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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) - The Senate finds itself to-night in an extraordinary position. On Friday last, when the Sugar Bounty Bill was introduced, I expressed the opinion that the two Bills ought to be considered together in the Senate, andhonorablesenators are aware of the understanding or expectation which was arrived at this morning. I objected to the Government proposal, but was willing not to vote against it when some of my friends intimated that they were willing to accept it. There is no question as to the gravity of the proposal before us. The figures which the Minister has handed to me show that, with an Excise duty of , £4, it is anticipated there will be collected £800,000 per annum, and it is proposed that, in the year 1910, one-third of that amount shall be given up, and the next year two-thirds. Inother words, it is proposed that Australia shall give up £800,000 of revenue in the two years, and that in the following year not a farthing shall be collected in the shape of Excise duty. We know, of course, that it will then be open to Parliament to review the matter; but the idea in the minds of those who engineer proposals of this, kind is altogether antagonistic to any Excise duty. The desire is to give to those whoengage in this industry immense sums of money which ought to go to the revenues of the various States. It was quite understood last night that the matter was settled on the terms which have already been referred to. It is proposed now, however, that the Excise duty shall be given up altogether, and the various States.shorn of revenue. What do the representatives of Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales think of the proposal ? Can Victoria, for instance, afford to forego something like £240,000, and New South Wales £300,000? We must not forget that with the proposal to reduce the Excise there is no accompanying proposal to reduce taxation through the Customs. In every one of the years contemplated, this industry will go on collecting from the public £6 per ton, or 200,000, and, instead of there being ^800,000 to divide amongst the States, there will be nothing. Surely that is a proposal which the most ardent protectionist cannot accept. It is most extraordinary that there should be an attempt to go behind the arrangement we made yesterday, and to launch a proposal of this kind in the last hours of the session, when a good many members, of both Houses have already started for their homes. This is a piece of legislation which, I fancy, has few parallels, and the proposing of which reflects great discredit ora the Government.

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