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Friday, 15 December 1911

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I think I have made a proposal which is altogether different from that made by the honorable senator for the appointment of an independent Tariff board. Whilst pleased with the proposed amendment of the Tariff so far as it goes, I again express the hope that before very long we shall have a really . effective Protectionist Tariff for Australia.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.18]. - I think that Ministers might fairly ask to be saved from their friends. Every one of the supporters of the Government in the Senate, and also in another place, have condemned the Tariff now proposed as a wretched apology for the policy of Protection, in which they believe. The Government come down at the close of the session with a Bill which none of their supporters can say a word in favour of. Senator Keating has been unsparing in his condemnation of this measure. It may be said that the honorable senator is not a supporter of the present Government, but he is a supporter of a Protectionist policy for this country.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator has fallen from grace.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I presume that Senator O'Keefe does not consider that Senator E. J. Russell has fallen from grace?

Senator O'Keefe - No; he is true blue.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD.- But Senator E. J. Russell has been just as condemnatory of this wretched apology for a Tariff. Ministers cannot find a single ardent supporter of the Tariff now put before us. It may be that it has been introduced to enable the party opposite to tell the electors that they have done the best they possibly could in the circumstances. But they took care not to submit this Tariff at a time when it might be fully considered and dealt with effectively. We are asked at the close of the session to accept this measure as fulfilling the highsounding principles of Protection, which the Government have advocated. Is there an honest Protectionist in the Senate who will say that this Tariff meets the wishes of Protectionists?

Senator O'Keefe - We are all new Protectionists on this side, but the Government have not the power to carry the principles of new Protection.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - The Government were returned with an overwhelming majority of members to enable them to carry out the policy they had advocated. They told the electors that they intended to give effect to the principles of new Protection, and to adopt a scientific system of Protection, by means of which there would be high prices for the manufacturer, high wages for the wage-earner, and low prices for the consumer. But the electors soon found out how hollow were the shams which they placed before them. Within twelve months after their return to power the Government went again before the electors to ask for amendments of the Constitution, which they said were absolutely necessary to enable them to give effect to the policy of new Protection. What was the result ? The country turned the Government down. I do not say that the people who had been gulled previously by the Government entirely lost the idea that it would be possible to carry out the reform promised in the interests of manufacturer, wage-earner, and consumer.. Possibly a large number of people in this country are still under the impression that some Government will be able to carry such a policy into effect. But we know what happened on the 26th April last year.

Senator O'Keefe - The people of every country make mistakes sometimes.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT1 GOULD - The people of the Commonwealth made a mistake on the 13th April, 19 10, but on the 26th April last they said! to the present Government, " Although you say that the powers for which you ask are necessary to give effect to the principles of" new Protection, we will not trust you one step further than is absolutely necessary."' Although the people, on the 13th April,. 1 9 10, gave a verdict in favour of those who now occupy the Treasury bench, it was clear that they had discovered' the mistake they then made within' twelve short months afterwards, and they refused to amend the Constitution at the request of the party opposite. They said, " We are willing to trust you with powers sufficient to give effect to the policy of new Protection, but we are not willing to trust you with powers which you may abuse to the detriment of the States."

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Doesthe honorable senator think that the people would have voted, on the 26th of April last, for the policy he advocates?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT' GOULD - I think that the people who voted against the referenda proposals of the Government displayed a want of confidence in honorable senators opposite.. No doubt, they had found out that they had made a mistake twelve months previously, and were anxious to rectify it. What is the position with regard to Protection and Free Trade? We recognise that the verdict of the people has been given against the views of the Free Trade party. The Free Traders have fought the battle upon three occasions, but without success ; but as we have accepted the verdict of the people one honorable senator has suggested that we have become delegates. The fact is, that while accepting the verdict of the country in this matter, we are not such fools as to run our heads against a stone wall. I would remind honorable senators, however, that there are many Free Traders still in the Parliament of the Commonwealth; and I have little doubt that they will be returned to represent the people for many years to come.

Senator Blakey - Why does the honorable senator pose as an advance agent for Protection when he knows very well that he is not in favour of Protection?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have not posed as an advance agent for Protection.

Senator Blakey - The honorable senator has said that he accepts the verdict of the people.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - 1 have accepted the verdict of the people, as every man must do. When there is no possibility of bringing the people to what we believe to be a saner condition of mind, we must, as sensible men, accept the position.

