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PROTECTION V. FREETRADE.

what the Latter has done for new south wales.

At a recent meeting at Sydney of the Freetrade and Liberal Association of New South Wales the following able fcddtesft was read by Dr Garran, M.LC,: —

Fifty years ago, when liberalism in politics was beginning to raise its head in New South Wales with some prospects of success, and some prophetic sentiment of the future that was before it, the enthusiasts of that day would have thought it strange if they had been told that the beginning of our second centennium would have witnessed the' necessity for a vigorous effort to preserve freedom. And yet so it is. We unfurl again to-night tho flag on which is inscribed freedom of trade, with a regretful consciousness that a large and powerful organisation of our fellow-colonists exists, determined, if they can, to trail that banner in the dust. There has never been a cause in the world so bad that it has not enlisted some good men in its support, and I am not here to-night to disparage the intellectual competence or the moral conscientiousness of those who think that the beneficial range of freedom is limited, and that as applied to industrial operations it is a curse. But this I will say, that those who attack freedom in any of its applications have the whole burden of the argument resting on their shoulders. THE LIBERTY OF MAN. The long otory of human effort, as we have it from the first dawn cf civilisation, is one continuous tale of tho effort of man the slave to become man the free. Think of the inspiration that has run through all those centuries, that has touched the noblest spirits of so many climes, so many countries, and so many creeds! Think of the soldiers who have spilled their blood, and have wished it more for the sacred cause for which they died! Think of the prisoners who have counted the weary hours of solitude in lonely cells, crying out "0 Lord, how long?" Think of the martyrs who have been taken to the scaffold and the stake ! Think of the orators who have passionately exhausted themselves in appeals, at one time to the tyrant, at another time to the slave ! Think ofthe poets who have turned their scalding tears into burning words ! and then ask whether it is for us to disprove that freedom is a blunder. Surely we have reached a stage in the world's experience when we may lay it down as a rule that the presumption is alwayß in favor of liberty, and when the burden of proof rests on those who proclaim that liberty is a mistake. There are such even in this year of grace. There are those who think that liberty of thought is a mistake, that liberty of speech is a mistake, that liberty of the Press is a mistake, that liberty of worship is a mistake, that liberty of vote is a mistake. To-night, however, we have to deal, not with the whole army of enemies to liberty, but only with those who are hostile to liberty as applicable to man in his industrial capacity. There is a large party of persons in this colony eager for the next general election, who say: " Ob, you may think as you like, you may speak as you like, you may write as you like, you may vote as you like, you may worship as you like, but you must not trade as you like." THE FREEDOM OF INDUSTRY. Now, why this exception to the law of liberty ? What ia there exceptional in industry, and the interchange of the products of industry, which puts it so out of rapport with freedom ? It rests, I say, with those who assert the exception to prove it. Why should man, the industrial, do better in fetters than out of them ? We are told seriously that if some percentage is taken off his individual effectiveness this will bring about a generally better result. Make tho raw material dearer, make the cost of machinery greater, and limit the market for the output, and the most magnificent national results will follow. That is the doctrine against which we are called upon to organise and protest. That is the doctrine, wrapped up in fallacies, baited with the prospect of personal plunder, and spiced with personalities and accusations of class selfishness, which is being as a propaganda in all the towns and villages of this colony. The people are to be persuaded, if possible, that the same law does not apply to the nation that applies to the individual; that it may be good for the citizen, as such, to be industrially free, but that it is better for him to belong to a nation that is industrially fettered The artisan may be quite right in going to the cheapest shop, but the shopkeeper is not right in buying for him in the cheapest market. He may be right in selling his labor to tho employer who will give him the highest wages, or his commodity to the buyer who will give him the highest price ; but the merchant ought not to be free to export that commodity to the best market the world offers, because there may be manufacturers in the colony who want that commodity as the raw material of their trade, and who insist on their right to have it cheapened to them by a restraint on its exportation. What is true of nations, we are told, is also true of these separate colonies in the Australasian dominion, and our farmers are taught that the true law towards their neighbors is that of revenge and retaliation, and that it ia not only their right, but their intereßt, to damage producers across the border as much as possible. Now, surely, we may find some comfort in the thought that it ia arguments like these that we have to meet. We can look on our banner and Bee that word "free"—that little word of four letters, but with euch a world of meaning, and such a human history behind it—and feel thankful that we are not marching to the cry of " Industrial restriction for ever!" How could we Bhape our mouths to say " Down with freedom ?" How could we step to the tune " Australians never shall be free ?" No : we have got the right; word, we have got the right thing, we have got the right thought, wo have got the right policy, we have got the right inspiration. There are many puzzles in this world, many complications, many entanglements : but in all perplexities the advantage is immense »o get a firm grasp of great principles, and the man who has once got a vigorous comprehension of the meaning of freedom, Bhould hold to it amid all the confusion of controversy with as unrelaxing a grip aB that with which the drowning man clings to the lifebuoy amid the heaving of the swell or the blinding foam of the Burf. He has got hold of that which will carry him through. In holding faat to the principle of freedom in its application to commerce, we have got a principle which must triumph. We live in a time when there ia much confusion of thought, much crossplay of interests, and the very severe trial through which the colony has passed has added to the difficulties of the situation, because bo many persons fail to trace the hard timea to the true cauae. Freetrade, which haa greatly helped to carry ua through the trouble, ia by many held reaponsible for it; but better timea are now in prospect, and, if we only hold fast to freedom, we shall give freedom tho chance of showing what it will do for us. THE COLONIAL FIGHT. And now, quitting for a moment the realm of general principlea, let ua take a survey of the question as it presents itself to our own colony and in our own day, and see what the field of operation is. It is half the battle to know what ia the enemy's plan, what is the range of his artillery, what are to be the points of his attack, and how that attack is to be beat met. In such a reconnaissance we shall note that the Freetrade position is being attacked on three principal points. In the first place, we are met by those whose argument is mainly fiscal, and who contend that ad valorem duties are the easiest to impose, and the most fruitful in their operations, and who, having proved that, think they have proved everything. To them there is but one object in taxation, and that ia to raise money, and they shut their eyes to every other consideration. They ask no questions, and they refuse to listen to any representations aa to whether these taxes lead inevitably to great cheating, whereby the dishonest gain at the expense of the virtuoua; whether they press unduly on the raw material of industry, and so put our producers at a disadvantage; or whether they fall with more proportionate severity on the poor than on the rich, and thus ease the strong at the expense of the weak. They can see but one thing at a time, and that ia, that with a population on the whole well to do, a tax of 10 per cent,

