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Friday, 5 December 1930

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I support the bill, not so much because of its particular merits, but because the expedient of approaching the Federal Government to grant aid to the three smaller States is not nearly finished. As time goes on we shall certainly have similar applications. I think it was Aristotle who said, " Sympathy is a keenscented vision of one's own future predicament". I support the proposal because I can quite imagine that the State which I have the honour to represent at present, although it has been fairly well helped in the past, will soon find itself in the same predicament as South Australia. There is no difference between a citizen of South Australia and a citizen of any other State of the Commonwealth in the matter of industry, or calibre; in possession of those qualifications that go to make a deserving citizen he does not lag behind the resident of any other State of the Commonwealth. If, therefore, he finds himself to-day in greater difficulties than when a royal commission said that his State was entitled to receive £900,000, it clearly proves that the State is going from bad to worse. It is well for us to face the position squarely in an attempt to ascertain the cause of the inability of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to make ends meet. If we search diligently for the cause, we must satisfy ourselves that it is as stated by Senator Colebatch. The protection policy that has been pursued in Australia for some time past has produced no single result except to add to the population of

Sydney and Melbourne, while impoverishing the countryside. During the last 30 years the two cities I have mentioned have gained in population and opulence; they have added to their political strength in this Parliament by no less than fifteen seats at the expense of the countryside. There must be something wrong in a policy under which the countryside is getting thinned of its population and two cities arc gaining. The same rate of retrogression has only to continue for a while and these two cities, instead of being what they arc to-day, a powerful element in shaping the political destiny of this country, will be in absolute centro of its destinies. If we do not cry a halt, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will be coming again and again to the Commonwealth Parliament for aid. We have, not only the word of a previous speaker, which cannot be contradicted, that this policy of protection has brought about a favoured condition of affairs in two cities while emptying the countryside of the best of its population. Professor Brigden and Mr. Giblin, the experts who were called in to advise the royal commission on the Constitution - men who had no axe to grind and who investigated the question merely to find out, among other things, the effect of Australia's fiscal policy - arrived at the conclusion that this fiscal policy imposed a penalty of 14 per cent, on the output of the wheat industry. Thus, South Australia, out of its crop of 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, will pay its contribution of something like £700,000 to the maintenance of Australia's protection policy at a time when its people are 30 desperately hard up.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - It means a contribution of 7,000,000 bushels out of the State's scanty crop, representing almost the amount of this grant.

Senator LYNCH - Quite so; on the basis of 2s. a bushel for wheat. Senator Duncan made a fine speech. Our sympathies always go out to people in distress, but we are also charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the cause of the distress and applying ourselves to find a remedy, so that there may be no future distress or further occasions for bills of this description. We like to have big cities in Australia, but, after 30 years of rigorous protection, the value of our export of manufactured goods is not more than a miserable £2,000,000, whereas Canada exports manufactured goods to the value of £90,000,000. According to our Year-Booh, Australia's export of manufactured goods is on the same level as it was 30 years ago. From this it is clear that the fiscal policy of this country is not only impoverishing those States with the smaller populations, hut is also crippling the export trade of the Commonwealth as a whole. Is it wise to continue with this suicidal policy which has brought, at least three of the States to a condition almost of bankruptcy? I notice, too, that it has become the habit lately to speak of these suppliant States as beggars or poor relations. They arc' not. When they turn to the Commonwealth for financial assistance they merely ask for restitution or compensation for loss of revenue which they have suffered under the Commonwealth; for some return for the contribution which they make to Commonwealth revenue through customs and excise duties. Under federation they have been impoverished, while the three large eastern States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have been enriched.

The result of our fiscal policy is re- fleeted in the stronger representation of our capital cities in this Parliament. As J have already shown, the cities, since the inauguration of federation, have gained fifteen seats in the House of Representatives nt the expense of rural areas. The changed attitude of the people is particularly noticeable in the Senate. When I entered this chamber 24 years ago, New South Wale3 sent six freetraders to the Senate - six men who would not touch or handle, a protective duty of any kind. When the first tariff was introduced in 1907 they declared their uncompromising opposition to the system of protection for the encouragement of secondary industries. But they were in the minority, and in due course the first tariff schedule was placed upon our statute-book. As one might expect, having tasted blood, the New South Wales manufacturers, like the tiger, wanted more. Thus the business has gone on, with the result that the New

South Wales representatives in this Parliament now join in the vociferous clamour for more and still more protection.

