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3-266 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Barrow,un
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Clark, 1975
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The first question was brought forward by the Tasmanian representatives - that of the Customs Union They wanted a uniform tariff, that the same duties should be levied on the same articles, and that there should be the same free list in all the colonies, and that all the moneys collected under this uniform tariff should go into one common fund, and be divided rateably according to the population of the different colonies They also desired that there should be a uniform system of internal excise, which of course would have a great deal to do with the collection at the Custom-House; and they also proposed that there should be a free interchange between the colonies of any articles produced in either of the colonies so united. The delegates from Tasmania entered on the subject with great ability, having devoted a long time to its consideration; but the first thing which prevented a Customs Union being carried out was the exceedingly different position between New South Wales and Victoria.  New South Wales went in strongly for free trade; Victoria was, at all events, moderate protectionist, and would not consent to give up the amount of protection which they considered their tariff afforded to local industries, and were prepared to maintain the ad valorem duties or an equivalent, and their discriminating duties. The New South Wales delegates, on the other hand, avowed their intention of abolishing the ad valorem duties as soon as they possibly could, and trust to a few items of fixed duties for a Customs revenue. Both parties being immovable, the co-operation of the two leading colonies was out of the question. The next step was to consider whether South Australia might not benefit herself by uniting with Victoria and Tasmania, leaving New South Wales for the present out of the question; for although this colony was not so Protectionist as Victoria, it would be absurd to deny that the exigencies of their finances would oblige them to raise a little more from the Custom-House somehow or other. (The Hon. T. English - "Hear, hear.") But when the idea was mooted, the Victorian delegates were no longer willing to meet South Australia and Tasmania on the same terms as they were willing to accept when New South Wales was supposed to be a consenting party, but made an entirely different and most obnoxious proposition that South Australia and Tasmania should be bound down for a term of years to maintain unaltered a certain tariff which Victoria reserved to herself the right to modify from time to time as she thought fit. (A laugh.) The South Australian and Tasmanian delegates at once said that they could not agree to recommend that to their different Governments, and prepared a minute, setting forth the reasons why the two colonies could not agree to that proposition. He could rely with confidence that every member of the Council would support the view taken by the South Australian representatives in the matter. (Cheers.) It was utterly impossible to hand over this colony to be legislated for by Victoria, and have no power to modify her tariff for herself. So far the Customs Union project had failed, but it would be seen, from no fault of the representatives of this colony or those of Tasmania. Another point was then brought forward by the Tasmanian delegates that of facilitating the introduction of colonial produce horn one colony to another; but here they were met by this difficulty - the Imperial Parliament had already disallowed an Act passed by the Tasmanian Legislature authorizing this kind of interchange, refusing to allow articles to be admitted free from the colonies when similar articles from beyond the seas had to pay duty. The whole of the delegates united, however, in agreeing as to the desirability of the free interchange of colonial products, notwithstanding any duties levied on corresponding articles from abroad; and all agreed that their various Governments should frame a Bill for presentation to the Home Government, asking that it might be passed through the House of Commons, authorizing the colonies, notwithstanding any present law to the contrary, to make arrangements amongst themselves for the interchange of their local products and manufactures.  It remained to be seen whether they should succeed; but it was to be hoped, seeing the united feeling which existed on this point, that the Imperial Government would remove this veto out of their way; and if they did so, there would be one element of good resulting from the Conference, and there would be no difficulty in the disposal of their wine and wheat, or any other article they could produce. This would be no mean instalment of intercolonial free trade.