all round would bring in about a million a [ year. They say, if you want a million you | can get it in that way ; get it, and ask no questions. That is exactly the maxim of despotism; use force, and silence all complaints, Justice is nothing, policy is nothing; revenue is everything. THE CREATION OF WEALTH. Then a second brigade advances to the cry that Protection is the means of creating I wealth, out of which new wealth there would be more profit for capital, higher and steadier wages for labor, while prices would not be raised. Nobody pretends that the individual workman can, by any contrivance, be put into a better position by being personally Lampered. Nobody pretends that the world as a whole would do better industrially if the conditions of exchange were made more unfavorable. But though looked at from the personal and cosmopolitan point of view, it is admitted that freedom is a gain. We are told that an intermediate view gives an opposite result, and that the effect on the nation is different from the effect on the individual, or the effect on the whole world. If a nation limits its trade, then, we are told, the nation will be, and must be, a gainer by it. And when we come to face this argument, we find that it is one of words only, and not of substance; for, as soon aa wo press for a proof that the nation as a whole will gain, all the proof we are offered is that certain favored classes will gain. But how do they gain ? Obviously only by selling to their customers, and if these customers are unwilling customers, and are simply forced by law to buy, then the gain is raised by taxation, levied on the consumers, and the effect is very much the same as if a special income tax were levied on the buyers. But the appeal ia a very strong one to those who would visibly gain by Protection, and the policy adopted is the artful one of representing to tho sufferers that they share in the advantage. Looked at as a broad principle, it is seen to be impossible that wealth can be created by putting impediments in the way of that industry by which wealth is made. But by keeping principles out of sight, and putting interests in the foreground, and by a perpetual and ingenious shifting of the Jights of the phantasmagoria, a succession of advantages is shown to the favored classes, by which the dark part of the picture is kept out of sight. international jealousy. The third quarter from which opposition to Freetrade comes is that of international jealousy, for, the different colonies of Australasia, destined some day to be politically united, are treated as if they were to be indefinitely antagonistic, and as if a part at least of their prosperity were to be secured by keeping down the prosperity of their neighbors. The cry is raised that we must keep out the foreigner—that is, the Victorian, the South Australian, the Queenslander, and the New Zealander. There can be no satisfactory prosperity for New South Wales until these neighbors are denied a market in Sydney; they have protective tariffs against us, and it is a national obligation on our part to pay them out. It is a point of honor as well as a duty to our own producers, to show that we are sublimely capable of revenge. This argument also appeals very strongly to certain classes ; but its efficacy for conviction depends on keeping out of sight the recoil of the revenge. A man may hit very hard, and yet hurt his own knuckles at the same time. A nation may shut out the foreigner, and imprison itself by the very act. The foreigner would not have come in if he had not been welcome ; for all commerce is a mutual transaction, and there cannot be buying without a seller, or selling without a buyer. Still, when the passions are roused, it is not so difficult to conceal a part of the truth, and when people are excited by a sense of injury they are often provoked to a retaliation by which they injure themselves more. THE CRY FOR REVENGE. This pleading for revenge has been most effective in our country districts, and had a great deal to do with the return of Protectionist candidates at the last election. Yet the rural producers, though irritated by the stock tax and the maize tax, might learn from the present experience of their Victorian brethren that in Australia protection to a rural industry never can be permanent. The local demand is so limited that it can soon be overpassed, while under any federal system of common tariff intercolonial interchange makes intercolonial protection an impossibility. In America the farmer has never had Protection, and he has never asked for it, because it was simply impossible to give it him. lu his homo market there was simply no foreigner competing with him. In Victoria the attempt was made to establish what is called all-round protection, and the small farmers were hoodwinked JDto believing that they were to share in the general advantage ; and for a short time, and until they produced enough to supply the local requirements, they did gain, though, of course, at the expense of the consumer; but they have overpassed that limit and have become exporters, and now they are filling the welkin with their cries. But they have experimented and suffered to some purpose if they have taught the farmers of New South Wales that it is a delusion to suppose that rural industry in Australia can ever be permanently protected side by side with manufacturing industry. Nothing better for the disillusionising of our own rural Protectionists could have happened than the agitation that is now proceeding in theneighboring colony. Government bounty, out of an overflowing Treasury, the farmerß may possibly have as a compensation, but permanent protection it is beyond the power of the tariff to give them, and they are simply being deceived when they are taught that it is. THE THREE ATTACKS ON FREETRADE. Now, if we look back at the three arguments by which Fieetrade is being assailed, wo shall see that the argument for ad valorem duties—that it is so easy—ia an appeal to indolence ; that the argument for protection of manufacturing industries—that it will benefit the artisan and his employer ia an appeal to class interest; and that the argument for protection to the farmer, because it would pay out Victoria, is an appeal to the passions. Human nature being what it is, these three appeals are very powerful, and we cannot conceal from ourselveß the fact that many persons have been led astray by them; but then human nature has its good as well as its bad side, its strong as well aB its weak Bide, and these arguments may all be successfully met by counter appeals to the intelligence, the selfreliance, and the patriotism of the people. We must not for a moment suppose that our cause ia lost because in times of excitement or depression the true issue has been confused, or because half the question h»8 been taken for the whole. There ia sure to be a reaction against hasty conclusions from incomplete data, and as Freetrade is as sound as a national policy as it is as an economic theory, we must never permit ourselves to believe that those who have been beguiled into half-views of the truth will be unwilling or unable to find their way back. We must advance to the contest with confidence, not only in our arguments but in our fellow-citizens. OUR LEADING INDUSTRIES.

