out the facts ?

Mr MAUGER - The facts may be brought out, but the question is whether the Prime Minister is prepared to say that he will act upon the recommendations of the Commission at the earliest opportunity. I do not ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will' invite this House to adopt every one of the recommendations of the Commission, but I do ask him whether he thinks it will be of any use to appoint such a Commission, and make it appear that it is appointed in order to relieve men who are now suffering from lack of employment, if the Government do not intend to act upon its report.

Mr Deakin - This House will decide that.

Mr MAUGER - I quite recognise the force of that interjection. This House will decide it, but that does not relieve the Prime Minister of the responsibility which he owes to this House and to the country.

Mr Reid - Of deciding before I see the report ?

Mr MAUGER - So far as we can gather from the right honorable gentleman's speech, his statement is that he will not open up this question in this Parliament. Is that the position of the Government ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the statement of all parties.

Mr MAUGER - I beg the honorable member's pardon; that just indicates the difference between us. The Opposition say that the Commission .should be appointed, and should report upon those industries which appear to be most seriously affected, and that it is the duty of the Government to immediately take .steps to carry those recommendations into- law.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If they involve the re-opening of the Tariff, that cannot be done in the present condition of parties in this House.

Mr MAUGER - How can they do otherwise than involve the re-opening of the Tariff? How will it be possible to deal with the Commission's report in any way that will not involve the re-opening of the Tariff?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then- it cannot be done.

Mr MAUGER - I say it can be done, and it shall be done if the Opposition can manage it. It should be done at the earliest possible moment. And the trades affected demand that it should be done. I wish to direct attention to the manner in which these important questions are dealt with in Canada. In dealing with anomalies in the Tariff, Mr. Fielding, the Treasurer, does not hesitate to do what the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes that this House should do, and that is to take the industries one by one, to state the position to Parliament, and propound a policy. He picks out the woollen and wool industry.

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