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3-169 (Raw)

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addressee,family author,male,Berry, Graham,un
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Official Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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Sir, - The straightforward article upon "Tariff Reform" in your Saturday's issue, places the question before the country upon its true merits, and has likewise swept away those fine-spun cobwebs our colonial political economists have so industriously enveloped it withal, and which they dignify by the high-sounding but empty title of "Free Trade."
You, Sir, have lifted the curtain somewhat when you state that free trade has never existed in these colonies, but I am prepared (to use a colonial phrase) to up with the rag entirely, and broadly assert that it exists in no other country upon the face of the earth.
Then away with the useless discussion of an abstract principle, and let us, as reasonable men, discuss what fiscal policy will best suit this colony of Victoria. Not what will best suit its bankers, its merchants, or its gentry, but what will best advance the material prosperity of all, not forgetting the hard working sons of toil, whose interests are ofttimes forgotten or else totally ignored, by those political economists who think and state that a high rate of wages is incompatible with the prosperity of the colony. [261]
Why should the opponents of this movement endeavour to smother it under the odium and prejudice attached to the word "protection," if they are able to meet its supporters in fair argument? Why endeavour to overthrow it by a side wind instead of discussing it upon its merits?
Having cleared the way for the discussion of the question upon its merits, let me ask my fellow-colonists if they think it desirable to establish, as opportunity arises, other branches of industry than those that exist at the present time? If they answer, as I anticipate they will, in the affirmative, let me ask them again what probability there is of such a result under the present system? What has been done this last six years? Positively nothing. In fact, what little manufacturing enterprise existed among us has been effectually nipped in the bud, and correspondents in your own pages have frequently shown how.
I do not think it necessary to single out any one branch of industry, as especially suited to illustrate my argument. Nor, on the other hand, would I be understood to advocate indiscriminate protection. Each case should be met and discussed upon its own merits, and the principle that should guide us in affording it protection should be: 
1. The probability of its equalling the imported article in quality.
2. The amount of duty necessary to enable it to compete with the imported article.
3. The probability or otherwise of its being able to take root, so that at no distant date the protection now afforded might be withdrawn or greatly reduced.
If the answer to the first should be in the affirmative, to the second, ten or fifteen per cent., and to the third, ten years, as the time when protection as such might be dispensed with, I should say a case had been made out. If in addition it was of a character likely to employ a number of hands, .or if, from climate, or geographical position, it was probable it might become a staple, still further reason would be shown why it should receive the fostering care of the legislature during its infancy. So plain are these arguments to the common sense of mankind, that we find them universally acted upon. [...]
But we are here met by another fallacy, viz. the increased cost to the consumer. Why, says a well-to-do merchant, should I pay 2s. 6d. a pair more for my boots than I can obtain them for from England? Why, exclaims a sleek lawyer, should I give 10s. more for a chest of drawers, than I can obtain them from England for? Again, a banker exclaims he should buy his paper in the cheapest markets. [262]
My answer to Messrs. Merchant, Lawyer, and Banker, is this - because the bootmaker, the cabinet maker, and the paper manufacturer, are your customers, out of their pockets come your profits, fees, and dividends, and lumping ones too. Because they contribute largely to the State by the taxes they pay, and you contribute comparatively little thereto. Because your principle should be the golden one of "Live and let live." Because patriotism should teach you to wish well to your adopted country. But why multiply reasons, when it is evident that nothing but the selfishness of the non-producing portion of the community stands in the way of the alteration of our fiscal laws.
But, Mr. Editor, extreme selfishness need not fear overmuch the advance in price consequent upon protection, for we should have colonial competition to equalize prices; and we should get rid of speculation, which has tended to advance prices. In a word, colonial capital which is now employed by speculators to increase the price of the imported article to the consumer, would be more legitimately employed in producing the colonial substitute, and! the ordinary principles of trade would by fair competition, prevent monopoly.
To sum up: protection to native industry by a wise and careful alteration of our present fiscal laws would have the following beneficial effects
1. A legitimate opening for capital.
2. Employment of labour.
3. Development of the resources of Victoria.
4. A more perfect settlement of the country.
5. General contentment consequent on general prosperity.
Firmly believing this question is second to none, I would beseech my fellow-colonists to take it into their serious consideration previous to the general election, and to test all candidates for their suffrages on this point.
Apologising for the length of this communication,
I remain,
Yours &c.,