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Thursday, 11 September 1913

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - That is why they are shelving it.

Senator LONG - Yes. The whole case was most innocently given away by a leading Fusion newspaper the other day. When I read it, honorable senators will see at once the influences which are operating to keep my honorable friends opposite absolutely silent, and to keep their hands off Tariff reform. This newspaper - the Mercury-

Senator Needham - Where is it published ?

Senator LONG - T. almost expected to see Senator Bakhap's moustachios stick out in indignation at that question. The Mercury is published in Tasmania.

Senator Findley - Where is Tasmania ?

Senator LONG - I wish Senator Findley, who has always claimed to be y good Federalist, to understand that Tasmania is part of Australia. This quotation from the Mercury explains what I take to be the true attitude of the present Government in regard to Tariff reform -

The Liberal party is pledged to maintain the present Tariff in the main, with only such alterations as are clearly necessary. The principle of Protection is recognised, and the practice (up to the present limits), but while the Free Trade section of the party will not attempt to lower the Tariff, the Protectionist section is to preserve a similar discretion.

Most innocently this newspaper, which is the official organ of the Liberal party in Tasmania, lias given away the attitude of the present Government on the question of Protection. This is a matter which ought to occupy the attention of the Government at the earliest possible moment; and if they are not disposed voluntarily to undertake the reorganization of the Tariff, they ought to be compelled to do so by the members of the Opposition. T am certain that when the Government go to the country, as they surely will have to do in the course of a few months, they will be asked, in the most decided terms possible, what has become of those wholehog Protectionist arguments that were used at the recent elections in every part of Australia. In a sense, the Government have taken refuge behind the Inter-

State Commission; and they are telling the public now that it would not be wise to move in regard tq the Tariff until they obtain the information which the Commission has been appointed to collect. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that the Inter-State Commission is capable of performing, and will perform, very valuable work on behalf of Australia. But it ought not to be the function of the Inter-State Commission to deal with, a Tariff schedule. That ought to be the sole function of Parliament. The whole question ought to be fought out here. I subscribe entirely to the sentiment expressed by ex-Senator Sir Josiah Symon who, speaking at Adelaide during the recent election campaign in regard to the Inter-State Commission, said -

Now, as to the future, one or two words. First, as to the Tariff. You know I am a FreeTrader. (Applause.) Nevertheless, 1 recognise that this country has adopted as its settled policy the principle of Protection, and I recognise, too, that that Tariff will have to be investigated and revised sooner or later. But I am not in favour of this proposed Board, to be a buffer between the manufacturers, fir the people, and the Parliament. I know wlm happened when a Tariff Commission was appointed by the Government, of which I had the honour to be a member, in 1904-5. After that the Tariff was again re-opened for revision. The recommendations of that Tariff Commission, that Board, were really treated as of comparatively little value. You will have a Board which will be costly, and which will only provide another avenue for button-holing, and that sort of thing. If there is to be a revision of the Tariff, let us fight it again boldly, on the floor of the Parliament, and not through the instrumentality or with the preliminary aid of any delegated Board. (Applause.)

I submit, in support of the opinion expressed by Sir Josiah Symon, that we ought to undertake willingly the investigation of the existing Tariff, with the object of seeing whether it cannot be made more effective. In regard to old-age pensions, I have to hurl the accusation at the Government that they are departing from the platform which they presented to the country. Here I may remark that the Liberal party are following us pretty closely in having a platform with numbered planks. We have a pledge, and they have adopted one, too. We have a system of pre-election, and they have adopted the same method. If they keep on like this, they will soon be up to the standard of responsibility which has always characterized the movements of the Labour party. In plank 13, the

Liberal party is pledged to maintain oldage and invalid pensions. The Government memorandum indicates the manner in which they are going to maintain that system. My honorable friend, Senator Mullan, in his remarkably able speech, has dealt very eloquently and effectively with that question. I do not propose to follow him, because I could not hope to improve upon the very fine argument presented by him in opposition to the scheme of the Government. There is, however, another plank in the Liberal platform to which I wish to call attention. It is No.6 -

To control by law the operations of trusts and combinations acting detrimentally to the interests of the people.

