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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not surprised that the Minister of Trade and Customs should support this Bill in its present form, but I am certainly surprised that the Prime Minister should do so. He declares that the iron industry is worthy of a great national sacrifice. That is his opinion today, when he is ruling the destinies of Australia. Why does he not evidence his faith in that opinion ? Why is he not prepared, at the risk, if need be, of sacrificing his position - although I do not admit that he would incurany such risk - to give effect to his conviction that the iron industry cannot prosper without the imposition of protective duties?

Mr Deakin - I am not in favour of imposing any duties until production is sufficiently advanced to allow of that course being adopted without unduly affecting the Australian market.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Duties could be imposed, to come into operation two years hence, if the Prime Minister so desired. That would allow time forthe development of the industry, and. if at the end of that period Parliament did not consider that it had been sufficiently established, the duties could be removed.

Mr Deakin - That method would be no better than the one which we are adopting.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be considerably better.

Sir William Lyne - It would be strongly opposed by the Opposition.

Mr.DUGALD THOMSON.- I would oppose it, because I do not believe in the duties.

Mr Austin Chapman - What is the difference between bringing duties before Parliament at that particular period, and bringing resolutions before Parliament?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a difference, because two years hence there may be a very different Parliament in existence. The Prime Minister has said that those who are at present engaged in the iron industry are in favour of this Bill. Naturally they are, when they can get nothing else. They are in favour of the imposition of duties, but they were favorable to a bonus being paid upon the production of iron from native ores. Ministers have all along declared that the industry could not be established without the payment of a bonus. They pledged themselves to bring such a proposal before Parliament. They spoke so strongly of the necessity for the payment of a bonus to establish the industry, that I cannot understand them now abandoning their views and submitting a perfect sham to this House in the shape of the Bill which is under consideration. The Prime Minister said that we can give no guarantee of what a future Parliament may do. Yet he implied that such a guarantee is sought by those who are engaged in the industry. If we can give them no such guarantee, what advantage will this Bill confer upon them? The measure simply leaves matters as they are.

Mr Fisher - No. It removes the necessity for passing another Act.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It removes the necessity for the payment of a bonus which the Ministry professed to believe ought to be granted in the interests of the whole community.

Sir William Lyne - I say so now.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yet the Minister has abandoned the Bill which provided for the payment of a bonus. Would it not be just as easy for the Government to introduce a measure to alter Division VI.a of the Tariff, as regards the bonus, as to pass this Bill, which accomplishes nothing, and which necessitates, when anything is to be done, the adoption of an address in both Houses of Parliament? It is just as difficult to secure the adoption of an address in any Parliament in which there is a considerable minority in opposition, as it isto pass a short Bill.

Sir William Lyne - Nonsense.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister is talking nonsense.

Sir William Lyne - A resolution cart be adopted much more easily than a Bill can be passed, because it does not afford such opportunity for obstruction.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - To pass a resolution in Parliament requires a majority.

Mr Fisher - But there is only one debate upon a resolution.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the new Standing Orders the Government have the power to limit debate in any way that they may choose.

Mr Tudor - Just as. the Government in New South Wales did last week.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members opposite adopted the closure resolutions "for exactly that purpose. There need be no undue debate upon, a measure if a majority are favorable to it. This Parliament is now adopting the extraordinary course of passing legislation and neutralizing its whole effect by incorporating in it certain amendments. We are developing what, I am glad to say, is rather a rare practice in the States Parliaments - a system of sham legislation. Measures which are designed to effect certain results are submitted for our consideration. But they are mere shadows. There is no substance in them. Those results have to be achieved by some future legislation which may not come before the Parliament which has enacted the first measure. We are simply saying in effect, " We will pas,s this legislation, which means nothing, so that a future Parliament, if it chooses, may make it effective ! " There is a vast field open to us in that direction. We might utilize all our constitutional powers in that way and pass an enormous number of Bills framed on that principle.

