Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 25 October 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) - I am led to the conclusion, already arrived at by some other honorable members, that to a very large extent the vim has been taken but of this debate by-

Mr Webster - The crawling policy of the Government.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I was going to say by the policy of the Prime Minister in coming as near as he possibly could to the proposal submitted by the honorable and learned member for Indi. 1 wish to say, at the outset, that I am altogether opposed to this tinkering way of doing things. I believe the present Government will do nothing; that they are so constituted that they can do nothing in this matter. If honorable members consider for a moment they must come to the conclusion that no matter what report is submitted by any Tariff Commission, the present Government will be unable to take any action upon it. This action from beginning to end, so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, and so far, I am sorry to begin to think, as some of his Ministers are concerned, is but pure humbug. I do not care to say that the protectionist members of this free-trade Government - as I must call it, because it is a free-trade Government - have become traitors, but certainly if that were a parliamentary expres sion I should have to apply it to be truthful. I single out especially the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman has always been loud in proclaiming . that he has been a protectionist all his life, and is one now ; it astonishes me to think that he should have been swallowed by the free-trade Prime Minister who is at present his political chief. It says ill for the position which the honorable gentleman will hold in the country. The Government has been forced into the position which it now assumes. There was no thought whatever of the appointment of any Commission until whisperings were heard and paragraphs appeared in the press showing that it was probable some disturbance of the Tariff would be attempted.

Mr Wilson - The Minister of Defence mentioned the matter a long time ago.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member for Corangamite knows nothing about it. If the honorable member sticks to his profession, I shall be prepared to listen to him. He may be very clever in his profession, but he is not a politician. Until these whisperings were heard and these paragraphs appeared, we had no word from honorable members opposite concerning a Commission of any kind. It is only since then that the Prime Minister commenced, so far as possible, to shape his policy to meet the condition of things he has had to meet to-night. I hope that . honorable members have been edified by his action. No doubt, it has been a lesson to some honorable members who did not know him, but I am satisfied that there is nothing in politics which the right honorable gentleman will not be craven enough to do in order to hold his position. When he says he will not hold it unless with credit to himself, those who are aware of what he has Hone in the past know what he is likely to do in the future. It will take twenty teams of bullocks to haul him out of his position if there is any way of gliding to one side or wriggling. That is one reason why I have not the slightest faith in what the Government are proposing to do. If one could feel a little faith in the honesty of the proposal, one would only have to analyze the composition of the Government to see how impossible it is that anything effective can result therefrom. In the first place, it is a shandygaff Government. Supposing that a report, even a progress report, were brought in by the Royal Commission to the effect that there was too much protection on some items, would the protectionist half of the Government be prepared to act thereon? Or, supposing that a report were brought in to the effect that increased protection should be given all round, would the free-trade half of the Government be prepared to act thereon? The suggestion that they would is as monstrous as their composition, and when the Prime Minister wants to smooth everything over, and attempts to take this question out of party politics, and settle it in a nice kindly way so that every one shall be satisfied, does it not show the falsity of the man?

Mr Wilson - No.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Does it not show the falsity of the, man and of his supporters, when it is well known that the Tariff question cannot be taken out of the region of party politics ? If ever there was a question which must remain. a party one, it is that of the Tariff, which is of such great and grave importance to the people of this Federation. I have never favoured the idea of appointing a Royal Commission. Probably what will happen with this Commission is what happened with the Iron Bonus Commission. If it is composed of one-half free-traders, and one-half protectionists, we shall have a majority report, and a minority report, as we had in that case, and be just as wise as we were before.