But now let ua shift the point of view, and look at the question as it relates to our leading industries. In a young country the first duty of colonißts ia to go up and possess the land—to develop the natural resources of the soil. Our industries may be classified as pastoral, agricultural, mining, and manufacturing. The first three are all concerned with developing our natural resources, and four-fifths of our people are dependent on them, and these have nothing to gain by Protection. The manufacturing industry waits upon the other three, and its claim for Protection is simply a claim that it may tax them for its own advantage. All farmers use tools, and the implement makers aßk that tools Bhould be made dearer, at the expense of the tool user, for the benefit of the toolmaker, But the surplus of the farmers' production mußt find its way to a foreign market, and the toolmaker does not offer to buy that surplus at a price above what it would fetoh in the market of the world. It is exactly the same with the miner and the squatter. What they produce is largely sold abroad, and the local Protectionist neither will nor can do anything to enhance the price. All he asks is the privilege of increasing the cost of production for the benefit of his own class. Circumstanced as New South Wales is, the local manufacturer cannot, and does not,

expect to find any appreciable foreign • market. He has, and can have, no natural advantage which will enable him to compete there with effect. What he asks is that he may be helped by law to get the command , of the local market. In other words, one industry aßks that the three other great industries may be made tributory to it. Is this really the royal road to national prosperity ? AUSTRALIAN DEVELOPMENT. Now let us shift the point of view once more and glance at the question as it affects our political morality and our future national development; that is to say, as it respects the creation of new vested interests and as it respects Australian federation. ■ We are a long way from haviDg perfect con- i ditions in New South Wales, having much to do and something to undo ; but we may fairly say this, that on the whole we have at the present moment fewer vested in- j terests to fight against than exist in the. other colonies. Now, let it never be for- \ gotten in the coming contest that every! man who votes for Protection votes straight | for the multiplication of vested interests, j In other words, votes for the complication of party politics, votes for the entanglement of private gain with public policy, votes for personal and political corruption. Every man who is put in a position by law to levy a tax on a large number of his fellows ceases from that time forward to be free to vote without any reference to his personal interest. His politics from that date are in his pocket. There are a number of great questions quite detached from the fiscal question, but he cannot afford to consider them apart. He ia a ruined man if he loses his protection, and he cannot afford to face that loss. There is a candidate up for his district who is, in every way, a fit man, and in whose views lie coincides, except on the matter of Protection ; but he cannot afford to vote for him, and helps to put an inferior man into Parliament because he is sound on Protection. If wo multiply the number of men who are coerced in this way by their vested interests, we demoralise a large section of the community, and make it almost impossible for coming great questions to be fought out on their merits. Will it be a good thing for the political life of New South Wales to muzzle a large number of citizens after this fashion ? What ia the use of making an appeal to the people on a great question if a large section of them is bound over not to give a straight answer to that (To be continued.)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890920.2.23

Bibliographic details

PROTECTION V. FREETRADE., Issue 8017, 20 September 1889

Word Count
3,567

PROTECTION V. FREETRADE. Issue 8017, 20 September 1889

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