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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - I have not the slightest desire to delay the passage of the third reading of this Bill, but I certainly think that I am justified in taking advantage of this opportunity to say that I do not consider that the Government have kept the spirit of the compact entered into last night. After we had thrashed out a question for seven or eight hours, I was led last night to accept a compromise, in the belief that it would be accepted by the Government in another place. That assurance was given in connexion with the Sugar Bounty Bill, which, with this Bill, must be considered as part and parcel of the same legislation. I do not think that the radical alteration made in this Bill since it was introduced is in keeping with the spirit of the compact which the leader of the Government in the Senate offered last night. I have, however, this consolation in the matter : This Excise Tariff Bill and the Sugar Bounty Bill must be considered in conjunction with the Tariff, and the whole question must again comeup for reconsideration and review at no distant date. Possibly the Government have taken the action which they have taken in connexionwith this measure, because it is assumed that we are within a few hours of the close of the session. If it were not that I amabsolutely certain that the whole question must shortly be reviewed again. I should be inclined to putup something of a "stone-wall." I am satisfied to letthe Bill pass now, because I know that there is a sufficient number of honorable senators of my way of thinking to insure a review of the Question next session.

Senator WALKER(New South Wales). - I cannot find language sufficiently strong to express my disappointment; but it is satisfactory to remember that four years must elapse before the sliding scale in regard to the Excise will come into operation, and between this andthen we shall have a general election. I shall be much mistaken if at that general election this very consideration of the tremendous loss of revenue to the States will not prove a strong point in favour of the party now sitting on the Opposition benches. Under the measure we passed last night, for the last two years of the period the bounty per ton will be reduced to £2 and£1 respectively ; but by this Bill a reduction in Excise for those years means a present of £2 13s. 4d. and£1 6s. 8d. per ton respectively to the sugar-growers, so that white growers will practically receive the equivalent of £4 13s. 4d. and £2 6s. 8d. per ton for the years alluded to.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - I cannot allow the Bill to pass without a word or two. Without claiming a moral victorv for honorable senators on this side, I claim an immoral victory for honorable senators opposite. Senator O' Keefe stated that he would be inclined to " stone-wall " the third reading of this Bill, did he not believe that the question will have to be reviewed at a later date. I shouldbe happy to join the honorable senator in the " stone-wall " if I thought that it would do any good. This is another instance in which we discover the facility which the Senate possesses for reversing its opinion on all occasions. James Russell Lowell wrote : - A merciful Providence fashioned us holler,

A purpose that we might our principles swaller.

The action of certain honorable senators would appear to"justify that view of human nature. Senator Pearce was a strong man last night ; Senator Henderson and Senator de Largie were also strong men last night, but they have since weakened lamentably.

Senator Pearce - They hold the same views now.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- But they have voted differently. Twenty-four hours would appear to be sufficient to effect a complete reformation in the minds of some members of the Senate, when they understand that their masters in another place desire that theyshould change their views. We were assured that honorable members in another place would accept the Sugar Bounty Bill, as we sent it to them, but they have altered the Excise Tariff Bill in such a way as to leave matters very much as they were before. There can be no doubt that they are justified in regarding the Senate as being by no means a strong or a determined House, but as one. which may be blown over as easily as a house of cards.If the honorable senators to whom I have referred, had voted to-night as they did twenty-four hours ago, the majority would have been on this side of the Chamber, and if the Government did not regret the loss of the Bill they would probably have consoled themselves with the reflection that it could be' taken up next session. I am glad to recognise the truth of what Senator Walker has said. We shall have one, and possibly two, general elections, before the sliding scale comes into operation with respect either to the bounty or the Excise duty. We shall/ therefore, have an opportunity to reconsider the whole question, and by that time possibly we shall be able to induce Senator Pearce to vote again in the way we desire.

Senator Pearce - I shall be able, in the meantime, in dealing with the Tariff, totest the honorable senators' sincerity.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Senator Pearce will endeavour to cut down the Customs duty onsugar, and when he is beaten it may be possible to induce him to insist upon a reasonable Excise duty.

Senator Pearce - Shall I get the honorable senator's vote?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The honorable senator mav have my vote on all reasonable proposals, but not for a proposal whichwould make land taxation the taxation of this country. I am very glad that we have been informed so clearlv as to what the policy of Senator Pearce and his friends will be if they have the good fortune to be in power with a majority behind them. I shall not further delay the passing of the Bill, but I congratulate the Government and honorable senators on the facility with which they can jump Jim-

Crow and change their views.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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