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Monday, 18 December 1911

Senator GARDINER - Exactly ; I do not want to complain. But where the interests of people of my State are affected I shall fight to give them a chance. If we adopt a free Tariff it will benefit princi pally a few big employers of coolie labour in Fiji.

Senator St Ledger - Do you know that the Queensland Parliament has just passed a law to prohibit the further alienation of land to Chinese, and have done so partly for the purpose of excluding them from the banana industry ?

Senator GARDINER - There are two great competitors for the trade of Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. If we drive from the Australian markets the chief product of Fiji it will go to New Zealand, and if they sell their products there they will also procure their supplies there, and Australia will be so much the poorer. It is of no use to shut our eyes to that fact.

Senator St Ledger - Do you ever consider that there is such a thing as a White Australia?

Senator Chataway - Not when it comes to a question of the Tariff.

Senator GARDINER - The Chinese who works in Queensland has as much interest for me as has the coolie who works in Fiji. I go so far as to say that while we are part of the British Empire the rich islands of Fiji should be part and parcel of the Commonwealth. At present they are part of the Empire to which we are all so proud to belong. Senator St. Ledger, who trades so much on his loyalty to the Empire, wants to tax the bananas of Fiji.

Senator St Ledger - Fiscally, I am an agnostic, like yourself.

Senator GARDINER - We can shake hands on that. While we may agree to stand on a common platform in saying in a common-sense way that Tariffs are not the beginning and end of the struggle which is going on, I would point out to the honorable senator, who so frequently boasts of his extraordinary loyalty to the' Empire, that when it comes to a question of admitting the produce of one portion of the Empire and protecting a few Chinese who trade in Queensland bananas, he has reached the limit of his loyalty.

Senator Millen - He comes on to your level with handkerchiefs, then.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that the retort is quite fair, and that is the level to which a Tariff discussion reduces us all.

Senator McGregor - Can you not make a bargain with Senator St. Ledger to give you 15 per cent, on handkerchiefs, and give him an extra 6d. per cental on bananas?

Senator GARDINER - I do not want to make a bargain with Senator St. Ledger, but I wish the Government to restore the duty on handkerchiefs to the rate which induced poor, but honest, men to put their money into the industry. Let the duty on bananas, too, be restored to the rate which induced men to put their money into the industry in Queensland. I am not at all disconcerted about Senator Millen showing my inconsistency in the matter. A grave injustice is done to the business of one of the people whom I represent here. It is a matter of no importance or concern to me personally, but it is a matter of great importance to him, and that is why I am making so much of the increase in the duty. I have no doubt that, on the public platform and elsewhere, it will be pointed out that I wanted an increased duty on some article which the whole of the community use, but I am prepared to defend that inconsistency. We are asked to protect the white growers in Queensland, and protect them, too, at the cost of the loss of the trade with Fiji. Fiji will soon be a selfgoverning country. Rapidly as Australia is growing, so will the rich islands round Fiji grow.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - Will Fiji ever be to Australia what Queensland is?

Senator GARDINER - No. I have been twice through Queensland, which I hold is rich enough to prosper without any of these merely artificial methods. As most of the trade with Fiji is done through Brisbane, Queensland should benefit from the development of that trade.

Senator Mcgregor - Most of it is not done with Brisbane.

Senator GARDINER - I should like the honorable senator to quote a few figures in support of that statement.

Senator Mcgregor - Out of a total import of 89,000 centals of bananas from Fiji 72,000 centals go to Sydney.

Senator GARDINER - I was not thinking merely of bananas, but of the export and import trade between Australia and Fiji generally, and I remembered that Brisbane was the direct port of call for the big steamers engaged in that trade. It struck me, naturally therefore, that Queensland would derive the chief advantage from the trade with Fiji. We cannot protect the iron industry, for instance, without having the manufacturer, as Mr. Hoskins has done; claiming that he cannot continue his industry successfully unless he gets the raw material of it - pig iron - admitted free. In the same way, the cabinetmaker, the tanner, and the bootmaker requires their raw material to be admitted free. The raw material of the bootmaker is the finished article of the tanner, and if we follow the ramifications of every industry in the same way, we shall find that the higher we raise duties the greater must be the revenue. As our prosperity increases, so our revenue from the Tariff will increase, because with the expansion of our industries there must be an increase in the raw materials with which they are carried on. We have now passed the time to argue in support of Free Trade, because the majority of both parties are against it. Free Traders like Senators Millen, Gould, and Walker have hauled down their flag, and are now fighting gallantly for Protection, in the army led by Mr. Deakin. Mr. Deakin has promised not to alter the Tariff, and I hope he will keepthat promise if he is returned to power again.

Senator Walker - I am an out-and-out Free Trader.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that it is not my place to ridicule the position occupied by Senators Millen, Walker, and Gould, because, from the point of view of my party, I am myself in an exactly similar position. The party to which I belong agreed that they would not alter the Tariff unless they could carry the principles of the new Protection. At the last referendum the people said that, for the time being at all events', there was to be no new Protection. I think that our party would, in the circumstances, have been better advised if they had accepted the position, and! said candidly to the people, " You have refused us the power to bring into existence the principles of new Protection."

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