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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- I am sorry I cannot support Senator Benny in his effort to confine the personnel of the Board to members of the Legislature. I have had extensive experience of work undertaken by members of Boards and Committees, and I know of no men who could have worked more thoroughly and intelligently than those on some bodies appointed by the Government. In a Democracy such as Australia it should be our endeavour to retain, as far as possible, the confidence of the people in our administrative and advisory institutions. The proposed Board is certainly an advisory one, and if the advice tendered is supported by sworn evidence, it becomes obligatory on the part of the Government to accept it, otherwise they would be in an awkward position when submitting it to Parliament. ' The idea of appointing members of the Legislature seems all very well, but to me it is absolutely impracticable. Paragraph d of sub-clause, 1 of clause 15 provides that the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report questions affecting the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties. What confidence would Protectionists have in the advice of a Board on which Senator Gardiner and Senator Thomas, who are pronounced Free Traders, were acting? Those two honorable senators do not believe in the imposition of any duties. What confidence would others have in the advice of a Poard consisting, say, of you, Mr. Chairman, a pronounced Protectionist, and of half-a-dozen other honorable senators who' are just as emphatic in their belief that Protection is in the interest of Australia? They would not place the slightest reliance in the advice of such a body.

Senator Fairbairn - The Government would not select them.

Senator EARLE - Perhaps not. Members of Parliament are compelled, by virtue of their position in Parliament, to announce their beliefs and prejudices either for or against Protection, and, having done that, they would bo called upon to judge between two policies when an investigation is. undertaken. The suggestion is impracticable, and I strongly advise Senator Benny to withdraw his amendment.

Senator Benny - I do not admit its impracticability .

Senator EARLE - After the honorable senator pronouncing himself a strong Protectionist, almost up to the point of prohibition, in the interests of Australian industries, he cannot possibly be qualified to investigate and advise on the question of whether there should or should not be increased duties. He has already made up his mind.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is an advanced Protectionist, and he has done it.

Senator EARLE - The Minister is the mouthpiece of the Government, and, although selected by the Prime Minister, he is appointed with 'the concurrence of his colleagues.

Senator Benny - I could hold an inquiry and submit an unbiased report.

Senator EARLE - There is a difference in administering a Department with the concurrence of Parliament, and advising the Minister, particularly as the dispute may be between two different policies. Members of Parliament are eminently suited for inquiring into certain public questions, but I am not in favour of a Board consisting of members of Parliament. As the Board will, to some extent, have to perform judicial functions, the work should not be undertaken by men who have publicly announced their policies. With considerable reluctance, I shall oppose the amendment, and, although I have confidence in members of Parliament acting on Committees, I do not think they should act in this connexion, for the reasons I have given.

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