Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 21 July 1921

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap (TASMANIA) - Order! It would be a misuse of the power conferred upon me by honorable senators if I permitted discussion on a matter which I thought did not come within the compass of the Bill. Honorable senators will do me the credit of believing that at all times I endeavour to keep -the discussion in Committee as wide as possible; but it seems to me that - the -amendment submitted by Senator DrakeBrockman does not come within the scope of this Bill, and its purpose could hardly be effected in a measure of this description. This Bill deals with matters solely concerning the Tariff, and the amendment seeks to abolish another institution which it is not clear is endowed with anything like identical functions. Reluctant though I am at any time to curtail discussion, or to fail to receive amendments, I feel I cannot accept the amendment in its present form. Therefore, I rule it out of order.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I object to the Chairman's ruling, and pursuant to the standing order, I hand in my objection in writing.

In the Senate:

The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that, while clause 5 of the Tariff Board Bill was under consideration in Committee, Senator DrakeBrockman submitted an amendment to the following effect : -

The Tariff Board shall, in the exercise of the power conferred upon it by this Act, perform the functions heretofore exercised by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, which is hereby abolished.

After reflection, I ruled that the amendment was not in order, and therefore I did not permit the discussion to continue. Senator Pratten took exception to my ruling, in the following terms : -

I disagree with the Chairman's ruling for the reason that under clause 15 the Tariff Board is empowered to inquire into and report upon everything commercially concerning the primary and secondary industries of Australia.

I came to the conclusion that the functions of the Tariff Board will appertain absolutely to the Tariff, whereas the amendment purported to abolish an institution constituted under another Act, and in regard to which I cannot discover any identity of functions. It seemed to me that the amendment was outside, the scope of the Bill which the Senate was considering in Committee, and that it would be improper to permit the time of the Committee to be occupied in discussing it. I have now to submit the matter for your review and decision.

Senator Pratten.- As you, sir, have already been informed, I have dissented from the ruling of the Chairman upon a specific matter which has been raised by the amendment submitted by Senator Drake-Brockman. I do not know whether I accurately caught what the Chairman said in his opening remarks, but I am under the impression that he stated that he had ruled the amendment out of order because it conflicts with an Act which is already upon our statute-book. May I point out that there is no Act under which the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, to which reference is made in the amendment, was created. By no stretch of imagination, therefore, can it be urged that the amendment conflicts with any Statute law. It certainly conflicts with au administrative act, but it is within the competence of this Parliament either to amend an administrative act or to include it in any Bill which may come before it. Senator Drake-Brockman has very properly pointed out that the creation of a Tariff Board to discharge the duties set out in clause 15 of this Bill would practically mean the duplication of the whole of the activities of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. The four functions of that Bureau were read by the honorable senator, and the whole of them fall within the ambit of the trade, commerce, and industry of Australia. 'If you, sir, will refer to clause 15 of the Bill, you will find that the powers to be conferred upon the proposed Tariff Board are unlimited in connexion with its inquiry into "any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff."

Senator Pearce -In relation to the Tariff."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Tariff is everything.

Senator Senior - No, it is not.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is everything in connexion with the trade, commerce, and industry of this country. How Customs duties are imposed or how they are remitted, affects the whole of our import and export trade. We cannot sell abroad without being affected by the Tariff, nor can we buy there without being similarly affected. We cannot, buy or sell from our own people without being affected by the Tariff. Consequently the Tariff covers everything that is connected with the commerce and production of the Commonwealth. Inasmuch as the functions of the Tariff Board will cover everything connected with our primary and secondary production, I hold that the amendment is perfectly in order. I repeat that it does not conflict with any Act of Parliament, and that the func tions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, as officially set out in a Government publication, are covered by clause 15 of this Bill.

Senator Pearce - I confess that when the amendment was first submitted, I thought that it was in order. Upon further examination, however, I can see that there is a vital difference between the functions of the proposed Tariff Board and those of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. There is also a vital difference between their statutory authority. It is quite clear that the Bill which is now before us is linked up in every clause with our Customs and Excise Tariff.

Senator Earle - It is to be incorporated with our Customs Tariff Act.

Senator Pearce - In the very clause which was mentioned by Senator Pratten it is linked up with that Act.

Senator Payne - But Senator Pratten stated that there is no legislative authority for the existence of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry.

Senator Pearce.- In that statement he is quite wrong. The legislative authority for the Bureau in question is to be found in the Appropriation Act. Parliament has therefore authorized its establishment, and has provided the salaries which are paid in connexion with it. The Appropriation Act is just as much a Statute as is the Customs Tariff Act. The only difference between the two bodies mentioned is that we are proceeding by means of other legislation to indicate the functions of the Tariff Board, whereas in the case of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry we indicated ' its functions by means of regulations, which have been read by Senator Drake-Brockman. Moreover, it is clear under standing order 201 that any amendment submitted by an honorable senator must 'be relevant to> the subject-matter of the Bill under discussion. What is the subject-matter of this Bill? It is a Bill to authorize the establishment of a. Board to. deal with the Tariff and nothing else. Senator Pratten himself admits that the Tariff is intended to stimulate production. . But the Bureau of Commerce and Industry discharges a subsequent duty. Its function is to deal" with production after things have been produced, and to arrange for their profi't able sale. That function is quite distinct from the functions to be discharged by the proposed Tariff Board. It might be a proper subject for another Bill, if Parliament thought fit to define its functions in that way rather than by regulation, but it has statutory authority in the shape of the Appropriation Act. The effect of this amendment is to amend the Appropriation Act, because it proposes to abolish something that has been constituted under the authority and with the consent of Parliament by means of that Act. If we can do what the honorable senator proposes in this way, we would carry the principle very much further by tacking on all sorts of provisions to this Bill, abolishing other authorities which Parliament may have set up in various ways.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), with his usual eloquence, has argued that my amendment is not relevant to the Bill. His principal objection is that the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is brought into being under another enactment. If the inclusion of the item ' ' Director, Bureau of Commerce and Industry " in the Estimates is a legislative enactment of the variety contemplated by our Standing Orders, then the Minister's contention is correct. All that appears in the Estimates is the line I have indicated, with the salary attached to it. The Bureau is a body created to carry out half-a-dozen functions, which : are not laid down by any legislative enactment. They are brought into existence by some Department, probably by Mr. Stirling Taylor himself. Consequently, the objections raised by the Minister for Defence are not in the least applicable. I submit, moreover, that the functions prescribed for the Bureau in the document I have read, which is not the legislative enactment that brought the Bureau into existence, if not identical with the functions prescribed by clause 15 of the Tariff Board Bill, are very similar to them. Paragraph d of sub-clause 2 of clause 15 mentions, among the questions into which the Tariff Board is to inquire, ' Any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary and secondary industries in relation to the Tariff." The whole object of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is to deal with the industries of Australia.

Senator Senior - Not in relation to the Tariff.

Senator Drake-Brockman - How or what it is related to is not laid down by any legislative enactment.

Suggest corrections