Mr McCay - But we should have only one lot of evidence.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not think that we need much evidence. Speaking as one who was in the Department of Trade and Customs for some time, I venture to say that the whole evidence required is in the hands of the Customs officers. All the important information would be obtained by any Commission from those officers.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - From the manufacturers' point of view.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How. about the general public who pay?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - All the evidence required could be obtained from the records in the Department. If the Government was properly constituted it could takeup this question as the Canadian Government has done, and not refer it to a Royal Commission, but assume the responsibility of dealing with it as any Government should do. It fs simply a waste of time to institute this sort of inquiry. It is a crawling policy on the part of the Government, shunting the responsibility from the shoulders that should bear it. So long as we have a Government composed as this one is, we shall get no settlement of any question which is of grave importance.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - Why did not the honorable member do something when he was Minister of Trade and Customs?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Just to show how very easy it would be to find out what alterations are needed, I took the trouble, this afternoon, to get a few figures relating to half-a-dozen items in the Tariff. The information I have obtained comes from the Department, and it indicates where the trouble lies. Take, for instance, the value of the imports into Victoria in 1901, and compare them with the value of the imports of 1903. In that short period there has been an increase of over £50,000 in the value of the imports of agricultural implements, that is an. increase of nearly £60.000 over the amount which was collected in the last year's operation of. the Victorian Tariff.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - In what State?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In Victoria. I took that State this afternoon, because I could not get the information so easily for any other in the library. In that time the value of the imports of boots and shoes has increased from about , £23,000 to £80,000. The value of the imports of apparel and slops has increased by nearly £250,000. Of course, a proportion of these goods has been distributed among the other States; but so far as Victoria is concerned, the importation has practically doubled. Again, the value of the imports of furniture has increased by , £1o,ooo ; and this affects industries in which a great deal of distress exists. The value of the imports of hats and caps has increased by about £30,000, while the value of the imports of vehicles has increased by nearly . '"8,000.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Is that the importation, or the duty paid?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is the value of the imports.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - It does not fol low that all the goods come into Australia.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But they do come into Australia.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - A considerpart of them may be exported.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No, I think not. If the honorable gentleman will take the trouble he can obtain full information from the Department of Trade and Customs. The first act of the Ministry should be to apply to that Department, and the increased importations of various items would direct them to where the distress exists. If they were to pick out some items in the first instance it would be very easy to follow details and deal with the question in a practical way, instead of hanging it up as is proposed. The idea of talking about a Royal Commission going over Australia to collect evidence, and returning with a report, even a progress report of any value in twelve months is simply absurd. In the meantime what is to become of these industries, and of the men who are walking about now looking for work in consequence of industries being closed up? The case of McKav's harvester is one that should be dealt with. If we had what is known as division VI.a, we should be able to deal with strippers, and we should now deal with harvesters. This new implement has come much into use. It has been successfully made here, but manufacturers in other parts of the world are cribbing the patent, and very likely in the near future the industry will be ruined in consequence of there being no protection to the man who is closing Wis works.

Mr Wilson - That was not the reason for closing up the works.

Mr Kennedy - It was known three years ago what would happen in regard to them.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not know that the honorable member or any one else knew.

Mr Kennedy - I did.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the honorable member is as clever as he suggests he should have taken the matter up three years ago. The Sunshine harvester has not been to any extent in practical use for more than twelve months.

Mr Kennedy - Who told the honorable member that ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I represent the largest farming district in Australia, and I am speaking of it.

Mr Kennedy - The honorable member's constituents ought to wake up, if they did not know of the existence of this harvester before that time.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The first Sunshine harvesters that were considered better than the others were brought into use during the last harvest.

Mr Kennedy - Oh, no.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But I happen to know. It was during the last, or the preceding harvest. It may be that in Victoria they were used before that time, but in my electorate and others in New South Wales they were not used then to the extent to which they are now used.

Mr Deakin - The factory is in Ballarat, and it is more than three years ago since I saw the finished article.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not say that that is not so.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Honorable members need not quack like ducks. I did not say when it was commenced to be manufactured. I spoke of the time when it came under public notice, and was first generally used.

Mr Harper - It was used here three or four years ago.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is quite right, no doubt. The first harvester was made about three years ago, but it takes a long time for a farming community to understand what the improvement in connexion with a harvester is, and to give up the use of an old machine, such as the Massey-Harris. and others.

