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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) .- While no one is more pleased than I that you, sir, should occupy the position which 'you do now, I deeply regret that in the body of the Chamber we have not the advantage of the presence of Mr. McDonald, the labour member for Kennedy, in the discussion of this very important amendment. It is strange that while this loyalist amendment is under discussion there is not a single member of the Labour Party present, with the exception of the Chairman of Committees and the honorable member for Melbourne. It is reasonable to suppose that the members of the party are now engaged in caucus discussing what action they shall take in regard to this proposal. The honorable member for North Sydney has on many occasions rendered signal service, not only to the Commonwealth, but to the Empire, but he never rendered a more signal service that he did in submitting his amendment upon the Contract Immigrants Bill providing for the exemption from some of its provisions of British labourers introduced under contract.

Mr Kelly - The Treasurer inferentially took credit for that amendment when he was in London.

Mr WILKS - I am astonished that the honorable member for Wentworth should tell me that the right honorable member for Swan inferentially desired to obtain credit for that loyal amendment submitted by the honorable member for North Sydney in the Contract Immigrants Bill. If that be so, I can understand the right honorable gentleman's sudden exit from the Chamber. In dealing with the amendment which is now before the Committee, it is most desirable that the Treasurer should adopt the same attitude in Melbourne that he took up in London some few months ago. There, speaking with the responsibility and credit attaching to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the right honorable gentleman uttered highly loyal arguments, and I ask that he should adopt the same attitude when dealing with this amendment.

Mr Page - Does the honorable member accuse the Treasurer of disloyalty?

Mr WILKS - If the statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth be correct, I must accuse the honorable gentleman, if not of actual disloyalty, at least of backing down upon his utterances in London only a few months ago. The Minister of Trade and Customs has had a troublesome time with this Bill. Whenever the honorable gentleman has charge of a Bill, he is unfortunate enough to receive a more severe jacketting than does any other member of the Ministry in a similar position. I am very sorry to have to join in an attack upon the honorable gentleman, but when he refuses to accept such an amendment as has now been submitted, I am absolutely compelled to say harsh things of him which otherwise I probably would not say. On reconsideration, I hope that the honorable gentleman will admit that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for North Sydney is worthy of acceptance. I am afraid that I shall be compelled to quote the honorable gentleman's own utterances - not the utterances of some designing oppositionist who desires to secure the Minister's position - to show how difficult it is to understand why an honorable gentleman, who is so oval : and so British, should refuse to accept an amendment exempting articles produced in Great Britain from the operation of the dumping provisions of this Bill. The honorable member for North Sydney urged in support of the amendment that British manufacturers should be exempt from these dumping provisions in just the same way that labour from Great Britain nas been exempted from the provisions of the Contract Immigrants Act. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports accepted the amendment which was moved on the Contract Immigrants Bill, affecting contract British labour, and we now ask the honorable member and other honorable members opposite to prove their bona fides as citizens of the Empire, by agreeing to exempt from these dumping provisions the products of British manufacturers.

Mr Mauger - I want British labourers here, but I do not want their sweated work here.

Mr WILKS - That is the attitude adopted by the Attorney-General last night when he came to the rescue of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable and learned gentleman, in a dramatic manner, asked whether we would allow the products of sweated labour to come in here. But honorable gentlemen opposite acquiesced in proposals to permit the sweated labourers of Great Britain to come here under the Contract Immigrants Act.

Mr Kennedy - They must come at the same rates of wages as are paid here.

Mr WILKS - We will deal with that later. The amendment now before the Committee is, in my opinion, the strongest yet presented in this Chamber to test the loyalty and British instincts of those who call themselves preferential traders.

Mr Kennedy - The honorable member is comparing things which are not alike.

Mr WILKS - I am accustomed to the practice of parliamentarians in twisting; things as the honorable member is now trying to twist this matter. Last night the Attorney-General, in defending the Minister of Trade and Customs, squealed like a rat caught in a trap, but all he could say was, " Do not let us Jose the Bill in order to exempt the productions of sweated labour." The protectionists who have advocated preferential trade have objected to the production, not of the sweated labour of free-trade Great Britain, but of protectionist Germany and America. The honorable member for Riverina has told us that this is a Bill for the preservation of Australian industry, but since the second readme; of the measure, the Minister of Trade and Customs has tabled seven pages of amendments, and really, the second reading of the measure, as it now stands, has not yet been passed. AH that we have passed is an attractive title. This is in accordance with the placard system of legislation adopted by French politicians, who are satisfied if only they can carry a title. The honorable _ member for Riverina has tried to hoodwink honorable members, the press, and_ the electors bv the assertion that what he is now supporting is a measure for the preservation of Australian industries. But the Attorney-General ma.y alter the whole scope of the measure, and the Minister of Trade and Customs may table, not seven, but seventy, pages of amendments, and so long as the attractive title remains, the honorable member for Riverina will vote for it. On the 1 8th of October last, the honorable member asked the following question of the Prime Minister: -

Whether his attention has been directed to the operations of the International Harvester Company of America in reducing the price of harvesters to ^'70, with the avowed object of capturing the Australian trade, and crushing out the existing industries of the Commonwealth?

