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Wednesday, 20 July 1921

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) . - I intend to vote against the Bill for two reasons. I shall oppose it, first, for reasons of economy; and, secondly, because the scheme has been already tried under the Inter-State Commission. I believe that if this new Department is created it will be a hopeless failure. In sub-clause 2 of clause 15 the Bill provides that the Minister may ref er to the Board for inquiry and report the following, among other matters: -

(a)   The general effect of the working of the Customs Tariff and the Excise Tariff in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth.

If honorable senators will turn to the Inter-State Commission Act of 1912, section 16, they will find that the Inter-State Commission was also charged with the duty of inquiring into and reporting upon, among other matters -

The effect and operation of any Tariff Act or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures and industry, and trade generally.

In the Bill there is provision for the Board to inquire into -

The incidence between the rates of duty on. raw materials and on finished or partly finished products.

The same authority was delegated to the Inter-State Commission in the InterState Commission Act, in paragraph e, Prices of commodities," of section 16, already referred to. The Bill further provides that the Board may inquire into -

Any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.

This range of inquiry, I find, was covered in paragraph b of section 16 of the InterState Commission Act in these words -

The encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures.

Is not this the position? Will not Parliament, by creating these Boards, abrogate the rights of Parliament? Let me give honorable senators an instance. We appointed a Basic Wage Commission, which' actually forced Parliament to take certain action. I say that Parliament is the proper authority to do this. We are sent here to deal with certain specific matters, including those mentioned in clause 15 of this Bill. We have created so many Boards that the people are utterly sick of them, and there is a strong demand for economy which should be respected by this Parliament. This proposed Board, in my opinion, will cost the country £10,000 a year. It is utterly impossible to expect two or three people to come together as a Board without creating a new Department in the very near future. The Inter-State Commission was actively inquiring into all these matters for many years, and it proved a great failure. I have never been able to see what value the country got from the deliberations of that body, which cost us a tremendous sum of money, and, if we create this Board, I do not know where it will end.

Senator Fairbairn - We know where our end will be.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Of course, we do. I say definitely that we should, wherever possible, cut out unnecessary Departments. We have the example of Great Britain, where it is proposed . to make stringent reductions in the expenditure in all Departments. Here we are only a handful of people occupying this great continent, loaded with debt, and still proposing to create a new Board and increase expenditure. If the Tariff is not effective we ought to make it effective.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not very scientific or the Board would not be necessary.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - It is, apparently, neither scientific, effective, nor satisfactory. If we have to proceed in this way to insure its successful administration, I am satisfied that the proposed Tariff Board will be of no value whatever. I, therefore, intend to oppose the' Bill absolutely.

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