Mr Skene - The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, two years ago, moved an amendment to try to protect them.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I admit that I did not myself know the value of the "Sunshine Harvester" until last harvest, when I took the trouble to go a considerable distance to see one at work, and it did not take me ten minutes to see that it was infinitely superior to any other harvester I knew of. One of the' makers, though not Mr. McKay himself, saw me about three weeks ago, and told me that in some parts of America the machines were being imitated ; but that thev could not prevent that, and a duty of only 12½ per cent, would practically put them out of the market.

Mr Kennedy - Then why did the Government of which the honorable member was a member accept that duty ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I, for one. did not know as much about the " Sunshine Harvester" then as I know to-day. When honorable members know what sort of a machine it is, they will see the need for encouraging its manufacture here. I have casuallyreferred to half-a-dbzen items, which I picked from the Tariff this af ternoon, to show how easy it would be for the Government to determine what industries require immediate attention. In my opinion, the appointment of a Royal Commission will cause delay, and thus do harm instead of good, because if no Commission were appointed, the popular unrest would grow until it forced Parliament to do something. By appointing the Commission, the Government are practically sticking up a placard, on which they have printed, " Do not disturb us; we are not ready to go out of office yet." No doubt, Ministers will eke out a continued existence by this action, but they are injuring the community. I ask what has become of the statement of the Prime Minister, that his present mission in political life is to fight unionism and the Labour Party ? How can he do that by getting as quickly as possible into a long recess? He has been put into office by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and others with a view to creating two parties in the House, and having a straight-out fight with labour and unionism. But what he proposes to do is to sit quietly on the Treasury benches for as long as possible, and take no action. It is rumoured that Mr. Max Hirsch is to be a member of the proposed Commission. He would be a nice, unbiased Commissioner ! I do not, however, believe in appointing men who have no fiscal opinions, if it has to be done at all. I think the matter should be dealt with, not by outsiders, but by Members of Parliament. By continually appointing Commissions, we proclaim to the world our belief in our incompetence or dishonesty. We have been elected to deal with these matters on behalf of the people. Whenever I hear it said that Parliament cannot do this or that, I ask the person who makes the statement, if he has tried to get into Parliament, and whether those who have been chosen by the electors because of the principles which they have announced, are not the men to whom all these matters can best be relegated? Once the Tariff inquiry gets out of the hands of Parliament. Heaven knows what will become of it !

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is its only chance.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable and learned member would like to get rid of Tariffs altogether. But I can say this for him, that he is about the only consistent free-trader in the House, there has been so much wobbling on the part of others. I am not composed of the putty of which some of these wobblers are. My composition is steel in comparison with theirs. Therefore, I could not do what the Prime Minister has done. I could not forsake my principles, and humiliate myself by swallowing my statements. I. do not believe in men who wobble so much as. to resemble jelly fish. I have fought many men in my political life, and no man harder than the late Sir Henry Parkes, but I always had an admiration for him.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - It was never expressed.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - When the late Sir Henry Parkes took up a position, there was no wobbling. He would stand with his back to the wall, and fight to the death. The late Sir Henry Parkes on one occasion christened the Prime Minister a cuckoo, because he had laid his eggs in his nest, and since that time the right honorable gentleman has laid his eggs in a great many other nests. In view of his present action, however, there is not much to be gained by continuing this debate. Alt I can do is to protest against the appointment of a Commission to ward off a blow which would otherwise fall on the Government. They are taking this action, not in the ' interests of the country, but to enable them to hold office longer. I do not give my adhesion to the proposal for the appointment of a Commission. I shall hold myself free to take any action I think proper at any time in regard to an industry which I believe to be suffering from the effects of the Tariff. It is nonsense to pretend that we can maintain our industries, whether they be secondary or primary, without protecting them. It would be impossible for our employers to pay the wages required under the awards of Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts unless they had protection. The Prime Minister blamed honorable members on this side of the House for having reduced the Tariff, but the right 'honorable gentleman himself. and honorable members sitting behind him, were more to blame than any one else for bringing the duties down so low, and creating the present crop of dissatisfaction. If the Tariff be compared with the Canadian Tariff - which is not high contrasted with that of the United States- it will be found that Canada begins where we leave off.

Mr Skene - Our Tariff imposes higher duties than the 15 per cent, rate which the honorable member first suggested.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I suggested about 16 per cent, duties.