Those are strenuous words, and an opportunity is offering to-day to honorable senators opposite to put them into practical operation. There is a Shipping Combine operating between the mainland and Tasmania, which is acting most unfairly towards the people of the latter State.

Senator Ready - It is robbing the people of Tasmania.

Senator LONG - It has been robbing them for a considerable time. One of the most prominent supporters of the Liberal party in the other House, Mr. McWilliams, has declared, in the most emphatic terms, that there is a Shipping Combine, and that it does regulate prices. Freights have been, for some time past, extremely high, and have imposed considerable burdens upon the consumers of our State. In fact, we pay the highest freights and passenger rates in Australia. But something else has happened recently which justly alarms the people of Tasmania. High as freights have been, within the last month or six weeks there has been an increase of 15 to 20 per cent. We in Tasmania wish to use every possible means to keep the population there, and to attract others. But we are finding it almost impossible to attract people from oversea, and difficult, indeed, to maintain our native population in face of handicaps which are multiplied. This is not to be wondered at, when we remember that our people are exploited by the shipping companies and other combines operating from the mainland. A number of articles have appeared in Tasmanian newspapers which are strong supporters of the Liberal party, stating that unless something is done to prevent the shipping companies from inflating the already high Tariff it will be a serious look-out for Tasmania.

Senator Senior - What was the attitude of the people on the referenda?

Senator LONG - We improved our vote as compared with the previous one, and the things which are happening today will make the people of Tasmania exceedingly sorry that, on the 31st May last, they refused to give the Commonwealth power to enable our Government to deal effectively, from a central authority, with shipping and other combines. This matter of the shipping and mail services has been brought more than once under the notice of the Government. Now that the seal of silence has been removed from the lips of the Government, we may expect the courtesy of a reply to the frequent questions on this subject asked by honorable senators on this side. How do the present Government propose to rescue Tasmania from under the heel of this monopoly ? If the newspapers correctly represent their views, the Government are going to enter into a contract with the Union Steam-ship Company for seven years, giving the company an increased subsidy. They propose to grant a subsidy which would enable the Commonwealth to pay interest on the cost of two new Loonyanas. The statement I am about to make is not presented for the purpose of giving offence to the party opposite. I say that it is not reasonable to expect that our friends are likely to take any action that is calculated to conflict with their own interests. By that I mean that many of them are more or less heavily interested in the shares of certain shipping companies. I am not finding any fault or suggesting that there is anything wrong or improper about that.

Senator Bakhap - Then why make the statement ?

Senator LONG - I will give my reasons. I say that in view of the fact that members of the party opposite are interested in concerns of that kind, it is unlikely that they will do anything to bring about the establishment of a Commonwealthowned line of steamers trading between the mainland and Tasmania. Members of the party, who, before this was mooted, perhaps, for many years held large interests in shipping companies, and who continue to hold those interests, cannot be expected to become enthusiastic over a Commonwealtli-owned line of steamers to establish communication between the mainland and Tasmania. We are engaged in linking up the East with the West of Australia by a Commonwealth railway, and that is a perfectly proper thing for us to do. It is a necessary and natural corollary of that that we should link Tasmania with the mainland by a Commonwealth line of steamers, affording to our people a more rapid and less expensive service.

Senator Ready - Which the Fisher Government proposed to do.

Senator LONG - And which I believe they will have an early opportunity of doing if our friends opposite have the courage to take the course that political tradition and decency ought to suggest to them .

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - We have the courage to take honorable senators opposite with us to the country, if they will go with us.

Senator LONG - Much as I like my honorable friend, Senator Gould, I do not desire to take his interjection seriously. There is no occasion for the honorable senator or myself to go to the- country. We can continue to sit here in this secure haven of rest and. watch the electors determinating the issue for another place. When the issue is settled there it will be settled here. I submit that even if the present Government had a working majority, they have a three years' record of legislation and administration on the part of their predecessors that they would find it very difficult to equal, let alone surpass. There can be no question that the late Government was the most progressive Government in Federal history. Let us listen once more to the voice of Sir Josiah Symon.