That was followed by another question, and to both the honorable member obtained answers -from the Prime Minister. I have here a bill-head of a business firm, and from it I learn that the honorable member for Riverina is an agent, not for the International Harvester Company, but for H. V. McKay's Sunshine harvester.

Mr Chanter - The honorable member is absolutely wrong. _

Mr WILKS - I have here an account with the heading " J. M. Chanter and Sons," and showing the district in which they operate, and the articles in which they deal.

Mr Kelly - The honorable member may not be referring to the same firm.

Mr Chanter - The honorable member is absolutely wrong.

Mr WILKS - Is not the honorable member connected with this firm ?

Mr Chanter - Absolutely, no.

Mr WILKS - The question is whether the honorable gentleman was connected

Avith it at that time.

Mr Chanter - I shall take an opportunity to reply to this, Because that document was put in for a purpose, and the statement made is absolutely without foundation.

Mr WILKS - It is put in for no purpose but to answer the braggadocio of the honorable member, who stood up here and said that honorable members who are supporting the amendment wish to make provision for the destruction of Australian industries. Let me tell the honorable member that I am as strong an advocate of the preservation of Australian industries as he is, although I do not desire that a few industries should be preserved at the expense of the general public.

Mr Isaacs - I have looked at the billhead, and I do not think it says that T- M. Chanter and Sons are agents for McKay at all. It appears merely that thev are agents for an insurance company, and also sell " Sunshine " harvesters.

Mr WILKS - The Attorney-General again comes to the rescue with legal quibbles. He says the firm are not agents for Mr. McKay, but they sell his harvesters.

Mr Isaacs - Does the honorable member mean to say that every man who sells an article is an agent for the manufacturer ?

Mr WILKS - This firm has a perfect right to sell these articles, but I have made the reference in reply to the honorable member for Riverina, who twitted honorable members on this side with supporting the amendment for a certain purpose.

Mr Chanter - Will the honorable member be satisfied if I say that personally I have never obtained a solitary sixpence from any interest in the firm?

Mr WILKS - I know the honorable member so well that I readily accept his assurance. I am sorry that he should have been led' to say certain things in the heat of debate. We are simply asking, that there shall be inserted in this Bill such a provision as exists in the New Zealand Act. It reads -

For the purposes of this Act, implements of British manufacture shall be deemed to be manufactured in New Zealand, and the importers of such implements shall be deemed to be manufacturers thereof in New Zealand.

What reason is there why a similar provision should not be inserted in this Bill? It is a singular thing that, in the paper furnished to honorable members by the Government, ostensibly giving information with regard to trust legislation in different countries, no mention is made of this seclion as being in operation in New Zealand.

Sir William Lyne - I mentioned it in my second-reading speech.

Mr WILKS - Why was it not referred to in the memorandum prepared for the use of honorable members by the Government? Had it not been for the industry and research of the honorable member for North Sydney, probably few of us would have been aware of it. I shall not dwell upon the fact that this Government proposes to exclude the goods of our own kith and kin. The honorable member for Wentworth has emphasized that point. But I should like to quote from a lecture delivered bv the Minister of Trade and Customs, bearing upon this very question. The lecture has been reprinted in pamphlet form and issued in a neat cover of the proper socialistic colour - red. Let me read the whole title-page -

Imperial Reciprocity. Lecture delivered by the Honorable Sir William J. Lyne, K.C.M.G., Minister for Trade and Customs, Commonwealth of Australia, before the British Empire League, Sydney, in the Royal Society's rooms, 25th January, 1904.

It sounds well, and it looks well. The " K.C.M.G." is there. It looks very imposing. From that lecture I will quote some remarks bearing upon this matter -

Do they consider that for a paltry and often imperceptible difference in cost, the whole sum total of our benefits in trade is buying in the cheapest market? I repeat that we are vitally interested in the prosperity and prestige of the great centre of the British Empire, and if there is anything we may contribute to its maintenance and progress, so much will it be to our lasting and permanent advantage, apart altogether from those feelings of sentiment and patriotism which, contrary to the opinions expressed by certain ill-natured and ill-informed critics, inspire the hopes and ambitions of the Australian people. We need have little fear of any interference with our own manufactures. There are certain and many articles, owing to a limited demand, and in the absence of specially skilled labour, which for many years to come we are not likely to be able to produce here with any possible success, and it is the trade in these articles which we hope, by the adoption of Mr. Chamberlain's proposal, will be restored to the hands of British manufacturers and British workmen.

