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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) .- Honorable members opposite have taken exception, some for one reason, and some for another, to the introduction of these provisions; but it appears to me that the objection to pass the clause, unless the Minister makes a certain statement, which" it is alleged that he promised to make later on, is an argument not deserving of very much attention.


Mr HUGHES - What I mean is that it is quite immaterial whether the Minister has at his disposal certain instances which would seem to show that it might be desirable that this measure should become operative in the future. It is nothing to the point to say that there is to-day only one industry that might be affected bv the clauses, if to-morrow or next year there may be half-a-dozen other industries affected. I know very well that honorable members opposite, some of whom are freetraders, and some of whom have almost forgotten what thev are-

Mr Kelly - Like the honorable member !

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the honorable member nowadays?

Mr HUGHES - What am I nowadays? I occupy this singular position - that I am now exactly what I was when I first entered this Parliament ; and that is so far from being true regarding many honorable members opposite, that nine out of every ten of them do not know where thev stand. What has happened to some of them? Here, in the honorable member for

Gippsland, we have a living answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta - an interjection pertinent, as he imagines, but impertinent, as I think. He is the head and front of the offending. I suppose that he is the living embodiment of the protectionist policy. There is another Honorable member, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has lately found that creed, which he conveniently buried beneath the ocean of political exigencies for a little while.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the honorable and learned member and the Minister match them.

Mr HUGHES - The Minister and I have been on one side before. When we were on that side the honorable member was on the wrong side, as he is now.

Mr Kelly - What has this to do with the Bill?

Mr HUGHES - I am just holding up my end when I am attacked by honorable members who are sitting on the other side, and whose fiscal opinion is now rather murky. I am not going to say that mine is crystal clear, for, like St. Paul, I am beginning to see things " as through a glass darkly."

Mr Wilks - The honorable and learned member sees them upside down, I am very much afraid.

Mr HUGHES - At any rate, I shall follow the footsteps of my illustrious fiscal leader to the bitter end - the one who in season and out of season has always beer, consistent in his fiscal policy, and whom T have always followed faithfully and well.


Mr HUGHES - The right honorable member for East Sydney. Whom else would it be? I was returned here as his follower on the fiscal question, and I intend to follow him. Where does he lead me? He leads me to the lotus-eating land where these everlasting truths are laid aside for a convenient season. However, to return to the clause, honorable members on the other side affect to believe that it is essential that some revelations which the Minister has at his disposal should be divulged before the measure is passed. As I said, by way of interjection, dumping, theoretically considered), seems to me rather absurd. The children of Israel murmured at the manna. That was dumped undoubtedly, and at the end of a given time they got tired of -it. I assume that we are very much like the children of Israel ; certainly we are wandering in the wilderness. There is no' clear and certain light. There appears to be no particular reason why we should keep out foreign goods unless their importation disorganizes industries in this country. As to whether it does or not, all I have to say is that it can readily be seen whether it will do so. The honorable member for Robertson - whose argument in reference to American oil and locally-made shale oil would appear to represent the opinions of honorable members opposite - seems to me to have overlooked several most important facts, particularly, one set forth in clause 13. Who is to jud'ge as to what is unfair competition ? The honorable member for Robertson objected to the question being decided by a Justice of the High Court, because he would have had no commercial training. Tt is a singular thing that, first of all, honorable members on the other side objected to the Minister deciding the question, because he was a party man. They said that the Minister might hold one opinion to-day, and that he might be followed by another man with a different opinion to-morrow. , Then they objected to the question being decided by a' Board of business men, because they placed no reliance upon the men of whom it would be composed. And now they object to the Question being decided by a Justice of the High, Court, because he has had no business training.

Mr Cameron - We object to the whole Bill.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member takes up a consistent attitude, and that is right. It does seem absurd for honorable members to saw " We will accept this proposal if there is a different tribunal created," when they object equally to a tribunal composed of the Minister, to one .of business men, or to a Justice of the High Court.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who are the " they " whom the honorable and learned member is speaking of?

Mr HUGHES - I do not know.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member is speaking of different men with different opinions.

Mr HUGHES - All I know is that Justices of the High Court, like Justices of every other Court, are called upon nearly every day to decide matters of farreaching commercial interest, and that, in such matters, they take the opinion of experts.

I would sooner go before a Justice of any Court than I would before a mere board of so-called experts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That suggestion came from this side.

Sir William Lyne - No. It was suggested last year by this side, before the Bill was brought in.

Mr HUGHES - If the Minister knows of any particular industries the circumstances of which render it expedient that the measure should be brought into force immediately, he might let us know what they are. If he knows of any where it is expedient to take that course immediately

Mr Cameron - It would strengthen his case.

Mr HUGHES - Yes. I do not say for a moment that I should not vote for this proposal in any case, with this one safeguard - that it must not be put into force unless it be to the interests of the producers, workers, and consumers. Take, for instance, kerosene oil. On the face off it, how can it be to the interests of the consumer to impose such restrictions as will increase the price of kerosene oil by, say, 200 or 300 per cent.

Mr Wilks - Does not the honorable and learned member see how absurd the Bill is?

Mr HUGHES - I do not know what the Minister thinks. All I say is that, under the provision, he will not be the one to decide the point. If a man went into the Arbitration Court with a case, such as the honorable member for Robertson has given,he would not succeed. Take the Milk Carters' case, where the men asked for one delivery of milk on Sunday. Amongst other things, it was stated by the employers that this would necessitate the payment of higher wages, and some said, "We cannot afford to pay anincrease." The proof of that would settle the case. I apprehend that the same sort of evidence would be effective here. Therefore, if the price of a commodity is going to be enormously increased in that way, I apprehend that, under this section, a decision in favour of a particular manufacture could not be obtained. If such a decision were obtained, and the price of the commodity were effectively increased, then certainly that could not be consistent with showing a due regard to the interests of the producers, workers, and consumers. With my eyes open, I could not vote for anything that would have such a result.

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