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Tuesday, 14 August 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The action of the Minister in respect to this matter is extraordinary. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in moving a motion affecting the duty on harvesters, intimated that the Government had not made up its mind as to accepting, whether with or without amendment, the proposals of the Tariff Commission. That was a perfectly legitimate statement, seeing that he asked for the imposition of the duty recommended by a section of the Commission merely to protect the revenue. The Government did not commit itself to the proposal when brought forward, but promised further consideration, and, if necessary, amendment. But the honorable gentleman told us that, having given consideration to the recommendations of the Commission in regard to alterations of the spirit duties, the Ministry had decided to introduce proposals which differed from those of the Commission. He did not say, "Accept the Commission's recommendation until we have had an opportunity to consider the matter." He said, " We have considered them and do not approve of them. We therefore ask you to accept different proposals, which we put forward." This afternoon, however, he. told us that it is likely that further proposals, at any rate in regard to Excise, will be introduced, but that he wishes time to consider this question at greater length. We are entitled to something more than mere proposals. We should have some guarantee of the correctness and accuracy of the conclusions of the Ministry.

Mr Fowler - We are entitled to some complete scheme, because one proposal hangs on another.

Sir John Quick - Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. Ministers, if they differfrom the recommendation of a Commission on whose report they are acting should give their reasons.

Sir John Forrest - Practically we do not differ.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall show directly that there is a very material difference between the proposals of the Government and the recommendations of the Commission. Ministers should lay before Parliament the reasons which have induced them to cast aside the recommendations of the Commission and 10 adopt other proposals.

Sir John Forrest - The reasons have been given, but honorable members will not take notice of them.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not heard reasons given. It is not sufficient to say, " This or that will happen, we think. There will be a loss of revenue, we think." The Committee should be informed of the facts upon which their calculations are based.

Mr McCay - They have treated the matter as if it were merely one of arithmetic.

Sir John Quick - They have not given the data on which their calculations are based

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - An arithmetical sum may be correctly worked, but the deductions will be wrong if the premises are at fault.

Sir John Forrest - We have good advice

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