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Thursday, 7 June 1906

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON (Barker) - I move -

That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency's speech as read by the Clerk be agreed to by the House.

I suppose that His Excellency's speech contains nothing, that will surprise those who have carefully followed the addresses which the Prime Minister has delivered during the recess. It certainly presents a very long programme of work - long enough, I am afraid, to occupy, not merely three months, but three yeans. As the present session must necessarily be a short one, for the simple reason that it will be followed by the elections, I hardly see how we shall be able to accomplish all that the Government propose to ask us to do. At the last elections1 I declared myself to be in favour of fiscal peace ; but I imagine that the period during which ' fiscal peace was possible has now come to an end. If that be so, I must say that I now have to proclaim myself a militant protectionist. I take it for granted that this House will give effect to the reports which come to us with the unanimous approval of the Tariff Commission. But I would ask, " What will be done with the reports which do not command the unanimous approval of that body ? " I suppose that we shall get such reports, and if they are not dealt with, will not that fact create unrest in trade and commerce? If they relate to matters of urgency, I am disposed to think that such will be the case. I regret very much indeed that it has not been possible to establish trade relations with Great Britain on a preferential basis, but I sincerely hope that -the Government will succeed in giving, effect to a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand. Such a treaty would prove of great advantage to the sugar industry, especially if, as suggested' by Mr. Seddon, the Australian product be admitted into New Zealand free, whilst d'utv is collected upon sugar going into that country from all other parts of the world.

Mr Wilks - Is the honorable member a militant protectionist in the light of that statement ?

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - South Australia will also be interested in such a treaty, because New Zealand will provide a market for many of her products, especially for her wine, salt, and flour. It is highly satisfactory to know that South Africa made a favorable response to the Commonwealth proposals for reciprocity in trade, and it would be foolish indeed on our part if we did not utilize the opportunity of securing for ourselves a preferential market for some of our most important exports. I notice that the UnderSecretary of State for the Colonies, -Mr. Winston Churchill, at a Western Australian dinner in London the other day declared himself in favour of preference as between the dependencies of the British Empire. Now, if preference as between dependencies be good, would it not also be good, as a means of drawing trade relations closer, that there should be preference between the Colonies and the mother country?

Mr Mcwilliams - Upon the hustings the Under-Secretary of State for the [Colonies was one of the most bitter opponents of preferential trade.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - I notice that under present conditions Australian trade with British Possessions has a tendency to increase, and under a system of intercolonial reciprocity, such as is suggested by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, that movement would certainly be accelerated. Whilst the trade between the Colonies has a disposition to grow, the trade between the mother country and the Colonies tends to a diminishing ratio, only to some extent held in check by the voluntary concessions1 of preference which have been made by Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Mr Johnson - That statement is not borne out by the official statistics in the Blue Book.

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