Mr Spence - What a record we could make in the number of measures that we could pass.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No Parliament could approach our record either from the stand-point of the number of measures that we might pass, or from that of their ineffectiveness. We have adopted the practice to which I refer in respect of one measure, and we are now asked to follow it in regard to another. An alteration of Division VLA of the Tariff could be effected at any time that Parliament was favorable to it by a short Act, the consideration of which would occupy no longer than would a resolution in favour of the adoption of an address. Holding the views that I do, I suppose that I ought to feel gratified that the Minister has accepted a proposal which means, nothing.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member is not showing his gratification.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because I hold that this matter should be viewed from a more exalted stand-point, namely, fi om the stand-point of sensible action on the part of this Parliament. As far as the provision itself is concerned, believing that we are entering upon a very dangerous course when we commence to impose duties, on iron, which is the raw material of so many industries-

Mr Bamford - England built up her iron trade under protective duties.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would ask the honorable member to recollect the size of her iron trade when she abandoned protective duties, and also its wonderful expansion in the absence of those duties. I have no desire to delay the House, and I shall not debate this question; but I recognise the grave danger of imposing duties of the kind, in view of the fact that iron productions form the basis of so many industries. If the idea were to impose duties at the present time, I should have to oppose the proposal. The Minister, however, takes quite a different position; he believes in the. imposition of duties, and is also of opinion that an industry is being established. I think the Minister would bear me out in the statement that iron is being produced at Lithgow from Australian ore at the present time.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think so.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not certain on the point, but I was under the impression that one furnace is in operation there.

Sir William Lyne - No; I saw a representative of Mr. Sandford the other day, and I am informed that there is not \ furnace going.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that, at any rate, Carcoar ore has been used for smelting purposes.

Sir William Lyne - That is being done after a bonus has been arranged.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There has been no arrangement with the State Government for a bonus.

Sir William Lyne - It is an arrangement for a bonus.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that is so, as a matter of fact, because the price of iron is now so high that it will be supplied at less than it would cost to import.

Sir William Lyne - But the price will be down again.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be so; but we cannot count on that any more than we can count on the reception which this proposal before us may receive at the hands of another Parliament.

Sir William Lyne - It will be. all right.

Mr Fisher - Does the honorable member for North Sydney favour the Executive imposing duties?


Mr Fisher - Then why argue against Parliament having the power?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not -arguing in that way ; I favour Parliament having the power. That is already arranged for in the 6a provision of the Tariff, and all the Government have to do is to bring down a: Bill at the time when they consider that clause should be put in operation, substituting a provision that the industry having been established, the imposition of a bonus shall not be required to precede its establishment, and that the duty shall come into force.

Mr Fisher - The proposal is a declaration that the Minister may introduce an address with the same object ; and the course proposed is much the simpler.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not in the least simpler. Even if this were a different kind of Bill, there would be no necessity to deal with the matter now. The industry cannot be established during the recess ; and I do not see the use of employing the closing hours of the session with measures which practically mean nothing, when the Ministry desire to conclude other business, in respect to a good deal of which the Opposition are willing to render assistance. This is not a question to be regarded from the point of view of the side of the House on which we happen to sit. I undertake to say that any honorable 'member on the other side, who looks at this question honestly and tries to form a just conclusion, will see the impotence of the whole proposal, just as, at any rate, one of the press supporters of the Government does to-day, when it expresses the opinion that this .measure is a hollow sham. I object entirely to this method of legislation, of which we have lately had two or three examples. We have had an Immigration Restriction Bill, which proposed to do a certain thing, and, by means of an amendment, failed to do it; then Ave had the Contract Immigrants Bill, which, until amended, .proposed to do something which it did not do, but left matters just as they were, or, perhaps.- Th a worse state. Now we have this measure proposing to do something with which neither the honorable member for Wide Bay nor myself agree.

Mr Fisher - I disagree with this manner of legislating.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am now speaking of the manner. When the Bill is passed it will do nothing.

Sir William Lyne - I think it will.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Another Parliament will have to pass a measure before anything can be done.

Sir William Lyne - Not a measure.


Sir William Lyne - I think it will be passed, and that plenty of iron will be' produced in the next seven or eight months.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not see how the Minister can entertain that hope, considering that he has just said that works have to be established for the purpose.

Sir William Lyne - I said that works, are being established.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are not, I understand, yet being established ; that is to say, the furnaces are not yet begun, though, I believe, some one has gone abroad about the business. However, that is immaterial. Either next session or next Parliament a measure has to be passed, and, instead of wasting time now, it would be infinitely' ' better to leave the consideration of the whole question until then. We are now only pretending to do something which may never be confirmed, and, even if it is, a real Act of Parliament will have to be passed to give substance to this empty shadow.

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