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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) (12:27 PM) .When last year's Estimates were under consideration, we had not a printed copy of the report of the Tariff Board, but a typewritten copy was seen by a few honorable members. In August I questioned the right of the board to interfere in matters that did not come within its province, but were among the functions of the Arbitration Court. In my protest I was supported by honorable members on both sides. I referred to a statement in the board's report that, after increases of duty had been provided in the textile industry, the unionists immediately approached the court and asked for higher wages, without consideration being given to the adjustment of the conditions in the industry. The industry was starved, so far as the board was concerned, because the employees had received no increases since 1921, although increases had been given in other branches of industry. I repeat that protest. The board has exceeded its rights, and has endeavoured in its report to justify its action last year. The annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended the 30th June last states -

The Tariff Board ventured to sound a warning note in its last annual report as to the danger of the tariff being used to bolster up an ever-increasing cost of production',^ irrespective of any consideration being given to the ever-widening gaps between the standard maintained within the Commonwealth, on the one hand, and the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe on the other. For performing this function, which the board considers to be its duty, in terms of section 17 of the Tariff Board Act, it has been subjected to adverse criticism by some members in the "Federal Houses of Parliament.

And then it sets out section 17 of the Tariff Board Act. I challenge the board to show any justification for its comments on claims that were before the Arbitration Court. The report continues -

In view of this public trust, the Tariff Board considers it is obligatory upon it, not only to refer to this very critical matter again, but to reaffirm and further emphasize the warnings it issued last year, being convinced that the situation has become ever more ominous.

I consider it my duty, and it should be the duty of other honorable members, to repeat and emphasize the warning that we issued last year to the- Tariff Board that it must not overstep the bounds of its jurisdiction - in other words, that it must mind its own business. Another paragraph of the report, on page 19, states -

A claim has been lodged with the Arbitration Court on behalf of the employees in the brushmaking industry the granting of which, either wholly or in part, will add further to the cost of production in Australia and further lessen the ability of the local manufacturers to compete with oversea suppliers.

A case was before the Arbitration Court, and was sub judice, yet the Tariff Board had the audacity to publish that statement in the endeavour to prejudice the court and prevent it from exercising its function without let or hindrance. If we are to allow the boards that are created from time to time by this Government to carry on in that fashion, we may as well close up Parliament altogether. Those boards are usurping the legislative duties .of Parliament, and are even dictating conditions to our people, matters absolutely outside of their jurisdiction. Last year I registered a very mild protest, in which I referred to the members of the board as earnest and honest men striving to perform a very big job in a very big way. I do not withdraw my words; but I claim that they have no right to overstep their duties, and tell the Arbitration Court what to do. Section 17 of the Tariff Board Act give no warrant for the action of the hoard. I suggest to the Minister that he should instruct the Tariff Board precisely what its duties are. I shall read a protest that has been received by the secretary of the Labour party from the Trades Hall Council, Melbourne. That body regards the action of the Board of Trade as a very serious interference with the functions of the Arbitration Court. The letter reads -

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