Mr Page - What is there wrong about that?

Mr WILKS - Nothing wrong at all; but in the face of that statement does the honorable gentleman intend to oppose this amendment? If he was not lip-loyal at that time, I respectfully ask him as Minister to accept it. It will be no climbdown.

Sir William Lyne - We cannot have one-sided reciprocity.

Mr WILKS - Then am I to understand that all the loud-mouthed statements of the Prime Minister - who once occupied three hours in advocating preferential trade - and those of the Minister of Trade and Customs were simply a matter of bargainhunting? Am I to understand that they are only preferential traders so long as they can make a bargain favorable to Australian sellers ?

Mr Mauger - Who said that?

Mr WILKS - They say it themselves.

Mr Mauger - Nonsense !

Mr WILKS - It is all very well for the honorable member for 66 Bourke-street to say that but why does not the Minister accept this amendment?

Mr Hughes - It is all right; the honorable member has to keep the debate going for an hour.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member for West Sydney will not have many months to go, so far as his membership of this House is concerned, if he votes against this amendment. Why does he not vote and fight on the side on which he has always been in the past?

Mr Hughes - Which side did the honorable member vote with in the past?

Mr WILKS - The right side, the loyal side, the British side.

Mr Hughes - I remember when the honorable member was not on that side.

Mr WILKS - I can remember when the honorable member for West Sydney was on the same side as myself, but he did not stay very long with me, and I am pleased that he did not, though I think he would like to have me in his company.

Mr Hughes - I should like to have the honorable member's personal company, yes ; but as for his political company, no.

Mr WILKS - We are in different camps now ; but under the new re-arrangement of electorates, I have made the honorable member a present of 5.000 of my warmest supporters. That is a tribute to my friendship for him ; though I do not think they will do him much good. As a matter of fact, 5,000 free-traders and staunch loyalists have been dumped into the honorable member's electorate.

Mr Hughes - It will take the honorable member all his time to look after " Selina."

Mr WILKS - It would take the honorable and learned member all his time if he came out against me.

Mr Hughes - Neither the honorable member for Dalley nor any of his " crowd " would dare to oppose me. Let the right honorable member for East Sydney come out against me.

The CHAIRMAN - I must ask the Committee to take this discussion seriously. This is a deliberative assembly and I must ask honorable members to maintain order.

Mr Hughes - I desire to apologize. The whole thing was spontaneous. Under the same circumstances, I should say the same thing again, though I should be very sorry for it immediately afterwards.

Mr WILKS - What would happen to our trade if Great Britain applied provisions similar to those which we are discussing to butter, meat, fruits, and wines from Australia?

Mr Mauger - What does Great Britain give to us in the way of trade that she does not give to foreign nations?

Mr WILKS - The honorable member's only concern seems to be that Great Britain does not close her ports to foreign nations. There is a spirit of bargaining behind all these so-called preferential traders. I ask that the amendment shall be supported for reasons of loyalty and gratitude to the country which has protected our commerce and our very lives for so many years. I ask the honorable and learned member for West Sydney to give the matter his earnest consideration, because I know that his instincts are strongly in this direction.

Mr Hughes - If the honorable member would attach to the amendment a provision that the goods shall be made in Great Britain with labour employed at trade union wages, I will vote for it.

Mr WILKS - Personally, I shall be delighted to vote for such an amendment if the honorable and learned member will propose it.

Mr Hughes - Let the honorable member move it. and I will vote for it.

Mr Mauger - Let it provide for the payment of Australian trade union rates.

Mr WILKS - I should like to make a further quotation from the lecture of the Minister of Trade and Customs to which I have previously referred. He said -

In my opinion our Tariff is of such a character as would readily lend itself for such a purpose of Imperial reciprocity. The rates throughout are moderate, and on many of the articles which the United Kingdom could readily supply us with, a sufficient and moderate preference would not tend to raise the rates to anything like those of the large majority of protected countries. I refer particularly to textiles, metals and machinery, hardware, earthenware, chinaware, glass, drugs, and chemicals, &c:

