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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator FAIRBAIRN (Victoria) . - I voted against the second reading of the Bill, but now that it is in Committee we want to make it as perfect as possible. I should like Senator Benny to amend his amendment by .providing that the chairman shall be an administrative officer of the Customs Department, as proposed by the Government. Then with the two members, one drawn from the House of Representatives and the other from the Senate, the Board would, I think, be satisfactory..

Senator Benny - I think the honorable senator's idea is a good one, and I shall accept it.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - I do not wonder at the Minister (Senator Russell) opposing it at the first blush, because it is a big change, and so I suggest that consideration of the clause be postponed in order that the Minister may see if something can be done to meet honorable senators. The ' idea originally was to relieve the Minister for Trade and Customs of some of his work. I think that if the chairman is an officer of the Customs Department, and two members are appointed as suggested, they will be practically Assistant Ministers, without salary, of course, although they will get their travelling expenses, which, I think, is about £3 3s. per day. We should then have amongst us experts who would be in ' a position to give us sound advice on Tariff matters. Unfortunately, members of Parliament are unable to read all the reports that are circulated. The amount of reading that is placed in their hands is so voluminous that very few have time to deal with it properly. A Board composed of two members of Parliament, with the chairman an officer of the Customs Department, would mean . continuity of work, and, in this sense, the results should be satisfactory. So far as the Senate is concerned, the Government could select a member with a full period of six years to run. I think the suggestion is well worthy of consideration.

Senator Russell - Take the experience of the Wheat Board. It cost us nearly £80 to bring a delegate of the Board from Western Australia to Melbourne. He got £4 a day when travelling, as well as railway fares.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - If a member of Parliament were appointed to the Board there would be no railway fares - he would use his railway, pass. The only expenditure would be £3 3s. per day travelling expenses. After, all, it is not very often necessary to bring any one from such a distance.

Senator Russell - We could not ignore Queensland and Western Australia.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - I do not think any State would be ignored. I have thought over this matter very carefully with a desire to help the Government to make the Bill as perfect as possible, and this is my suggestion. In the two Houses of Parliament we have some of the finest experts chosen by ' the people, and surely it would be possible to select two who would be prepared to undertake duty on the Board.

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