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Thursday, 22 October 1931


Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- The principal act, which this bill seeks to amend, was passed in 1901. ' Power was then given to the Minister to prohibit the importation of certain goods, and articles, as, for instance, false money; counterfeit coin ; blasphemous, indecent, and obscene works and articles; goods manufactured by prison labour; and certain classes of drugs. It was recognized that there would probably be other goods which it would be undesirable to allow into this country, and consequently, in paragraph g of section . 52, & general power was given to the Minister to prohibit the importation of goods by proclamation. The present Minister has abused that power. Since the present Government assumed office, the importation of from 80 to 100 different classes of goods, which formerly were imported, has been prohibited. Under the provision mentioned, the Minister is given more power than the tariff itself confers on him; the tariff must be approved by Parliament, whereas Parliament has no control over a proclamation unless it can carry a vote of want of confidence in the government responsible for issuing it. If we substituted the word " regulation " for " proclamation " in paragraph g of section 52, the power of the Government would not be diminished, for it would still be able to prohibit the importation of any goods; but if its action was contrary to the , wishes of Parliament, the regulation could be disallowed. Parliament should control the power to tax the people. By proclamation the Govern ment can now refuse to allow goods of any description, whether harmful or not, to enter this country. No Government should be empowered to prevent the importation of goods unless its action is subject to review by Parliament.


Mr Forde - This power has existed since 1901.


Mr GREGORY - That may be so; but it was never abused before the present* Government came into office, nor was it intended to be used except to prevent objectionable articles entering Australia. By adjourning Parliament from time to time, thus making one session extend over a long period, a tariff schedule may continue in force for three years without being subjected to review by Parliament. I admit that action in the direction indicated by the amendment ought to have been taken earlier; but not until this Government came into office was the power conferred on the Minister abused. The Minister says that he has not abused the power conferred on him. I remind him that his tariff proposals of last year meant that we could not trade with certain countries.


Mr Forde - That action was taken to save Australia from bankruptcy.


Mr GREGORY - I ask the Minister not to talk rubbish. The action to which I refer was taken in order that certain manufacturers and traders in Australia might be given concessions. I should like to know why persons who wish to buy, say, a particular kind of machine, should not bc permitted to buy it, so long as they pay the duty which Parliament has imposed on it. if Parliament decides that the importation of certain goods shall be prohibited, I am prepared to accept its decision; but Parliament has not so decided. This Parliament is subservient to the Government, although we have been elected to this Parliament to protect the interests of the people as a whole.


Mr Beasley - Where does the Government stand with the banks? I ask the honorable member to deal with that matter.


Mr GREGORY - I cannot deal with it now. I am not like some honorable members, who are prepared to rob the people of their hard-earned sayings, and devote their energies towards creating trouble in the community. We are elected to this Parliament to represent the people. When special powers are given to a Minister, Parliament should be able to say whether the action taken in pursuance of those powers shall stand. I move -

That the following new paragraph be added : -

(b)   by omitting from paragraph (g) the word " proclamation " and inserting in its stead the words " regulation made under the act".







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