Senator Senior - The voice of wisdom.

Senator LONG - Aye, the voice of wisdom. . That gentleman's idea of freedom evidently did not appeal to our friends opposite. There are men professing Liberal views who are true to Liberal traditions, and have a right to regard themselves and speak of themselves as Liberals. Men of the character of Sir Josiah Symon are ready to do justice to their opponents. A Liberal in the true sense is of no use to our honorable friends opposite.

Senator Senior - The honorable senator is implying that the members of the party opposite are counterfeits.

Senator LONG - I am not implying it; I am asserting it. I asserted it quite early in my remarks, and in the most definite language possible. I have not the least fault to find with a man who describes himself as a Tory, or as 'a Conservative. He has as good a right to so describe himself as I have to describe myself as a Labour man ; but I do ask that he shall have the courage of his opinions, and live up to what he really is. Some of my best friends are the most deeplydyed Conservatives who could be found in the whole of Australia. I have never found fault with them, nor should I be justified in finding fault with them for calling themselves Conservatives.

Senator McGregor - If they called themselves Liberals the honorable senator would find fault with them.

Senator LONG - That would be quite another matter. If they did that Ishould, of course, join issue with them. I have made the statement that the present Government have succeeded the most progressive Government that Australia' has known. As evidence in support of that contention, I am going to read an extract from a speech made by Sir Josiah Symon, who only quite recently was a very distinguished member of this Chamber. Speaking of Mr. Fisher, Sir Josiah Symon said -

The Prime Minister, in his eagerly awaited speech at Maryborough last night, demonstrated, with almost painful elaboration, what was already obvious - that he leads a Ministry of action. No fair-minded elector would deny that the Fisher Government has accomplished a good deal, and that its performances have usually been characterized by courage, confidence, and definiteness of purpose.

Senior Senior. - He was quoting the South Australian Register, the most Conservative organ on earth.

Senator LONG - He went on to say -

That is what I like to see in a public newspaper of standing and honour. I read something to the same effect in the Mail, and it is in this spirit that I am speaking myself. . The . Federal Ministry may have done too much, and may have done it in a way we disapprove, but I say that they have done things. The calm pride of Mr. Fisher was quite justified. Mr. Deakin has spoken with respect of " The Labour party's fixed and decided platform." To their credit that can be said. They have shown no uncertainty. They have had no fencing. They knew what they wanted, and went for it ; and with definiteness in their objective. They had their platform, and they stuck to it.

That is a statement regarding the late Ministry by a man who was not only a distinguished member of this Chamber, but who occupies a very prominent position in the legal profession of the Commonwealth.

Senator O'keefe - An equally complimentary statement was made by a very eminent visitor, Sir Edgar Vincent, the chairman of the Imperial Trade Commission.

Senator LONG - That is so, and I think that Admiral Henderson made a somewhat similar .statement. When he visited Australia he said that under the Labour Government Australia was doing things that other countries were talking about. I feel that I have detained the Senate at considerable length, and do not propose to trouble honorable senators much further. I wish just to express the hope that there will be no more shillyshallying on the part of the Government. The people have brought about certain conditions in another place which are as' unsatisfactory to our party as they are to the party opposite. There is a means of terminating that unsatisfactory state of affairs. The opportunity is awaiting the Government at any moment they like to avail themselves of it. I hope, therefore, that for the sake of the traditions that have characterized Governments in the British Dominions, we shall not any longer witness the spectacle of a Government trying to hang on to office indecently, and throwing the responsibility of remaining there upon the casting vote of the presiding officer in another place. I say once more, that I am certain that the people are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to make themselves more definitely heard than they were at the last election. If that opportunity is given them, I have little fear that the result will be that the term of office of the present Government will be terminated.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ready) adjourned.

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