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Monday, 18 December 1911

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator McColl - I ruled that item 177 is before the Committee, and that I may accept the requests of the Minister of Defence and deal with them in their proper order before the Committee deals with the proposed omission of sub-item g- We have already had a test vote on the first part of Senator Millen's request, with the distinct understanding that, if it were not agreed to, other requests mentioned by the Minister of Defence could be submitted in their order. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent that being done, and, therefore, I now propose to submit the first request proposed by the Minister of Defence.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I dissent, sir, from your ruling, in the following terms: -

I object to the decision of the Temporary Chairman of Committees that it is in order to receive a request for the amendment of subitem (a) of item 177 in the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act 1908-10.

In the Senate :

The Temporary Chairman (Senator

McColl). - A point of order has arisen in connexion with item 177 of the schedule to the Tariff Bill. It is in two. parts, the first proposing the omission of the first line of the item, and the insertion in its stead of the words "Electrical machines and appliances," and the second proposing the omission of the whole of sub-item g. The Minister of Defence proposed to submit requests for the amendment of sub-items a and b of the existing Tariff. Senator Millen desired that there should be, first of all, a test vote on the first part of the item in the schedule.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator will pardon me, but is that involved?

The Temporary Chairman - I am recounting what took place. Senator Millen submitted a request for the omission of the first two words of the item in the schedule " By omitting." That request was negatived on division. An agreement was arrived at by the Committee, without any objection being taken, that if Senator Millen's request was not agreed to the Minister of Defence should submit two requests separately for the amendment of sub-items a and b. After the division on Senator Millen's request, Senator Pearce moved his first request for the amendment of sub-item

a.   I ruled that he could do that on the ground that the Committee was dealing with item 177 of the Tariff, and any request for an amendment submitted in proper order in connexion with that item could be entertained. Senator Gould has objected to that decision. He contends that it is competent for the Committee to deal only with the actual matter submitted by the House of Representatives, and that it cannot deal with sub-items a and

b.   I ruled that item 177 was before the Committee, and that the Committee has power to deal with any of the sub-items of that item. Senator Gould has submitted his dissent in the following terms -

I object to the decision of the Temporary Chairman of Committees that it is in order to propose a request for the amendment of subitem (a) of item 177 in the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act 1908-10.

The question submitted to you, sir, is whether the Committee has power. to deal with sub-items of item 177 of the existing Tariff other than those which have been directly submitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -On the point of order which I have taken, I may say that a reference to the agreement which has been referred to may be brushed aside at once. It is well known that when a Bill is introduced to amend an Act the Committee, on the Bill, is not entitled to consider the principal Act, except in so far as it may be affected by the provisions of the amending Bill, unless an instruction is given to the Committee to consider other portions of the principal Act. That is in accordance with an indisputable rule which has been followed in the Senate. The question arises as to whether the rule applicable to ordinary Bills is also applicable to a Bill which we cannot amend, but in connexion with which we can make requests. Standing order 327 provides that -

An instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of the Act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least 15 affirmative votes.

In this case no such instructions were given to the Committee on the Bill now before the Senate. If you, sir, will turn to the schedule now under consideration by the Committee, you will see that item 177 reads -

By omitting the first line of the item and inserting in its stead the following words : - " Electrical Machines and Appliances."

By omitting the whole of sub-item (g).

The Minister of Defence desires to submit a request for the amendment of sub-item A of item 177 of the existing Tariff, which provides for certain fixed rates of duty. It reads -

Dynamo electric machines up to the capacity of 200 b.p. ; static transformers and indication coils for all purposes; electric fans, ad valorem, 20 per cent. .

The Minister desires to add words providing that on. and after a certain date the duties shall be 25 per cent, under the general Tariff, and 20 per cent, on goods manufactured in the United Kingdom. My contention is that, in accordance with our practice, which has been laid down with regard to Bills to amend Acts, it is not possible for us to deal with anything except so much as may be presented to us in so many words in the amending Bill. This Bill being one of that kind, my contention is that the only portion of the Bill upon which we can submit any request is as to the four lines contained after the number 177. If we had seen fit, we could have made an alteration in the first line of the item. The next opportunity presented for making an alteration was with regard to the proposal to omit the whole of sub-item g. But the whole of that sub-item, I submit, is the only sub- item in item 177 of the Tariff which we are amending that we are entitled to deal with at all. We have no power whatever to deal with the other subitems contained in item 177. It will be observed that in this Bill, after amendments of items 178 and 179 of the "Tariff, items 180 and 181 are skipped. The other House has deliberately abstained from making amendments in those two items. We should be exceeding our powers if we proposed to amend them. I contend that, in exactly the same way, we have no right to amend any sub-item in item 177 except sub-item g, which is referred to us. It must be remembered that taxation measures are dealt with in Committee by the other House before a Bill is brought in. When a Bill is introduced including the decisions arrived at in Committee, the other House itself is confined absolutely to the particular items included by the Committee in the Bill. By parity of reasoning, we surely cannot have greater powers over such a Bill than are possessed 'by the other House, even if our own Standing Orders did not disqualify us from making requests on items that are not before ais in the Bill.

