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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr FOWLER (PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - But the importer would have to prove that he had not the intent to destroy ; under certain conditions, the onus of proof is on the importer. An ordinary every-day commercial transaction of that kind ought not to be stigmatized as criminal. We ought to hesitate before we apply the word "criminal" to any transaction of the kind between the mother country and Australia. Earlier in the debate the honorable member for Melbourne Ports interjected something about protecting Australia against pauper labour, inferring, of course, that even in Great Britain pauper labour is employed, and that it is necessary to take measures, otherwise than under the Tariff, to put an end to competition arising from that cause. I desire to refer to that phase of the question very shortly. It is, I notice, assumed by those who profess to be protecting the interests of workers in Australia, that if there is a difference of 50 per cent. in the wages here, as against those ruling in Great Britain, there ought to be protection to the extent of 50 per cent. Without revealing any of the evidence given to the Commission, I may say that I believe that amongst other results of their investigation, some very useful little protectionist fictions will be exploded', and that the particular fiction, as to the necessity of high protective duties in the interests of the workers of Australia, will among others be exploded. Those who take the same view as does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, ferret that in most of the industries affected, machinery plays avery large and important part - that, as a matter of fact, the value of the labour, in a greatmany of the products we wish to protect under the Bill, is not more than 25 per cent. of the whole cost of production. It is obvious that when we desire to protect labourby means of a Tariff, or a Bill of this kind, we car. protect only that portion of the goods into which labour has been introduced. The value of the labour employed in making, say, £100 worth of goods averages, perhaps, £25, and if the difference between the rates of wages here and in Great Britain is 50 per cent., the amount of protection to be given should be equivalent to 50 per cent. of £25. When honorable members have the reports of the Tariff Commission 'before them, they will see that the cost of exporting goods to Australia, taking into account freight, insurance, wharfage, exchange, and other charges, frequently amounts to more than the value of the labour employed' in the production of similar goods in Australia.

Mr Mauger - We have heard that old free-trade gag before.

Mr FOWLER - Perhaps the honorable member is an authority on gagging. He has undoubtedly studied economic questions closely and with ability, and it is, therefore, a matter for surprise that he puts forward the contentions upon which he is relying in the fiscal campaign in which he is now engaged.

Mr Mauger - The freight from one part of Australia to another is often greater than that from Great Britain to Australia.

Mr FOWLER - I have shown that the Bill is not required for the protection of labour. I am prepared, whenever a Tariff is brought before us, to vote for such duties as will amply protect the workers engaged in Australian industries, and I believe that many who hold the same fiscal faith as I do are prepared to take a similar course. But we must have an absolutely safe basis upon which to make our calculations as to the amount of protection requisite. The question of protecting persons who have insufficient capital, or manage badly, or suffer from lack of customers, is entirely different from the question of protecting the workers engaged in any industry.

Mr Mauger - Money and rents are both higher in Australia than in England.

Mr FOWLER - The talk about the need for high duties to protect the workers will be shown by investigation to be mere, clap-trap.

Mr Wilks - Does the evidence taken by the Tariff Commission bear out what the. honorable member is saying?

Mr FOWLER - I ask the honorable member to possess his soul in patience until he has an opportunity to read that evidence for himself. The amendment is. one which I think the Committee should agree to, and which I shall certainly support, as a recognition of the essential nature of the relations between Australia and the mother- country, and an indication of what I believe to be the general conviction of a majority of honorable members that, wherever objectionable trade may come from, it certainly does not come from the mother country. Knowing as I do the industrial conditions which prevail in Great Britain, I consider it in the highest degree unlikely that any injury to our industries is ever to be expected from that quarter.

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