Mr Skene - Ours is a 16 per cent. Tariff.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is-, in a sense, but it is not protective to the full extent of that percentage. It is a revenue Tariff to a very large degree.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is higher than the Dibbs Tariff which was introduced by the Government with which the honorable member was connected.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is not so high as the Dibbs Tariff was, because there were a number of specific duties in that Tariff, ranging as high as 25 and 30 per cent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - There are specific duties as high as 100 per cent in our Tariff.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - There are no high duties on articles of importance, except those upon hats and caps, and boots and shoes, which run to about 130 per cent. Under the Dibbs Tariff we imposed ad valorem duties of from 10 to 15 per cent., which ranged over a large number of items ; and, taking it on the whole, the duties were higher than those imposed under the Commonwealth Tariff.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is losing sight of the wishes of the people of New South Wale's, the majority of whom favour free-trade.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The freetraders of New South Wales have not sent many representatives into this House. If honorable members were to conduct their election contests upon fiscal lines, apart from side issues, few free-traders would be returned, except perhaps by Sydney and suburban electorates. The great majority or representatives from that State are not here as free-traders, but have been returned upon- sectarian grounds. The sectarian issue - which should not have been introduced into politics at all - was raised in the most disgraceful way at the last election.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Most of us were here before.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes; and honorable members were returned upon sectarian lines previously. At the last election the sectarian issue played a more important part than before, owing to the way. in which the Prime Minister fanned the flame of religious prejudice. I do not know what the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes to do, but if the Prime Minister insists upon appointing a Commission upon the lines he has proposed, I do not think there is any use in going on with this debate. I cannot understand the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who has been a protectionist all his life, making such a speech as that which he delivered this evening in support of the Government. I can fully appreciate the position of the right honorable member for Swan, who was never a protectionist, but I am at a loss to conceive what prompted the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, for whom I have the highest regard, to acquiesce in the course proposed by the Government. I always regarded the Treasurer and the Minister Of Trade and Customs as among the great bulwarks of the protectionist cause, but in some way or other they have given way. They are now no longer protectionists, but, despite all they say to the contrary, are freetraders. They are shackled so far as their fiscal faith is concerned, and will not be able to assert their principles if we go to the country, as has been suggested, next autumn. Some honorable members state that the Government feel that the time is not ripe for an election at present; but large sums of money are being contributed to the organizations which are supporting them, and they hope to have all their forces organized by about next April or May, when they will be prepared for a dissolution. This statement is being made bv honorable members who are in the confidence of the Government. I do not believe in that kind of fighting. If we are going to fight, let us do so in earnest. The Government have a wobbling majority of two. and are dependent for their retention of office upon an honorable member who has made a severe attack upon them. I would not sit for a moment under such an attack, and no self-respecting Prime Minister or member of a Government would do so. The Ministry do not possess the confidence of the House, or of the country, and should not be allowed to remain in office. If I were leading the Opposition, they would have no rest.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The honorable member hung on to office for three years on one vote.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes ; but none of my supporters denounced the Government. They were all honorable and true men. The honorable member for Wilmot used, in regard to the present Government, language such as has never been employed by an honorable member occupying a similar position. The recognition of the present condition of affairs must sink deeply into the ' hearts of the people, as it Would have sunk deeply into the hearts of Ministers if they had had any respect for themselves. The Government do not possess the confidence of this House, and they certainly do not enjoy that of the country, or they would not be finding excuses for putting off the dissolution. They might be challenged 5,000 times, and they would sit glued to their seats all the time. I want to see a dissolution brought about when I am ready, and not when my enemy is ready. I am ready now. If the Government were to go to the country now, they would meet with a great rebuff at the hands of the people, and scarcely half . of the honorable members now sitting behind them would be re-elected. If the honorable member for Wilmot had acted upon his true feelings he would have voted against the Government, despite his dislike for the Opposition, to emphasize his contempt for those who occupy the Ministerial benches. I can recall one occasion upon which a much stronger Ministry was in power in New South Wales, and one which did not possess the confidence of the country. But although the members of the Opposition numbered only some seventeen or eighteen, we did not allow that Government to reign long. Similarly the Opposition in this House will be doing its duty by preventing the present Ministry, which does not possess the confidence of the country, from retaining office for one moment longer than is unavoidable. Let retribution fall upon the heads of those who are keeping them in their present position, by supporting a freetrade Ministry. When a dissolution takes place, what will happen?

