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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The. clause, provides for a Board of.threemembers. -In view of all that has, been said , with, regard . to the . amalgam mation of, Qqvernmen't.. activities in the; direction, of trade,-, and commerce that, are now, overlapping^ I; tfcink-. a, little more elasticity o.f operation might be provided by increasing the proposed, number of members of the.. Board: We now. have a Board of Trade, a. Bureau of Commerce and Industry, a Flax Committee; and we may have more governmental organizations to-morrow. As the Senate has decided, by a division, of nineteen to eleven, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill that we are to have a Tariff Board, I should like -to make that organization practically the supreme commercial authority of Australia.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That is what I was driving at.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is one matter not included within the ambit of the powers of the proposed Board which might be attended to by such a Board; very much better than in the way which it is intended to deal with it at some future time. I refer to the very controversial matter of the appointment in foreign countries, and in other portions of the Empire, of trade agents in connexion with the exportation of Australian goods. I do not intend to use arguments to show why this is a controversial, matter, but will content myself by saying that, if a certain policy is, pursued by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry in connexion with the appointment of trade agents, and that certain recommendations made to the Minister are not to he br ought before Parliament until, perhaps, after these agents have been appointed,, the country may be faced with the obligation of meeting a very considerable expendi.- ture indeed-. As an illustration for the purpose of argument, and not of. criticism, I may refer to the appointment of, a commercial agent in Shanghai at a salary of. £2,000 a. year- with two assistants as secretaries, at. £1,000 a year each, and the usual office paraphernalia. Coming back to the clause, I should like the membership of the proposed Boar.d, to- be- increased j in, view of the amalgamation atr some future time of the present disconnected organizations dealing with Australian import and export trade. Little birds have? been whispering that it is proposed; to. appoint some more- of thesecommercial, agents, to. whom, I have, referred.

Senator Pearce - The- Minister has definitely stated- that no more- are- to-be ftp*pointed without- Parliament- first being, consulted-.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to hear the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) make that statement;. It will relieve the minds of many of usv I understand that it was only yesterday stated for the first time elsewhere that no more commercial agents abroad would .be appointed without the specific authority of Parliament. I feel strongly that no better Committee could be suggested to advise the Government and Parliament as to where commercial agents should be appointed abroad than a strong Tariff Board, which, by reason of its deliberations, would be au fait with the whole of the import and export trade of Australia. I submit for the consideration of the Minister the addition of a few words to this clause to make the Board a little more elastic, in order that, in the not distant future, the Government may intrust to a strong Tariff Board some of the functions which are now performed by other Commonwealth commercial organizations.

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