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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Australasian Federation. — Mr. Aulsebrook Interviewed

Australasian Federation.

Mr. Aulsebrook Interviewed.

Becoming aware of the recent arrival from Australia of Mr. Aulsebrook, who holds pronounced views on the subject of Australasian federation, one of our staff called upon him at his residence. Mr. Aulsebrook received our representative very cordially, and said he felt very warmly upon the subject of federation, and would be only too glad to answer any questions, and fully explain his very decided opinions upon the great question.

"Do you approve of the Federal Constitution as finally adopted ?" was the first question.

"Most decidedly," replied Mr. Aulsebrook. "I think it the most admirable Constitution ever possessed by any people."

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"Have you considered the question of New Zealand casting in her lot with the Australian colonies ?"

"Certainly. We have been discussing it on the way across, and there appears to be a consensus of opinion among all those who travel, and that opinion universally is that New Zealand should join the union at once. For myself, this has been my conviction for years, and I have a business in Australia, as also in New Zealand. I have been astonished and alarmed at the apathy of New Zealand."

"Would it be better, do you think, to wait for some time and see how the new departure works ?"

"Most decidedly not. It is so obviously to our advantage to unite with Australia, that I am astonished that anyone should dream of waiting. It would display, in my opinion, a fatal want of penetration and judgment. Besides, we know that the leaders of the movement, the foremost men in Australia, would gladly welcome us now. They consider an Australasian federation a grander conception, and are inspired by lofty and patriotic motives. But the time will come when those leaders will give place to a Federation Parliament, and our great danger lies in such a Parliament shutting us out. The manufacturing and producing interests will be a large factor in such a Parliament; the question of our admission on any terms, or on what terms, will devolve upon them chiefly, and knowing human nature as we do; is it likely they will be willing to open their ports to our manufacturers and producers ? That is the great risk we shall run—the risk of either being shut out altogether, or having to submit to conditions that would cripple our manufacturing and producing interests for all time. It appears strange to me that men of business do not see that at a glance."

"Of course, Mr. Aulsebrook, you consider the Australian colonies will largely benefit by uniting ?"

"Benefit! of course they will. There will be an immediate and tremendous revival of all manufacturing and producing industries, and as a consequence commerce in all its branches will be promoted."

"Can you give me any information with reference to the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth ? "

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"That is a very simple question. It will be one of absolute free trade among themselves, and a protective, I think a highly-protective tariff against the world. You may be very sure that the first Federal Parliament will do all they can to stimulate local industries, so that locally-produced commodities will take the place as much as possible of imported articles, employing their own people, as well as attracting outside people to settle among them. I look forward to great commercial, manufacturing, and producing activity, a high level of all round prosperity, such as will astonish us."

"Would our trade be likely to be injured if New Zealand stood out of the federation ?"

"Why, it would ruin the farmers and destroy our trade with the Australian colonies in manufactured goods, which we can produce in such abundance. If we elect to stand out, in a year or two, when the great continent of Australia will he making progress in all directions, we shall be languishing We have been cultivating the trade with Australia amidst great difficulties, and with, on the whole, great success, in spite of hostile tariffs. I am often astonished to find New Zealand so much in evidence, but all we have done so far is but a drop in the bucket as compared with what we might do had we freetrade with Australia. But we must never forget that the case will be altogether changed after federation. For instance, we send butter, cheese, etc., or farming implements or timber to any single colony now, and we are protected against all the others. That is, to make this important consideration as clear as I can, our exports, say, to West Australia, are admitted on the same footing as if they went from Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. After federation, if we are out of it, all the other colonies will have free ports in West Australiaa, but we will be confronted with a hostile tariff. Freetrade among themselves will speedily so stimulate all productions and manufactures in Australia that our trade with all these colonies will languish and eventually perish Let New Zealand make no mistake about this. It, has been intercolonial tariffs which so far have helped us. Confederation once completed, and the federal tariff will prove the destruction of our trade with Australia, our population—especially farmers and skilled workmen—will flock to the more prosperous Commonwealth We shall awake to such stubborn facts too late, and bitterly repent our present attitude on this great question."

Our representative thanked Mr. Aulsebrook for the information so freely given, and Mr. Aulsebrook promised further to supplement it with a statement in writing, as he would further consider the matter, feeling keenly the importance of it.

Jas. McCullough, General Printer, High Street, Auckland.