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Friday, 15 December 1911

The PRESIDENT - That is clearly what I understood the honorable senator to say. I did not understand him to describe any honorable senator as a humbug or a hypocrite, and I was listening very closely to his remarks.

Senator MILLEN - I very much regret that any of the hats which I have thrown about have been fitted to a certain head.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senatorthink that in throwing the last hat he was quite fair ?

Senator MILLEN - If I have the unfortunate habit of hitting hard I have no personal feeling in the matter. But I wish to differentiate my position from that which has been taken up by Senator E. J. Russell and his political associates. Unquestionably they did appeal to the electors of Victoria upon the assurance that the Labour party would give the country an effective protective policy.

Senator Rae - On the lines of new Protection.

Serator MlLLEN. - If Senator Rae will take the trouble to turn up the records connected with the last general election in

Victoria, he will find that that qualification is absent in nine cases out of ten.

Senator Rae - It was not absent in New South Wales.

Senator MILLEN - I will deal with New South Wales presently. At present I am speaking of the attitude which was taken up by Senator E. J. Russell.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The statement of the honorable senator as applied to me is perfectly correct, but as applied to the majority of the Labour party it is absolutely incorrect.

Senator MILLEN - I will deal with the majority of the party when that majority butts in. But Senator E. J. Russell and his associates in Victoria did unquestionably pledge themselves that the Labour party if returned to power would secure to the people of Australia an effective and scientific protective Tariff.

Senator O'Keefe - Is the honorable senator sorry that we have not a scientific protective Tariff?

Senator MILLEN - I am not dealing with that matter at present, but with the pledge which Senator E.J. Russell and his associates gave to the people. What was the position in New South Wales? I presume that I am entitled to take the statements of the Attorney-General as being fairly representative of the attitude of the Labour party in that State.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - As the honorable senator quoted the manifesto of the Labour party upon the banking question, why does not he quote it upon the Tariff issue ?

Senator MILLEN - I am going to do so. Upon more than one occasion in New South Wales the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, stated that no attempt would be made to impose additional Customs duties until side by side with them the Government were in a position to introduce the new Protection. Yet in this Bill an attempt is being made to impose those additional duties. Where is the consistency there? I have shown - and Senator E. J.. Russell has admitted my contention in regard to Victoria-

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In regard to myself.

Senator MILLEN - When I am dealing with the attitude of his party, the honorable senator's name and Victoria are almost synonymous terms. In New South Wales this matter was not stressedbecause the Labour party knew that they were there appealing to a constituency which was traditionally Free Trade, and that consequently the story that was told in Victoria would not be acceptable. In New South Wales they said that no additional imposts would be proposed until, by means of the new Protection, they could assure fair wages to the workers. Yet in this Bill we find increased duties proposed without any attempt being made to give effect to the principles of the new Protection.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The Government must have redeemed my pledges, if what the honorable senator says be true.

Senator MILLEN - If Senator E. J. Russell says that this Bill is a redemption of his pledges, I shall ask him whether he intends to tell the people of Victoria that it represents the scientific and effective policy of Protection which he promised them.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I did not say :rhat. I said that if the honorable senator's statement were true the Government must "have redeemed my pledges.

Senator MILLEN - I am endeavouring to show that the Government have broken faith with Victoria by failing to introduce an effective Protectionist policy, and they have broken faith with New South Wales by proposing increased duties without making provision for the application of the principles of new Protection.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator supported a duty on steel rails. '

Senator MILLEN - Yes; and my honorable friend Senator W. Russell supported the free admission of tanks, because farmers use them.

Senator St Ledger - This is the tit quoque argument !

Senator MILLEN - It is the only one which is effective with certain intelligences. It is quite evident to me that the Government have no policy on the subject of the Tariff.

Senator Stewart - They are a revenue Tariff Government.

Senator MILLEN - I do not think that they have sufficient courage even to be that. They are being pushed from pillar to pest by every wave of public feeling. The proof of that is that, after eighteen months of office, the great militant Protectionist, Mr. Tudor, proposes certain duties in an amended Tariff, and then proceeds to throw overboard certain items in it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The statement has been asserted a hundred times, but can the honorable senator refer me to a definite pledge by Mr. Tudor not to introduce a measure of Protection unless accompanied by a measure to give effect to the principles of new Protection?

Senator MILLEN - Because of the dulcet tones in which he speaks in thiĀ» Chamber, Senator E. J. Russell is entitled to be accounted as in the front rank of the Protectionists of Victoria.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Mr. Tudor and I differ in connexion with this matter.

Senator MILLEN - I do not know what the differences between the honorable senator and Mr. Tudor may be. They have been careful to keep them from the public eye, or 1 should have discovered them. Will Senator E. J. Russell deny that Mr. Tudor is a Protectionist in theory, and on the electioneering platform? He presented himself to the electors at the last election as a straight-out Protectionist. Having a period of eighteen months in which to consider whether he would bring in a fully Protective Tariff, or should deal merely with anomalies - and if so, what anomalies - he comes down with a measure which is indecisive, and about which he is so undecided himself that he does not know whether to stand by it or abandon it.

Senator St Ledger - The party was in labour and brought forth a mouse.