Mr Johnson - The honorable member will never come back.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I should like to be opposed by about fifty midgets like the honorable member. I make bold to say that at the next election my majority will be increased by more than 1,000 vol es, and I do not care who opposes my return. Let the Prime Minister oppose me if he thinks that he will be successful. It is idle foi honorable members to assure me that I shall be defeated. I .have been told that tale for the past twenty years, but I have always been able to "wipe" my opponents a little harder each successive campaign. It is impossible to travel about the city, or to' ride in the trains and trams without hearing a majority of people carping at the positionoccupied by the Government; expressing wonder how a Ministry with any self-respect can continue to hold office under existing conditions, and calling upon the Opposition to do its duty, by forcing an appeal to the country. I venture to say that when that appeal does take place, the issue of free-trade versus protection will be settled so definitely that we shall hear no more of this dodgery. The cry in respect of a fiscal truce has again been raised during this debate, Does any one imagine that it was possible to discover the weak spots in a new Tariff before we had had practical experience of its working? But when practical experience has demonstrated its anomalies, are we to sit quietly by - irrespective of what may have been said during the recent election campaign - whilst industries are being ruined, and people are being starved? Upon the hustings I stated that I was in favour of a fiscal truce, but I added, that when anomalies had been discovered in the Tariff, we should at once take action to rub off its rough knots. I do not wish an exhaustive inquiry to be instituted into each separate item of the Tariff, but I do desire to see anomalies conected in connexion with certain industries upon which we can place our fingers without any Trouble, through the Customs Department.. It is idle to urge that we are blind and cannot see. If the Minister of Trade and Customs chose to go honestly to work, he could tell us within a week the particular industries which require to be dealt with. In view of this state of things, we shall not be doing our duty unless we oppose the Government upon every possible opportunity. Personally I should not care ' if 1 stood alone in my attempt to block them. Only the other night tha Prime Minister had the audacity to declare that he has done more work during his occupancy of his present office than has anybody else.

Mr Johnson - So he has.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I should like to know what he has done. I should like also to be informed whether, in making that declaration, he is casting an aspersion upon the Treasurer. Is he vain enough to imagine that he has done more work than was performed by the Treasurer during the first two years of the existence of the Commonwealth ? During the first two sessionsof this Parliament, the work which it did was unprecedented, and for the right honorable gentleman - who never attended in this House when he could be absent - to declare that he has done more work than anybody else is in keeping with the whole of his political acts and with all his political humbug.

Mr Johnson - More misrepresentation.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am glad that honorable members opposite are getting a little dose of the Prime Minister. They will know him better in a short time. I have had a sufficient experience of him, and I do not hesitate to declare that I shall embrace every opportunity which presents itself to assist in displacing a Government which does not possess the confidence of this House or of the country.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).Anybody who knows the honorable member who has just resumed his seat will believe every word of his closing sentence. They are aware that he will take steps, whether they lie right or wrong, legitimate or otherwise, to dispossess the Prime Minister of his position. The honorable member, however, is in error when he supposes that the whole of Australia is hanging upon his lips for words of wisdom within the legislative arena. I can assure him that there is a very strongfeeling in Australia that this Parliamentcould get onvery well without him. He has spoken of a wide-spread opinion to which expression is given in the trams and trains, concerning the iniquities of the present Government, and how important it is that they should be immediately hurled from power. At some time or other one hears expressions of that character regarding almost every member of the House. For instance, the very first letter which I opened this afternoon contained the following postscript: -

Things seem very much mixed over your way, but what can be expected when you have men like Lyne there?

The very first letter which I opened contained that postscript, and I showed it to an honorable member who was sitting near me.

Mr Webster - What did he say?

Suggest corrections