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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator REID (Queensland) . - Honorable senators supporting the amendment, including the mover of it, have suggested that memoers of Parliament might be appointed to form the Tariff Board just as they are appointed to form the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I point out, however, that the Publio Works Committee is appointed by Parliament to advise as to the necessity of carrying out certain public works, and supply Parliament with information upon which it may be guided in the expenditure of public money on public works.

Senator Benny - All that the Tariff Board would have to do would be to advise.

Senator REID - I do not agree with the honorable senator. The Public Accounts Committee advises Parliament as to whether money voted is properly spent. Both these Committees fulfil a duty to Parliament itself. The Tariff Board, if composed of members of Parliament, would be in an entirely different position. I indorse the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who, I think, is to be congratulated upon the very able speech which, on the spur of the moment, he delivered against the amendment. The supporters of the amendment are to be found amongst honorable senators who voted last night 'to kill the Tariff Board. They are out to destroy the Bill, and I do not blame them if they think they are right in doing so, though I consider that they are making a very great mistake. The proposed Tariff Board will not report to Parliament, but to the Minister for Trade and Customs. It will be a Board to advise the Administration.

Senator Benny - It will not be an administrative Board.

Senator REID - It will be an advisory Board for the Minister for Trade and Customs. I point out that if there were two members of Parliament on the Board they would in all probability exercise a greater influence upon the Minister than ordinary public servants would be able to do.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - The Bill provides that the Minister may or may not take notice of reports of the Board.

Senator REID - The Minister will be human, like every one else, and he would be more likely to be influenced by members of Parliament, who will be meeting him frequently on terms of equality, than he would be by an ordinary member of the Public Service. In my opinion, it would be a very dangerous step to take to bring politics into the administration of the country in the way proposed.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - What about Ministers?

Senator REID - They are -before' the public as heads of the different Departments. r The public are the critics of Ministers.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Who would be the critics of the Board ?

Senator REID - If members of Parliament were on the Tariff Board, the public would not know what influence they might bring to bear upon the Minister for Trade and Customs and his administration. The suggestion that the amendment is desirable on the ground of economy is merely so much camouflage to satisfy those interested in the economy stunt.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - I object to the Board altogether in the interests of economy.

Senator REID - Senator Fairbairn and other honorable senators engaged in the economy stunt are against all Boards.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator picks up the Age any day, he will find that Senator Fairbairn is on a dozen Boards.

Senator REID - Men in Senator Fairbairn's position are on as many Boards as they can be elected to.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - The honorable senator does not object to that.

Senator REID - No; I do not. But as soon as it is proposed, by the Government to appoint a Board to do just the same kind of work as is done by the Boards on which certain honorable seria^ tors are represented, they at once object to their appointment. If a Parliamentary Board is to be constituted, it must be appointed by the Government. They will select members of their own party Those members will be objected to on party grounds by members opposed to the Government. Such a Board would be exposed to criticism in Parliament, not because of its work, but because of its personnel. Each party in Parliament would expect representation on the Board, and so its membership would be swelled to that, for instance, of the Public Accounts Committee. Where would the economy come in then? If the proposed Board consisted of seven or eight members free from political influence it might be .desirable.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - The members of the Public Accounts Committee receive 25s. a day for expenses.

Senator REID - I am not referring to the Public Accounts Committee, but to the amendment which has been submitted on the score of economy. Many of those who are supporting the amendment are new to political life.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - the honorable senator object to that?

Senator REID - No ; but after they have been in Parliament as long as some' of us they will realize that when once the ball is set rolling expenditure will increase.

Senator Benny - The honorable senator does not advocate economy.

Senator REID - Yes ; but after thirty years of public life I have come to the conclusion that when once an honorary Board is appointed it is not long before it is incurring expenditure on a very extensive scale. Senator Thomas has already referred to what occurred when the Public Works Committee and Public Accounts Committee were first appointed. The records will show that the members of the Public Accounts Committee, who were to act in an honorary capacity, soon expected similar remuneration to that received by the members of the Public Works Committee. This is a serious step, and one which I cannot support, because I am not in favour of bringing members of Parliament into close touch with the administration of such an important Act.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Would not the same remarks apply to a Minister ?

Senator REID - No.


Senator REID - Because the Minister is only one member of the Cabinet.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - The Minister has the only " say."

Senator REID - Of course, he has. If we adopted the amendment undue influence would probably be brought to bear upon members, as has been the case in America. I do not believe that Australians are .better than Americans, but I think it can be said that our politics have been cleaner.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Most of the American history to which the honorable senator refers was municipal and not governmental.

Senator REID - If the honorable senator is in touch with the political life of America. - I believe he is, in connexion with some phases of it - he will realize that my statement is quite true, because apart from municipal control a good deal of undue influence has been exercised in connexion with the administration of their Customs laws.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order ! I ask the honorable senator to address the Chair.

Senator REID - Those who are fully acquainted with American history, particularly in relation to the imposition of Customs duties, know that undue influence has been exercised on those responsible for administering their Customs laws. I am astonished at Senator Fairbairn acting as. he is, particularly after his long experience in political life.

Senator Fairbairn - I am anxious to assist the Minister.

Senator REID - If such is the case, I think the honorable senator should be prepared to support the clause as submitted by the Minister (Senator Russell).' If we follow the suggestion of Senator Benny, we are likely to create many difficulties. We should be prepared at least to experiment with a Board such as that proposed.

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