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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr CAMERON (Wilmot) .- -I need hardly say that I strongly support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Franklin. The Minister of Trade and Customs proposes to add to it the words " without unfairly injuring any other section pf the community." It appears to me that those words would cover too much ground. If they are accepted, and one or two persons claim to be unfairly injured, they will prevent the primary producer from being considered. It is almost universally accepted that in all cases the majority should rule. That is the principle followed in this House, and I think it should be applied in this case. If it is shown that only a very limited number of persons are likely to be injured by the importation of the articles specified, and that their importation will benefit the great majority of the primary producers, it is the majority who should be considered. I am aware that the Minister has a majority of supporters behind him, but I still ask the honorable gentleman to so alter the amendment which he has proposed as to enable the interests of the majority of the persons concerned to be considered. Knowing how fond the honorable gentleman is of fair play, and that he is a strong believer in majority rule, I ask him not to impose conditions which may have disastrous effects upon the primary producers as a whole, and merely for the benefit of a few small men engaged in a particular trade.

Mr Kelly - The honorable member does not call McKay a small man ?

Mr CAMERON - I do not know whether he is a 'small or a big man, but I consider that he is a most unfair man. I am sorry to see that Ministers, who should consult the interests of the people as a whole, are prepared to consider the interests of individuals as against those of the great majority. We know that the interests of the towns are frequently diametrically opposed to those of the country, but if the country suffers the towns must feel the effect. In all the circumstances, it appears to me that the Minister should take a broadminded view of this matter. As the honorable gentleman is strong, he should be merciful. As this is about the last occasion in connexion with this Bill on which members of the Opposition can appeal to honorable members opposite to dojustice to the primary producers. I hope thev will respond unanimous! v to the appeal, and will accept the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin.

Mr. KELLY(Wentworth) [2.55!- Like the honorable member who preceded me, I also rise to make an appeal to the humanitarian instincts of the Minister in char,ge of this Bill. I hope the appeal will be successful, as otherwise I am afraid that the Committee will be called upon to divide on the question as to which, of the great industries of the Commonwealth is of more importance - the primary industries or the secondary industries, for whose benefit this Bill has been introduced. Without intending to be offensive, I think that the Minister may be congratulated upon the slimness of his amendment.

Mr Page - The honorable gentleman has outslimmed honorable members opposite.

Mr KELLY - The Minister's amendment is a very slim one, but I do not think it will go down with the people when they understand it properly. Under the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin, the Justice, in certain cases, would be required to take into consideration the question whether goods being imported will benefit the primary producer. If the Justice takes that into consideration, ipso facto he must also take into consideration the question whether their importation will not benefit every industry in Australia. Every industry we have, and every phase of trade in the Commonwealth, depends to some extent on the success of the primary industries. If, through lack of the proper implements and tools of trade, the primary industries languish, every industry in the Commonwealth must suffer. What is asked by the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin is, not that the primaryproducers should be given some unfair advantage, but merely that they shall be enabled without interference to continue their avocations, which are of so much benefit to the whole Commonwealth.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member is referring to the Minister's amendment.

Mr KELLY - No; the Minister's amendment is quite different. It is very specious, but it will not stand investigation. The Minister's proposed addition of the words " without unfairly injuring anyother section of the community," would enable any manufacturer to hold up the whole of the primary producing industries of the Commonwealth. One manufacturer has only to prove that " unfair competition." not in the usual acceptation of the term, but according to this Bill - and unfair competition according to this Bill is successful competition - is talcing place, and if it is shown that goods are being imported successfully against the local manufacturer, the whole of the producing industries of Australia may be held up. We have had enough of these catch cries. The Minister will deeply regret it if he insists on the insertion of the word, because the farmers of his own electorate will see the hollowness of the proposal, which is drafted to hoodwink them. The farmers of the Hume are quite as intelligent as the farmers in other parts of the Commonwealth, although they have in the past returned the Minister of Trade ar.d Customs as their representative.

Sir William Lyne - And they always will return me.

Mr KELLY - I am sure the farmers of the Hume will not retain their confidence in the Minister if he insists on these provisions. I do not seem to have been able to. induce the Minister to meet our views, or to act in the interests of his constituents; and we must have a division, so as to force on honorable members the duty of deciding whether we ought, on the one hand, to consider the great primary industries, or, on the other hand, the private fortunes of one or two manufacturers.

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