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Monday, 18 December 1911

Senator BLAKEY (Victoria) . - In dealing with these Tariff proposals, which have been discussed rather exhaustively in another place, I am forced to the conclusion that the old saying that misfortune makes friends of us all is as true as trite. This Bill, which only tickles the palates of the Protectionists, drives me into* the same camp as Senator Stewart and Senator Givens. I do not see eye to eye with Senator Stewart on many questions which agitate the minds of the people of Australia from time to time; but on this occasion, when we are dealing with one of the most important that can affect the pockets and the well-being of the community, I have to admit that the honorable senator's remarks are in the main absolutely correct, and his conclusions logical and sound. Small as this measure of Protection is, I thank the Government for the sixty increases in the duties that are foreshadowed. I desire to explain my position, because in the last election campaign, on a. hundred platforms throughout Victoria, I expressed myself in favour of Protection almost to the verge of prohibition, providing that the Protection is on a scientific basis and that its incidence does not touch the raw material of our workmen. When we are in Committee I intend to consistently vote for the lowest duties possible on the raw material which I am absolutely convinced cannot be made in Australia, and has not the slightest chance of being made here within a reasonable time. On the other hand, I am no revenue Tariffist, and I shall vote, as far as I have the opportunity; for the highest rates of duty on the finished articles turned out by Australian workmen. However serious a debate may be, there are always a certain number of ludicrous and laughable interludes; and, perhaps, one of the most amusing is that presented in the attitude of those high priests of Protection, Senators Millen, Gould, - and St. Ledger. They profess that they have been forced by the everflowing tide of public opinion to the conviction that Protection is the best policy for the Commonwealth ; but I venture to say that, when we come to vote on the 113 or 114 items in the schedule, which they have in effect described to us as palsied' and anaemic, they will use the stilleto, and endeavour to take its very life blood. They claim now to be Protectionists; but when their votes come to be analyzed, we shall find that they are still worshipping their old joss, Free Trade. In Australia there is one of the highest Customs and Excise revenues of any country in the world, amounting to £?. 2s. 4d. per head ; and with Senator Givens I hope that this Bill is only the forerunner of more earnest and effective legislation next session - that the Government^ during recess, wiil endeavour to give effect to the voice of the people as expressed, not only at the last general election, but on several previous occasions. We ought to grasp the nettle, and show that while Liberal and Fusion Governments have dilly-dallied with fiscal reform, the Labour Government decline to follow in the same steps or to be side-tracked into devious paths, and are prepared to give the people of Australia what they have hitherto called for in vain. Poor as this measure of Protection is, it is better than nothing, seeing that it rectifies a number of anomalies ; and I thank the Government for the sixty increases in duties, and hope that they are the forerunners of more Protection next session.

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