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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr Cairns s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that section 12a, sub-section (4.) of the Tariff Board Act provides that two members of the board who at the time of their first appointment were departmental officers cannot form a quorum?

2.   Is it desirable, and consistent with the subsection referred to, for a number of members, insufficient to form a quorum, to be able to determine the nature of a report?

3.   In view of the responsibility of members of the Tariff Board to Parliament, is it desirable that, when a member of the board dissents from other members, the other members may be able to exclude altogether his opinions from the report?

4.   Will he table a minority opinion submitted by members of the board which was not included in the report of the board presented to Parliament on 19th October, 1955?

Mr McEwen - The position as confirmed by the Government's legal advisers is as follows: -

1.   Section 12a of the Tariff Board Act applies only where the board is to conduct inquiries. For this purpose a quorum of the board may comprise two members only, of whom one at least must be other than a former officer of the Commonwealth Public Service.

2.   For the purpose of a specific inquiry and report under section 12a of the act, the board may consist of the chairman (subject only to the requirement of a quorum as stated above) and such other members as are specified by him. The chairman, whether or not he was formerly an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, has a clear right under the act, if he thinks fit, to vote with another member of the board who was a former departmental officer.

3.   Subject only to the act, the contents of the board's reports are a matter for determination by the board itself. When the board is preparing the annual report under section 18 of the act, the inclusion of dissenting views would,I take it, he considered by the board in the light of its views on the question whether the minority opinions were of sufficient relevance and importance. Where the board makes a specific inquiry and report under section 12a, it is the board's practice to give members an opportunity of expressing their views where they dissent from the conclusions and recommendations made by the majority. This practice, 1 am advised, is observed whether a member was or was not a former departmental officer.

4.   After the annual report of the board presented to the Parliament on 19th October, 1955, had been signed by six of the seven members, the remaining member addressed to the then Minister for Trade and Customs some dissenting views on part ofthereport. I shall place acopy of the memorandum containing these views on the table of the Library.

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