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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah) . - The measure that has been brought forward by the Minister is exceedingly disappointing. It deals with a number of matters that are of relatively small importance. One would imagine after the wide experience that the Minister has gained through bringing down a tariff containing over 400 items, the most voluminous and punitive tariff ever introduced, that he would be able to introduce a series of comprehensive amendments that would be to the advantage of the trade and commerce of the country. I am quite sure that had the honorable gentleman given his capable officers full range, they would have suggested many more amendments, of greater importance than those now proposed.

We ure solemnly asked to consider whether we shall delete from the act the word " league " and substitute the words " three nautical miles " That momentous discovery is the outcome of the Minister's great experience in tariff legislation. The Minister also proposes to take more power to himself, and certain matters are again to be left entirely to his judgment and authority. Against that I, and the commercial community generally, have protested. One satisfactory feature of the bill is that it does to some extent define the conditions under which British pre- f erence may be granted ; but the objectionable and indefinite words "not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia " are retained. During the tariff debate I unavailingly asked the Minister to explain what those words meant, and I mentioned an article of machinery which could have been imported for £2,000, but which the Minister held could be commercially manufactured in Australia, although its cost would be £6,000. The provisions relating to the preference to be granted to the United Kingdom might as well be deleted, if the Minister is to be able, by his interpretation of the phrase "commercially produced or manufactured in Australia ", to render the whole scheme nugatory. I am certain that, in practice, the preference will be rendered valueless. Another amendment refers to the taking of moving pictures in different parts of the world, and recognizing them as British films if they are registered under any law of the United Kingdom, a detail of comparative unimportance which might have been arranged without new legislation.

The only amendments likely to be of real value are those forecast by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron). No doubt, because they are important and valuable, they will be incontinently rejected by the Minister, with the support of his well-disciplined cohorts and battalions. I repeat that the bill continues the power of the Minister to dictate the operations of commerce throughout the Commonwealth. The conditions under which goods may be admitted should be stated in black and white,so that he who runs may read. Traders should not be at the mercy of any whim, caprice, or dictum of any individual as to the manner in which they shall conduct their business. Although the bill provides that the Minister shall decide these matters, in actual practice that will be impossible. Lord Hewitt, in The New Despotism, has pointed to the growing practice in British legislation to delegate to Ministers powers which really belong to Parliament, the exercise of which very often is in the discretion of junior officers.

Mr Forde - I assure the honorable member that that is not so in the Trade and Customs Department.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - As usual, the Minister is ready to assure the House that he, personally, does everything in his department.

Mr Forde - No; but these decisions are made or recommended by responsible officers of the department.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - Lord Hewitt has protested against Parliament abrogating its authority by delegating duties and rights to Ministers and their officials. This bill perpetuates that evil, against which a large volume of public opinion has protested. I do not expect my views to be accepted by ministerial supporters. They are accustomed to solicit from Ministers favours for the sections and coteries they represent. Some honorable members glory in what they achieve in that way, and are able thus to retain their seats; but I do not consider it part of my duty to go on my hands and knees to Ministers or departments for concessions for any section. The rights of traders should be stated in black and white, and should not be subject to the caprice or predilections of the Minister or his officers.

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