Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr LEE (Cowper) - - I have listened very carefully to the honorable member for Moira, and I ami sorry that I cannot agree with him. He said that the mother country did not desire to have separate treatment accorded to her. I do hot believe she does, but she certainly wants to be dealt' with straightforwardly and fairly. When she conferred upon us our Constitution, she left us at liberty to erect our Tariff wall against her, as well as against other nations, and she is content to rely on her own resources. During the last elections, Ministers were preaching fiscal peace and preferential trade, but now they have turned a complete somersault, and apparently desire to enter upon a fiscal war. The members of the Opposition are now the only advocates of fiscal peace, and are taking the present opportunity to show that they are prepared to grant a preference to England over other nations. The question of regulating prices for our produce has been referred to. Any person who knows anything about business -must be aware that it is exceedingly difficult to fix prices. This has always been a great source of trouble to exporters who have to send their produce to England, and accept whatever price they can get. In order to protect themselves they have, in some cases, created what is known as an export fund. For instance, if butter is being sold for rod. per lb. in Sydney - which is a very high price - and does not, after all expenses of shipment have been paid, realize that amount in London, the export fund is drawn upon to cover the loss incurred Such an arrangement is necessary in connexion with our export trade, but under the Bill i't would be considered as involving unfair competition. It appears to me that in the drafting of this measure, the interests of trie consumer have been entirely ignored. Take the case of a plough that can be manufactured in England and sold here at £4 10s., whereas a similar plough could not be manufactured and sold here for less than £6 10s. The Bill would offer a premium to the importers to put the difference of ,^2 in their pockets, instead of giving to the purchaser the benefit of it.

Mr Bamford - They would not do such a thing.

Mr LEE - They must do it in. order to avoid the risk of being charged wilh carrying on unfair competition. The measure is designed, in the interests of the merchants and the importers. It is built up, not upon the golden rule "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise," but upon the principle of doing unto others what you would not wish them to do unto you. It has been said that it would be an insult to Great Britain to allow her to trade with the Australian portion of her Empire without any interference, whilst excluding the goods of other nations. Personally, I consider that the mother country would be prepared , to submit to a great number of such insults.

All that she asks is a fair field and no favour. Of course, if honorable members wish to extend a preference to Great Britain, I, as a free-trader, do not object. I have never objected to our Customs duties being reduced in favour of the mother country.

Mr Bamford - The honorable member is. not a rabid free-trader.

Mr LEE - I am what I am.

Mr Page - And nobody knows it better than the honorable member himself.

Mr LEE - Very often it happens that a man does not know what he is himself. The free-traders have always been prepared to accept any reduction of our Customs duties in favour of England. The Ministry appear to have lost all faith in the policy of protection, otherwise they would be prepared to deal with these matters in the Tariff. But, in order to give effect to their cry of "Australia for the Australians," they are now seeking to obtain, by legislative enactment, a prohibition on the importation of certain goods. I do not think that thev will be altogether successful in their efforts. They will not be able to fly the flag of "Australia for the Australians " so far as the British' Empire is concerned. That phrase should not form the motto of the Ministry, because its general acceptance would simply result in the wiping out of Australia. If we are not prepared to trade with the British Empire and with other nations, they will not wish to trade with us, and, under such circumstances, we might just as well discontinue the running of our mail steamers, abolish our cable services, and live isolated from the rest of the world. Honorable members opposite appear to be actuated bv a desire to emulate Robinson Crusoe. I do not agree with the honorable member for Riverina that there is any question of loyalty involved in the amendment. I. consider that Ministerial supporters are thoroughly loya) to the British throne, but, at the same time, they are not loyal to British trade and commerce. If they object to the amendment, thev tire not sincere in their desire to extend a preference to Great Britain.

Mr Mcwilliams - I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]

Suggest corrections