Senator Millen - Senator Blakey is trying to show that he views this Tariff with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Senator Blakey - It is better than nothing.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - How consoling that statement must be to the Government. The honorable senator accepts the Tariff now proposed as better than nothing, and, with other supporters of the Government, he is most contemptuous in his references to what they have done in this matter. Although the Government talked of new Protection, they have, under the guise of attempting to rectify Tariff anomalies, introduced increased duties for the benefit of specially favoured industries, in which those who have been most persistent in the advocacy of their own interests are concerned. The requirements of industries which have not. had persistent advocates may go hang so far as the Government is con cerned. The Government say to these people, " As you have not taken the trouble to communicate with us, we do not consider it worth while to inquire whether any assistance should be given to your industries." So we have a measure submitted for the benefit of a few manufacturers, and not in the general interests of the country. If we are to have a system of Protection, it should be for the advantage of the country generally, and not in the interests of a few individual manufacturers. The Government of which Senator Millen was a member submitted a proposal for getting over Tariff difficulties. Honorable senators may say what they like in derogation of the honesty of Protectionist members of the late Fusion Government, but they cannot deny that they still occupy a place in the front rank of the Protectionists of Australia. That Government, in accepting the verdict of the country, and to get rid of all these wretched bickerings about the Tariff, proposed to appoint an independent Tariff board - and again we hear some honorable senators advocating the appointment of such a board - so that the question might be brought before Parliament in the light of full and fair information. If we are to have that -scientific Protection which some people talk about, how much better it would be to allow an independent body to devote their whole attention to the subject, and to make representations independently of Free Trade or Protectionist prejudices. At present we are working in the dark. What is the use of imposing a duty for the benefit of one industry if you are going to penalize a number of others?

Senator Blakey - The honorable senator is on good, solid ground there.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am glad to hear that recognised.

Senator Guthrie - There was just as much bickering over the Tariff Commission's report.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - But that was because the members of the Tariff Commission were strong party men. There were four Protectionists and four Free Traders. That method of inquiry merely demonstrated the futility of leaving such a subject to be dealt with by partisans.

Senator McGregor - Where would the honorable senator get his independent commission from?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - There are competent men in this country who would be able to make inquiries, and submit recommendations to Parliament, and whom we could trust to bring to bear a judicial temperament.

Senator Guthrie - I do not know where we should find men who would be absolutely independent in regard to such questions as Free Trade and Protection.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Do we not appoint to the Judicial Bench men who can be trusted to deal with the questions brought before them in a spirit of independence and impartiality ? With but possibly few exceptions our Judges have always been men who have upheld the judicial traditions of freedom from prejudice and partisan feeling. 1 feel satisfied that we could select such a body of men to deal with Tariff issues. Of course, if partisans were appointed, I admit that their recommendations would perhaps be of little value. But it would be a serious reflection upon the honesty of any Government to appoint men of that character. I am speaking from the point of view of a man who has been a Free Trader all his life. I have stood on Free Trade platforms over and over again. I have been returned to Parliament as a Free Trader. But I recognise that, rightly or wrongly, this country has adopted a Protectionist policy, and I want to see it carried out honestly, not by means of abortive measures, such as the one that the Government have now submitted to us. At present I am bound to register my strong condemnation of this Bill. It is nothing better than a source of disappointment and irritation to the people who were expecting it. It will do no good either on the one side or the other. Nevertheless, with the aid of their majority Ministers are prepared to rush it through Parliament; and then, I suppose, they will puff out their chests and say to the country, " See how we have carried out our pledges ! See how we have given effect to the policy approved of by the majority of the electors ! " Let us get rid of this sort of sham, and have a policy that is honest, straightforward, and effective. How many honorable senators really desire to stand behind the Government in respect of this measure? Honest Protectionists have condemned it already. How many of the supporters of the Government are prepared to exercise their independence of judgment, and condemn it also?

Senator Needham - T, for one, will exercise my independence.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am glad to hear the honorable senator say that.

Senator Millen - Senator Needham means that he will exercise his independence by voting with the Government every time.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - How often have we heard honorable senators by voice condemn, and by vote approve of, measures submitted by this Government. Honorable senators opposite are free enough in their language, but very seldom do they help to form a majority opposed to the Ministry. They are bound to their party, and have to make the best of what they regard, and honestly regard, as a very bad job, and a mere pretence at meeting the wishes of the people of the country.

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