These are the very articles for which the amendment would provide an inlet. The Minister of Trade and Customs admits the strong position which British products hold in comparison with our own; and he has expressed a desire that the former should be allowed to come in, and suggested that the Tariff would prove a ready machine for the adoption of Imperial reciprocity. Now, however, by means of this Bill, the honorable gentleman seeks to erect a stone wall against those British products. The amendment is not a hostile, but a friendly, proposal submitted with the object of assisting the Government. Time after time Bills have been improved by the Opposi tion, and the Attorney-General himself, in relation to the measure before us, has asked the assistance of honorable members on this side in moulding legislation. I have quoted the Minister of Trade and Customs as practically supporting the idea contained in the amendment, the only difference between the honorable gentleman's utterances then, and his utterances now, being that the former were delivered to Imperial music before the Empire League. My own opinion is that the Opposition would receive more credit if they allowed legislation, which is hurtful to the community, to be passed in the shape proposed by the Government. The Opposition are wasting their time, from a tactical point of view, in improving and watering down legislation, such as has been submitted to us during the last eighteen months ; and it would be just as well, after the failure of an attempt to defeat the second reading of such Bills, if these had been allowed to go, with all their blemishes, before the public.

Mr Chanter - Try that plan for the rest of the session !

Mr WILKS - The Minister of Trade and Customs has admitted that his original proposals were wrong, seeing that, since the second reading of this Bill, he has tabled no less than seven pages of amendments - practically a new Bill.

Mr Mauger - This is the third time the honorable member has said that.

Mr WILKS - It will bear repeating. If the public know how the Minister of Trade and Customs butchers his own measures, they will know what value to attach to his proposals.

Mr.Johnson. - And yet we are told that this Bill received the mature consideration of the whole Cabinet.

Mr WILKS - The late Richard Seddon, the great tribune of New Zealand, was so much a Britisher that he made the provision which the amendment seeks to have embodied in the Bill. If New" Zealand, which is in the van of progressive and protective legislation, could make an exemption in favour of British products, we surely may follow that example.

Mr Hughes - To what extent does New Zealand favour British products?

Mr Chanter - To the extent of one particular line only.

Mr WILKS - The New Zealand Act provides that implements of British manu.facture shall be deemed to be manufactured in New Zealand - that the importer shall be deemed to be the manufacturer.

Mr Hughes - That is only with regard to one particular line.

Mr WILKS - It is a very large line; the honorable and learned' member for West Sydney must admit that machinery and metals represent about our largest importations'.

Mr Chanter - No.

Mr WILKS - I happen to have the figures which were quoted by the Minister ot Trade and Customs.

Mr Chanter - Another fact gene wrong !

Mr WILKS - The figures I have are the figures quoted by the Minister of Trade and Customs himself. The honorable member for Riverina laughs at the figures which were used by the Minister on the 24th January, 1904 ; and I am therefore compelled to repeat them for the benefit of this blind supporter of the Ministry. The importations of British steam-engines in 1898 represented -£164,000, as compared with ,£411,000 worth in 1901,; while the importations of other machinery in 1898 represented ,£787,000, as compared with ,£1,025,000 worth in 1901. Honorable members will thus see the importance of the importations of manufactures of metals, including machinery.

Mr Hughes - Is it suggested that these importations should be admitted free?

Mr WILKS - It is suggested that these importations should have preferential treatment. Great Britain opens her ports to us ; and the honorable member for Moira, for one, is glad to know that butter, meat, and other products of Australia find a market in the old world. We cannot sell to Great Britain unless we buy from Great Britain - we cannot be sellers unless we are also buyers. We do not buy primary products, but manufactured products, from Great Britain, and those most in demand in Australia are manufactured metals and machinery. The Minister of Trade and Customs ought to be the first to support such an amendment. We have had many services at the hands of the honorable member for North Sydney, and this amendment represents another ; and I trust that the AttorneyGeneral will not regard the proposal as in any sense obstructive. Last night the Attorney-General said he would put honorable members to the test on the question of preferential trade. I now ask honorable members to reverse the order of things, and to put the Attorney-General to the test. Now is the golden opportunity; we do not want lip loyalty, but some practical exemption in favour of British products. What the Attorney-General means by ' ' dumping " can never take place in connexion with British products, though the definition by the Minister of Trade and Customs would appear to embrace all trades. So long as there is a. single Australian industry, employing;, it may be, one boy or a child, so long will the Minister of Trade and Customs, strong protectionist that he is, regard as unfair and injurious competition any attempt by Great Britain, or any other country, to undersell the local manufacturer. I know that the AttorneyGeneral does not take so small a view ; and, truly, this is a matter beyond any mere question of free- trade or protection. According to the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs, there are annually imported articles to the value of ,£7,000,000 which we cannot hope to manufacture for years to 'Come; and, under the circumstances, the honorable gentleman ought to be prepared to extend just and generous treatment to the mother land.

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