The fruits of this policy are now before us in the form of urgent appeals from time to time from the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance. Surely it is about time that we called a halt in this policy. Every honest man who has the welfare of this country at heart realizes the folly of continuing with this disastrous policy of high tariffs. The latest to tell us that we are on the wrong track is Sir Otto Niemeyer, the representative of the Bank of England, who was in Australia recently to advise the Government concerning its financial policy. No one who has honest thoughts about our present position can doubt that we have been on the wrong road. Three- States, which at one time were prosperous, are now sadly impoverished. But they are not alone. The eastern States, which developed rapidly following the inauguration of federation, are now up against serious- difficulties. Their troubles are due, in my opinion, almost entirely to the blighting influence of the high. tariffs that have been imposed in recent years. The Government in twelve months has introduced fourteen different tariff schedules, in which the duties have been piled higher and still higher. Certain industriGS .bil ve been, and are being, restricted almost to the point of extinction. The immediate remedy is for Parliament to be given an opportunity to consider these tariff schedules and to pull the inside out of them so as to give the people engaged in primary industries a chance to live. The country will be all right if primary producers are left alone. They will see to it that the unemployment problem is solved. But, unhappily, they have been hit so hard that not a few have become just a little fainthearted. They are turning their backs on their homesteads and are joining the jostling throng in the capital cities in the various States to become miserable seekers for the dole, instead of being strongly rooted to their homesteads in the countryside.

This is the position as I see it in Western Australia. If that State gets outside the federal union - and if the Federal Parliament does not treat it more justly, that is the road it will take - it will become a much more prosperous State than it is ever likely to be under federation. Its people have been merely hewers of wood and drawers of water for the people in the eastern States. They have purchased enormous quantities of commodities from the eastern States at high prices, but, unfortunately, have not been able to find a profitable market for their own products. Under the influence of high tariffs, imposed by successive governments, the industrial activities of the three eastern States, working on the same principle as a suction pump, create- a perfect vacuum and pull everything that is of value into the insatiable vortex. Little; if anything, remains for the three smaller States. This is one reason why I am a supporter of this bill. I shall vote for it in the hope that this Government will retrace its steps in fiscal matters and give the people in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania a chance to live.

Senator Sir JOHNNEWLANDS (South Australia) [12.32]. - In supporting this bill, I am in good company. Many other honorable senators who have preceded me, have announced their intention of voting for it. I, however, deprecate most strenuously any criticism of the domestic policy of the State Government. The Commonwealth Parliament must accept its share of the responsibility for the position of the smaller Sta.tes to-day. I have been a resident of South Australia for very many years. As a young man I landed in Adelaide in the early 'eighties in with many others who were seeking their fortunes in Australia. There were then no organizations to care for new arrivals and provide them with employment. The State Government allowed us to sleep in the old Exhibition Buildings, hut that was about the extent of its concern for our welfare. We had to shift for ourselves, and, like sensible men, we took. what jobs were offering, and were glad to get them. I had an opportunity to secure employment on the Oodnadatta railway at 5s. a day, but as I- was totally inexperienced, I did not accept it. Many of my friends at that time made their start in Australia on that work. I regret that the Interstate Commission was abolished some years ago, because that body kept closely in touch with the position of the several States as affected by federal legislation, and I am looking forward to the time when a commission with similar powers will be appointed to advise the Commonwealth Government concerning the position of the respective States under federation. Australia will turn the corner when its people realize that prosperity will come only as the result of honest work, and experience has shown that honest work will always command good wages. This, therefore, is the advice which I should give to those who are disposed to depend so largely upon relief organizations. Many, I fear, are only too ready to complain about their conditions, and to go on strike. I regret the circumstances which compel the Government of South Australia to appeal to the Commonwealth for financial aid. But the need is very great, and I feel sure that the bill will receive sympathetic consideration at the hands of honorable senators. I trust also, that, in the near future, as the result of good seasons and higher prices for our primary products, the need for Commonwealth assistance to the States will. pass.

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