Senator MILLEN - The party, having brought forth this mouse, do not know whether to father it or to abandon it. The moment the amended Tariff was subjected to a little criticism, we found the Government throwing item after item to the wolves. Surely the Government might have been expected to stand by proposals decided upon after full consideration. Were items put into this Tariff as a mere flying of kites to discover what the public feeling was?

Senator Blakey - Does not what the honorable senator said show that the Government a re open to reason and argument ?

Senator MILLEN - I think that it shows that they are very open to the influence of numbers. Was the duty proposed in connexion with the motor industry submitted as the result of full inquiry and a firm conviction that it was necessary for the protection of an Australian industry ? If so, why was it jettisoned at once upon the disclosure of a hostile feeling towards it?

Senator St Ledger - Do not mention flannelette.

Senator MILLEN - No; that subject is much too inflammable for me to mention in the brief time at my disposal. I say that, although they have had ample time to consider it, the Government have put forward a Tariff which carries, on the face of it,

Customs[15 December,1911.] Tariff Bill. 4491 evidences of indifference, vacillation, and negligence in connexion with matters which should have called for the closest inquiry. Not only have the Government shown by their vacillation that they are not quite certain where they stand, but they are responsible, to a large extent, for putting this Parliament in the same position. What information has been given to either House of the Parliament to justify the proposed alterations? Ministers have told Parliament and the country that, as the result of certain inquiries, the Minister of Trade and Customs was supplied with certain information from a number of manufacturing firms. The Minister may have that information, but we have not got it here. No attempt has been made to put before Parliament the facts which, in the opinion of the Government, justify these proposed alterations in the Tariff.

Senator Blakey - The honorable senator specially asked the Minister to keep this information secret, and now he wants him to disclose it.

Senator MILLEN - What Senator Blakey's statement means is that the Minister has only to tell his party that he is in receipt of information which justifies the Government in certain action, and the party have nothing to do but swallow it.

Senator Blakey - He is not going to give the honorable senator details of confidential information.

Senator MILLEN - I do not want them. But I do desire that, in broad outline, we should have the statements made in connexion with particular industries which, in the opinion of the Government, justify the proposed alterations.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator does not want any Protection.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend is wrong. I have said that, for the time being, I accept Protection as the settled policy of the country.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator is also influenced by the force of numbers.

Senator MILLEN - I admit that the force of numbers has made me do so. If the numbers were the other way about, it would not have been necessary for me to make a public capitulation. Having put the matter three times before the electors, and the electors having on each occasion turned down the appeal addressed to them by the Free Traders of the country, it was only fair and reasonable that we should accept their decision. No information is presented by the Government to enable us to form a judgment upon the Tariff alterations proposed. It would introduce an altogether pernicious state of affairs if, in this Parliament, we were to accept the mere assurance of Ministers that they were in possession of information sufficient, in their opinion, to justify alterations of the Tariff. To accept such a course of procedure would be to transfer all deliberative work from this Parliament to secret conferences, which might be held in the privacy of the Ministerial office. That would, sooner or later, bring about a condition of affairs which iscommonly associated with American politics, but which, so far, has been kept out of politics in the British Empire. I should be the last to submit to the doctrine that a Tariff is to be formed by private conferences between manufacturers and Ministers. We should be informed as to the circumstances of each industry affected by the proposed alterations which justify them to the Ministerial mind. Until we are, we must be unable to say how we ' should deal with these alterations. I am, in this matter, under a disability, which I assume is shared by every member of the Senate. In the absence of information, I am unable to determine how far the proposed alterations of the Tariff may be beneficial.

Senator Guthrie - We expect to get that information in Committee.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator does expect to get it, his hope triumphs over his experience. It is one of the most difficult things in the world to get at the real facts connected with any industry. Perhaps upon any statement of the facts no two members of the Senate would be agreed. The whole trend of things is forcing opinion outside to the conclusion that, sooner or later, we shall have to establish some permanent institution whose business it will be to conduct investigations into the conditions of industries, and submit facts and recommendations to Parliament. It was the policy of the late Administration that there should be created some tribunal of a permanent character which should have delegated to it the duty of inquiring into all industries, gathering facts, statistics, and information, and having the power from time to time to make certain recommendations or suggestions to Parliament. Without such a body, it is impossible that Tariff matters can ever be adjusted on sound business lines. Under existing conditions it is not the merits of an industry, but the importunities of those connected with it, that determine the liberality with which it will be treated. For the time being, the present Government have refused to take the way out of the difficulty which has been suggested. They have turned their backs upon the assistance which would be afforded by the adoption of such a proposal. But I am thoroughly convinced that in the mind of the public outside there is a growing conviction that some such institution as that to which I have referred should be established, and that it is only by the adoption of such a course that we .can be placed in possession of the necessary facts- in order that we may be able to adjust the Tariff to meet the changing requirements of the country. As in common with other honorable senators I am anxious to do what I can to bring the business of this session to a close, I do not propose to deal with the items at length in Committee. I shall endeavour to confine criticism, and also divisions, to as few of the items as possible, but upon items which do stand out as inviting criticism, it must be understood that honorable senators on this side will not, from any consideration of personal convenience, shirk their public responsibilities.

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