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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr LEWIS (Corio) .- I am glad the Minister has not agreed to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Those who have spoken in support of the amendment have tried to raise two spurious side issues. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and others tried to make it appear that the Government, in exercising its right to prohibit the importation of certain goods into Australia, was seeking merely to give effect to its own protectionist policy. Every one who has followed the events leading up to the imposition of embargoes by. this Government knows that the action taken had nothing whatever to do with the Government's fiscal policy. The action was taken specifically for the purpose of dealing with a very serious condition of affairs which, as the Minister pointed out, had produced, over a series of years, an accumulated adverse trade balance of over £100,000,000. The position was rapidly becoming worse, and, in the national interests, the Government felt called upon, to exercise tho powers which it undoubtedly possesses under the law to prevent the continued influx of imports from overseas.

Mr Latham - It could have been done so by regulation, instead of by proclamation.

Mr LEWIS - The other false argument advanced by some honorable members is that the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive is involved in this matter. The Executive is the creation of this Parliament, and is responsible to Parliament for every one of its actions. Whether it exercises its power by means of regulation or by proclamation, its actions are subject to review by Parliament.

Mr Paterson - How can Parliament review a proclamation 1

Mr LEWIS - It is competent for any member of this Parliament to move a want of confidence motion in the Executive, and if a majority of members agree that the action of the Government is deserving of censure, the Government will go out of office, and the will of Parliament will prevail. Whether action is taken by regulation or by proclamation, Parliament is supreme- at all times, and it has never abrogated its power to review the actions of those whom it places, for the time being, in executive -positions.

Mr Paterson - Suppose the only quarrel Parliament had with the Government was in connexion with a certain embargo - what then ?

Mr LEWIS - It would still have power to express its dissent. In this case, however, it is not a matter of any one embargo, but of many, and the powers of the Executive were exercised in extraordinary circumstances. Because of the extraordinary circumstances that existed, tho Government placed an embargo upon a number of products that were being imported, as it was considered that their entry would seriously jeopardise the financial stability of the Commonwealth. The Government sought to safeguard the interests of the people aud of the nation. In the past, other governments have exercised the right to impose an embargo on any specific importation, an action which was subject to review by Parliament. No danger was feared from the practice, and there is no reason why anybody should cavil at similar action by this Government. I am glad that the Minister is opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). If I know anything about the good sense of the Commonwealth Parliament, I am confident that it will reject the honorable member's proposal.

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