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Friday, 15 December 1911

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - Amidst all the confusion that seems to surround this very important question, one fact stands out prominently. It is that the people of Australia have, by a large majority, approved of the policy of Protection. That fact is beyond dispute. There is a majority of members of this Parliament in both Houses pledged to Protection. The only inference we can draw is that there is a majority in the country. But, nevertheless, what chance has that policy of being carried out? We have two parties in the Senate at present, and I ask any man who pays even the slightest attention to the question to say whether there is any hope in this direction from either of them. What is the standpoint of the party in power, the Labour party, the party which, of all others, ought to support the policy of Protection? The policy of the Labour party is that, when the people of the Commonwealth gives this Parliament the power to fix wages and conditions of labour, this party will assist in passing a truly Protectionist Tariff. I say frankly that I am not one of those who believe in that position. I believe it to be wrong. We can no more carry out our policy as a whole, all at once, than a man can build a house otherwise than brick by brick. We have a mandate from the people of Australia to pass a Protectionist Tariff. We asked them for power to fix wages and conditions of labour. They refused to give us that power. They gave us one mandate; they refused to give us the other. The wise, patriotic, and common-sense policy would be to establish a system of Protection, as required by the people of Australia, trusting to their good sense and 4502 Customs [SENATE.] Tariff Bill. to the righteousness of our cause to obtain the extra powers which we require at some future time. As far as I can see, Protection has no hope at present from the party in power. What has it to hope for from the party on the left of the President? That party is composed of Free Traders and Revenue Tariffists.

Senator St Ledger - Your own side is that.

Senator STEWART - That party is composed of men who are pledged up to the very hilt against any form of direct taxation. How do they propose to raise revenue if they oppose a Protectionist Tariff ?

Senator St Ledger - Which party is pledged against that?

Senator STEWART - The party with which the honorable senator is associated. Has it not opposed direct taxation within these walls? Is not the party outside, of which my honorable friends are the representatives here, opposed to direct taxation, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the States ? I want to know from that party, when they profess to be in favour of Projection, and to treat this amendment of the Tariff with scorn, and contempt, what they are prepared to do. They may say what they please, but I want to know how they propose to get revenue, if they give the country a Protectionist Tariff. If we have a Protectionist Tariff, they ought to know that just as it is Protectionist in its incidence, so it fails to give revenue. Both : sides of the Senate know that, or ought to know it. I have shown that, on the Government's own policy, as enunciated by honorable senators here, there is no hope, so far as Protection is concerned, from that side of the Chamber, and I claim that there is no hope from this side. Between the two stools, the country goes to the ground. The policy of Protection fails. Here we have an example of parliamentary government, as it is carried on in most civilized countries at the present time. The people of the Commonwealth have declared for a Protectionist policy - a policy which will create industries, and employ labour, not in Europe, or Africa, or India, but on Australian soil. The people of Australia have told us, their representatives in this Parliament, to pass a policy of that kind, and we simply cannot do it. Parliament is impotent. One side renders itself impotent, and fetters itself hand and foot. The other side wants revenue. It will not impose any kind of taxation other than Customs duties. No party can introduce a Tariff here which will at once create industries and yield revenue without taxing the ordinary necessaries of life to a much greater extent than any one in Australia, I think, desires should be the case. I want to know what is going to be done. Is the Government party going to wait for this warrant from the people before it will give any further Protection ? We have a feeble, halting, lame, impotent attempt in this Tariff to do something in that direction. It shows that, although the Government professes that it will not do this, and that it will not do that, still when pressure is brought to bear, though it swears it will never consent, it does consent. It seems to me that it is only a matter of sufficient pressure being brought to bear. I do not want to pose as a prophet, but I believe that at the coming election, unless the Government puts a move on, pressure will be brought to bear, and many of its present representatives will be defeated at the polls - men who stood on the platform and proclaimed their faith in the policy of Protection, and their desire to see it carried out, but who failed. When these men go before their constituents, in many cases, they will find that these people resent action of that description. We ought, I think, to take a national view of this question. I am appealing now to the party with which I am associated. I think that every man belonging to the Labour party is, or ought to be, a Protectionist.

Senator Gardiner - He ought to be a single taxer, too.

Senator STEWART - No ; he ought to be a land value taxer. The Labour man who is not a land value taxer does not know the A B C of his business. What I want to say - and perhaps some of my Free Trade Labour friends will excuse me for making the statement-

Senator O'Keefe - There is none of them here.

Senator STEWART - I do not know, but there used to be. Free Trade means no Customs revenue, while revenue Tariff means taxing the poorest of the people most of all. The latter is the kind of Tariff we have, and I do not find that the party in power, although it has the numbers, has any desire to alter it. We have here evidence of how far it is prepared to go. It is not prepared to deal exhaustively with the Tariff. In the Cabinet, we have a predominance of men who were professed Free Traders a few years ago.

Senator O'Keefe - That is not so.

Senator STEWART - I cannot get away from the conclusion that these men have had an overpowering influence in directing the policy of the Labour party.

Senator O'Keefe - That is not so.

Senator STEWART - I cannot see how any man who professes Labour principles can be a Free Trader in Australia. If he professes himself a Free Trader, he cannot be a Labour man.

Senator O'Keefe - In a Cabinet of ten members, there are seven Protectionists. What is the honorable senator talking about ?

Senator STEWART - I do not know how many men there are in the Cabinet, but it says very little for the seven Protectionists.

Senator O'Keefe - That may be so; but stick to facts all the same.

SenatorMillen. - Senator O'Keefe had better cease interjecting.

Senator O'Keefe - Senator Stewart said that there was a predominance of Free Traders, but apparently he does not know the members of the Cabinet.

Senator STEWART - There was a pre- dominance of Free Trade influence. I do not care how great a man's gifts may be, or how profuse his profession of a desire to help the working men of Australia may be, if he is a Free Trader or revenue Tariffist, he is only a hypocrite, a sham, and a fraud. That is my deliberate statement, and I am going to show how I came to that conclusion.

Senator Gardiner -In your travels, did you find any Protectionist countries to which you would advise working men in Australia to go?

Senator STEWART - I am not talking of other countries, but of a policy which is suitable for Australia. Here is the position of our Labour Free Traders. They say, for instance, to a manufacturer of boots, " You must pay your men 50s. or £3 a week. You must not work them for more than eight hours. You must give them the best conditions of labour which it is possible to bring about," and yet they expose him to the competition of countries where about one- third the rate of wages is paid, where about 50 per cent. more hours are worked, and where the sanitary and other conditions are not to be mentioned in the same breath with those prevailing in Australia. Some honorable senators may tell me that these people live in other countries, but they might just as well say to a bootmaker living in Swanstonstreet that he must do all the things which I have recounted, and at the same time allow a bootmaker in Bourke-street to carry on in the same way as does a bootmaker in Germany, or Great Britain, or some of those countries where sweated labour prevails to such an extent as to compete so largely with our workmen. The cost of transportation nowadays is so small that the product of cheap labour, coming into this country, no matter from what portion of the earth, competes unfairly from the point of view of Australia. I ask leave to continue myremarks at the next sitting.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned;

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