Senator Pearce - This is one of the most extraordinary attempts to clip the ;powers of the Senate which has ever been attempted, and if tit were successful it would do more to make this Chamber a mere recording House than has ever been done in our history. Obviously, when this Bill comes before us, it brings item 177 of the Tariff under our purview. In doing so, it makes a proposition regarding the item. Senator Gould's contention is that we have not the power, which another place has, of considering item 177 as a whole. The honorable senator was entirely incorrect in saying that the other House could not amend item 177 in any way it thought fit. If that item is brought before the «other House in accordance with the GovernorGeneral's message, they can amend it in any way they please. Senator Gould "is asking you to rule that item 177 as a whole does not come before us at all, but that we have only to deal with the actual contents of the Bill. Consequently, he contends that all that we can do is to request an amendment of, or to reject, or to accept, the wording of it. "That is an extraordinary proposition. Item 177 of the Tariff includes a number of -sub-items from a to g. The other House makes a proposition to us regarding subitem g. Senator Gould says that we cannot make a request with regard to any other sub-item than that. There is also this important point. " Under sub-item o, if we give effect to it, these articles become dutiable in the same category as articles under sub-items a and b. By the adoption of the proposition of the other House, therefore, we do affect subitems a and b. That is to say, we bring articles under those sub-items which are not there now. Senator Gould actually contends that we can adopt the proposition of the other House, making the articles dutiable under sub-items a and b, but that we cannot alter the rate of duty applicable to a and b ; that we can only make a request in regard to sub-item g. I do not think that anything more need be said on the question. Surely the Senate will not agree to have its wings clipped in this way.

Senator St Ledger - I am inclined to agree with the Minister of Defence. Unless we had the power to make requests in regard to the whole of an item, brought before us by an amending Bill, our powers would be seriously curtailed. Senator Millen moved for a request omitting from the item in the Bill the words" By omitting." That request was defeated. It having been defeated, surely the whole of item 177 is now before us. The Minister of Defence desires to move a request with regard to electrical appliances. It does not matter whether or not that request affects an amendment of the Tariff carried by another place. The whole item is in front of us, and it is within the province of the Senate to consider any request regarding it which any honorable senator may choose to move, whether affecting electrical appliances, or any other of the articles mentioned in the item. I think that the Minister's contention is correct, and, if upheld, will make for maintaining the rights of the Senate.

Senator Keating - I think that the question to be considered by you, Mr. President, is whether the ruling that has already been laid down for the guidance of the Senate, and that has been followed hitherto, has, or has not, curtailed our powers. It is not a question of whether the Minister desires that our powers shall not be curtailed. Our practice has already been established. I am sorry to confess that I really think that Senator Gould is -correct in his contention having regard : to the rulings that have been given in the past, and that have been upheld by the Senate. I, therefore, do not think that it is competent for the Committee to deal with the whole of item 177.

Senator Pearce - It has always been held that we could amend any particular section of an Act dealt with by an amending Bill before the Committee of the Senate.

Senator Keating - That is the point which the President will have to determine. The Minister contends that, by omitting sub-item g of item 177 we affect sub-items a and b. That is to say, we take " generators for direct coupling to steam turbines " out of the general Tariff of 5 per cent., and free when the goods are made in the United Kingdom, and those articles then fall under another classification. That is to say we must assume that the other House in passing sub-item g had in contemplation what would happen to the goods.

Senator Millen - Are we not also to have that in contemplation?

Senator Keating - Exactly. We must assume that the other House had the destination of the goods in contemplation - whether they would become free or dutiable at a higher or lower rate of duty. In bringing sub-item g before us in this Bill they ask us to concur with them. They assume that we shall contemplate the destination of the goods just as we must assume that they did. The Minister says that the goods will be dealt with under subitems a and b. I think that point was mentioned by Senator Millen in Committee. He argued that, therefore, we have a right to propose requests in a and b. But I would ask the Minister whether it would have been competent for this Committee - assuming that the articles mentioned in sub-item g had fallen into item 171, instead of into sub-item a and b - to have gone back and amended that item?

Senator Millen - It would not have been necessary. We could then have shaped our own request in another form.

Senator Keating - That may be. But suppose that we struck out sub-item g, where would " generators for direct coupling to steam- turbines " fall under the Tariff? I have always feared that under certain rulings which have been given in the past, our powers in the matter of dealing with Bills which have come to us from the House of Representatives have been very much curtailed. I admit that it is open to the President, if he sees his way clear to do so, to extend the rule in regard to the competence of the Committee to deal with such measures. If there be anything in the argument -of the Minister, that as sub-item g has been omitted, and as the articles enumerated in it fall automatically into sub-items a and b, we are at liberty to amend those sub-items, by a parity of reasoning if the articles in question had fallen into some other item of the Tariff, we should have been equally entitled to amend that item. Such a process of reasoning will not hold for a moment.

Senator Needham - Like other honorable senators, I was under the impression that we were at liberty to discuss item 177 under its various sub-items a, b, and g.

Senator Keating - Why not c, d, and: e?

Senator Needham - I am speaking of the sub-items which are presented in thisBill. My opinion was that the Committee could deal with sub-item a, then with subitem b, and then with sub-item g; and it was on that understanding that the Temporary Chairman gave his ruling. I thought that after the Committee had disposed of sub-items a and b I would be at liberty to speak upon the general' question of whether generators for direct coupling to steam turbines should be omitted. Otherwise, we should have had' either to accept or reject the whole item. After all, it is a question of whether we should deal with the item in its entirety or whether we should be afforded an opportunity to analyze the various portions of it. For that reason, if the ruling of the Temporary Chairman be not upheld, the Committee will be limited in the exercise of the powers which have been conferred' upon it by the Constitution.

Senator Chataway - I have no desire to prolong this discussion. But if honorable senators choose to turn up the records of the debate which took place upon the last Tariff, they will see that .the Chairman of Committees of that time laid it down very clearly that we were not at liberty to go back upon any item which had already been dealt with. I would ask you,, sir, to note that during the present discussion we have already been refused permission to go back to items mentioned in the Tariff, but not actually amended. I refer particularly to item 54, in connexion with which Senator Gould desired to move an amendment.

Senator Millen - Dealing with a subject which was not under review.

Senator Chataway - I hold that we cannot anticipate the decision of the Committee by reviewing some item which may later on be amended.

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