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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) .- I should not have attempted to detain the Committee at this stage, but for certain statements made by the deputy leader of the Opposition as to the possibility of Australia going, so to speak, to perdition under the present Administration. The honorable member took up some time in explaining the differences between himself and the Labour Party, and treated the Committee to an electioneering address. His speech was permeated with the fear of the Opposition that there is a possibility of a straight-out fight taking place between them and the supporters of the Government at the next general election. It is all very well for the deputy leader of the Opposition to endeavour to arouse jealousy and friction, but I shall not attempt to read ancient history, nor to indulge in recrimination. The honorable gentleman made accusations against Ministers, and asserted that they had done that for which they had no warrant from the country. He declared that they were not in a position to remain in possession of the Treasury benches. We may well ask ourselves whether the Opposition would allow the Government to remain in office another day if they had the numbers necessary to oust them; It was only yesterday that a former colleague of the leader of the Opposition publicly denied that he was under his leadership, and that being so, it ill becomes the deputy leader to accuse the Government of having two parties behind them. It is evident that honorable members opposite fear that at the next general election we shall have a straight-out fight between the Government and the Opposition, instead' of a triangular duel such as we have witnessed in the past.

Mr McWilliams - Is there only one party sitting behind the Government?

Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member will know all about that in due time. The honorable member for Parramatta condemned the Government for having failed to announce their policy for the next Parliament. It is only a few days since the leader of the Opposition complained that the programme announced by the Ministry was altogether too elaborate, and I should like honorable members to say whether we could have had a plainer statement of the intentions of the Ministry than was made by the Prime Minister on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The deputy leader of the Opposition was clamouring

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was the honorable member for Bland who was clamouring ; I merely quoted him.

Mr KENNEDY - The leader of the Opposition and those sitting behind him are always seeking to start a fresh hare. In view of the fact that they have told us repeatedly that the trade and commerce of Australia are going to perdition, I should like to point to a return published yesterday by the Customs Department, in relation to the State of Victoria. Unfortunately I have been unable to secure the statistics for the other States in time to quote them this evening, but it is interesting to learn that the exports of Victoria, during the first five months of this year, show an increase, as compared with those for the corresponding period of 1905, of no less than £3,700,000. Does that suggest that we are going to ruin. It has also been urged by the Opposition that the Commerce Act will have a serious effect upon our trade.

Mr Johnson - What about the mangled industries of Victoria?

Mr KENNEDY - Let us deal with one question at a time. Complaint has been made that the Prime Minister neglected to announce the intentions of the Government with respect to the imposition of a land tax.

Mr Wilson - Have we not a right to know something about their intentions in that regard?

Mr KENNEDY - Certainly, and no doubt the Opposition will have a full statement of the intentions of the Ministry at the approaching general election. We know, however, that the Prime Minister has no intention of introducing land tax proposals during the present session. We have been told that it is impossible to administer the Commerce Act - that it will seriously damage the trade of Australia- and reference has been made on more than one occasion to the likelihood of its having a very damaging effect upon the butter industry. During the last ten days I have been attending a conference of the Cooperative Dairymen's Society of Victoria, which exports a considerable quantity of butter. We have a State law relating to the conditions under which butter may be exported from Victoria, and the conference to which I refer was called to discuss the draft regulations under the Commerce Act, and to interview the Minister. I think that the honorable member for Echuca will bear out my statement that the discussion showed that there was very little difference between the representatives of the butter industry of Victoria and the Minister. In Victoria we have made an attempt to market our butter on cooperative principles, and I hope that that system will soon prevail throughout Australia. Producers' are marketing their butter without the intervention of middle men.

Mr Johnson - The Australian Industries Preservation Bill will apply to them.

Mr KENNEDY - lt will not affect them. It is idle for the honorable member to attempt to scare me. I am in the business, and have no fear in that regard. A Victorian Act compels the inspection of butter before it can be put on board ship for export, and under that Act butter is graded in two classes.

The CHAIRMAN - Do I understand that the honorable member is discussing the Australian Industries Preservation Bill ?

Mr KENNEDY - No. It has been stated that there is a possibility of the Customs Department taking certain action, under the Commerce Act, and, as the Bill makes provision for the administration of that Department, I hold that I am entitled to discuss the matter. It has been said by some that it is undesirable to place a grade stamp on butter exported from Australia. But, strangely enough, although there has been no compulsory branding under the Victorian Act, during the past year a grade stamp has been placed on 90 per cent, of the butter exported from the State, and no complaint has arisen therefrom. At the same time, it is only fair to those engaged in the trade to say that the consent to use the grade stamp was obtained under a misunderstanding. Apparently, the Customs Department do not ask that any mark be placed on the butter-boxes other than that required to be placed there by the laws of the State, though it requires to be informed of the quality of the butter proposed to be exported.

Mr Wilks - Is not the branding of the butter a farce? Are not the brands removed when the butter gets to the old country ?

Mr KENNEDY - That .is an evil which can . be remedied. The honorable member, no doubt, is aware that legislation is now being passed in Great Britain to regulate the importation of food stuffs, and especially of butter. As I understood the reply of the Minister to those engaged in this business, all *he requires is that a stamp shall be placed on their produce, showing what it is; and he' is prepared to allow a certificate, testifying to the quality of the butter, to be supplied to the Department, and to be available for inspection if asked for where the butter is sold. I feel sure that the Minister has had too much experience to neglect the representations made to him, and that he will not do anything to damage this industry. It has been continually stated in this Chamber that the legislation of this Parliament has been directed towards the injury of the trade and commerce of Australia ; but we have actual proof that such is not the case, and I trust that those statements will not be repeated. In mv opinion, if the Acts placed on the statute-book are administered reasonably, and according to the dictates of common sense, the producers of Australia will have nothing to fear from them. ,

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