HC Deb 17 March 1864 vol 174 cc180-2

said, he rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, If advice has been received at the Colonial Office of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales having followed the example of Canada in imposing a heavy Duty on British as well as Foreign manufactured goods; and, if so, if that has been done with a view of protecting their own manufacturers, or for the purpose of raising Revenue by means of indirect taxation; and if he is aware of its being the intention of other communities in Australia to follow the same course in regard to their Fiscal Laws through their respective Legislative Bodies elected on the principle of Manhood Suffrage?


in reply, said, the question was one of considerable importance, and he would endeavour to give the House full information concerning it, although the Report of the Governor of New South Wales on the new tariff had not yet been received. The Government of that Colony had found themselves obliged, for purposes of revenue, to impose a considerable addition on its taxation in order to make up a deficit which would amount to about £900,000, at the end of the next year, on an ordinary revenue of £1,500,000. That deficit had been mainly produced by over-expenditure on the part of the Central Government on public works in the Colony, which now cost about £700,000 a year. It was the opinion of the soundest colonial politicians that that expenditure on public works ought to be transferred to the municipal and local taxation of the Colony. The Ministry had, however, to supply the actual deficit, and with that object they proposed an ad valorem duty on the importation of various articles to the extent of 10 per cent on some of them. That proposal, he understood, was supported by a very noisy, but limited, body of agitators for protection, but it had failed. The Ministry had, however, since made a similar proposal, imposing duties on the importation of a variety of articles, in some cases amounting to a considerable percentage. Spirits, wine, rice, furniture, and certain manufactures were, by this plan, rendered subject to taxation when imported. The Colonial Minister, in introducing his tariff, took great pains to prove that its object was not protection, but revenue. At the same time he spoke of "incidental protection" — a phrase which was sometimes used in Colonial Assemblies, especially in Canada —as one of the consequences which he rather expected to follow from the new tariff. The idea had excited a certain degree of protectionist feeling among the artisan electors, and colonial politicians were apt to flatter that feeling by certain small concessions. For instance, in the present case, when they found themselves obliged, for purposes of revenue, to increase their taxation, they selected as subjects of an import duty such articles as leather goods, furniture, and so on, rather than tea or sugar, which did not come into competition with colonial manufactures, He had, however, reason to believe, from official information, from the debates in the Colonial Assembly, and from the news- papers, that the good sense of the colonists would prevent this coquetting with protection from developing into a regular and; permanent system.


said, he wished the hon. Gentleman would explain the observations he had made. He had attacked the Governor and Parliament of New South Wales for some legislative enactment they had passed, and he wished to know whether, in that attack, the hon. Gentleman intended to deny the right of the Parliament of New South Wales to arrange their system of taxation as they themselves thought most advantageous?


said, he did not know what the noble Lord meant by accusing him of an attack on the Colonial Government. He had said nothing that could be construed into an attack either on the Government or Parliament. He had merely endeavoured to give what information he could to Gentlemen who were naturally interested in the question. If he had had to announce to the House that the Parliament of New South Wales had deliberately imposed protective duties on the import of British manufactures, it would have been with sincere regret. He had stated, however, that the Colonial Ministry had prepared the tariff for the purposes of revenue, but that words had been used implying a certain degree of coquetting with Protectionist principles, for the purpose of gratifying a certain class of electors in the Colony.


said, the hon. Gentleman had left unanswered his question as to whether he denied the right of the local Government and Legislature to arrange their taxation as they deemed most expedient.