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Friday, 22 May 1936


Senator COLLINGS - I am doing so by showing that the proposal we are asked to accept is unreasonable, outrageous and ultra vires the Constitution. At Ottawa- an agreement was reached between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government, and it is now impossible for the elected representatives of the people to agree to an import duty on the products of the United Kingdom, unless such a duty is recommended by the Tariff Board, Section 90 of the Constitution reads-

On the imposition of uniform duties of customs the power of the Parliament to impose duties of customs and of excise, and to grant bounties on the production or export of goods, shall become exclusive.

I do not wish to raise any argument such as we had this week onthe meaning of " may " and " shall ", but I suggest that there cannot be any argument concerning the definition of " exclusive It is a simple and readily understood English word. The supreme power to impose import and excise duties rests entirely with this Parliament; it cannot be manipulated by political legerdemain. Our constitutional rights cannot be denied.


Senator McLeay -Who said that they could.


Senator COLLINGS - I am showing what has been done. Under the Ottawa agreement, this Parliament has not the power to impose customs duties on products of the United Kingdom higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board. On behalf of the members of the Opposition in this chamber I object to being asked to accept even the proposed modification. The Minister knows that my remarks are not directed to him personally. Last week the Minister made a definite ' statement that the Ottawa agreement is sacrosanct, but he now says that its provisions need not be strictly observed. Even if the proposed duty remains operative for only six months, the Government, on its own showing, is per mitting a breach of the agreement. What we are now asked to do is, or is not a breach of the agreement, and if it is the Minister should have said so last week. Owing to political exigencies, we are now asked to do what we were told last week could not be done. Owing to this political marriage of convenience between freetraders and moderate protectionists we are expected to juggle with words to such an extent that some of us hardly know where we are. Having at the invitation of the Government arrived at a decision we are now informed by the Government that that decision is wrong. I do not propose to support the motion moved by the Minis ter, and I am sure that other members of the Opposition will decline to do so. I trust that honorable senators will be sufficiently courageous to stand up to their guns, and, disregarding browbeating tactics and specious pleadings, oppose the motion.







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